Friday, August 17, 2012

My Best Debate at the Huffington Post

I have been debating people in the comments section of the Huffington Post for a few weeks now.  It is an interesting thing to do. 

And I get to learn new things about myself.  My views, apparently, "come from tinfoil hat land".  I, apparently, don't use "facts and stats".  etc.  Can't you just feel the love? lol

The reason for this post is because I am particularly proud of my recent comment debate. (Where do I redeem my useless internet debate points?)

Part 1 is where I first replied to a comment from  BBQribsNOnapkin

Part 2 is where the debate continues.

This rebuttal  is a full length reply to a link sent by my opponent in part 2.

Part 3 is the most recent series of replies.

I think that this series of comments might be my best [useless internet] debating yet.


  1. I’m honored to have landed a spot on your blog. Be careful about calling a back and forth in the HP comments section a debate though. I think of it as more of a sound bite shouting match to see who blinks first. Moreover the medium of communication used to facilitate these debates (typing out, thinking, waiting, typing out, etc.) has absolutely done damage to the traditional discursive environment because no one is ever put on the spot and evidence for competing views can be cherry picked mercilessly, all well remaining completely nameless.

    I admire your persistence, not falling into troll traps (baiting you with reinstituting slavery, tinfoil hats, and whatnot), evidencing your arguments with competing ideas, and your willingness to not hide behind the veneer of anonymity.

    Let me say that our back and forth has been quite enjoyable and I will concede that, in getting me to spend more time thinking on this issue, you have certainly made me reanalyze my own position. The argument you’re making is a difficult one because it requires greater consideration of higher level concepts (why a rising tide doesn’t necessarily raise all ships) in the face of simpler, lower level concepts (more money in someone’s pocket = good).

    If you look at the discount rates of the two arguments economically you’ll always be at a significant disadvantage because “raising the minimum wage” deals with the immediate present (discount rate = 1) and the social and financial benefits of eliminating it deals with the future (discount rate = 0).

    I see that you recognized I immediately identified Walter Williams as a Libertarian economist famous for taking property rights to extreme ends (the ability to sell ones organs, as I cited for example) and used him as a strawman. Since your blog is oriented towards developing and honing your arguments towards better penetrating liberal logic, I think you are correct in your notion that you should tailor your argument towards the immediate social benefits of reducing the minimum wage rather than the potential long term economic benefits. But even still I don’t know that that will be sufficient.

    A central theme of the Libertarian position is the question, “Does it make sense to anyone that a business will hire more employees when they cost more?” and the problem is the argument is somewhat specious. To the point, no, of course it doesn’t make any sense that a business would hire more employees when they cost more and Pareto efficiency speaks to this, but it fails to account for inefficient aggregate macroeconomic outcomes that result from seemingly rational individual micro-economic actions i.e. general glut. General glut of course leads to under consumption which in turn affects that same business owner (that’s what we see in today’s job market IMO).

    Another hurdle to your argument is that Libertarian ideas are developed from the perspective that the social contract is non-existent and/or shouldn’t exist. Personal freedoms and personal responsibility is the mantra (feel free to correct me if I’m misinformed, of course). But to that end, and I briefly addressed it in the same HP comment thread to another poster, people are not personally responsible and whether or not we like it, those of us who are responsible ultimately shoulder their failings.

    1. Thanks for responding.

      What would you use in place of "debates"?

      I question what you are calling a central theme. That was more of a rhetorical question. The only central theme I'm aware of is that is is best to leave people alone, because they know what is best for themselves.

      My response to your last point is to quote from article "Winning Arguments."

      "The other day I had a chat with a neighbor friend. He posed a rhetorical question, “You do believe some taxes are necessary, right?” Rather than debate the merits of this or that tax, this or that function funded by taxes – I merely replied that as a non-violent person I am opposed to the use of violence, for any reason except in self-defense. I therefore oppose, I told him, the violent taking of other people’s property for any purpose whatsoever. That while I might prefer this or that outcome, I would rather people dealt with one another on the basis of persuasion and mutual free consent – and not at gunpoint."

  2. Does that mean that I should be expected to take care of them for their failures? No, of course not. But what of when their failure to take personal reasonability manifests itself as a tangible, personal problem for me? It could almost be phrased as Does it make sense that I should be compelled to pay for the social services (Section 8, Welfare, WIC, Prison, “free” Legal Counsel Fees etc.) these people rely upon because I don’t pay them enough to do it themselves?

    The primary (i.e. “Simple”) argument seems to be that they are disenfranchised because they lack the appropriate financial means and are depressed by low wages ergo you and I, the tax paying public, are forced to subsidize their failings. Which brings us to minimum wage, the gap between that and the “living wage”, and what it translates into for you and I, the tax paying public.

    Concerning the $1.48T cited as going toward programs that help the poor, I disagree with the position that Social Security ($725B) and Medicare ($480B) are programs for the “poor” considering they are insurance programs (I’m sure we’ll disagree about this) paid into by their users. Medicade ($275B) absolutely is a handout. So with that in mind it significantly modifies the concept of sending a $30K check to every one of the 49.1M poor (that’s a good visual though), which is further predicated on the idea that they would be responsible enough in the first place to have free money sent to them, which they aren’t.

    To China’s…China is a very, very interesting example. To speak of their phenomenal growth as merely a function of free enterprise without mentioning and accounting for the massive role of the three decade long Maxist-Leninist structural investment program on the part of the Government is like having your cake and eating it too. Not to mention all of their economic and commerce sectors are regulated by the Government, including the banking and financial sectors. So the question for China then becomes How much does the free market have to do with their economic success when all of the processes regulating the market are controlled and regulated by the Government?

    So here’s my position in summation: Taxation for social services comes from the rationale that those who rely upon the services are depressed because of unfair wage regulations that do not reflect the wage requirements needed to meet those minimum human needs.

    What better way to eliminate that argument, and the compulsory taxation for social services, then to raise the minimum wage to a level that proves they’re not needed? It’s much more difficult to make a case that someone needs free X, Y, or Z because “they don’t make enough” when full time work for anyone, anywhere, provides a wage that proves that not to be the case.