Monday, October 15, 2012

Greed is Good...Unless a Liberal Does It

I've got a new conservative friend on Facebook.  Decent guy so far, seems intelligent enough...for a conservative.  Hoping this might be the debate foe I've been looking for, as it's tiring to debate liberals and/or atheists over relatively minor points of conflict, but most conservatives are too unglued from reality to be of any use in a debate; so I rarely get to debate the big ideas.  Maybe it'll be different this time.

And we got off to a nice start tonight, when he posted a quote from a Thomas Sowell book, which Sowell recently tweeted:
And conservatives love that line because it turns the tables on those pesky liberals and supposedly hoists them by their own petards.  After all, either no one is greedy or they too are greedy, as defined by Sowell.  And that sort of thing ranks right up there with accusing liberals of being racist, in that it uses a "vicious" liberal attack against the dirty buggers themselves; thus defanging the attackers.  Left out is the possibility that the "attack" is a fair description of anyone on their side.

And yes, this is basically an extension of the "I'm Rubber You're Glue" method of debate found on playgrounds across this fair land.  But when you're dealing with people whose way to "stand up for our country" is to use anti-Obama window displays showing Obama as a witch doctor...I guess the old rubber-glue strategy is a breath of fresh air.  (Because yeah, I remember all those images of Clinton as a witch doctor back when he tried reforming healthcare, so I'm sure there's no racial link here at all [/snark].)

Defining Greed

But more to the Sowell's line correct?  Are liberals perhaps the greedy ones for wanting to take money from people who don't need it to give to people who do need it?  Definitely not.  And the problem is with his initial definition of "greed," as if it just refers to people who want to keep their money.

Because if greed is just about keeping money, then sure, he's got a point.  Either one person is keeping it or the other is keeping it, so how can you claim that only one of the two sides is greedy if they're both doing it?  And yet...when people call someone "greedy," is it merely because they want to keep their money?  No.  That's stupid.  And this isn't even a semantics game.  There is simply no definition of "greed" that refers to people merely wanting to keep their money, as that applies to just about everyone.

Here are a few definitions of greed, and please note the similarity:
"An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves..."
"excessive desire, as for wealth or power"
 "excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves"
"a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed"
"excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions."

And what's the connection with all these definitions?   Excessiveness.  It's not merely the desire to keep your money.  Greed is an "excessive desire" to keep more than is needed.  That's what it means.  And sure, it's a debatable point whether people should be required to share their wealth, or how to define "excessive" or "need."  But what's not debatable is the basic meaning of the word.

And in no case is Sowell's definition in any way accurate, but instead, was chosen because it helps setup the clever trap he was springing on liberals.  He didn't take the word "greed" and show how it applies to liberals.  He wanted it to apply to liberals, and formed a definition that would do that; even if it's not correct.  After all, who amongst us doesn't want to keep our money?  By that definition, we're not just "greedy" for wanting to tax the rich, but we're greedy in the first part, for wanting to keep our money.  And that's absurd and denies any meaning to the word at all.

Rewriting Sowell

And so to rewrite Sowell's quote with a proper usage of the word, we'd get:
"I have never understood why it is "greed" to desire an excessive amount of money, but not greed to want to take money from someone with an excessive amount and give it to someone who doesn't have enough money."
And written that way, it shows what a complete joke his quote was.  He wasn't hoisting liberals with their own argument.  He was playing a word game that falls apart if we use the word properly.  And if Sowell doesn't understand the difference between someone with an excessive desire to acquire money and someone wanting to help those who don't have enough...then he's an idiot.  But I don't think Sowell's an idiot.  I just think he was trying to be clever and failed.

But that's so often the case with conservatives.  They mean well.  They really do.  It's just that they're on the wrong side of the debate, but can't figure out why.  So they have to keep changing the rules in order to invent ways that they're right and we're wrong.  And their favorite technique is as I mentioned above: Simply accusing us of doing what we accuse them of doing, and thus negating our arguments...or so they imagine.

And so we end up with an up-is-down universe, in which it's racist for a white person to want to help a black person buy groceries and it's greedy to want to tax the rich a little more to help a poor person pay their rent.  Sure, none of this makes a lick of sense, but by the time you've explained it all, they've already had their laugh and moved on to the next point.  And that's all this is about anyway: Not winning debates, but making their side feel better about itself while simultaneously making the brains on our side explode.

And in that regard, well played, Sowell.  Well played.

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