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Friday, April 8, 2011

Rhetoric, Rhetoric and Ad Hominems

"Comment is free, but facts are sacred." — C.P. Scott, editor Manchester Guardian, 1921

Over the years a quotation attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747–1813) has been circulating around the Internet. After a great deal of research I have found the most probable source of the quote was Elmer T. Peterson who wrote in the Daily Oklahoman on December 9, 1951; “Two centuries ago, a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."

Other researchers have stated; “Perhaps what he had in mind was what Prof. Alexander Frazer Tytler has written, that a democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority, he said, always vote for the candidate promising the most benefits from the treasury with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship”

A more common version of Tytler’s alleged quote is: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with a result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence:

  • From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
  • From Spiritual Faith to Great Courage
  • From Courage to Liberty
  • From Liberty to Abundance
  • From Abundance to Selfishness
  • From Selfishness to Complacency
  • From Complacency to Apathy
  • From Apathy to Dependency
  • From Dependency back into Bondage

However, this has also been attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alexis de Tocqueville, R. G. LeTourneau and others. It is likely that it is actually two quotes, put together. Parts of it show up in printed record as far back as 1950, when the "Fatal Sequence" portion was cited in a speech by Eugene E. Wilson at a special United Nations Convocation at Hillyer College in Hartford, Connecticut. But regardless of the quote's origin, it is interesting to note how accurate it details the past and how much further we have progressed along that predicted line, since it first appeared in modern recorded history, in 1950.

I urge you not to be concerned with the authorship of this quote, but to focus upon the truth that is in the words. I believe that we can stop this "Fatal Sequence", but not the way we are going.

I spent some time on the “Tytler” quote as I believe that the thought expressed, while with a questionable genesis, bears a great deal of truth and illustrates the way our Republic is going today. The current battle of the budget proves my thesis.

Six months into the 2011 fiscal year, the federal government has yet to pass a budget. This week the impasse over spending for 2011 came to a head: without a new spending authorization, the federal government will “shut down" at midnight.

Liberals and the media have offered doomsday predictions about the consequences of a government shutdown. But The Heritage Foundation has researched what a shutdown would mean for average Americans.

A Heritage Factsheet explains what a shutdown really means:

The term “shutdown” substantially overstates the matter. Even if Congress and the President fail to reach agreement, the most essential services continue, such as: (1) providing for national security, (2) conducting foreign affairs, (3) providing for the continuity of mandatory benefit payments, and (4) protecting life and property. These services include military, law enforcement, VA care, and others. Social Security checks are still mailed.”

While President Obama blames the possibility of a shutdown on lawmakers not acting “like grownups,” conservatives know better. Heritage’s Brian Darling pinpoints the real culprits: big-government liberals.”

Federal spending is out of control, and soaring federal debt poses an immediate threat to the nation’s economic future. The House of Representatives has already acted and passed a spending measure to fund the government and make important cuts. The ball is now in the Senate’s court. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) must now move the process forward in order to avoid a shutdown.

Mark Alexander writes in the Patriot Post; “Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his proposal for the 2012 budget on Monday, but as we go to press this morning, the 2011 budget process is still stuck in neutral and appears headed for shutdown at midnight tonight.”

“By a vote of 247-181, the Republican-controlled House passed yet another week-long continuing resolution Thursday that cuts more from federal spending but funds the Pentagon through Sept. 30. Friday morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced an agreement on $38 billion in cuts, but said that the Senate will "have our own short-term" bill. The Senate hasn't approved a budget bill of any kind in more than 18 months. Nothing like leadership, Harry.”

“The hang up isn't so much the dollar amounts, it's whether or not funds are used for Democrats' pet social issues, such as money for abortions at Planned Parenthood. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called removal of those funds "a war on women."

“Pelosi also decried GOP spending bills, saying, "In one of the bills before us,Nancy Pelosi’s absurd math on senior citizens losing their meals six million seniors are deprived of meals — homebound seniors are deprived of meals. People ask us to find our common ground, the middle ground. Is middle ground three million seniors not receiving meals? I don't think so. We've got to take this conversation from a debate about numbers and dollar figures and finding middle ground there to the higher ground of national values. I don't think the American people want any one of those six million people to lose their meals or the children who are being thrown off of Head Start and the rest of it."

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, however, only 2.6 million seniors receive these meals. In fact, Pelosi's lie was so bad, even The Washington Post called her on it and gave her four Pinocchios, meaning a “whopper of lie”. This didn’t seem to bother San Fran Nan as she was recoded later as saying the same thing. This is the way the Democrats debate an issue. The use rhetoric, lies and ad Hominems. If you break the argument than attack the character of the person posing the argument and appeal to the emotions of the audience. Facts don’t matter to Democrats, feel good does.

Another four Pinocchio lie is the statement that “if this bill is passed women will lose their access to breast cancer screening,” This statement was made regarding the proposed defunding of the $340 million taxpayers’ dollars that are given to Planned Parenthood. This is an outright perpetrated by the left. In a recent “sting” operation by Lila Rose of Live Action 30 Planned Parenthood offices in 27 states were contacted and none of them offered breast screening for cancer (mammograms). "We don’t provide those services whatsoever,” admits a staffer at Planned Parenthood of Arizona. Planned Parenthood’s Comprehensive Health Center clinic in Overland Park, Kansa explains to the caller, “We actually don’t have a, um, mammogram machine, at our clinics.” This is just another example of the rhetoric and ad hominines the progressive left has been spewing over the media, mainly unchallenged.

Lila Rose Exposes Planned Parenthood CEO’s False Breast Cancer Clinic Claim

“Meanwhile, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) fumed, "We are absolutely outraged. This is the functional equivalent of bombing innocent civilians. It's time that the District of Columbia told the Congress to go straight to hell." She continued, "If these Republicans insist that, if they don't get the whole pie they'll take the whole country down with them," she continued, "then we have got to make them pay the price." Don't hold back, Eleanor — tell us how you really feel.”

“Barack Obama says he wants "to have an adult dialogue on the budget," but apparently congressional Democrats aren't quite there yet. Then again, neither is Obama. Though he said everyone should "quit playing games and realize it is not 'my way or the highway,'" he called the House bill a "distraction" and has promised a veto if funding for Planned Parenthood is cut. Sounds like his way or the highway to us because that veto would cause (part of) the government to shut down.”

“In effect, what Obama is saying is, "Pay the ransom (allow us to continue massive government spending) or we stop paying the military, we won't mail tax refunds, we will close national parks and the DC Cherry Blossom Festival will be ruined!"

“Both parties will be happy to blame the other if shutdown actually happens, but neither side is winning the confidence of the American people. [Source: Patriot Post April 8, 2011]

(For more, read Mark Alexander's essay, The Most Perilous National Security Crisis Since 1860.)

There are many ways to refute an argument. The proper way to do so is with ideas, with rational argument, and with facts. If you are considering a reduction of the federal budget by $61 billion, don't resort to scare tactics. Check out what happened the last time budgets were cut toward the end of a recession — for example, during the early years of the Reagan administration. In that case, budgetary restraint preceded two decades of unprecedented economic expansion.

It's also reasonable to make deductions from fundamental principles. Conservatives who believe in the right of self-defense have truth on their side. Instinctively, every human being knows that one has the right to self-defense when attacked. rom that truth one can deduce that one has a right as well to the means of self-defense.

For the left in recent years, none of these legitimate forms of argument have been an option. This is because the left is fundamentally lacking in ideas. The "truths" that the left relies on are intellectually specious. These fraudulent ideas include the notion that all human beings have a right to an equal share of society's wealth; that government exists to control the lives of its citizens and to redistribute wealth; and that these principles are universal and so must involve the redistribution of wealth from rich nations to poor ones.

None of these truths are self-evident to anyone except ideologues on the left. Most human beings immediately recognize that egalitarianism and centralized state control are bad ideas. For this reason, it is impossible for Marxists to engage in rational argument based on ideas: they resort instead to crude forms of abuse and follow the rules the Marxist Saul Alinsky put forth in his book Rules for Radicals — now the playbook of the Democratic Party.

Rule No. 13 “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen.' Any target can always say, 'Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?' When you 'freeze the target,' you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments. Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the 'others' come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target'. "One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other." (pps.127-134)

When Bill Clinton turned to the audience in his 1992 town-hall debate with George H. W. Bush and mockingly said, "He just doesn't get it," that was not a form of rational debate. It was mockery. Exactly what was meant by Clinton's statement is unclear. What, exactly, was it that Bush did not get? Clinton either could not or would not say. But the sneering derision of his remark gained him points, at least with the Democratic base. They too were convinced that George Bush, Sr. did not get it.

Mockery has always been a staple of playground disputation. If you can't beat your opponent with ideas, mock him. That particular technique has been a staple of leftist rhetoric as well for the last 20 years. It was popular not just with Bill and Hillary Clinton but with the young staffers who accompanied them to the White House, and it's just as popular today.

Obama Spending ShowdownThe latest wrinkle in this disgraceful history of rhetorical abuse is Obama's practice of labeling his opponents "children." Directing his remarks especially to Speaker Boehner, the President implored Congress to "act like grown-ups." "We don't have time for games," said the President, even as he rejected the GOP proposals out of hand. This from the man who has increased the national debt by $4.5 trillion.

Pretending that he is the adult in the matter and that Congress is a kindergarten full of screaming brats (but that only the Republicans are at fault) may seem like a good tactic to those directing Obama's reelection effort. But it does nothing to lead the discussion in a useful direction. Like all forms of derision, it is a way to avoid discussion altogether. It is the President's way of saying he has no intention of advancing any kind of ideas on the budget. As Obama made clear in his 2012 budget proposal, his idea is to raise the national debt to $41 trillion by 2030, thus putting us in the same position as Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, but with no one to bail us out.

Obama may think that calling the opposition "children" is a good way to remain above the fray, but this irresponsible ploy doesn't do the country any good. It's the same thing as calling the tea party "extremists," as Sen. Chuck Schumer did last week (or suggesting they were fascists as Nancy Pelosi was doing a year ago). Likewise, labeling your opponent the "Party of No" says nothing about your own party and its agenda.

Again, that is because Democrats don't want to talk about their agenda. How can you come out and say, "We want to create a socialist welfare state in America" or "We want to raise taxes to the point that the economy stagnates and American businesses are driven overseas"? How about, "We want to turn the country over to union bosses who will run every company into bankruptcy the way they did GM and Chrysler"? Those aren't exactly ideas to campaign on. That's why all the Democrats have left is mockery.

The rhetoric of derision is already filling the airwaves in response to Paul Ryan's thoughtful "Path to Prosperity" budget proposal. Repeating the comments of USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland denounced the Ryan budget proposal as a killer of children and an assault on the elderly to boot. That argument is a version of the playground staple, "I'm not stupid, you are." ("I don't starve kids and kick the elderly out of their homes, you do!")

Most conservatives don't resort to this sort of rhetoric for the reason that they have not had to. Conservative thinking proceeds from a clear and undeniable truth: the truth that all human beings have a right "to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Because conservative thought never departs from this fundamental truth, it is never lacking in strong ideas. The idea that citizens have a right to live as they wish, and speak as they wish, without the interference of government is a truth that cannot be refuted. The notion that those who labor should be allowed to keep their income and spend it as they wish is a compelling idea. The idea that if we are to live in peace, we must be willing to defend ourselves against our enemies in undeniable.

Armed with these ideas, conservatives will win in every free and open debate. The left will continue to mock and deride every reform that conservatives propose, but they will only convince those who have a vested interest in seeing socialism prevail. As for conservatives, it is enough to know that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is on our side. That phrase beats mockery and derision every time.

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