In November, None of the Above

by Jason Peters on January 11, 2012 · 34 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire,Politics & Power


Rock Island, IL

Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote that there aren’t any names for our great absolutes, only for “trivialities like politics and economics.” [1]

If a boy were to read this at a young enough age he might believe that he has been given permission to ignore some of his lessons. In some cases he might studiously ignore them. But the consequences of this, if not entirely salutary, will hardly amount to an absolute personal catastrophe. Can no good come of a lifetime of cynicism toward, if not mild contempt for, the obsessions that turn men into beasts?

I can easily see a boy who has been persuaded by Muggeridge committing himself in adulthood to a life of principled abstention whenever a general election comes around. You might hear him say that casting a vote every four years can hardly be called a man’s right, much less his duty, if he has made no attempt to execute the offices of citizenship on the other 1,459 days. He might say that voting is a citizen’s last and least significant act. And I think he may have a case.

If he came of voting age while watching his country emphatically reject Carter for Reagan, chances are good despair routinely sets in pretty early for him in the whole electoral process. Inevitably he’ll find that he has stopped paying attention altogether right about the time someone says something really stupid, as, inevitably, someone will: Newt Gingrich, for example, allowing that Sarah Palin would make a good secretary of energy. “I can’t imagine anybody,” he said a couple of weeks ago, “who would do a better job of driving us to an energy solution.”

For what purpose did St. John pen the imperative “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” if not for this?

But not paying attention doesn’t always work. Someone finds a way to sneak things in the back door.

Take the lead pieces in the recent New York Times Book Review, which bear the joint title “Bipolar America” (January 8, 2012). In one of them Michael Kinsley, reviewing Thomas Frank’s Pity the Billionaire, writes:

Evelyn Waugh complained that the British Conservative Party had failed to turn back the clock by a single second. Have the Republicans done much better? (Waugh was speaking long before the Margaret Thatcher revolution, which really did change British society enormously.) Conservatives have dominated the debate, and usually the government, for three decades now, yet they haven’t managed to abolish a single cabinet department or eliminate a single major entitlement program. Nothing big has been “privatized.” Somehow or other, against all expectations and despite a conservative Supreme Court, abortion rights and affirmative action have been preserved. Gay rights are advancing so fast that the Republican Party itself is probably ahead of where Democrats were a generation ago. The Constitution has not been amended to require a balanced budget or forbid flag-burning.

True, they’ve pretty much killed the union movement. While they are not to blame for the effects of globalization and technology on income distribution, they’ve done nothing to mitigate these. And then there are tax cuts—especially tax cuts for the wealthy. That we have had. In spades. Actually, all this tends to confirm Frank’s contention that what Republicans really care about, politically, is money, and all that other stuff is just prole meat. [2]

I don’t expect everyone to take every bit of that sitting down, but I think we’re going to have to agree that its contours are essentially correct. If we want to quibble with it, we should quibble with its principal mistake: conflating Republicans and Conservatives, as if the two were synonymous. What feature of a Palin secretariat in energy would be conservative? Her wardrobe? Her preference in cocktails?

Kinsley’s otherwise fairly intelligent review is evidence of how muddled our political discourse is at a fundamental level, so muddled that any attempt to think clearly in its key terms and phrases is damn-nigh impossible. No wonder that four years ago all the McCain-Palin stickers were on SUVs and all the Obama-Biden stickers were on hybrids. This year, when the same wave of incoherence engulfs as drowned us in 2008, we won’t hear any democrats of consequence saying that they wish Republicans were conservatives. If any did, it would certainly qualify as a breakthrough in the discourse, but it would horrify the left as much as it would confuse the right–or horrify the right as much as it would confuse the left: take your pick. It wouldn’t bring us single step closer to coherence (though it might make me pay attention into, say, February).

For I did read Muggeridge at a young age and, for better or worse, decided he was onto something. There is, finally, an abiding triviality to politics and economics, certainly to our desultory ways of doing them. They are mediate and not ultimate things, necessary but not vital, and to give yourself to them wholly seems to require something like a character flaw.

I’m not saying their being otherwise would protect them from incoherence. We’ve rendered the great things incoherent as well. We’re a sorry lot. We prefer slogans to sustained articulations, and our bullet points do aught but invite a few well-aimed bullets.

Amid all the political radioactivity a man inclines to say he doesn’t want to be implicated in the presidency of anyone vying for top dog. “None of the above,” he’s tempted to answer. For, once again, there is nothing to be especially excited about. Come November there will be no one worth spending a vote on. Who can blame the best for lacking all conviction when the worst are full of passionate intensity?

The good want power [wrote Shelley], but to weep barren tears.
The powerful goodness want: worse need for them.
The wise want love, and those who love want wisdom;
And all best things are thus confused to ill.

(Prometheus Unbound 1.625-28)


[1] Muggeridge also included “science” among the trivialities, but at the moment I’m not in the mood for evoking the ire of scientists, only economists and politicians.

[2] Kinsley isn’t entirely kind to Pity the Billionaire, in which, he says, Frank argues that “President Obama has betrayed the voters who elected him. He ran like a populist . . . but he has governed like a plutocrat, or at least a friend of plutocrats.” Kinsley is quicker to speak favorably of Frank’s previous book, What’s the Matter With Kansas?, in which Frank had argued (says Kinsley) that “working people continue to be duped into supporting measures manifestly against their own self-interest” because of a “clever bait-and-switch by conservatives [that wrong word once again], who appeal to middle- and lower-class voters on the basis of social issues like abortion and gays in the military, and values like patriotism and religion,” but who “govern on the agenda of traditional Republican groups like businessmen and bankers.”

It isn’t my purpose to pass judgment on Frank’s books or on Kinsley’s review. I provide this simply for context—and because I’m a nice guy.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Katherine Dalton January 11, 2012 at 8:23 am

Mr. Kinsley is very partisan and always plays with a marked deck, but he is sometimes perfectly correct. And even the most philosophically rooted conservatives I know (men who have been making the bait-and-switch argument for decades) have largely abandoned the term as irredeemable.

I have wanted a none-of-the-above box for years. But it constitutes an organized secession from the voting process mid process, and we all know secession is one of the last sins in a culture largely without them. Probably we will all end up like the women of England in the Saki story, and forced to vote or face fines and jail time. And for the likes of Mr. Gingrich, too.

avatar Gabe Ruth January 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

Amen, brother. As a recovering political junkie/neocon (mostly by birth), I am filled with bitterness when I consider the amount of time I have squandered reading and arguing about politics. On the other hand, observed clinically, it is a fascinating phenomenon and if you keep your mind on what’s important it can be a darkly entertaining distraction, a guilty pleasure (especially for one with your love for smartassery).

That said, I think not voting for a man with a shot who intends to scale the USG’s international adventures back significantly would be unconscionable. Sorry for the relapse.

avatar Jon Cook January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

Good essay. We need more actual conservatives to stop voting Republican. A liberal friend sent me this:

and for the same reasons true conservatives ought to leave the Republicans. Neither party is interested in a government “for the people” anymore…

avatar Tom January 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I’d argue that this post actually does precisely the opposite that it attempts to do. Voting is a serious matter, even if, as Peters rightly notes, it is by no means the most serious matter. The duty of the citizen is to vote as best as he can. But to urge a “none of the above” choice actually makes the vote into something far more serious than it is. It implies that your entire being, or at the least far too much of your being, is caught up in your vote, and that if there is not a sufficiently excellent choice, the voter risks implicating himself deeply in something very wrong. But one can only be implicated deeply in something very wrong if that very wrong thing is more important than Peters says, following Muggeridge, that politics is.

Make a decision, vote, and then get on with the rest of your life. Enough with the hyperventilating.

avatar Robert January 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I live in a state so blue, and in districts so gerrymandered, that the election (including most primaries) that is not a foregone conclusion is extremely rare. Other than city and county elections, I usually make voting into an opportunity to raise my middle finger to the system by voting either third party or write-in, though a “none of the above” option would be nice as well.

avatar Gabe Ruth January 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Good point about voting none of the above. But I think abstaining if there is no nationally (or at least regionally) visible candidate you can endorse is quite rational, and a potentially valuable signal to those of like mind.

This is a signal that Christians should send to the Republican party. Gingrich and Co. posturing the other day about Obama’s war on Christianity was cringe inducing. Not to make light of the plight of the early Christians, but sometimes I wonder if a little actual persecution wouldn’t be salutary and clarifying.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm

It would seem to me a good old fashioned “Lock-Out” might be edifying. After all, politics has followed the lead of Sports Entertainment, fueling several channels on the dial and counting…..In Entertainment We Trust.

avatar Lee Lauridsen January 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I confess that I’ve never read Muggeridge; my loss, obviously. It’s articles like this that keep me returning to the Porch fairly regularly.

avatar blue sun January 12, 2012 at 8:03 am

Thank you for putting into words so eloquently the perpetual headache I seem to have. Our whole media/financial/political concensus-manufacturing machine prompts both the fight and flight responses in me at the same time, resulting in, yes, despair. Punctuated by hope. Punctuated by confusion.

What should be basic definitions remain undefined, or perhaps are re-defined on a weekly basis. It is incoherence. And some of it is even purposefully spread. Oxymorons abound, such as “Reagan conservative” and “Obama environmentalist,” and (dare I say it aloud?) “Republican Christian.”

Another author, John Michael Greer, describes this incoherence well, I think, here:

(It seems I am the only soul who reads both Front Porch Republic and The Archdruid Report. OK, I can see why. Greer has no qualms about tackling the controversial and surely will ruffle the feathers of the self-righteous. In fact, it could very well serve as a litmus test for some, to see if you can stomach him comparing the Republican platform to The Satanic Bible. Nonetheless I will post the link here.)

avatar C R Wiley January 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Enough people not voting may produce the paradoxical effect of producing someone worth voting for.

avatar Lime Remark January 14, 2012 at 4:05 am

Revolution (of some sort) would be a solution. Not voting is not (unless, of course, the entire citizenry refused to vote, which might bring about the perfectly ironic end to our un-democracy).

In our current system, of course, a non-vote for the lesser of two evils is a vote for the greater evil. I’ll grant you (and Shelly) that “all best things are thus confused to ill”, but it’s not at all clear how long it would take a “government of the worst” (a “cacistocracy”) to inspire real change. Factoring in the last 40 years, I’d guess another sixty, at least — not a rosy prospect for our remaining years.

avatar Nixon is Lord January 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Why would anyone want Carter as President of anything? Reagan didn’t win the election in 1980; Carter lost it.
Eugene McCarthy voted for “anybody but Carter” in 1980.

avatar Jon Cook January 16, 2012 at 10:08 am

Blue sun,

John Michael Greer is a wonderful writer with a keen insight into many modern societal issues, and anyone would be the better having read him. One does not need to embrace a writer’s complete worldview to learn from them.

avatar pb January 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm

blue sun, I read both as well.

avatar Nick January 16, 2012 at 9:42 pm

What great timing, I’ve been having this debate a lot in the last few months.

I’ve been making the argument that you have to couple your abstention with participation at the local and state level, and then it is a perfectly valid choice for a responsible citizen. A low voter turnout for federal elections, and encouragement from the populace, could be taken as an endorsement for local and state governments to stand up for themselves more often. Take the feds to court, refuse standardized testing and go without federal funding for a year, there are a hundred ways to fight the battle against centralization.

avatar John Gorentz January 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I would vote for Palin before I would vote for Obama/Romney, which is not to say I would vote for her. In 2008, after she joined the campaign, I briefly considered calling myself a Republican again. (I had given up on them after they failed to bring the Clintons to justice in the 1990s; told the fundraisers to take me off their lists. Which they did.) But in the end I decided that if some of the things she accused Obama of were true, that would be a reason to vote for Obama. Of course they weren’t true and I didn’t do that, either.

So I voted 3rd party again, voting for whichever crackpot the Libertarians were running, like I had done in the previous two presidential elections. IANAL, though. (where L = Libertarian). I have some libertarian tendencies, but I am most certainly not one of them any more than I am a communist (who they resemble in some ways). It’s my way of voting for None of the Above.

In 2000 I had been used to voting a pretty straight Republican ticket. But when GWB refused to give the slightest indication that he would do better than the corruption of the Clintons, I refused to vote for him.

It was a liberating experience. In the voting booth I was so used to checking the Republican box that I accidentally checked the box for Bush. I went back and asked for a new ballot so I could do it right.

As the Bush atrocities piled up, it was nice not to have to join those conservatives who were doing to themselves exactly what the left had done to itself in defending the Clintons, selling out their intellectual integrity for a mess of pottage. Like I say, it was an exhilarating, liberating experience to stand outside and throw rocks at both sides.

Not voting Republican got easier each time I did it. This season I thought I might come back, though. I like politics, but usually find electoral politics to be boring. This time I actually got interested in the campaign (not that I went so far as to watch a single minute of any of the debates). I’m not hard to please. So I said Anybody but Romney. But the Republicans seem intent on making me do the New Usual again in the voting booth.

Some people tell me that a vote for a 3rd party is the same as a vote for Obama. I’ve done the math, though, which they seem not to have done. I’m here to tell them it’s not the same. And it’s not the same as abstaining, either.

avatar polistra January 18, 2012 at 9:06 am

A “null vote” is counterproductive because it’s exactly what the party operatives want us to do. They don’t want a big turnout; their ENTIRE PURPOSE is to eliminate the votes of everyone except the mechanical R-bots and D-bots. Their ideal election has exactly one voter, who votes for MY party.

Better technique is a conspiracy to write in a single candidate who is legally qualified to serve but totally unacceptable to the parties. If Charles Manson gets a plurality of electoral votes, the parties will have to rethink their procedures. And who knows, old Charlie just might do a better job than any R or D. CAN’T be worse.

avatar Bradford Wilson January 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm

“Come November there will be no one worth spending a vote on.”

I’d suggest that we not adopt the attitude of the Epicureans, whom Leo Strauss accused of an “unmanly contempt for politics.” Consider Alexander Hamilton, who worked hard (and successfully) to get his adversary Jefferson chosen by the House so as to deny the presidency to Burr. Some have said that politics is the art of the possible. I’d want to amend that view to say that it is the art of the best possible. Not voting in November strikes me as a failure to distinguish better and worse, the heart of political judgment. bw

avatar Matt Franck January 19, 2012 at 10:27 am

I agree entirely with the views just above of my friend Brad Wilson, though I think his response was too mild. “None of the above” is not a responsible choice for self-respecting adults, when one of the candidates on the ballot is guaranteed to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices who will destroy what remains of the institution of marriage, and doom countless innocents to death in abortion clinics for decades to come–while the other candidate (whoever the GOP nominates) gives us at least a fighting chance of averting that outcome.

avatar Anymouse January 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm

I agree and I plan to vote in the election. But it is also very important that we strive for non political alternatives as well.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Voting for a president based on hopes to “swing” the Supreme Court is a fool’s errand. Reagan and Bush both appointed justices who upheld Roe v. Wade, which is only natural, because Justice Blackmun’s decision was a sound, conservative, application of well-established law. The court expounds a constitution, it does not make decisions on what might be desirable policy. Whether you like it or not, it is up to the individual pregnant woman, not you, not the Bishop of Rome, not the police, not the legislature, to make decisions about a first or second trimester pregnancy. As a political libertarian, I applaud the result.

It is dubious that any majority on the Supreme Court will accept the argument that a gay couple is “similarly situated” to a married couple of a man and a woman. If they do, it will not be because of a change of justices, but because the arguments offered by opponents of “gay marriage” are so pathetically weak. I don’t have a law degree, but I’ve been distinguishing Loving v. Virginia from the “gay marriage” thesis, and debunking the “equal protection of the laws” argument for years.

In fact, it is quite possible that no Supreme Court justices will be appointed in the next five years. If any are, it is likely to be a replacement for Ginsburg, the justice in the poorest health, in which case an Obama appointment will hardly be a significant ideological shift. I would love for Thomas to retire, not so much because he passes for “conservative” but because he has demonstrated incompetence at grasping the law from his confirmation hearings to the present day. But Roberts, Alito, are quite young, while Scalia and Kennedy show no signs of imminent weakness.

As far as the powers conferred on the President of the United States, by the constitution, Obama has done a reasonably good job, and I expect to vote for his re-election. Like most Americans, I’d make a few changes if I ran the zoo, but I don’t. Those in the running to challenge him are pathetically unqualified.

avatar Rob G January 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

“Whether you like it or not, it is up to the individual pregnant woman, not you, not the Bishop of Rome, not the police, not the legislature, to make decisions about a first or second trimester pregnancy. As a political libertarian, I applaud the result.”

Sounds familiar. “Whether you like it or not, it is up to the individual property owner, not you, not the Bishop of Rome, not the police, not the legislature, to make decisions about how he treats his slaves. As a political libertarian, I applaud the result.”

The more things change the more they stay the same.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 21, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Rob G, there is nothing more pathetic than a partisan of one side in a current live controversy trying to short-circuit all reasoning, by wrapping themselves in the mantle of an antecedent cause that is now, with 20/20 hindsight, generally accepted as correct.

PETA claims to be the new civil rights movement, gay marriage advocates claim to be the new civil rights movement, and right-to-lifers claim to be the new abolitionists. Try to make your case on its own merits, not by shabby appeal to facile analogy.

In fact, you entirely misunderstand slavery. The Supreme Court of Mississippi observed in 1813 that slavery contravenes all natural law and ethics, and can only exist by positive legislation — that is, by a law explicitly authorizing and enforcing such a condition. Another court case in Louisiana ruled that while a slave owner has the rights provided for by statute, a slave owner cannot appeal to common law or any other general precepts, because none of these condone slavery at all.

In short, slavery cannot be sustained by an individual property owner as a natural right. It can only be sustained by an extensive state apparatus devoted to slavery.

Your analogy further founders on the fact that slave owners did not obtain slaves by carrying them for nine months in their own abdomens. They went down to the dock and bought them off ships in which they had been artificially confined.

avatar Rob G January 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Sorry, but the analogy remains and no amount of tendentious historico-legal sophistry will undo it. In each case an entire group or class of human beings is being declared non-human by government fiat. Whether that fiat is “democratic” or not is beside the point.

Here endeth the lesson.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Rob G, you really must do better than playing Humpty-Dumpty cum Ozymandias King of Kings if you want to impress anyone but yourself.

“For I declare that the analogy remains, because I made it, and I say so, and therefore, IT IS SO. And I saw that it is a very good analogy, so I need say nothing further, but pat myself on the back for the excellence of my own thought.”

I understand that having become attached to what seemed a smug and unassailable analogy, you are loath to let go of it, and venture out into the world to make a rational case for your position. But it must be done.

With the facile epithet “historico-legal sophistry,” you absolve yourself from responding to the plain fact that enforcing the personhood of a fetus can ONLY be accomplished by the EXERCISE of state police power, while denying the personhood of child or adult, born of woman, keeping them in the status of chattel property, can also only be accomplished by the exercise of state power. Thus, abolition of slavery is accomplished by CURTAILING an exercise of state power. Allowing individual women to make their own choice about abortion is likewise accomplished by curtailing an exercise of state power.

But you are getting all wrapped up in one point of my previous response. I freely recognize that the entire debate comes down to a clash of fundamental premises. You maintain that a zygote, a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus at any stage of development, is a person, entitled to the full protections our culture and laws accord to a new born baby, a child, and adult of any age. I don’t see that at all.

Now, instead of pontificating (pun intentional) about analogies, you tell me why a single cell that by the natural processes God ordained may or may not embed in the uterine lining is a person, and perhaps we’ll have something to talk about.

avatar Rob G January 23, 2012 at 8:35 am

“instead of pontificating (pun intentional) about analogies, you tell me why a single cell that by the natural processes God ordained may or may not embed in the uterine lining is a person, and perhaps we’ll have something to talk about.”

Oh. come on now, SJ. Do you really expect me to repeat all the philosophical and biological arguments here? They’re out there, and if you’re truly concerned you can find them.

Oh, and by the way, if the “pontificating” pun was intended as a slam against my religion, you might be interested to know that I’m not Catholic.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Rob, I was not slamming your religion, or speculating as to what it might be. I was slamming your habit of making ex cathedra pronouncements of Truth, and expecting everyone to accept it because you said it.

I expect you to state the factual basis or each and every argument you make. There is no more pathetic argument than “They’re out there.” All kinds of trash is out there. Do your own research if you expect to be taken seriously. That we may find we disagree on what the facts are does not bother me. That you fail to even assert a factual basis for what you say, or give me some reason to consider that you may have an accurate grasp on said facts, shows about as much maturity as a child stamping their foot on a playground screaming “Is so.”

avatar Rob G January 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm

~~There is no more pathetic argument than “They’re out there.”~~

Why waste time and effort in rehearsing what is readily available elsewhere, especially on such a complicated issue? I’d never ask someone to repeat, for instance, the causes of the Civil War — whole books have been written on it. and I doubt that I’d get any new info in a combox. It’s not a “pathetic argument,” it’s out of sheer practicality.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 23, 2012 at 11:37 pm

On that basis, my dear sir, you are merely spitting in the wind, not having a serious conversation. I’ve read quite a bit on the Civil War, but if you were to declare that “General Hood won a victory at the Battle of Nashville … its out there, go look it up,” I might merely laugh at your ignorance until you provided me with some basis for your assertion. If I said “Robert E. Lee freed the slaves,” you might legitimately ask me to explain myself, rather than simply taking my word for it that “the information is out there.”

In fact, I do believe it is a reasonable assertion that no one person had more to do with making the 13th amendment possible than Robert E. Lee. If the Civil War had ended with restoration of full federal authority in 1862, there would have been neither the need to enlist soldiers of African descent, nor the will to ratify the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. By winning early battles, Lee stretched out the war and made the federal government fight so hard that the winners were mad enough to actually free the slaves. But I wouldn’t expect you to take my word for it.

You’re position is sheer intellectual laziness.

avatar Rob G January 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

In several years of blogging and online discussion, it seems to me that the two most fruitless areas of debate are abortion and the Civil War. The comments simply tend to get longer and longer, with no resolution in sight. You can call this laziness if you want, but as the Dude said, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. I see it not as laziness but as being realistic. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to enter into a protracted discussion of either issue. And I’m not sure how much common ground I’d have anyways with someone who considers a first-trimester unborn child to have the moral standing of a nail clipping or a shed epidermal cell.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 25, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Like it or not Rob, we have to share the planet, the country, maybe even be next door neighbors some time. That is common ground we can’t escape, so we might as well be civil to each other. I don’t feel motivated to resolve our differences by exterminating you and your ilk. Hopefully your passions are similarly restrained.

But the last couple of points, we weren’t talking about who is right. We were discussing what it takes to have integrity when offering an argument in a public debate.

Let’s try the civil war example again. If you say “Bombardment of Fort Sumter began on April 12, 1861,” I certainly could not expect you to provide footnotes and citations. That is a well known, well documented fact. But if you said “The Civil War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter,” I might plausibly argue, no, it began when South Carolina passed an unconstitutional ordinance of secession, or, that it began with the Battle of Bull Run.

If you responded “The date of April 12 for the start of the Civil War holds,” and said no more, you would be indulging in pathetic narcissism. If you responded “There were many ways that the ordinance of secession could have been handled that would not have led to war,” or “War was under way long before the first full clash of substantial armies at Bull Run,” you would be offering a reasoned argument.

Without prejudice to your position on abortion, the Civil War, or anything else under the sun, engaging in debate requires more of you, of me, of anyone, than bestowing the status of Truth upon whatever you just said, and declaring it established by Fiat. You can’t be both a participant in a debate, and the arbiter of who won. In the absence of a formal panel of neutral judges, “winning” is determined by whose argument is more persuasive to the larger number of previously uncommitted listeners. We’ll probably never know for sure. Of course, if I persuade you, or you persuade me, to abandon an argument and decided “You’re right,” then we have evidence of considerable persuasive substance.

The course you have taken so far, when it is imposed by persons who have actual possession of coercive power, is the essence of tyranny, and may in such extremes become grounds for resorting to the Second Amendment. But, as long as no coercive power is in your hands, it is merely unpersuasive.

avatar Rob G January 26, 2012 at 7:09 am

I understand what you are saying, but I just don’t see the value in entering a debate on “Is a first trimester fetus a human being?” in a combox. It’s too complicated a subject.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm

It is not only too complicated, it is too axiomatic. That is the nature of the entire abortion debate, which is why I, for one, favor shelving the whole subject. As long as 30-60 percent of the population say it is a human being, while another 60-30 percent say it is not, we are not going to have a social consensus that lends itself to effective legislative resolution.

On that basis, there should be no criminal statutes. We can’t even agree on, or meaningfully discuss, the most fundamental factual foundation for a coherent debate.

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