Knight Of The Mind

I'll do my best to present a philosophical and generally conservative look at current events and life, the universe and everything. Readers are invited to take all that's posted herein with a grain of salt. or if they prefer, a grain of salt, a slice of lime and a shot of tequila.

Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

Greetings and welcome. My name is Steve, I'm 35 years old and I work for the US Army as an Operations Research Analyst. Hence my blog title Knight Of The Mind.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Swallower Arguments: The Ideological Closed Loop

Anyone who has ever sat through a time share sales pitch, in order to get the two free tickets at the other end of the rainbow, almost understands the exquisite pain experienced by John Derbyshire, at a recent leftist teach-in about diversity. Why an individual intelligent enough to author Prime Obsession would sit through that twaddle is a topic for another day. Today, I'll focus on why these "teaching sessions" are such a hands-on history lesson in 14th Century Dentistry.

Peter Wood wrote on diversity fetishism. He opined that "(diversity studies) is a closed loop of thought and experience. Once one enters this loop and accepts the main propositions of diversity, it is difficult to see out of it." I feel this is true and can also be assumed over a much larger domain of liberal thought and belief without any significant loss of generality. In other words, you have to buy into liberalism on an emotional level or not at all.

Now that works for a lot of otherwise intelligent people, but not enough to muster the popular groundswell required to ascend to power in a representative democracy that offers anything close to universal suffrage. To make the illogical seem orderly, you have to warp the reality the reveals its flaws. To convince people that purple is really yellow or blue instead, for example, you have to do something to screw up their vision. Maybe give them glasses with funky, shaded lenses.

The logical equivalent of glasses with the weird colored lenses is an argument waged on preempted categories. That is, you make a participant in the argument agree to certain ground rules and suppositions that make the outcome of the discussion a foregone conclusion. This constitutes what's called a swallower argument. It's an argument that can't be debunked because the participants have to accept a set of unproven, a priori condiditons to entry that make disagreeing illegal to the rules of the game.

For example, no one in his right mind would buy into the environmental movement and it's ideology without first proceeding from the premise that modern industry did more harm through it's pollution than it did good through its production, philanthropy or job creation. Reject that initial ground rule, and there is no logical justification to reject the premise that environmental regulation should only occur after a cost benefit analysis establishes that the regulations do more good than harm.

Another famous chestnut is the argument that the rich are unduly compensated and should therefore be taxed more in order to share the wealth. This could make some sense on its own merits, but does not become an emotional teeth-clincher that turns out the populist with pitch forks until the apriori assumption is made that every dollar that rich person makes means less welfare for those who aren't just as rich as him. Class warfare does not work if we step back and examine whether or not this wealth was stolen or earned and whether or not people entered into a bargain with this person to enrich him.

P. J. O'Rourke skillfully eviscerated this argument by describing it has "The Dominoes Pizza" view of political economy. Where if one guy gets too many slices, everyone else has to feed their family on a bunch of old, stale crusts. Logical examination renders this conceit ludicrous. Rail Baron Cornelious Vanderbilt may have been an utter Type A, Yuppie Scum, Tyrannosaurus Rex from Hell, but every time a grain wholesaler was able to ship the contents of a silo to market before it spoiled so that every farmer in town got a better price on their grain, the entire community served by that railroad was better off precisely because Vanderbilt was an egomaniacal, driven, uber-jerk would refused to take "no" for an answer.

Thus it is with much of what the cult-like hard left believes. There is no logical discussion allowed of whether standards are fair, fetuses are alive, wealth is good, or society just. Believe any of these things and you're disqualified from the discussion. The swallower argument doesn't work and the hard core of the left doesn't want you around. There are some forms of diversity that just weird these people out.


As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.
Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.

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