Project August: Day 29 – Wherein I Shred an Argument

I had to hunt for a post to use in Project August because some people (I’m looking at you regular readers) still refuse to help me. And after I found a post to which I wanted to respond, I realized the post is basically a column taken from The American Prospect, which means using it for Project August is a bit of a cheat. In my defense, I did not realize the true nature of the post until after I started working on this entry. Anyway, the author of the column seems to have used the old “I can knock down a straw man so you must be ignorant” bit. Fair warning, I am going to basically shred this person’s argument. Ready? Here we go.

The post prompting today’s entry in Project August comes from a site I never visited before today, mykeystrokes.com. The post is titled “‘Rights, Obligations, And Ignorant Libertarians’: If You Define Yourself By A Philosophy, At Least Have An Idea Of What It Implies”. The column, from The American Prospect, is merely titled “Rights, Obligations, and Ignorant Libertarians”. So apparently the blogger agrees with the author of the column, but more on that later.

The column quotes from a National Review Online article. So let’s see that quote first.

“There’s a philosophic debate which often gets me in trouble, you know, on whether health care’s a right or not,” Paul, in a red tie, white button-down shirt, and khakis, tells the students from the stage. “I think we as physicians have an obligation. As Christians, we have an obligation. . . . I really believe that, and it’s a deep-held belief,” he says of helping others.

“But I don’t think you have a right to my labor,” he continues. “You don’t have a right to anyone else’s labor. Food’s pretty important, do you have a right to the labor of the farmer?”

Paul then asks, rhetorically, if students have a right to food and water. “As humans, yeah, we do have an obligation to give people water, to give people food, to give people health care,” Paul muses. “But it’s not a right because once you conscript people and say, ‘Oh, it’s a right,’ then really you’re in charge, it’s servitude, you’re in charge of me and I’m supposed to do whatever you tell me to do. . . . It really shouldn’t be seen that way.”

And to be fair to the author of the column, this comes in the middle of a story about Rand Paul doing some eye surgery pro bono, which is to say, without charging the patients. Oddly the author of the column does not mention that. Why do I bring it up? Because of what the author of the column does say.

He begins by talking about how political parties serve as political shorthand. Then he starts picking on libertarians.

But if you call yourself a libertarian, you’re saying that parties aren’t enough for you, even if you’re a Republican. Instead, you’re motivated by a philosophical perspective to which you’ve given some serious thought. Every libertarian in politics, including Rand Paul, presents themselves this way. They’re concerned with ideas. So if you’re going to define yourself by a philosophy, isn’t it incumbent upon you to at least have an idea of what that philosophy implies, and a grasp of some basic philosophical concepts—for instance, like what a right is—so that you can talk about them with some modicum of sense when they come up, as they inevitably will?

Apparently not.

The above quote from the National Review Online is provided, and then the author of the column says this:

Oh dear. Paul is obviously unaware of this, but saying that health care is a right doesn’t mean that doctors have to treat people without being paid, any more than saying that education is a right means that public school teachers have to work for free. Because we all agree that education is a right, we set up a system where every child can be educated, whether their families could afford to pay for it themselves or not. It doesn’t mean that any kid can walk up to a teacher in the street and say, “I command you to teach me trigonometry for free. Be at my house at 9 tomorrow. You must do this, because I have a right to education and that means I am in charge of you and you’re supposed to do whatever I tell you to do.”

All this talk of “servitude” and “conscription” is just baffling. The only way I can interpret it is that libertarianism is something Paul picked up from his dad, and it seems to go over well with Republicans when he mentions it, but he hasn’t spent any time thinking about it.

Very quickly one gets a sense that the author of the column is the one who has not spent a lot of time thinking. Nowhere in the passage quoted from the NRO article does Rand Paul say anything about doctors treating people without getting paid. Now, maybe that was on the author’s mind because of the context, which he fails to mention, but that does not excuse the very straw man nature of his argument.

But wait, it gets better. And by better, I mean more laughable.

The author of the column is trying to say Rand Paul does not know what a right is, but then the author says, “[b]ecause we all agree that education is a right,” and exposes his own ignorance. A right is not something agreed upon by society. That would make a right a privilege. A right is not a privilege. A right is not something that can be given or taken away. A right is something humans have inalienably.

inalienable
adjective
not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated
synonyms: inviolable, absolute, unassailable, inherent
source: Dictionary.com Unabridged; Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013

Just because some people want to call education or health care a right does not make it so.

And of course, Rand Paul is correct. Health care is not a right, in part because we do not have the right to the labor of another person. And here is a clue for the baffled author: servitude and conscription are words for when people decide they have the authority to claim someone else’s labor.

So in trying to paint Rand Paul as ignorant, the ignorance the author exposed was his own.

So let me take the author’s words and turn them about to make another point.

If you’re going to criticize a philosophy and a person who holds that philosophy, isn’t it incumbent upon you to at least have an idea of what that philosophy implies, and a grasp of some basic philosophical concepts—for instance, like what a right is—so that you can talk about them with some modicum of sense when they come up, as they inevitably will?

And now I am going to paraphrase the column’s author again to address the person who reposted the column.

Reposting and agreeing with a column that ignorant is just baffling. The only way I can interpret it is that the anti-libertarianism is something the blogger thought would to go over well with his audience, but he hasn’t spent any time thinking about it.

Okay, only a couple of days left for Project August. It is not too late to suggest a post on another blog or to claim the points that have been offered for identifying the obscure cultural references I have made.

I will be glad when this is done. Posting every single day is not easy when almost no one helps by suggesting blog posts to which one can respond.

Have I mentioned that I would like some suggestions of posts on other blogs to which I can respond for Project August? Well, I am mentioning it now.

So, um, all suggestions of posts on other blogs to which I can respond for Project August can be made in the comments section.

And of course, feel free when making suggestions of posts on other blogs to which I can respond for Project August to suggest a post from your own blog.

I need… a beer. Ha. You thought I was going to say I needed suggestions of posts on other blogs to which I can respond for Project August. Fooled ya.

Wait, this post is over 1400 words already? Then I will stop right now.

3 Responses to “Project August: Day 29 – Wherein I Shred an Argument”

  1. Sir. I know Project August is long past, however, I ran across this today: http://mastererotica60.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/what-type-of-submissive-are-you/ and was curious what your thoughts on it would be. I’ve always had a problem with trying to lump anything into nice little square boxes, and to be fair he does say that most submissives do not fit nicely into one category, which I do agree, on that point, not sure on the different classifications. For at least the first two (from my perspecitive), appear more of a process submissives might go through that helps them to recognize they are submissive and some of the others might be just parts of experimentation to discover more about submission before they decide to completely submit to a dominant man. Maybe you can add this in your list of something to write a post about. Thank you Sir.

    • That is a good suggestion. Making lists of categories of people is not inherently bad, but I tend to avoid it because it contributes to prejudging people. We put people into little boxes in our mind, which makes for a fast way to sort people and decide how to treat them. Having been dismissed many a time by people who decided what sort of person I am without actually getting to know me, I do not like that way of deciding how to treat people. I believe people should be treated as individuals, not parts of a category. But I will add this topic to the list for future posts. Thank you, Kate.

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