thisguyvx, on the Ethan Van Sciver thread from Sunday:
Incidentally, I love how ANYTHING that echoes the non-screaming liberal viewpoint gets AUTOMATICALLY decried.
Honestly, it’s not EVS’s politics that bug me nearly so much as his debating style.
Summarizing his behaviour on the thread in question:
EVS: “The United States has a great degree of social mobility because of the policies we have enacted.”
SOMEBODY ELSE: “Actually, among first-world nations, it doesn’t. It’s not even close to the top. New Zealand is first, for example.”
EVS: “So move to New Zealand.”
That’s not substantive discussion: that’s just a blatant “fuck you.” It’s like arguing with somebody on a playground where they counter with “well, you’re a butthead!” It just shuts down conversation entirely, because you can’t have a rational talk with somebody who refuses to engage you honestly.
EVS was wrong, was corrected, and acted petulant – then, to irritate me further, started grandstanding about “civility” in the same thread where he accused his ideological opponents of being brain-dead. (It’s even more pronounced when in the same thread you have other conservative-leaning posters actually attempting to argue in good faith.)
And that’s what earned him the comparison to Byrne, who frequently does the same thing. Of course, Byrne has a lifetime of this sort of behaviour under his belt and this is the only time EVS has acted like this that I’ve seen, so I’m willing to extend him a little benefit of the doubt – but only a little, and frankly his replies in email have exhausted most of it.
And I’m not going to pretend that I’m a bastion of civility, but at least I try to argue in good faith, and when I say “fuck you” I don’t bother trying to hide it.
UPDATE: EVS has complained that I am mischaracterizing him, so here are the original quotes to which I was referring in the summary:
1.) (EVS): It’s not that ANYONE can succeed in this country if they aren’t lazy. They also have to be some combination of clever, thrifty, and lucky. People go as far as they are personally able to because this country makes that possible [emphasis mine]. Bad ideas, bad planning and yes, laziness, in business and in your personal life cause failure. And even then, there’s a chance to pull yourself up and start over again, without becoming addicted to Big Government programs.
2.) (“Charles RB”): Actually, that’s not true – studies keep showing that a number of other countries beat America in social mobility, with Sweden and I think Denmark or Norway always topping the list (and these are countries were a lot is paid in tax compared to the US). I think New Zealand beats you as well.
3.) (EVS): Well, there you have it, Dragonflye [commenter with whom EVS was arguing elsewhere in thread]. Move to New Zealand and get rich.
I allow the readership in general to decide if I have misrepresented him. I don’t think I have.
UPDATE TWO: Ethan responds in comments
Which is interesting information, but completely irrelevant to what I was saying. Putting aside the shaky validity of that list, since it’s impossible to compare nations with completely difference concentrations of populations and circumstances, I didn’t say, “America is THE BEST!” I was offering, “You also have a great chance at achieving wealth in America, like in few other countries in the world.”
Ethan, you’re applying a very tunnel-visioned approach to the argument as a whole.
Any argument about taxation is de facto an argument about societal policy (and its effectiveness) as a whole, because taxation policy serves as the alternator between public and private monies and what each of those monetary spheres can accomplish.
(Incidentally, asserting that you have a better shot at achieving wealth in America than in, say, Botswana, Laos or Somalia, is an irrelevant argument. It’s irrelevant because comparing stable, mature First World democracies to in-transition Third World countries or anarchic barely-there governments is kind of ridiculous, both because there’s no serious comparison to be made and because in the argument in question, which again is one about policy ends and aims, nobody is advocating for “hey, let’s ditch our mature government for a system of tribal leaders ruling by violence!”)
No – the discussion in question is about what combination of policies creates the best possible outcome for the citizenry of a given country, as well as how that best possible outcome is defined. Now, it’s perfectly all right – to take Ethan’s example – to advocate for a greater level of non-interference by government in private life, be that on a monetary/taxation level, a civil liberties level, or otherwise. The great question of modern policy debate is the appropriate level of balance between statism and liberty; statism provides stability and reliability, liberty provides dynamism and innovation. Neither of these are innate goods in and of themselves, of course; the USSR was a broken tyrannical government that was unfortunately pretty stable and reliable in how it operated, and the recent fiscal crises are an excellent example of how innovation is not always your friend.
Turning back to the question of social mobility. Ethan is utterly incorrect to suggest that it was “irrelevant,” because we traditionally view social mobility – the ability to rise from one’s socio-economic class through merit, or to be able to lose their standing in the same manner through inability – as a positive in society, and something we wish to encourage. Now, in an argument about taxation policy and level of government interference, if you assert that social mobility and the opportunity to succeed based on merit is to the good – as Ethan did – then if somebody says “well, in [other country here with a different philosophy of taxation and level of government interference], they have more social mobility,” then that automatically becomes relevant to the discussion at hand because it is an end product of that tax philosophy.
It’s entirely true that Ethan wasn’t asserting that “America is the best,” but that’s not the point and never was.
And one more thing, tangential at best but since he quoted himself from the thread:
you probably aren’t interested in the Government defining what is and is not proper moral behavior.
What on earth do you think criminal laws are exactly? And before you go to “well, those prevent harm,” let me assure you there are tons of criminal laws on the books where the question of harm is purely indirect and the crime in question is primarily moral. (Insider trading is an excellent example.)