Nuggets of Wisdom

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Arguing With Idiots

We all have our addictions. For some, it’s smoking. For others, it’s drinking. And for many others, it’s porn. For me, it’s arguing on the internet—the most fruitless endeavor since Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill.

I don’t know what compels me to argue. I guess it’s this naive notion that, if you encounter someone with an incorrect belief and you provide them logic, reason, and evidence to the contrary, that they will abandon their belief. If that were the case, the world wouldn’t be plagued with birthers, truthers, anti-vaccers, Keynesians, and other idiots with blatantly incorrect beliefs. You can lead an idiot to knowledge but you can’t make them think.

So I know that arguing with people rarely changes their minds. So why do I persist with arguing? Do I derive pleasure from it? Hardly! If anything, it gives me grief. There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing someone is demonstrably wrong, and even when you prove to them that they are, not only do they not admit it, but they buckle down and insist that they are right, often with the flimsiest arguments. It’s enough to make one go homicidal. Or suicidal. Or both!

So I realize that arguing doesn’t change people’s minds, nor does it give me any pleasure, yet every day I insist on arguing on the internet. I’m like a junkie who insists on toking up even if it means selling the last of his food stamps to buy his next high, or like a drunk who goes comatose at the bar every night even when his liver has already corroded to mush. I keep waking up every morning, asking myself what I’m doing with my life, and telling myself that today will be my last internet argument.

And yet I continue to argue on the internet. I guess I’m masochistic that way.

Just earlier this week, I was on Reddit—one of my favorite places to argue (well, maybe not “favorite” as it is “most frequent”)—when I came across this thread: There Is No Invisible Hand: "After more than a century trying to prove the opposite, economic theorists investigating the matter finally concluded in the 1970s that there is no reason to believe markets are led, as if by an invisible hand, to an optimal equilibrium -- or any equilibrium at all."

That title suggests that America is a free market economy and that our current economic problems are a result of it. But America hardly has anything remotely resembling a free market. Even the “free market” polices pushed by Republicans over the past 30 years since Reagan are less “laissez-faire capitalism” and more “crony corporatism” disguised as such. Even Ayn Rand herself refused to support Reagan as a “champion of capitalism.” Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Switzerland have freer economies than ours and yet manage to do economically better than us.

So I replied to the thread with the following comment:
So let me get this straight: we have entire industries (gas, farms, sugar, etc.) which are highly subsidized by the government, a progressive tax system where the rich pay a higher rate in income tax than the rest of us (tax statistics don't lie!), federal regulations that have been exponentially increasing for the past half century (look at the pages of the Federal Registar!), currency that is printed out of thin air with no substance backing it, banks and other corporations being bailed out because they're "too big to fail," and a centralized bank privately-owned and government-run that pretty much controls every aspect of our economy without transparency (we know more about the CIA than the Fed), and yet we're supposed to believe that we live in a free-market?

Herp Derp! Makes sense to me!
Now granted, my comment here has been rated as the second highest on the comment thread with 31 upvotes (right under the comment claiming “There's no Easter Bunny, either”—insinuating that the “Invisible Hand” is a faith-based concept like God, when it’s actually just a metaphor for the self-regulating nature of the marketplace through individuals pursuing their own self-interests), so there are a few intelligent Redditors; however, considering that the remainder comprise the libtarded hivemind of r/politics, it was only natural that my comment received flack.

Consider this reply:
This libertarian "let's hate the government" phenomenon has to stop. Yes, American politics right now is pretty messed up; but , God, this insinuation that somehow the government will bring about Armageddon so we must destroy it is just plain ridiculous.
And here we have one of the fundamental misunderstandings of libertarianism: that libertarians hate the government for the sake of hating the government—that they’re rebels without a cause. It’s all too common for libtarded moonbats to shrug off libertarians as whiny teenagers suffering through their rebellious stage which they will simply outgrow once they become older.

First off, being 25 years old, I’m beyond being a teenager; and secondly, I don’t hate the government for the sake of hating it: I hate it for all the problems it has caused. That’s not to say that I want to completely eliminate it (otherwise, I’d be an anarchist), just that I want to fix the problems it has created. (And no, I don’t believe the government is responsible for every problem, just the problems it has caused—which would be an overwhelming majority of them, unfortunately.)

And so I replied to that comment with this one:
You jest, right? Libertarians like myself don’t hate the government for the sake of hating it. We legitimately hate it because of all of the crap it has caused. Perpetual foreign wars. The PATRIOT Act. Waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Full body scanners and other invasive airport security measures. The individual mandate within Obamacare. The indefinite detention portion of the NDAA 2012. SOPA. PIPA. ACTA. CISPA. Net Neutrality. Bank Bailouts. Auto Bailouts. The 7.7 trillion secret bailouts by the Federal Reserve. The stimulus package. Solyndra and other failed subsidized boondoggles. Post Office. DMV. Public schools. The militarization of our police force. The War on Drugs. Bradley Manning and other political prisoners and whistleblowers prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Oil subsidies. Farm subsidies. Sugar subsidies. Pretty much all government subsidies. Regulatory capture. The ever increasing national debt and deficit. The devaluing of our currency. Runaway entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. The hyper-sensationalism of social issues such as gay marriage and contraception. And the list goes on and on.

TL;DR: Our federal government is out of control and needs to return to its Constitutional limitations ASAP! My hate of the government is justified.
So there you have it. I list every gripe I have with the federal government. So now do people understand why, as a libertarian, I hate it so? (If you answered yes, you’re clearly not paying attention.)

Right after posting my comment, I received “this” enlightening one:
It seems you are accounting for the costs of having a society with a government without considering the costs to a society without a government.
And yet again we have another fundamental misunderstanding of libertarianism: that libertarians want to eliminate all government (to which we are instructed to move to Somalia). No we don’t; otherwise, we’d be anarchists. We believe the purpose of government is to protect the rights of individual citizens; therefore, government should be “limited” to preventing others from infringing on those rights (thus the term “limited government”). The problem we have is that our current federal government has far exceeded that role as laid out in the Constitution, and the problems I listed are a result of that. We don’t want the government completely eliminated; we simply want it rolled back to its Constitutional limitations.

But still people try to convince me that the problem isn’t big government:
Look, libertarians. I am sympathetic to your general outlook but you must understand that the problem isn't government, the problem is concentrated power.
GOVERNMENT IS CONCENTRATED POWER! The government is the only institution with the power to initiate force and coercion in order to pursue its goals. And as of recent, most of that power has been concentrated into our federal government, with little to no power at the local and state level to balance it out. When you have all that power concentrated in a centralized federal government, that’s when you have tyranny—and considering all the problems I previously listed, we’re pretty damn close to it.

But that’s not even the dumbest comment. Check this shit out:
Based on your list, I am led to believe you have no idea why you are so mad at the government.
Really? Really?! Are you really that obtuse? You really mean to tell me that, after perusing my detailed list of grievances with our current federal government, you have no ideas why I’m upset with it (or rather, you claim I have no idea why I’m upset about it)?

Again, I have to ask myself: why do I do this? Why do I insist on arguing with people who clearly have no intention of changing their minds even after being presented with logic, reason, and evidence? Why do I insist on inflicting such pain upon myself? Why, I ask you, why?

But I guess that’s just the thing about addictions. You know they’re bad for you, you know you get nothing positive from it, yet you do it anyway. I guess people are just masochistic that way.