Smart people saying smart things

Juan Cole: “When Politicians promise ‘Lower Taxes’ they are promising Collapsed Bridges”

The next time you hear politicians campaigning on “lower taxes,” you should realize two things.

First, they don’t intend to lower your taxes, which are probably mostly Social Security. In fact, they might like effectively to raise those taxes by extending the retirement age. They mean they intend to lower taxes for rich people and corporations.

Second, what they really mean is that they intend to deny you basic social services of the sort government provides through your taxes, such as upkeep of roads and bridges. They want to allow the trucking and other corporations who use those resources to escape paying for them (most road degradation is caused by trucks), and pass the cost on to you, either in the form of tolls or of deteriorating infrastructure. I.e., when they campaign on lower taxes they are actually promising you that your bridges will collapse.

Abigail Rine: “Why Some Evangelicals Are Trying to Stop Obsessing Over Premarital Sex”

If this collection of voices is any indication, the traditional battle lines of the abstinence culture war are beginning to blur. A revisionist evangelical view of sexuality appears to be emerging, one that doesn’t revolve around that ultimate youth-group quandary — how far is too far? Although each of these post-purity perspectives diverges from the current evangelical narrative to varying degrees, the common thread among them seems to be a desire for a more holistic sexual ethic, one that remains thoroughly Christian while shifting away from the metaphor of purity to concepts of sexual health and wholeness. What is still unclear is whether these revisions will gain traction within evangelicalism or remain confined to progressive inlets of the evangelical subculture.

Darren Sherkat: “Suspect ‘Science'”

When we talk about [Mark] Regnerus, I completely dismiss the study. It’s over. He has been disgraced. All of the prominent people in the field know what he did and why he did it. And most of them know that he knew better. Some of them think that he’s also stupid and an ideologue. I know better. I know that he’s a smart guy and that he did this on purpose, and that it was bad.

William Lloyd Garrison on willful ignorance, 1853

Those who do wrong ignorantly, do not willingly continue in it, when they find they are in the wrong. Ignorance is not an evidence of guilt certainly. It is only an evidence of a want of light. They who are only ignorant, will never rage, and rave, and threaten, and foam, when the light comes; but being interested and walking in the light, will always present a manly front, and be willing to be taught and be willing to be told they are in the wrong.

Take the case of slavery: How has the anti-slavery cause been received? Not argumentatively, not by reason, not by entering the free arena of fair discussion and comparing notes; the arguments have been rotten eggs, and brickbats and calumny, and in the southern portion of the country, a spirit of murder, and threats to cut out the tongues of those who spoke against them. What has this indicated on the part of the nation? What but conscious guilt? Not ignorance, not that they had not the light. They had the light and rejected it.

How has this Woman’s Rights movement been treated in this country, on the right hand and on the left? This nation ridicules and derides this movement, and spits upon it, as fit only to be cast out and trampled underfoot. This is not ignorance. They all know the truth. It is the natural outbreak of tyranny. It is because the tyrants and usurpers are alarmed. They have been and are called to judgment, and they dread the examination and exposure of their position and character.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni: “There Is More Than One Christian View on Homosexuality”

It is said that the abolitionists found that their religious arguments against slavery tended to be less convincing to most people than the religious arguments of those who justified slavery, simply because of the way most people read their Bibles, taking only a proof-text approach. I think we face a similar situation today in taking a religious position on the question of homosexuality. Many people read the Bible in a mechanical way as though it’s a list of rules, like a traffic manual, with every single verse having the same importance and without consideration of the times, cultures, and conditions in which various passages were written. We need to help people understand more about biblical interpretation, translations, and so on. And we need to examine the principles of Scripture rather than pulling out individual verses without regard to context.


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  • Jamoche

    There’s a commercial running where a woman is pushing a shopping cart and rather snottily commenting that packages have a lot of info on them so why does the government have to get involved and add more? We can make our own decisions! As if any of that info would be there without government influence in the first place, and aren’t decisions easier to make when you have more info?

    I have no idea what labelling legislation is in the works to prompt this, but it’s funded by something with “beverage” in the name.

  • Carstonio

    The priorities of the market are the priorities of people with economic power. You insist that youre not talking about markets as deities, and then in your very next sentence you describe the market’s judgment as just.

  • Also: Stupid fickle market. I liked the Arch Deluxe. The advertising campaign was ridiculous, but I liked the sandwich itself. Apparently I’m one of the only ones in the entire world. That seems bizarre. Not one country liked that sandwich, but, what, their pathetic Southwestern Chicken sandwich is still around? That thing’s like bread -> one pickle -> tiny chicken patty -> bread for eight bucks!

  • FearlessSon

    That book sounds a little to heavy-handed for my taste. I disliked Bush, but it seemed a huge stretch from there to dictatorship. Yes, he curtailed civil liberties, but there is only so far one can go with that before the population snaps back, which it certainly did in reality.

    Very few were sad to see him leave office at the end of his second term, his popularity starting to plummet shortly after the 2004 election.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    I too liked the Arch Deluxe.

  • reynard61

    Two small quibbles with your comment:

    1. That phrase, “neoliberal right”; does it mean what you think it means? In other words, please *define* it and give me an example of someone who might fit that definition because it sounds (to me at least) like a contradiction in terms.

    2. You say that the U.S. government (later you correct this to “economy”) “did operate on a (truly) Smithian model before the Revolutionary War (and possibly for a little while after)”. My quibble is: How long after? Because the book that your link directs to *starts* at 1850, and by that time, IIRC from my own Economics classes*, the U.S. Economy was pretty mature and had, by that time, shaken off pretty much all of its European (especially British) influences.

    *Note: I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Economy. I took two Economics classes (6th grade and High School) and, quite frankly, *neither* of them has proven to be terribly relevant to how today’s Economy works. (I attribute this to the rules having been radically re-written since I left school.)

  • reynard61

    I still use the “Teabagger” monicker because, when all is said and done and their policies get enacted, it’s what they end up doing to the rest of us.

    “I’ve got mine, and I want *yours* too!” – The unofficial Teabagger motto

  • FearlessSon

    Ironically, there is evidence that most of the early Tea Party protesters knew exactly what the term meant, with protest signs like “Teabag the government before they teabag you!” and the like. The people who joined it after the initial protest as it gained in popularity were a little less “in on the joke” and took exception when people told them what they were repeating actually meant. Hence the backronyming.

  • Chris Hadrick

    no look, stores stock snickers candy bars because people buy them. People don’t buy them because stores stock them.

    whereas a government can decide to subsidize snickers candy bars and let them rot, if they so choose (and things like that have happened). So even though you didn’t want one you bought it via taxation.

    the market doesn’t mean just like Wal Mart and Goldman Sachs. it can be one person selling something to another person or trading even.

  • Chris Hadrick

    Arch deluxe thank you. I never tried one.

  • Chris Hadrick

    but you HAVE to pay taxes, you don’t have to, say, buy a boat.

  • Honestly the flop was probably due to the cost ($100 million) and style of the advertising (“Kids won’t get it. They might even think it’s disgusting and tastes bad! LOL!” Uh, WRONG MESSAGE TO SEND TO YOUR CONSUMERS), the actual sandwich not being unpleasant at all. Slab of bacon, mustard/mayo sauce, thick slice of tomato = not bad at all, especially when it seemed like few other companies were serving burgers with bacon at the time. Not a bad idea, worst possible approach: alienate the customers and imply there’s something horribly wrong with the product.

  • I’m tryng to recall. As much as we love our tribalism, I think every time I recall an ad campaign based on defining what sort of person a product isn’t for, it backfires.

    See also: Doctor Pepper Ten

  • Carstonio

    My point has nothing to do with direct or indirect subsidizing. Since we’re talking about candy, many food dyes are banned in Europe because they’re unsafe for children. The candy companies continue to use those dyes in the US because they can, even though the Center for the Science in the Public Interest has called for them to be pulled off the market. One company even sells the same product with different colors in different countries based on what’s allowed.

    In a perfect world, it wouldn’t even occur to a CEO to continue to sell these products once the health risk was known. But in the real world, companies can and do place their profits ahead of the well-being of their consumers, or of the larger society. That is why agencies like the FDA exist, and this is one case where the government is failing to do its job.

    But in your world, government wouldn’t have a watchdog function at all. Companies would have no accountability. They could do whatever they please to consumers, who would have no means of redress. Even boycotts would be useless because the nation would be essentially a huge company town, with the corporations holding all the real power.

  • Not helped by how so many advertisements seem aimed at the lowest common denominator.

    “Make Seven! UP YOURS!”
    “Beauty is only skin-deep, but your skin is what people see and judge.”
    “It’s time to take our freedom back. Don’t let The Man tell you what you can and can’t do. *SMOKE SMOKE SMOKE* Totes not a cigarette commercial *SMOKE*”

    And let’s not forget a certain Kay Jewelers advertisement with unfortunate implications. When proposing to your wife with a piece of jewelry, please don’t buy your step-daughter an identical piece of jewelry…!

    You can tell I don’t turn on the TV unless there’s something very specific I want to watch. -_-

  • Chris Hadrick

    again, I’m not trying to sell anyone on anarchy, I’m just saying there is a difference between paying taxes and paying somebody for something.

    and corporations hold all the real power now, in case you hadn’t noticed.

  • That being said, the point of the book was to show the logical extremes to which Republicans would take their strategy to ensure their vision of the USA prevails.

  • Gee, I wonder why

    Maybe because of the kind of right-wing policies you endorse

  • You HAVE to buy food, buster.

  • Chris Hadrick

    his point was that the IRS has better interest rates than, say, loan sharks and thus they are benevolent. The difference is you can not borrow money from loan sharks you have to pay your taxes so there is nothing nice about them offering you low interest rates.

  • Chris Hadrick

    I don’t think that’s the source of outrage regarding taxes. Rudy Guliani made tangible changes to NYC so no one complained about paying THOSE taxes (which were in fact relatively low) unlike before when David Dinkins had high taxes and did nothing.

    it’s the governments fault that people hate paying taxes, not the peoples. No one would listen to conservatives or libertarians if there weren’t such obvious waste and fraud.

  • Yes, because borrowing money from a loan shark when they had any other choice is a thing anyone has done ever.

  • Somehow I suspect that the IRS has less to gain by you going into default, too…

  • the shepard

    and how much effect did the failure of that burger have on mcdonalds in the long run?

    mcdonalds is able to successfully drive non-chain restaraunts that produce superior products out of business because of market clout. walmart is able to dominate retail in smaller towns through market clout, despite the fact that they sell shoddier goods.
    the market is set up to support the wealthy and the successful while providing the consumers with the cheapest possible goods. the failure of a single product or line seldom, if ever, has any effect on the businesses.

    claims thst the market is subservient to the consumer is either naive or disingenuous.

  • Chris Hadrick

    market clout? Mcdonalds drives other places out of business because customers prefer food fast and cheap. If they didn’t, Mcdonalds never would have expanded beyond one store.

    “the failure of a single product or line seldom, if ever, has any effect on the businesses.”

    my point regarding the arch Deluxe was Mcdonalds just can’t make it and tell people to buy it. If people don’t won’t it it will go away.

    Unless someone is suggesting the government begin subsidizing Arch Deluxes

  • Chris Hadrick

    no, because of the left wing policies you endorse :)

  • mattmcirvin

    My understanding is that the extent to which microelectronics was a space spinoff is often grossly exaggerated, and the same is true of many other supposed technological spinoffs.

    But the scientific payoff is precious to me. (Note, though, much of that comes from uncrewed missions, not the human-spaceflight program; Apollo was an obvious exception.)

    And those basic-science, exploratory missions are unlikely to be funded by anything other than government. Commercial space tourism as a recreation for rich people is all very well, but it’s not going to tell us much about the universe.

    (There are actually two factions of right-wing space fans: the libertarians who believe that private enterprise could do anything if government wasn’t somehow in the way, and the people who think in more nationalistic terms, want a massive government program but are upset that the government spends money on other stuff instead. Both camps believe that welfare moochers stole their dream.)

  • Chris Hadrick

    of course they have. the point is the IRS isn’t nice because they have lower interest rates than ,say, banks. banks are lending you money to get a car or a college education, the IRsS is collecting money for the US to spy on it’s own people, bomb Muslims, pay interest on it’s own debt etc

  • How supremely generous of banks! It’s a good thing they never misuse their money.

  • Chris Hadrick

    point isn’t about the character of banks, it’s about the fact that they have a an optional product, loans for thins you want, whereas the IRS’s “product” is mandatory. If a burglar doesn’t smash anything they still robbed your house, they aren’t nice. that’s just an analogy btw ;)

  • Charby

    Of course, only to the extent that it agrees with their prejudices. It’s kind of like how people who were adamant that the Supreme Court had to strike that PPACA as unconstitutional a year ago were equally infuriated by the notion that the Supreme Court could ever question the will of Congress when it came to DOMA. To them, the Constitution, the Bible, the concept of judicial review — it only exists when it favors their own beliefs.

  • You have no more choice when you go to a loanshark than you do when you pay your taxes. The fact that if you don’t do the latter, you’ll be fined by the IRS and given a “benevolent” payment plan, whereas if you don’t do the former, a guy named vinnie will break your kneecaps does not mean that the first one is a free choice and the second one isn’t.

  • Burden of proof rests with the claimant.

  • AnonaMiss

    How do you come to the conclusion that left-wing policies led to corporate power?

    Given that the left wing has priorities that are explicitly anti-corporation (FDA, CPB, EPA) which the right wing is against and has been holding up at every turn; and that the parts of government that the left wing is in favor of – i.e. not military & intelligence – has been shrinking for decades?

    Not that left wing policies couldn’t lead to an increase in corporate power – but the left wing hasn’t done shit in over 25 years, so I’m not really sure how the current situation could be laid at its feet alone?

    I hesitate to ask this because the last time I tried asking you for your reasoning you came back with the idea that the value of gold never deflates, which was so head-poundingly stupid I had to walk away

    but I’m a masochist I guess.

  • guest

    OK, I’ll help you out here. First off, the neoliberal right:

    Pretty much any prominent right-wing politician in the US, when not promoting religious fundamentalism, is promoting neoliberal economic policies.

    Second, the book I linked to is, despite the dull title, the best explanation I’ve yet read for the origins of our beliefs about work and the economy. It posits that there were four statements about work and the economy that were actually true during the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary period in the US (which of course is the kind of economy Smith and his readers were familiar with), which we continue to believe are true but are in fact no longer true in the industrial economy. We weren’t stupid to believe that, e.g. if you worked harder you’d make more money, but we didn’t change our understanding as the economy changed from the ‘capitalism’ of independent linked small producers (which is what I write about–I argue that we should have a unique descriptor for this economic period, as it is very different from the capitalism we know today) to the command-and-control economy of industrial capitalism.

  • FearlessSon

    God I hate those Doctor Pepper Ten commercials. But apparently I am one of those men who already regularly consumes diet soda, which according to their research is a minority, so I am obviously outside of their targets.

    I might grant the company their research suggesting that men buy diet soda less than women, and therefor men buying diet soda is a market that they can expand into, but I disagree with their conclusions about why men are not buying as much diet soda as they could. They seem to think that men equate “diet” with “girly”, so they sell a “low calorie” soda instead of a “diet” one to get men to buy it, backed up by a dumb marketing campaign. But I think it is more than people in general tend to like the taste of diet sodas slightly less than non-diet, and will favor those unless they have some other priority above taste. In the case of women, there is a lot of social pressure to stay slim, and I think we see higher rates of diet soda consumption among women as a result. We have less pressure on that for men, and thus the diet is lower priority and we see less diet soda purchased by men.

    I guess “men think this stuff is too effeminate” was an easier answer for the marketing department to swallow than “we need to change decades of encultured social expectations.”

  • FearlessSon

    McDonald’s can also afford to lobby for huge government farm subsidization to keep the cost of their raw materials down, then lock in exclusive contracts to get that materials in large bulk purchases which drives down the cost-per-unit but in massed batches that smaller companies cannot afford.

    That is why they are cheap, and that is the kind of economic clout they wield. With it, they can simply undercut most other competition.

  • FearlessSon

    Altemeyer found much the same thing. On the subject of school prayer, his summery was thus:

    So do fundamentalists believe in majority rights or minority rights? The answer is, apparently, neither. They’ll pull whichever argument suits them out of its file when necessary, but basically they are unprincipled on the issue of school prayer. They have a big double standard that basically says, “Whatever I want is right.” The rest is rationalization, and as flexible and multi-directional as a reed blowing in the wind.

  • And here I just thought diet soda had a bitter aftertaste that I couldn’t stomach. XD

  • reynard61

    Okay, that Wikipedia article knocked a bit of the rust from the “What I learned in High School Economics class” part of my brain. My Ec teacher classified everything falling into that description as “Market-oriented Capitalism”. (As opposed to “Control-oriented capitalism” like Communism or other systems that planned and/or regulated their Economies down to the last detail.)

    Also; yes, we certainly do need a new name for our current Economic system/period/era. I humbly recommend “Bank$ters Gone Wild!”

  • You know, you utterly missed the point i was making about buying food. You need to eat to live, and in that respect the private sector has the same negotiating power with respect to you as the IRS does with respect to you in the realm of taxes.

    I don’t see you complaining about the oligopolistic and monopolistic character of, say, companies like ConAgra.

  • Hell, I don’t even like Dr. Pepper at all. I think their entire ad campaign is a waste of money.

  • Chris Hadrick

    I’m glad we are all against farm subsidies. Yes, the scale of their operation can make it cheaper for them because they can buy huge amounts at once, so? It’s the same reason Budweiser is cheaper and worse than craft beers but both are available.

    tons and tons of people at all economic levels do NOT eat at McDonalds because they don’t like it!

  • Chris Hadrick

    no because you don’t need to pay taxes to live. I’m totally opposed to corporatism. these companies manipulate the patents and regulations to their benefit.

  • Charby

    And that’s fine, to be honest. I don’t see any value in creating an inflexible and binary moral code. My problem is though that they claim to have an inflexible, binary moral code but don’t acknowledge that they do in fact make decisions on a case by case basis like most of humanity does. They claim to believe the courts should never countermand legislatures, unless the legislature does something they oppose with in which case courts have a solemn duty to uphold the Constitution regardless of what the legislature says.

    That’s perfectly fine in theory — it makes no sense to argue that the legislature should always have its own way or that the courts should always strike down every law that is passed, but they want to have the certainty of an absolutist position while still being able to change it more or less at will.

  • guest

    I’m actually an 18th century scholar–I’m pointing out that it’s not useful to label a ‘Smithian’ economy ‘capitalist’ because while ownership of the means of production was private, there was not a drive for capital accumulation, and the ‘owner/worker’ relationship was virtually nonexistent. (I actually believe the definition of capitalism is useless for historians–Marx separates ‘slavery’ and ‘capitalism’, but both the Roman Empire and the antebellum South in the US had both). If you are interested in this ‘noncapitalist’ transition period between feudalism and capitalism you can read Paul Sweezy’s contributions here:

    or E. P. Thompson’s descriptions here:

    Both of these scholars are Marxists, so although they go right up to the line neither will actually say there’s a period of economic development between feudalism and capitalism that’s missing a name.

  • Uh you kind of do need to pay taxes to live

    What do you think they pay for?





    All the kinds of people who buttress the framework of a stable, high-income country. If there were no cops you wouldn’t magically pay less in taxes, you’d just have to buy yourself your own private army like some people do in Africa or South America.

    If there were no soldiers you wouldn’t magically pay less taxes, you’d STILL need that private army of yours and probably have to link up with other wealthy landowners to agree to a mutual defence pact.

    And if there were no firefighters or teachers you wouldn’t magically pay less taxes, you’d need to have someone around your house at all times with a fire extinguisher and a long garden hose in the event of a fire, and if that fails, good luck, your house is toast. As for teachers you’d end up having to hire private live-in tutors for your kids if you didn’t want to teach them yourself at least the basics of literacy and arithmetic.

  • Hadrick fancies that he’s some kind of joker.

  • FearlessSon

    The funny thing about them though is that when they justify why some particular exception needs to be made, they never apply the same reasoning to other cases which they dislike, or they use reasoning on a particular issue which they turn around and discard on another issue without justifying why it applies to one but not another.

    They settle on a conclusion and rationalize anything to support it. Their reason only justifies a fixed conclusion, rather than their reason informing what conclusion they come to.

    In the scenario I quoted above, Altemeyer had done a survey asking people (some of whom had rated highly as fundamentalists and some who rated as low) if Christian school prayer should be mandatory in North America, then if Muslim school prayer should be mandatory in a predominately Muslim country. The (Christian) fundamentalists in the survey said that school prayer should be mandatory in America and minorities should just have to suck it up, and school prayer should not be mandatory in a Muslim country because it would be unfair to religious minorities. But none of them saw the double standard going on in their reasoning.

  • FearlessSon

    On this topic, today’s xkcd is apropos: