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Conspicuous Virtue:

Writing in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Joe Rago notes the updated version of Veblen's concept of conspicuous consumption--"conspicuous virtue":

Conspicuous consumption stays with us today. But increasingly, it seems to me, many consumers are not seeking an outright demonstration of wealth. Instead, they consume to demonstrate their innate goodness. They spend not to suggest the deepness of their pockets but the deepness of their hearts. We inhabit, to update Veblen, an age of conspicuous virtue.

***

A trip to the supermarket is instructive. For some time, everyday food has groaned with every sort of moral sentiment: all-natural, sustainable, cage-free, free-range, organic, organic, organic. Foods like these are more than mere sustenance: They commodify values, making them real -- material -- in the world. They are virtuous goods. To consume a virtuous good is to make a statement. It is not only to do right, whatever that might mean, but to announce that you are doing so.

Thus we encounter the extreme specialization of virtuous consumption. Upscale boutique grocers like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's base their identities (and marketing strategies) on giving people a way to eat so that each of us may demonstrate where we rank in the virtue standings. The "holistic thinking" of Whole Foods Market, for instance, could not be fully expressed in a "vision statement," so the store is governed by a posted "declaration of interdependence" as well. Trader Joe's actually makes a point of advertising that it does not kill baby seals in the procurement of seafood.

***

To be sure, Veblen's notion of "superfluity" is bound up in this evolution of shopping. No one would go to Wal-Mart in search of conspicuous virtue. Only the reasonably affluent can afford to align their products with their beliefs.

Take Toyota's hybrid auto, the Prius. Studies consistently show that fuel savings do not justify the price premium of a gasoline-electric power train. People who can afford the gesture continue to buy the Prius anyway, largely because it certifies personal enlightenment in the matter of global warming. The original design was adorned with cues to distinguish it from a normal car, such as a tapered rear end and skirts over the back wheels. Even without these particular elements, the Prius remains distinctive (or bulbous) enough for everyone to recognize.

***

Culturally, it addresses a continuing fussiness, even conflictedness, about materialism in America. Conspicuous virtue offers to those with guilty consciences a way to feel OK about consumerism. A fine scotch is vulgar. A "fair trade" scotch is righteous.

Yet we also have here a tidy illustration of a robust market economy at work. If consumers desire the specialized production of goods as evidence of moral strength -- hell, they'll get it. But there may not be any deeper meaning than that.

Barry P. (mail):
I wouldn't call Trader Joes "upscale", given the assumption that upscale connotes expensive. They're much cheaper than your run-of-the-mill Safeway or Giant (at least, in NoVa.) Smaller, much more eclectic, and with more rotation in their selection, but certainly not more expensive, environmental scruples notwithstanding. TJ's eliminates many middlemen and advertising costs, and passes those savings on to the consumer. When I was a grad student, the place was a godsend.

Whole Paycheck, of course, is another story.
3.24.2007 1:00pm
M (mail):
I'd agree that Trader Joe's is only dubiously called "upscale". There are a lot of things I don't like about the one near where I live (the dairy products are always on the edge of expiring, they do a bad job of keeping the shelves stocked, etc.) but it's not especially expensive and the self-image is a bit to corny to be thought of as 'upscale'.
3.24.2007 1:04pm
jvarisco (www):
While fair trade would certainly be virtuous, I don't think organic/natural fits there. These are simply healthier alternatives: if you want to live longer, and be healthier while you do it (not to mention tasting better), then they are the best alternative. One can only buy organic foods while not intending to be "virtuous" at all; I think fair trade is a stupid idea, but would never consider buying something filled with artificial flavors and pesticides and all kinds of growth hormones - such things are not healthy.
3.24.2007 1:10pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
The assumption that all Prius buyers are "Pious" buyers (I think Mort Sahl coined this term) is not correct in many cases. In California, Prius buyers get to drive in the car pool lane, which is an incentive. Also, the federal gov't provided a substantial tax credit which helped drive Prius sales, and that largely offsets the hybrid premium. In fact, Prius sales have declined in CA after (1) the car pool lane decals were used up and (2) the federal tax credits for Toyota cars were used up.

So, this is another case of a clever thesis that upon closer inspection isn't as well supported as the author might think. But, it probably makes the author feel intellectually superior to the Prius buyers and Whole Foods shoppers, because it confirms his view that they are a bunch of self-righteous tree-huggers who want everyone to know they are.
3.24.2007 1:14pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
The Prius also has the remarkably cool little screen showing your gas and energy usage. I realize baby boomers and car aficionados may not find this that compelling but I know I find this almost enough reason to buy the car on it's own. It's just cool despite the holier than thou associations.

I mean the primary reason people buy pricey cars has nothing to do with utility. Many people buy a prius for the same reason people would buy a corvette. They just like the car and have positive emotional associations.
3.24.2007 1:15pm
Andrew Okun:
What insulting drivel this article is...


To consume a virtuous good is to make a statement. It is not only to do right, whatever that might mean, but to announce that you are doing so.


Whatever that might mean? The assumption is that actually buying this stuff makes no difference in the real world and is only meant to salve the conscience. It would be a valid criticism if it were true and maybe for some products it is true (fair trade scotch? new to me) but this guy doesn't argue that, just starts there. It is merely sneering.

And the sneering means getting to sneer at everyone. When liberals allege there is a problem and propose a government solution, talk up how the market can do it better. When liberals try to use a market, snigger and call them dumb. When Al Gore drives a limousine, criticize him for not driving a prius. But in case that lets prius drivers feel good, better call them all stupid for driving priuses.

It is just the market in action ... people concerned with values beyond their own material interests have long perceived marginal utility in benefits to others ... will pay more for "made in USA" goods, pay more for cakes or household goods from a church or school instead of Walmart, greeting cards from Unicef. And the benefit is not "feeling good" about yourself, it is benefit to American employees, the church, the school and poor people elsewhere. If you want to argue that the benefits are bogus or ill thought out, that is one thing, a kind of debate that should go on. If fair trade coffee makes life worse for people or the Prius pollutes, people should know.

But this "conspicuous virtue" crap specifically short circuits that kind of debate. If it is meant as a "virtuous " purchase, it is meaningless from the start. Can't address problems through government, says the WSJ. Can't address them by buying or using your market power, sniggers the WSJ. What's left? Shut up and buy, I guess.
3.24.2007 1:24pm
Randy R. (mail):
I never thought of a fine scotch to be vulgar. I haven't seen or heard anything in the media to suggest that or even imply that.

I suppose one could make the argument that if you buy fair trade coffee, or organic coffee, that there is an implicit argument that regular Folger's or Maxwell House isn't, and is somehow worse, but I don't think that anyone ever suggests that Folger's would be vulgar. Afterall, many goods at Whole Foods are not organic or free trade either.
3.24.2007 1:39pm
Montie (mail):

If fair trade coffee makes life worse for people or the Prius pollutes, people should know.


The Fair Trade movement has some very serious issues when one considers long-run effect on economic incentives. However, in some circles, it has become a virtually unquestionable that Fair Trade is "better" than non-Fair Trade. The fact that Fair Trade is more expensive is taken as evidence of this.

Is this significantly different from conspicuous consumption? Luxury cars and designer clothing are often no "better" than the alternatives. It is an article of faith in some circles that certain luxury cars and designer clothing are "better" than the alternatives. The fact that luxury cars and designer clothing are more expensive is taken as evidence of this.
3.24.2007 2:15pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Veblen would regard all of this consumption as conspicuous consumption: expenditure that seems unnecessary and uneconomic unless the status that it "buys" is taken into account. It doesn't bother me when Gore et al. spend their money this way except when it makes them feel superior to us hoi poloi.

My beef is when lefties (in a satanic conspiracy with ADM) force me into conspicuous consumption that I can ill afford. The gas I am forced to buy at the pump is 10% ethanol now. In this country a gallon of ethanol needs more energy to produce than does a gallon of gasoline. It also costs me more and gives poorer mileage performance than ordinary gasoline. So to assuage the consciences of idiot lefties I am forced to pollute the environment and spend more for every mile I drive.
3.24.2007 2:31pm
Roy Haddad (mail):
Andrew Okun: I agree, and it is reminiscent of the subtly circular argument that altruism does not exist because people feel good when they do something altruistic. It's cynicism for it's own sake.

The argument about the Prius is specious. The point of the current controversy about Global Warming is precisely due to the notion that Carbon emissions have externalities - a cost/benefit calculation pitting the Prius against a normal car should take those externalities into account if it wants to address 'conspicuous virtue'.

<blockquote>
I never thought of a fine scotch to be vulgar. I haven't seen or heard anything in the media to suggest that or even imply that.
</blockquote>

That's the magic of snobbery!
3.24.2007 2:46pm
Cornellian (mail):
I always thought people bought a Prius so as to be able to drive in the carpool lane on the freeway. In California that's a huge plus.

I like Whole Foods, but I wouldn't call them cheap.
3.24.2007 2:50pm
Andrew Okun:

The Fair Trade movement has some very serious issues when one considers long-run effect on economic incentives.


A perfectly fair thing to say. I don't actually know much about it, but I can imagine all sorts of complex effects. That's not what the WSJ piece was about.


However, in some circles, it has become a virtually unquestionable that Fair Trade is "better" than non-Fair Trade. The fact that Fair Trade is more expensive is taken as evidence of this.


I just don't believe that last statement. Liberal coffee buyers may be easily convinced of things, but they are not opaque. The point of fair trade stuff is it's supposed to be better for the original suppliers and the argument can be made at that level.


Is this significantly different from conspicuous consumption?


Yes, wholly different. First of all, it needs to be conspicuous. Priuses are conspicuous true, but fair trade stuff is not. Nobody but you knows what coffee you drink in the morning and how organic your broccoli is. Here in LA, nobody is particularly giving Priuses a second glance either.

Secondly, as free market economists have investigated at length, branding serves a range of functions. Sometimes the more expensive thing is different. Conspicuous consumption refers to the part we are judged on by others, but that may not be the whole content of a brand. I don't drink, so I don't know, but it is the case that those 40-year-old single malt bottles contain identical stuff to the cheap bottles? Consider bicycles. You can get a bicycle for $150, or $50 at a Salvation Army store, or you can lay out $2,000 or any amount more. Rich guy takes up bicycling as exercise and buys the $2,000 model ... "only the best for me." Silly perhaps. Another guy who has bicycled for years and goes thousands and thousands of miles a year, up and down mountains, also buys the $2,000 model because the lightness and strength of the frame make a big difference to him. In the case of organics, fair trade and enviro stuff, the benefit being bought accrues to all, but it is claimed to be a concrete benefit.

Take the Prius. Aside from the reduced cost of gas at its current price, there are others things being purchased. The typical Prius buyer believes the cost of gas at the US pump does not account for certain consequences of gas use and doesn't want to impose those costs on others. There are arguments about the effect of some people reducing their gas use on overall usage in the market, but that is the claim. Second, the Prius buyer is making a market statement about car demand. For decades, US car makers fought mileage regulation with the claim that Americans don't want low mileage cars. The Prius buyer sought to change that perception with a purchase and to a degree has succeeded. Third, and this is conspicuous but not an irrational exercise in "virtue," the Prius is a political advertisement like a yard sign or a campaign button. The content of the ad is "there is a fellow citizen who believes our fossil fuel consumption is a problem."

It is an interesting implication of the WSJ piece and the responses to it that something like buying a Prius can only be justified in personal cash benefit. If I spend $3,000 extra on a Prius and save $5,000, I'm smart. If I take $1,000 of my savings and give it to charity, I'm a point of light, and if I give the other $1,000 to the RNC, I'm a part of a pioneer or whatever the term is. But if I spend $3,000 extra on my Prius, save only $1,500 but help alter the car industry and fund better car designs, help alter the politics of climate change, help reduce air pollution and avoid some hard to calculate amount of damage to the climate, I'm a nut job to the tune of the whole $1,500 it cost me. That is not accurate. I may be calculating wrong, but my goals are concrete. None of this is about sin or redemption and the WSJ piece claims it is all about sin and redemption.
3.24.2007 2:58pm
itshissong:
I just have to agree with those who seem to be characterizing this piece as drivel. We are a capitalist country, that is a given. With that in mind, those of us who care about things, whatever those things may be, should realize that our buying power is just that, buying power. Thus, to criticize anyone for trying to reflect their values in their consumption is idiotic and undermines one of the great things about capitalism.
3.24.2007 3:40pm
Houston Lawyer:
I have to agree that people buy certain goods because of their perceived "goodness" outside of their apparent utility. "Organic" foods are pretty much a fraud, as is the requirement that we use gasoline adulterated with ethanol. I laugh at those who buy hybrid cars that were deliberately made ugly to set them off from normal cars. Sure, they'll have the last laugh when gas reaches $10.00 a gallon.
3.24.2007 4:34pm
Hattio (mail):
Andrew Okun,
I was going to go off on a rant, but you said it better than I could have.


Montie,
What are the "very serious issues" with Fair Trade. I honestly haven't heard the complaints. However, did it occur to you that people buying products which they believe are better for the environment might actually be beneficial to the environment, even if those products themselves don't benefit the environment. As itshissong said, it is buying POWER, and buying something popularly imagined to be environmentally sound may cause other product makers to produce things in more environmentally sound ways. In short, a certain amount of "greenwashing" by companies fasely claiming to be environmental may be a necessary cost of getting the market to consider the environmental costs of the products they produce.
3.24.2007 4:59pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Consuming certain (more expensive) foods, and purchasing and displaying certain (expensive) goods, in order to demonstrate one's virtue, are extremely old, well-established practices, anyone who eats only kosher or halal food, or used to abstain from meat on Fridays, or displays one of any number of types of finely-crafted religious symbol or talisman, can attest. The only modern innovation is that the prophets of today's environmentalist/Gaia-worship/neo-pagan religions claim only their own authority, not that of any deity, in defining which foods and objects are holy.
3.24.2007 5:15pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
The only modern innovation is that the prophets of today's environmentalist/Gaia-worship/neo-pagan religions claim only their own authority, not that of any deity, in defining which foods and objects are holy.

Who is claiming that a Prius pollutes less or uses less gas because of some self-identified mystical property? It's a machine designed that way, hardly a religious talisman.

"I don't eat meat on Fridays because God says so" is not exactly on the same scientific level.
3.24.2007 6:54pm
Hattio (mail):
BTW,
I didn't notice this at first, but no one has commented on the irony of a poster calling themselves "logic Nazi" stating that it's okay to buy a Prius because it's cool. Not that I'm arguing with him or anything...but it's still funny.

Ah, the advantages of posting under a nonsense name.
3.24.2007 7:19pm
speedwell (mail):
I am a vegan. Shopping at Whole Foods is cheaper for me than purchasing many of my specialized foods over the Internet, which would be the only other source for me. Some of the specialized foods themselves are amazingly cheaper than the animal foods they replace (wheat gluten used as a meat substitute for under a dollar a pound, soybeans that I use to make soymilk for pennies a quart, etc.).

Incidentally, I am not a vegan out of compassion for animals, or a reaction to the greed of capitalists, or a fellow-feeling with the counterculture, or any such crap. I voluntarily gave up animal food because I was persuaded that it would significantly lower my risk of suffering from the hormone-dependent breast cancer that killed Mom. If that's a virtue, it's the virtue of selfishness (nods to Ayn Rand).

And at the risk of sounding belligerent, to all of you sanctimonious meat-eaters who now feel like you have to say something snide to defend your religion of flesh-consuming, I could not possibly care less what garbage you stuff into your mouths so long as you keep it to yourself and don't make it my problem.
3.24.2007 7:19pm
Mark Field (mail):
This article and some of the responses remind me of the dialogue from King Lear:

Reg.
I dare avouch it, sir: what, fifty followers?
Is it not well? What should you need of more?
Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
Speak 'gainst so great a number? How in one house
Should many people, under two commands,
Hold amity? 'Tis hard; almost impossible.

Gon.
Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance
From those that she calls servants, or from mine?

Reg.
Why not, my lord? If then they chanc'd to slack you,
We could control them. If you will come to me,--
For now I spy a danger,--I entreat you
To bring but five-and-twenty: to no more
Will I give place or notice.

Lear.
I gave you all,--

Reg.
And in good time you gave it.

Lear.
Made you my guardians, my depositaries;
But kept a reservation to be follow'd
With such a number. What, must I come to you
With five-and-twenty, Regan? said you so?

Reg.
And speak't again my lord; no more with me.

Lear.
Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favour'd
When others are more wicked; not being the worst
Stands in some rank of praise.--
[To Goneril.] I'll go with thee:
Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty,
And thou art twice her love.

Gon.
Hear, me, my lord:
What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five,
To follow in a house where twice so many
Have a command to tend you?

Reg.
What need one?

Lear.
O, reason not the need: our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man's life is cheap as beast's: thou art a lady;
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st
Which scarcely keeps thee warm.

I think Lear had the better of this one.
3.24.2007 7:25pm
Byomtov (mail):
Andrew Okun said it very well. The WSJ article is nothing but stupid sneering. How does Joe Rago know why people buy Priuses or organic foods, or anything else? He doesn't. Neither do the commenters who agree with him. Indeed, why assume that they all do it for the same reasons, unless your objective is just to aim foolish insults at those you don't like.
3.24.2007 7:59pm
TomFromMD (mail):
"Studies consistently show that fuel savings do not justify the price premium of a gasoline-electric power train."

According to Consumer Reports, the Prius should save $400 over the Corolla after 5 years, after calculating in the $1500 tax credit. And it wasn't a fair comparison in my mind - the Prius is about half way between the Corolla and Camry in size. That's not a bad deal.

details here

The Civic hybrid also came out ahead - although I don't think it compares performance-wise to the regular civic. The civic hybrid is one of the slowest accelerating cars out there, while the non hybrid is pretty peppy.

The other hybrids came out behind.
3.24.2007 8:13pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
The first two commenters beat me to the most obviously bogus item in the article. Trader Joe's, an "upscale boutique grocer"? Apparently this is how TJ looks from the East Coast. Out here in CA we remember TJ in its old days, maybe 15 years ago, when everything they sold was dry, canned, bottled, or frozen. Fresh produce and the like are a fairly recent addition, and I promise Mr. Rago that a lot of people shop at TJ purely for the tasty-and-cheap frozen burritos and such.

Re Priuses — I don't think they're ugly on purpose, but they don't look like any other car, and that's part of their appeal. Honda's hybrids don't seem to have done nearly as well, at least around here, and surely part of the reason is that a hybrid Civic looks like, well, a non-hybrid Civic.
3.24.2007 8:13pm
Montie (mail):

What are the "very serious issues" with Fair Trade. I honestly haven't heard the complaints.


The problem with Fair Trade is that it can easily be counterproductive. The Fair Trade movement complains that the market prices of commodities are often "too low." Therefore, they artificially raise the price of a commodity. While higher prices can benefit a producer in the short run, in the long run, it encourages existing producer to produce more and new producers to enter. What happens to this additional supply? I have never seen a clear answer from the Fair Trade movement.
3.24.2007 8:32pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
TJ's eliminates many middlemen and advertising costs

Don't forget that they pay their workers near minimum wage (unlike the big chain groceries, which are at least largely if not entirely unionized).

I love Trader Joe's. I can get great food for a low price--and so can poor people.
3.24.2007 8:55pm
Catholic Whiteboy (mail) (www):
While I can buy the argument that it's just the market in action, there's one thing that the "market" response doesn't answer - the sneering that actual comes WITH utilizing the market in this manner. I've never encountered someone that drives a Prius, or buys only "free trade" goods, or eats only organic foods, or any number of other things, that don't make a POINT to make sure that I know how elite they are for what they do in order to prove their virtue. And, when I naturally respond with some variation of "I don't care" I get lectured as to why I SHOULD care, and about how they buy things is the only RIGHT way to do it.

If people just wanted a personal positive emotional reaction, then frankly, shut up about it. But it's not about that at all. It's about either being confirmed in that conspicuous virtue, or using that conspicuous virtue as a club to beat the "uneducated" over the head.
3.24.2007 8:59pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I'm glad someone enjoyed me posting about wanting to buy a prius because it's cool.

Andrew Orkun:

I partially agree with your point. The reason some people buy these goods is because they have thought about the issue and concluded that buying the virtuous good really is morally superior. However, living in Berkeley, I can tell you there are also plenty of people who buy these goods because it brings a certain sort of social status. For instance many people who won't shop at big chain stores like walmart have never thought through why or even if these stores are really harmful but just know that good progressives don't shop their and choose to follow the crowd. Sure they may honestly say they believe big chain stores are bad but if the people in their community decided it was good to support walmart their attitude would change as well.

Now their is nothing wrong with choosing your products because of image or social status. This is what we all do when we buy cars or purchase clothes. However, if you are deciding what to buy based only on what is considered good by your friends or what is currently popular among progressives you don't deserve any more moral credit than the guy who buys a Porsche because his friends think it's cool. Of course you don't deserve to be sneered at anymore unless you give others a holier than thou attitude about your supposed virtue. It is this holier than thou attitude that some people who are just doing what is currently popular in their circles that this article is reacting to.

I myself would call myself a liberal and believe in buying virtuous products when I think they are really justified (benefit per cost). However, I have to say that I'm totally disgusted by the way some liberals seem to be more interested in burnishing their progressive credentials than really helping people. To give a truly extreme example I remember when they had the live8 concert in england and they interviewed someone (not a celebrity) who claimed they thought the cause of solving hunger in Africa was so important they had flown to england from the states to participate. I mean give me a break, if you really cared about hunger that much, rather than feeling good about yourself and hearing some music, you would have donated the cost of your plane ticket. More commonly I'm disgusted by the way so many liberals who claim to be so concerned about the plight of the world's poor would rather just feel good about themselves by always supporting US unions than asking the tough questions about whether the protectionist trade policies the unions demand harm the truly poor overseas.

This is no special antagonism to liberals. It's the same reason I dislike Christians who are more concerned about going to church on Sunday and looking like they follow all the little rules than showing compassion. It's also the same reason that we sneer at the person who only donates to charity when others can see but laud the person who donates anonymously. Though since I personally care greatly about the plight of the poor and less fortunate I find people giving the pretense of caring but who would rather just feel good about themselves than really consider the tough questions particularly annoying.
3.24.2007 9:10pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Who is claiming that a Prius pollutes less or uses less gas because of some self-identified mystical property? It's a machine designed that way, hardly a religious talisman.

Most religious talismans are similarly built according to exacting specifications, and therefore have very well-defined physical properties. It's the magical goodness that's claimed to follow from those properties, however, that makes people want to spend extra money to own them. Likewise with the Prius.
3.24.2007 9:11pm
Timothy (Zeal and Activity) (mail) (www):
Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter developed the same argument at length in their book "Nation of Rebels."
3.24.2007 9:11pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
By the way I want to add that I don't think the Prius is particularly suspect in this sense. Many people seem genuinely motivated by moral concern and unlike other sorts of issues (like no chain stores) I haven't seen much of the annoying holier than thou attitude about it.

As for how you can tell what people's motivations are for purchasing these virtue goods, well it is tough in any individual case. However, if you see what virtue goods people choose to purchase vary like fashions without any change in the objective reasons to believe the products does good that gives you a clue. You can also get clues if people don't seem to make reasonable trade offs between these supposed virtue goods and other ways to do good, i.e., spending thousands of dollars to go to live8 rather than just donating the money to charity. There are a hundred other little signs too. Basically the same way you figure out if the guy at his parole hearing is earnestly motivated by a desire to atone or motivated by a desire to get out of jail.
3.24.2007 9:17pm
Byomtov (mail):
The problem with Fair Trade is that it can easily be counterproductive. The Fair Trade movement complains that the market prices of commodities are often "too low." Therefore, they artificially raise the price of a commodity. While higher prices can benefit a producer in the short run, in the long run, it encourages existing producer to produce more and new producers to enter.

I don't understand this complaint. The Fair Trade price is not a government-enforced floor on prices, which would have this sort of effect. It is a price that buyers promise to pay in exchange for FT certification, and it involves long-term contracts. I suppose there are some risks here, but you have to go a long way to show that the process is counterproductive. Most producers like it when demand increases.
3.24.2007 9:17pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Trader Joe's is upscale? Yeah, and "Two-Buck Chuck" is a fine vintage wine.
3.24.2007 9:23pm
Byomtov (mail):
Now their is nothing wrong with choosing your products because of image or social status. This is what we all do when we buy cars or purchase clothes.

Exactly. When the WSJ starts running articles about how people who buy expensive luxury goods are idiot show-offs, I'll pay attention to Rago's two-bit psychology.

However, if you are deciding what to buy based only on what is considered good by your friends or what is currently popular among progressives you don't deserve any more moral credit than the guy who buys a Porsche because his friends think it's cool.

Of course, your friends might be right about what's "good." In any case why is someone who, say, spends extra for a Prius in the belief that it is more virtuous than another car not entitled to moral credit, even if he learned it from his friends rather than by careful calculation?

Of course you don't deserve to be sneered at anymore unless you give others a holier than thou attitude about your supposed virtue. It is this holier than thou attitude that some people who are just doing what is currently popular in their circles that this article is reacting to.

Is this attitude similar to the attitude of the SUV owner who never gets off paved roads but brags about how his vehicle can climb Mt. Everest or something? Sneer at jerks if you want, but remember that they come in all shapes and colors, and buy all kinds of cars.

The problem with the WSJ article is Rago's wild generalizations about all Prius buyers, organic food eaters, etc.
3.24.2007 9:34pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Most religious talismans are similarly built according to exacting specifications, and therefore have very well-defined physical properties.

And none are built according to scientific/engineering standards like... a car.

It's the magical goodness that's claimed to follow from those properties, however, that makes people want to spend extra money to own them. Likewise with the Prius.

Yes, I'm sure people want a Prius for its "magical goodness" rather than its lower pollution and better fuel economy. Can you point to a single individual for whom this is true?
3.24.2007 9:37pm
Montie (mail):

I don't understand this complaint. The Fair Trade price is not a government-enforced floor on prices, which would have this sort of effect. It is a price that buyers promise to pay in exchange for FT certification, and it involves long-term contracts. I suppose there are some risks here, but you have to go a long way to show that the process is counterproductive. Most producers like it when demand increases.


Byomtov, I would not be so dismissive of this concern. A farmer who thinks he has the chance to sell at Fair Trade prices will have incentive to produce more. The problem is that all farmers (and would-be farmers) will have the same incentive. Now, with long term contracts, that problem might be mitigated somewhat. For example, Fair Trade could say to the farmer: we will only buy X from you, and we won't buy from any new farmers. However, I don't know if the Fair Trade movement actually does this.

Regarding your last sentence, I doubt that Fair Trade increases the overall quantity demanded. Instead, it just shifts it around.
3.24.2007 9:53pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
My personal opinion is that this is a working out of the diassociative morality described so well by Shelby Steele's "White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era."

While the book is primarily about racial politics, as the the title suggests, one of the important things Steele mentions is the change in cultural morality that occurred as a result of the civil rights movement. When people rejected the racism of their forefathers, many also rejected the entire moral system; if that system allowed racism, then the whole thing must be bad.

The "old" morality, which was concerned primarily with individual internal issues -- honor, orthodoxy, truth, etc. -- was replaced with a social morality that focused on external social issues and, most importantly, public disassociation from the old evils. Thus, in terms of race, it's important to engage in actions that show to others that you are not racist -- such as affirmative action, etc. It doesn't matter whether the act actually helps or hurts. Hence Ebonics and liberal opposition to school vouchers.

The upshot of this is that external symbolic morality has replaced internal morality. This requires ostentatious acts that have visible symbolic meaning that can be appreciated by others and for which that actual benefit is immaterial. That's why the excesses of Gore do not bother liberal ecofundamentalists -- his actual profligacy is immaterial in light of his symbolic acts. To those of us who maintain "old style" moral thinking, it's hypocrisy. To those who have accepted new liberal morality, it's perfectly logical.

Thus, we have a market in these meaningless symbolic acts that provide moral cover with a minimum of actual sacrifice and a complete disregard for actual consequence.

The classic example are the complex recycling laws so common in upscale liberal communities. In spite of the fact that these programs are expensive, useless, and cause more pollution than they cure, they are maintained as social sacraments in these communities -- and the most counterproductive parts are the parts most espoused.

This came home to me when I moved from the ultra-liberal Montgomery County, Maryland to conservative North Georgia. Montgomery County has extensive confusing and complex laws about recycling (and indeed, the uber-liberal enclaves such as Tacoma Park have even outlawed backyard grills). In contrast, my county here in Georgia recycles exactly those things that make money and provide service -- cans for money and grinding trash wood mulch. In Montgomery County, I had to buy special bags for tree limbs, pack them in a certain way, and pay a tax for their disposal. In North Georgia, I take a load of wood to the dump, drop it off to be ground up for the next guy, and pick up a load of mulch.

billo
3.24.2007 9:55pm
triticale (mail) (www):
The production of Scotch whisky is contributing to the destruction of the world's supply of peat, not that I care.
3.24.2007 10:04pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Yes, I'm sure people want a Prius for its "magical goodness" rather than its lower pollution and better fuel economy. Can you point to a single individual for whom this is true?

I've never heard that the Prius pollutes less. Is that true? I'd have thought that pollution levels are more a function of catalytic converter quality than fuel consumption. Perhaps not--but in any event, I've certainly never heard of the Prius being advertised as more non-polluting. I have heard it advertised as having lower fuel consumption, which turns out to be pretty much a wash in economic terms, with the greater initial cost at least canceling out the gasoline savings for most drivers.

But the real attraction of lower fuel consumption for most Prius buyers is not economic, but rather the magical goodness that supposedly flows from it: "living a more sustainable lifestyle", "saving the planet", and so on.
3.24.2007 10:59pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
The upshot of this is that external symbolic morality has replaced internal morality. This requires ostentatious acts that have visible symbolic meaning that can be appreciated by others and for which that actual benefit is immaterial.

Your post describes absolutely nothing new about the world; this is intrinsic to humanity. Why did the Romans use crucifixion? Why did the Egyptians build the pyramids?
3.24.2007 11:02pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
I've never heard that the Prius pollutes less. Is that true?

Yes.

From Wikipedia (and all that entails):


The Prius (2000 to 2003 model years) is certified as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). With the 2004 model, the Prius was redesigned as a midsize hatchback and certified as an Advanced Technology Partial zero-emissions vehicle (AT-PZEV)


But the real attraction of lower fuel consumption for most Prius buyers is not economic, but rather the magical goodness that supposedly flows from it: "living a more sustainable lifestyle", "saving the planet", and so on.

"Polluting less" and "using less gas" are concrete, realistic actions that give meaning to vague phrases like "sustainable lifestyle" and "save the planet." You can't name someone who wants a Prius because of its "magical goodness," can you?
3.24.2007 11:05pm
Blar (mail) (www):
I was under the impression that many people buy organic, all natural type foods because they think they are healthier, and that many people buy fair trade, cage-free type foods because they believe that they help the people and animals involved in making the food to live better lives. I do not doubt that people sometimes try to signal their virtue, to others and to themselves, but I do not see why anyone would doubt that people sometimes try to be healthy or that people sometimes try to avoiding making animals or people suffer.
3.24.2007 11:12pm
BobNSF (mail):
Let's see... you can be a pretentious, elitist, and just darned annoying snob and buy a Prius OR you can be sensible, regular-joe, all-American sort -- like all your fellow WSJ readers -- and buy a Beemer or a Lexus or two or three.

I understand why they do it, but I always get a kick out of the WSJ going all populist.
3.24.2007 11:14pm
unlawyer:

You can't name someone who wants a Prius because of its "magical goodness," can you?


Isn't your question addressed by the 7:13 post:


Honda's hybrids don't seem to have done nearly as well, at least around here, and surely part of the reason is that a hybrid Civic looks like, well, a non-hybrid Civic.


which suggests that the distint appearance of the car plays a part in its desirability?
3.24.2007 11:31pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
"Polluting less" and "using less gas" are concrete, realistic actions that give meaning to vague phrases like "sustainable lifestyle" and "save the planet."

Yes, and "wearing a talisman" and "following certain dietary rules" are concrete, realistic actions that give meaning to vague phrases like "improving one's luck" and "incurring the pleasure of the deity". In both cases, the significance of the vague phrases, and their causal relationship with said concrete actions, are essentially a matter of religious faith. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course....
3.24.2007 11:46pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
unlawyer: which suggests that the distint appearance of the car plays a part in its desirability?

Certainly, but appearance does not have a mystical relationship to the car like a rabbi's blessing does to kosher food, say.

Dan Simon: In both cases, the significance of the vague phrases, and their causal relationship with said concrete actions, are essentially a matter of religious faith.

It is a matter of religious faith that a lower-polluting, less-gas-hungry car pollutes less and uses less gas? You're joking, no?
3.25.2007 12:19am
TJIT (mail):
speedwell

Be careful with the soybeans if you are concerned about hormone dependent breast cancer.

Not sure of the details but if I recall correctly soybeans are a rich source of phyto-estrogens and they can potentially stimulate estrogen sensitive cancer cells.
3.25.2007 12:42am
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
It is a matter of religious faith that a lower-polluting, less-gas-hungry car pollutes less and uses less gas?

No, of course not--nor is it a matter of religious faith that a talisman or dietary stricture has its particular physical properties. The religious faith lies in the claim that those physical properties are inherently desirable because they further certain religiously defined goals, such as "living a sustainable lifestyle" and "saving the planet" (or "having good luck" and "incurring the pleasure of the deity").

Why else, after all, would so many drivers pay a net premium merely to drive a car that pollutes less and uses less gas?
3.25.2007 12:57am
Elliot123 (mail):
Monte: While higher prices can benefit a producer in the short run, in the long run, it encourages existing producer to produce more and new producers to enter. What happens to this additional supply? I have never seen a clear answer from the Fair Trade movement.

The additional production is sold on the open market. This additional supply is a downward pressure on prices since it increases supply. The participants in the Fair Trade program have locked in prices, but those not in the program are left to the normal fluctuations of the market.

However, the producers who are not in the FT program have more inventive to lower production costs. Those in the program may have a difficult time competing with them when they are no longer under FT contracts.
3.25.2007 1:17am
wolfefan (mail):
Hi -

I guess I'm missing your point, Dan Simon. I apologize for being so obtuse. What is it about "living a sustainable lifestyle" that is a "religously defined goal"? In my personal economic life I wish to "live a sustainable lifestyle," so I set a realistic budget and live within my means. The lifestyle I choose is one that is sustainable by my income. I have always thought of this as common sense - what is it that makes that what you call a "religously defined goal"? How is my setting such a goal and making such choices at a personal economic level less "religously defined" than doing the same thing on a larger scale by buying a hybrid vehicle?
3.25.2007 2:10am
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
WolfeFan--There's nothing wrong with attempting to live within one's means. But as I explained, for most drivers a Prius is less economical than non-hybrid alternatives. Those who associate a Prius with "living a sustainable lifestyle" therefore have a notion of "sustainable" that's not synonymous with "economically sensible" (and, I would argue, more akin to some kind of neo-pagan religious ideal).
3.25.2007 2:28am
comatus (mail):
For what it's worth, my wife's 10-year-old Oldsmobile has one of those neat economy-display screens too, just like the earth-saving Prius. And it gets really good mileage, too. Just last week WSJ openly mocked buyers of the newest Mercedes (the one that automatically stops itself), and has recently poked fun at both Aston-Martin and Bentley owners. Are we all actually reading the Journal?

We only consider price and status because both marketers and commenters present them, to the exclusion of other thought. Other rational and emotional considerations (admiring a producer's history, for instance, or dealing with a trusted agent, feeling good about a family tradition, personal hope for a new technology, keeping a hometown business going, or giving a stick in the eye to our supposed enemies or friends, as one has every right to do with one's purchases) are now supposed to be either unconscious or dictated.

An acquaintance showed us her children's new winter coats, made in Thailand. I wondered aloud what the Thais imagine winter to be. She responded that she had little choice in the purchase; she had to go for the "quality." I was happy to hear this endorsement of Thai workmanship. Then she corrected herself: she'd meant to say "value" (meaning "price"). She'd forgotten the distinction. So have we all.

I drive a Studebaker. I heartily recommend them. The more you learn about the firm and its products, the more you'll want one. Their greatest virtue, of course, is that time cannot stale their infinite variety: they don't make them anymore. Of course, that is your problem. I've got mine.
3.25.2007 2:46am
Randy R. (mail):
william oliver: "That's why the excesses of Gore do not bother liberal ecofundamentalists -- his actual profligacy is immaterial in light of his symbolic acts. To those of us who maintain "old style" moral thinking, it's hypocrisy. To those who have accepted new liberal morality, it's perfectly logical."

No, not at all. Gore has a large house, it's true, but he is currently converting it to a much more energy effiicient house, even including the use of solar panels. When complete, his house will actually be selling power back to the utility company. That garbage about him being a hypocrite was trash written and repeated by Fox news and others in an attempt to discredit him. That we did not fall for that baloney is proof that we can still think with our brains and recognize propaganda when we see it.

"The classic example are the complex recycling laws so common in upscale liberal communities. In spite of the fact that these programs are expensive, useless, and cause more pollution than they cure, they are maintained as social sacraments in these communities -- and the most counterproductive parts are the parts most espoused."

It so happens that one of my best friends is the new director of recycling in Montgomery County. Perhaps the laws are complicated -- I don't know, i don't live there -- but I specifically asked her whether the County makes a profit, or it is really the loss that conservatives claim. She was quite adamant that recycling is a net profit for the county, and it relies upon the revenues for funding of many projects. She said that the citizens are actually pretty good about understanding the laws and regs governing, and that's one of the reasons it works so well for them.

So again -- perhaps you should do a little research before you start repeating all the Fox News commentators. They are wrong.
3.25.2007 3:27am
Randy R. (mail):
I always love it when conservatives engage in reverse snobbery. Take Bill O'Reilly's latest rant: Recently, when he was in LA, he was upset when his assistant served him croisssants that weren't fresh. Then, he was given a limo to take him someplace, but that wasn't good enough for plain ole Bill. Oh no, he insisted on a helicopter, since there was no way HE was going to sit in traffic for three hours.

Yup, just one of the guys, he is.

I recall a story one of my friends told be about ten years ago. She was having lunch with the daughter of Judge Robert Bork, the uber-conservative judge. They were at a Chinese restaurant, and my friend sometimes likes to order a tofu dish. She suggested this to the daughter, who replied, Oh NO! I'm just not into that whole liberal lifestyle!

So there you have it. Tofu is liberal, too liberal for a conservative to eat. Will the WSJ start writting about these people?
3.25.2007 3:31am
Andrew Okun:

I've never heard that the Prius pollutes less. Is that true?


It meets the SULEV standards ... and beats it according to hybridcars.com: "Emissions -- 89 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car, exceeding the standards for a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV)" Impressive considering that new cars are pretty clean these days.



But the real attraction of lower fuel consumption for most Prius buyers is not economic, but rather the magical goodness that supposedly flows from it: "living a more sustainable lifestyle", "saving the planet", and so on.


Where is any of that "magical goodness"? It's actual goodness, or we're wrong and it's not actual goodness. If you want to look for magical thinking, have a look at the idea that our economic decisions have no consequences beyond the money we make or the pleasure we experience from them.
3.25.2007 3:32am
Andrew Okun:

The problem with Fair Trade is that it can easily be counterproductive. The Fair Trade movement complains that the market prices of commodities are often "too low." Therefore, they artificially raise the price of a commodity. While higher prices can benefit a producer in the short run, in the long run, it encourages existing producer to produce more and new producers to enter. What happens to this additional supply? I have never seen a clear answer from the Fair Trade movement.


Love it. Economic analysis. No idea if it's right, but it constitutes an actual criticism of fair trade product marketing.
3.25.2007 3:34am
Andrew Okun:

WolfeFan--There's nothing wrong with attempting to live within one's means. But as I explained, for most drivers a Prius is less economical than non-hybrid alternatives.

Those who associate a Prius with "living a sustainable lifestyle" therefore have a notion of "sustainable" that's not synonymous with "economically sensible" (and, I would argue, more akin to some kind of neo-pagan religious ideal).


There is a concept of sustainable that involves more than your personal domestic budget. The idea is that there is a level of consumption of certain goods and production of certain pollutants that can't be sustained. You can argue that this concept of sustainability is ill-thought out or ill-calculated, but you seem to be arguing that because it involves costs and benefits that do not apply to the consumer making the decision that it is not a calculation at all, merely "magical thinking." That is just wrong.

If I arrive at the dinner table, family of four, and there are eight chicken drumsticks, nicely broiled, on a plate and I'm hungry so I eat all eight of them, my wife and children complain. What about us, they ask? Your answer to them would seem to be that I get more benefit from eating eight, than from eating fewer than eight, so what are they complaining about? I'm maximising my economic result there. If I arrive at the table, take my two legs and leave six for the rest of them, you would accuse me of magical thinking, seeking only to feel good about myself by indulging in a bogus, patronising quasi-religious "pretend to feed my family" ritual. Garbage. I'm leaving some food on the plate for my family.

Now if you want to point out to my that I could help with the cooking or bring home more food or that I'm not leaving the food for them, just scraping the other six legs into the garbage while my family stays hungry, then those are arguments, I'd respect. Like the point the guy above made about fair trade. It is a discussion worth having. But claiming it is pre-rational behavior because I don't simply eat all the chicken I can in an economically optimal swallow is nonsense.

The argument for sustainable living is driven by the non-renewable nature of the resources we are using, the damage done by their use, the disproportionate use of those resources by the richest countries and the disproportionate capacity that the richest countries have, through research, investment and modified behavior, to address those issues.

Go ahead and argue that people who advocate sustainable living are wrong about all that, but you can leave off with claiming they are brainless fluffballs, which is pretty much how your comments come across.
3.25.2007 3:55am
Andrew Okun:

The upshot of this is that external symbolic morality has replaced internal morality. This requires ostentatious acts that have visible symbolic meaning that can be appreciated by others and for which that actual benefit is immaterial. That's why the excesses of Gore do not bother liberal ecofundamentalists -- his actual profligacy is immaterial in light of his symbolic acts. To those of us who maintain "old style" moral thinking, it's hypocrisy. To those who have accepted new liberal morality, it's perfectly logical.


This is exactly 100% wrong. I happen to think Gore is getting a bum rap on this -- whole new arguments against the value of carbon offsets seem to have been generated solely to attack Gore's electric bill -- but that is beside the point. If he were profligate to a gross degree, I'd still be cheering the guy on because he has been successful in convincing large numbers of Americans that they should pay attention to the potential dangers of climate change. McCain couldn't convince them. Hansen couldn't convince them. Lieberman couldn't. Blair couldn't. Whole departments of climate scientists couldn't. The combined nations of the rest of earth couldn't. Gore finally seems to have gotten them to. That so outweighs his electric bill in a completely concrete way that it isn't funny. It is not that, as you claim, his actual profligacy is outweighed by his symbolic acts. It is that his (alleged) actual profligacy is outweighed by his actual successful, dividend-yielding politics. Cold, hard, this-plane-of-existence politics.

It is a certain old-style morality, and I don't know if it is yours, that attributes more value to sin and redemption and hypocrisy than to the actual consequences of our actions.

I think back to old Jesse Jackson. I don't know much about him and how personally admirable he is, but I know he spent his career advocating that young people not have children out of wedlock and was then found to have been siring some himself. Not an impressive performance. But the questions that came to my mind were: (a) Does his personal bad behavior mean he was wrong when he recommended teens not have kids out of wedlock? (b) If he actually had a beneficial effect on the level of teen pregnancy, should he be praised for having done a good thing? If you had to pick, would you rather have a well-behaved Jesse Jackson who didn't give advice or a badly behaved Jesse Jackson who improved the lives of hundreds of thousands?

Ask me how I would rank an Al Gore who quietly drove to the supermarket in his Prius against an Al Gore who flies around in a private jet and changes the balance of world politics in favor of the survival of humanity and the choice is pretty easy. And involves no illogical bowing to symbols.
3.25.2007 4:15am
tomt (mail):
The guy who touted solar cells is proves the point of the article. Solar cells consume more energy in their manufacturing than they will produce in the lifetime of use. Adding in all of the other cost associated with installing and maintaining, they are a big waste.
3.25.2007 6:14am
tomt (mail):
Basic economics, generally things will cost more because they require more energy to produce and are less efficient(create more waste). This is true with the Prius. When you take the total energy required to manufacture the car and divide over its expected lifetime, you will find it is one of the most expensive cars to drive. All you have done is tranfer energy from one source(ICE) to another(Coal produced energy). Batteries are very energy intensive to develop. It makes sense when you think of it. Otherwise we would be violating the laws of pyhsics.

This is also true when it comes to organic foods. It is not a sustainable life style. We already know what a world looks like that depends on organic food to sustain itself. Look at history. It is very dirty and life reducing.

The article does not call for government regulation of your choices unlike many of the consumers of the enviromentally preferred life style who support all kind of government intervention into my life. Most of us understand the need for seperartion of church and state when it comes to the traditional religions. How do we protect ourselves from the nontraditional religions?
3.25.2007 6:36am
speedwell (mail):
Not sure of the details but if I recall correctly soybeans are a rich source of phyto-estrogens and they can potentially stimulate estrogen sensitive cancer cells.

Yes, of course, thank you for pointing that out. The effect is suspected but not proven, and in individuals without hormone-dependent cancer, thought to have a protective effect. Were I to get a suspicious lump I would naturally immediately give up soy as well as certain other foods shown to have an effect on estrogen. In any case, the potential bad effects of a diet of typical hormone-and-fat-packed flesh, eggs, and dairy are better documented.

The negative health effects of being a stressed-out worry-wart, liberal/environmental community kamikaze artist (or a stressed-out, type-A-plus, ulcer-as-a-badge-of-honor capitalist consumption engineer) are even better documented, though. :) When people draw parallels between a behavior and religion, it's not usually a compliment to either the behavior or the religion. Fanaticism doesn't become anyone.
3.25.2007 7:30am
theobromophile (www):

Trader Joe's is upscale? Yeah, and "Two-Buck Chuck" is a fine vintage wine.


Well, I'm glad that I'm not the only dipsomaniac here who likes to get her wine for less than the price of bottled water. Ghirardelli's chocolate at $3.49/lb isn't bad, either.

As for the Prius and cost savings: why assume that Prius buyers are irrational simply because the money doesn't work out for the average driver? The increased cost of a hybrid is not balanced out by the savings in gasoline for the average driver,, not for every conceivable driver (much in the way that ethanol results in net energy loss for every driver). For a person who drives 20,000 or 30,000 miles every year, a Prius would be an economically rational choice. Would it not follow logically that Prius owners have evaluated their driving habits before purchasing a hybrid?
3.25.2007 9:31am
Wonk:
It seems like most of this has been hashed out already, but I have one question... Is there really such thing as "fair trade scotch?" I buy scotch pretty regularly, probably more regularly than I should, and live in the capital of organic/fairtrade consumption and have never run into a bottle of fair trade scotch... As a scotch afficianado, I WOULD like to do my part for the impoverished kilt-wearing peat cutters who have been exploited by the industry for all these years, if they're out there...
3.25.2007 11:18am
Andrew Okun:

The guy who touted solar cells is proves the point of the article. Solar cells consume more energy in their manufacturing than they will produce in the lifetime of use. Adding in all of the other cost associated with installing and maintaining, they are a big waste.


This is not true. The energy payback time on solar cells currently using full life-cycle analysis is one to four years depending on technology and location. The gram CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas generated per kilowatt-hour is 20 to 40 depending on technology used, compared with 900 for coal and 400 for gas. If CO2 capture works, coal and gas can get down to the 200 range, so solar would still have an advantage. See
Alsema-DeWild-Fthenakis
and
Fthenakis-Kim
3.25.2007 12:40pm
Ken Arromdee:
If I take $1,000 of my savings and give it to charity, I'm a point of light... But if I spend $3,000 extra on my Prius, save only $1,500 but help alter the car industry and fund better car designs, help alter the politics of climate change, help reduce air pollution and avoid some hard to calculate amount of damage to the climate, I'm a nut job to the tune of the whole $1,500 it cost me.

If you show that you are willing to pay more for a car, the car manufacturers will raise the price of the car, since they've just discovered a group of customers with low price-sensitivity.

If you buy a car and then give $1000 to an unrelated charity, the charity will not raise the price of the car.
3.25.2007 12:47pm
TomFromMD (mail):
"Honda's hybrids don't seem to have done nearly as well, at least around here, and surely part of the reason is that a hybrid Civic looks like, well, a non-hybrid Civic."

That may be part of the reason, but the Camry hybrid is doing very well - and it looks like a Camry.

I think a bigger factor is that Toyota offers a more better hybrid system, and put together better overall packages for the people that are interested in Hybrids. Honda came out with two hybrids - a Accord 6 cylinder hybrid, which got very good mileage for it's performance, but not very good mileage in the mind of a "greenie". And a Civic hybrid - which is both smaller and pokier than the Prius, but gets about the same mileage.

The other hybrids that come to mind are all SUVs - and a lot of "greenies" have a visceral reaction to those.
3.25.2007 1:23pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
No, of course not--nor is it a matter of religious faith that a talisman or dietary stricture has its particular physical properties.

But only in the mind of the believer is the rabbit's foot different from others, while a Prius has distinct advantages over other cars in terms of fuel economy and pollution.

The religious faith lies in the claim that those physical properties are inherently desirable because they further certain religiously defined goals, such as "living a sustainable lifestyle" and "saving the planet" (or "having good luck" and "incurring the pleasure of the deity").

There is no point in arguing about simplistic bumper-sticker slogans, but you are reducing any rational preference with which you apparently disagree to a religious belief. Have you considered that perhaps Prius owners don't want to consume fossil fuels as quickly as they would driving other vehicles? Where is the religion in such a choice?

Those who associate a Prius with "living a sustainable lifestyle" therefore have a notion of "sustainable" that's not synonymous with "economically sensible" (and, I would argue, more akin to some kind of neo-pagan religious ideal).

If someone spends more on a Kobe steak than a McDonald's hamburger, is it because they have a "neo-pagan religious ideal" of beef or because they want to eat a better meal? Most preferences, no matter how insensible you find them, do not have a religious component.
3.25.2007 1:29pm
Andrew Okun:

Basic economics, generally things will cost more because they require more energy to produce and are less efficient(create more waste). This is true with the Prius. When you take the total energy required to manufacture the car and divide over its expected lifetime, you will find it is one of the most expensive cars to drive. All you have done is tranfer energy from one source(ICE) to another(Coal produced energy). Batteries are very energy intensive to develop. It makes sense when you think of it. Otherwise we would be violating the laws of pyhsics.


I have tried to track this down and I can't find anything academic to back it up. The only thing I could find that comes close is a report by a private consulting guy (CNW Research) which purports calculate complete "dust-to-dust" energy cost figures for nearly all cars and light trucks sold.

This 450-page report made some headlines because, among other things, it concluded that hybrids like the prius use more energy per mile on a life-cycle basis than hummers and other big SUVs. There are some problems with it. Just at the level of plausibility, it calculates an energy cost per mile of about $3.00 for a prius (making it effectively a 1 mpg car taking all the life costs into account.) Since the fuel cost per mile is like 15 cents or something, that means that non-fuel energy costs are 95%. More general industry studies indicate that the non-fuel portion of the lifetime energy cost of a car is on the order of 15%, maybe up to 30%. When you look then at the assumptions CNW makes in its calculations, it becomes clear why the figures are like this. He treats it pretty much as a short-lived, lightly-used, nearly experimental car. For example, he assumes that a prius will have an average life of 12 years versus a life of 22 years for an SUV. This is explains by saying as a leading edge or experimental model with not-widely-shared technology, it will not be supported for as long and will become prohibitive to maintain. During those 12 short years, he claims, it will be driven many fewer miles per year because it will usually be a family's secondary vehicle. (I may have misread that part, but I was trying to skim 450 pages.) Most egregiously, he divides the design and development costs among the priuses currently sold, not viewing any of it as a loss leader the carmakers are using to create the market and prove the design. The D&D cost he attributes to each prius is $29,000, which is more than the sales price! Mind you, this is not Toyota subsidizing manufacturing per vehicle, i.e. spending $40,000 to make a car it sells for $30,000 and taking the loss for its own reasons, this is the fixed design and development costs to invent the car in the first place.

This is nonsense. There have been, I don't know, 200,000 priuses sold. It is crazy to say as part of a life-cycle analysis that those 200,000 buyers are responsible for making Toyota put all that effort into inventing the the thing in the first place. The next prius buyer causes zero of that cost, so it simply isn't meaningful at a marginal level. Do we credit later when 10 million of them have sold? Prius users spend $500 or $600 a year on fuel. If we get credit for the decline in our share of D&D costs as more of them sell, our contribution to GHGs could be negative each year! It is right to do life-cycle analysis of purportedly environmental technologies and actions, but this wasn't it.
3.25.2007 2:05pm
Andrew Okun:

If you show that you are willing to pay more for a car, the car manufacturers will raise the price of the car, since they've just discovered a group of customers with low price-sensitivity.


This is not a very sophisticated view of price theory and economics. When kiwi fruit were first brought to the US, people were willing to pay a lot more for the tasty little buggers than, say, red delicious apples. Did the kiwi importers, having found a supply of low-price-sensitive saps, raise the price? No! They charged a lot at first but imported a lot more and then learned to grow them here. Today kiwi fruit sit around in low price heaps to be scooped up by anyone who wants. Like kiwi fruit, hybrid cars have proved saleable and they're making more. (Indeed, the long-term price curve evolution for another product, oil, is the only problem for environmentalists demanding less of the stuff, something no one has mentioned here.)
3.25.2007 2:14pm
Truth Seeker:
Aren't ther cities where people are asked to separate their recycleables but then they're all put into the same landfill?
3.25.2007 2:32pm
Truth Seeker:
That's an interesting comparison of organic food to Kosher. I guess some people just need to feel that they're eating better food than the lesser people.
3.25.2007 2:41pm
TomFromMD (mail):
About the only thing that we intentionally buy organic is milk, and that's basically just for our toddler. I don't really care that it's organic per-se, I'm more concerned with keeping her from getting much BGH, given that milk is such a huge part of her diet.
3.25.2007 2:47pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Randy R:

No, not at all. Gore has a large house, it's true, but he is currently converting it to a much more energy effiicient house, even including the use of solar panels. When complete, his house will actually be selling power back to the utility company.


And when pigs have wings, they will fly. But until then, we deal with what is. The *fact* is that Gore's lifestyle is what it is, and it is a profligate one. And we can all ignore the tin mine, eh?

It so happens that one of my best friends is the new director of recycling in Montgomery County. Perhaps the laws are complicated — I don't know, i don't live there — but I specifically asked her whether the County makes a profit, or it is really the loss that conservatives claim. She was quite adamant that recycling is a net profit for the county ...



You have to understand what "profit" means to these kinds of county officials. Of course they make a "profit" on recycling — not because of the money they make on the commodities, but on the fee and tax structure that bleeds the citizens to support it. And it's a hefty profit. But it's not on the recycling per se — or else the county is ripping off it's citizens when it takes those taxes and fees that supposedly pay for the recycling projects.

Take a look at the Montgomery County Budget. In 2005, the county spent about $20 million on recycling. In contrast, it brought in a rousing $1.2 million from recycled materials. The rest is made up in fees and taxes. Only in a liberal county is that considered a profit.

See: this budget


She said that the citizens are actually pretty good about understanding the laws and regs governing, and that's one of the reasons it works so well for them.


That's rather my point. It's a liberal community, and it's acting in a manner that I described. The citizens of Tacoma Park are very supportive of making it a "nuclear free zone," and of banning outdoor grilling, as well. That doesn't make it any less stupid.

So again — perhaps you should do a little research before you start repeating all the Fox News commentators. They are wrong.


Dude, unlike you, I lived in Montgomery County for 12 years. I paid those fees. I bought the specially taxed bags. If you were to bother to read what I wrote, you will note that I was speaking from personal experience, not quoting "Fox News." Get your slogans right. The perspective is different when you are opening your veins to support these boondoggles than when you are a politician that lapping up the blood.


Andre Okun:


If he were profligate to a gross degree, I'd still be cheering the guy on because he has been successful in convincing large numbers of Americans that they should pay attention to the potential dangers of climate change.



Exactly. That's the fundamental of social morality. It's what you say, not what you do. Thus you have Gore acting the way he does, you have Barbara Streisand sending out missives from her estate telling the little people not to do laundry, you have John Kerry's wife telling kids to run around naked. And none of it is hypocritical in terms of that morality because what is *said* and *advocated* is more important that what is *done."
3.25.2007 2:47pm
Andrew Okun:

Exactly. That's the fundamental of social morality. It's what you say, not what you do. Thus you have Gore acting the way he does, you have Barbara Streisand sending out missives from her estate telling the little people not to do laundry, you have John Kerry's wife telling kids to run around naked. And none of it is hypocritical in terms of that morality because what is *said* and *advocated* is more important that what is *done."


Exactly not. Why are we suddenly judging Gore's electric bill? Is it because, while we are tightening our belts, he is not tightening his? No, not at all. We are suddenly passionately concerned with the moral implications of Gore's electric bill because we, (well, you and Sen. Inhofe, not me) want a reason to disregard everything Al Gore says. Inhofe is just trying to win a debate by making an ad hominem attack. Are you interested in who does Barbra's laundry? No! You are solely interested in discrediting a preachy celebrity whose scolding you disapprove of. Are you the least concerned with Theresa Heinz Kerry's views, whatever they are, on child-rearing? Let me take a wild guess here and suggest that prior to her husband's successful primary run in '04, you were not putting a lot of time into studying her family worldview.

It is not social morality at all. It is attributing moral importance to the foreseeable consequences of actions. It is exactly the opposite of "what you say, not what you do." If you want a vision of hypocrisy, look at Inhofe pretending to be mad at Gore's square footage when he is not mad about that at all. He is mad about losing the debate about climate change.

The argument always is "it's completely fair to hold so-and-so accountable by the standards they themselves champion." Well who is holding whom accountable, for what and why? Is it fair for the US Senate to try to hold Al Gore accountable for his electric bill, under oath mind you? That's not their job! Their job is to run the country and, in this case, save the planet. The attacks are empty political garbage.

Seriously, to be accused of social morality by people who become experts in sex harassment law just to champion Paula Jones, electric bills just to harass Al Gore, the excesses of rich people's housing only to attack John Edwards and the like is just infuriating.
3.25.2007 3:20pm
NotALegalEagle:
We are suddenly passionately concerned with the moral implications of Gore's electric bill because we, (well, you and Sen. Inhofe, not me) want a reason to disregard everything Al Gore says.


The best thing about Gore is that he is providing a nice level set in the environmental conservation arena. Bono does it in the charitable giving arena. Once my standard of living is similar to theirs, then I'll know it's time to start worrying about the environment and giving money for the prevention of AIDS in Africa. Until then all I hear is "blah blah blah blah."

If the tree humpers want to convince me to join their cause, they'll need to be sure that every participant in their cause has a quality of life no higher than mine.

Ultimately it's not what you give that conveys your message, it's what you keep.
3.25.2007 3:46pm
Brian K (mail):

If the tree humpers want to convince me to join their cause, they'll need to be sure that every participant in their cause has a quality of life no higher than mine.


So essentially your value system is based on greed, right? All you care about is having more than everyone else. Thankfully there are people on this planet that aren't like you.

You know that Gore is right and you can't stand that. So instead of altering your lifestyle (why should I do anything to help someone else you ask...all i care about is me me me) or attempting to refute him on his merits, you resort to ad hominem attacks. it would be comical if it weren't true.
3.25.2007 4:03pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Andrew Okun:

Exactly not. Why are we suddenly judging Gore's electric bill? Is it because, while we are tightening our belts, he is not tightening his? No, not at all. We are suddenly passionately concerned with the moral implications of Gore's electric bill because we, (well, you and Sen. Inhofe, not me) want a reason to disregard everything Al Gore says.


You do realize, don't you, that you are making my point? Your passionate argument that their personal morality is irrelevant in light of their advocacy is exactly the point I'm making.

billo
3.25.2007 4:28pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
billo:

Take a look at the Montgomery County Budget. In 2005, the county spent about $20 million on recycling. In contrast, it brought in a rousing $1.2 million from recycled materials. The rest is made up in fees and taxes. Only in a liberal county is that considered a profit.


Let me correct myself. I missed a line item. The above should read:

blockquote>Take a look at the Montgomery County Budget. In 2005, the county spent about $60 million on recycling. In contrast, it brought in a rousing $1.2 million from recycled materials. The rest is made up in fees and taxes. Only in a liberal county is that considered a profit.
3.25.2007 4:35pm
Randy R. (mail):
William Oliver: "It's what you say, not what you do. Thus you have Gore acting the way he does, you have Barbara Streisand sending out missives from her estate telling the little people not to do laundry, you have John Kerry's wife telling kids to run around naked. And none of it is hypocritical in terms of that morality because what is *said* and *advocated* is more important that what is *done."

Well, at least on this point we can agree. It's sort of like when George Bush says he supports the troops, and then let's them go in to battle without proper armor, or properly tend to their wounds afterwards. Or when Dick Cheney complains about leaks to the press, and it turns out that he is one of the biggest leakers to the press. Or when George Bush lectures teenagers about absintence before marriage, but won't answer whether he was a virgin and solely monogamous to Laura Bush. Or when Ted Haggard screams from the pulpit that homosexuality is a sin and all sorts of morality, and then we find out that he is having sex with a male prostitute while married to a woman. Or when Tom DeLay rails on about corruption in gov't, and it turns out he is more corrupt himself. Or when Newt Gingrich talks about morality and how we have to impeach Clinton and at the same time is carrying on with a mistress. Or when Gingrinch decides he needs to defend marriage, even though he's been married several times.

Need I go on? Or are you going to argue that hypocracy is limited to liberals?
3.25.2007 4:48pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Randy R: When complete, his house [Gore's]will actually be selling power back to the utility company.

Can you clarify? Do you mean Gore will be producing more kilowatt hours of electricity than he consumes on an annual basis? Will Gore actually receive a net positive cash flow from the power company? If this is the case, then how does he do it? This could free all of us from the power companies and eliminate the need for large power plants.
3.25.2007 5:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
From the Montgomery County website: Total Tons of Commingled (Including Residue) Processed: 24,791

Average Number of Commingled Tons (Including Residue) Processed per Day: 93

Tons of Commingled Material (Less Residue) Processed and Sent to Market: 22,038

Accrued Revenue from Sale of Commingled Material: $3,146,213

Average Revenue per Ton Sent to Market: $143

MES Operating Expenses: $2,341,801

Capital Improvement Expenses: $136,373

Number of Visitors (via Tours) to the Recycling Center: 4,275

Number of Employees at the Recycling Center: 38

Notice that revenue exceeds operating expenses. Where Mr. Oliver gets his figure that annual expenses are $60 million just for recycling, he doesn't say. I would suspect that he is confusing total costs of all refuse removal, which includes leaf removal, all trash removal and so on.
3.25.2007 5:03pm
Tom Tildrum:
Re: Trader Joe's. Certain things there can be found cheaply (red wine, power bars, some cereals). Many (most?) things there, however, are gourmet or luxury items that are cheap as compared to similar luxuries at other stores, but not cheap in any absolute sense. As noted above, Ghirardelli chocolate is cheaper there than elsewhere, but you're not going to find a Hershey bar there at any price. Similarly, artisanal bread and varietal coffee are available at good prices, but you're not going to find Roman Meal or Chock Full O'Nuts at all. Same with cheese, tuna, frozen dinners, etc.
3.25.2007 5:11pm
Elliot123 (mail):
The Center claims that Nashville Electric Services records show the Gores in 2006 averaged a monthly electricity bill of $1,359 for using 18,414 kilowatt-hours, and $1,461 per month for using 16,200 kilowatt-hours in 2005. During that time, Nashville Gas Company billed the family an average of $536 a month for the main house and $544 for the pool house in 2006, and $640 for the main house and $525 for the pool house in 2005. That averages out to be $29,268 in gas and electric bills for the Gores in 2006, $31,512 in 2005.
http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story? section=nation_world&id=5072659

(remove the space after the ? in the above address. This system doesn't accept strings that long.)
3.25.2007 5:13pm
Andrew Okun:
William Oliver,


You do realize, don't you, that you are making my point? Your passionate argument that their personal morality is irrelevant in light of their advocacy is exactly the point I'm making.


With all due respect, that is not the point you were making nor the point I was making.

Your first post in this thread said, "Thus, we have a market in these meaningless symbolic acts that provide moral cover with a minimum of actual sacrifice and a complete disregard for actual consequence." On the basis of this, you said, a few paragraphs down, that this is why we ecoliberals judge Al Gore as good. So it appears you brought Al Gore up as an example because you claim we judge him not because of the consequences of his actions but because he made certain meaningless symbolic gestures with little personal sacrifice and in complete disregard of actual consequences.

Then, when I list the actual consequences of his actions, which are immense, you tell me I've made your point. The only thing to conclude is that you regard advocacy as neither a meaningful act nor capable of producing actual consequences. That's awfully funny to find out on a blog full of articulate thoughtful and mostly full time advocates. Al Gore's advocacy counts.

Does his personal morality count? Yes. If he buys a warehouse, insures it, burns it down and files a bogus insurance claim, he should go to prison for arson and fraud. When that happens, you let me know. I will reassess my judgment of his character. In the meantime, you claim that a dispositive judgment may be made of the moral character of a congressman, senator, VP and widely known public policy advocate based solely on his behavior as a utility customer and that it is liberal moral opacity to judge his character based by balancing his behavior in all these realms rather than focusing solely on the utility bills.

You never come out and say it, but some other people on this board do. The next step in the argument is "I don't have to pay attention to anything Al Gore says until his house is smaller than mine." Well, no, you do. Plenty of people with smaller houses, smaller cars and smaller public personae have make the climate change case perfectly well and been ignored. Al Gore, partly by putting in those carbon heavy travel miles, has made the case and it needs to be discussed. The case is strong, unfortunately, and backed by plenty of science and evidence and should be answered at that level. You may, assessing this hard-working public servant and family man solely by kWh, decide that he is an amoral snake, a puzzling judgment but up to you, but that is no basis for judging the case he is making, nor a basis to judge the well-considered actions of countless others who are making the decisions, like buying priuses or changing light bulbs, that you mock Gore for not making.

So let's judge his personal morality. He finally won his seat in front of a senate committee and got to tell us what we all need to do. Is he asking us to make a sacrifice that he is not willing to make?

His first claim is that he lives and works carbon neutral, which is done mostly by buying carbon offsets. Indeed, since Gore _is_ carbon neutral when you add in the carbon offsets, Sen. Inhofe had specifically to instruct Gore that in answering the questions about his personal behavior, he wasn't allowed to mention carbon offsets. They are, we learn from the anti-Gore brigade, bogus. They're not a real sacrifice because they only cost money. I don't expect that argument will carry much weight on a serious, economics minded blog like this one. If Gore spends money on carbon offsets that costs him a precisely measurable amount. When we libs try to tax a billionaire a couple extra million because it won't affect the size of his yacht, we get instructed in how that's not the point. Ok, well, if Gore pays for offsets, he has sacrificed that much. You may argue that the offsets don't work the way they should, but that is a different argument. That means Gore is a lousy environmentalist who has miscalculated the results of his actions, not a hypocrite unwilling to pay the price he wants others to pay.

Even assuming that his offsets are faulty, what is it that Gore wants us to do. Does he go around saying poor people should use fewer light bulbs? No. Does he go around criticizing SUV drivers? No. Irritating prius drivers like me do that, not Gore. Does he say we need to live in hovels on organic food? No. He says we should implement policies. This is not a surprise because that's the business he's been in all along. He listed 10 of them before Congress the other day. In not one case did he advocate a policy that wouldn't apply to himself. Carbon tax? He'd pay it like the rest of us. Tax pollution? The costs would be passed on to all of us, including him. Develop Electronet? That would cost up front taxes, and his taxes are higher than yours or mine, cause he's richer. Raise CAFE standards? If he buys big cars and the fear prices result, he'd pay them. Earmark tax money for low-income assistance? He'd be paying the tax and wouldn't get a dime. No personality morality problem there.

So perhaps your problem with him is that, if all these policies are implemented, they will impinge on other, poorer people more than on rich people like Gore. True enough. That is the American way and it is true of all public policies that inflict much of a cost at all. Of course, on this blog, some argue that means there should be few public policies at all, but even they admit there are _some_ necessary public policies. If Gore's policies are not necessary, then he's wrong on the merits (which is not a matter of personal morality), but if they are, then the costs will be distributed same as any other policy, and the rich will still be better off. Of Gore and all the people who criticize him, he is the one who would impose the maximum cost on the wealthy, so if some can criticize him for that from a personal morality point, it's not them.

Still, if the offsets don't count and his policies recommendations don't matter for personal morality and different rules should apply to him than to other rich people, then maybe you're right and Gore should adjust his arrangements to use less carbon and live the life he recommends for us all. So, we find out, that is what he is doing. To me, that seems like a symbolic gesture, but it wouldn't it have the merit of clearing him in the eyes of those of you for whom personal consistency is pre-requisite for policy advocacy? No such luck! "And when pigs have wings, they will fly," you retort. The implication of this it won't happen and can't happen. Does this mean he can't succeed in installing solar panels? Or does it mean that material profligacy is a kind of original sin and when Gore in 2010 makes a policy recommendation we can ignore him because of his 1999 electric bill. He showed his moral turpitude once by living the high life and we know all we need to know about him from now on?

It can't be any of that, because that wasn't your point. You don't criticize Sam Walton's extended family for the size of their homes. They're just rich and enjoying their money. (And they are allowed ... this is America and it's up to them what to do with it.) And we _definitely_ wouldn't be having this conversation if he'd turned into a well-paid lobbyist or sat on the boards of 50 companies, banking big fees between rounds of golf.

The problem with Gore is not what he does "despite his advocacy," it is his advocacy, not his personal morality, that he is being attacked for and it is not social morality or magical thinking or "external symbolic morality" to defend his very concrete advocacy on its very concrete merits.
3.25.2007 5:51pm
Truth Seeker:
You know that Gore is right and you can't stand that.

Gore is using a misinterpretation of limited data to try to gain personal power and control peoples' lives. That he doesn't follow his own preaching indicates he doesn't actually believe it himself. He lost his chance to be president of the world's superpower, so he wants to gain even more power by changing lifestyles worldwide.

That he wants to take away my freedoms based on junk science is what I can't stand.
3.25.2007 6:04pm
Andrew Okun:

Gore is using a misinterpretation of limited data to try to gain personal power and control peoples' lives. That he doesn't follow his own preaching indicates he doesn't actually believe it himself.


So what you're saying is that Al Gore actually really does not believe there is a climate crisis, but has chosen to pretend there is one as his best chance of taking control of earth? You believe that?
3.25.2007 6:12pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Randy R. :

Notice that revenue exceeds operating expenses. Where Mr. Oliver gets his figure that annual expenses are $60 million just for recycling, he doesn't say. I would suspect that he is confusing total costs of all refuse removal, which includes leaf removal, all trash removal and so on.


Actually, I did say. From their budget, which includes costs not included from your site. There are, of course, a ton of expenses not included in the list you mention, and these are included in the expenses in the budget. However, since you can't be bothered to follow the link yourself, and instead ignore it in order to make accusations, I will list it for you so you don't have to go to all the work of a mouse click:


Expenditures:

Recycling - Multifamily Dwellings: $599,080
Recycling - Residential 16,506,660
Recycling Center 2,931,500
Residential Recycling Outreach 420,660
Support for Recycling Volunteers 136,140
Commercial Recycling 1,185,380
Regulation of Refuse and Recycling
Collection 72,280

That gives a total expenditures of: $21,854,700

Which is the 20 million I originally noted. If you
add the cost of operating the Resource Recovery Facility ($44,969,660), that brings the total cost to over
$60 million.

Under Revenue:

Sale of Recycled Materials = $1,171,870
and that's the only line item mentioning recycling. It could be that they have upped their sales in 2007. I could not find an actual budget past 2005.

But whether you use the $20 million cost or the $60 million cost, and whether you use the $1.17 million in sales or the $3 million, the result is the same. It doesn't come close to covering expenses.

Just think for a minute, Randy. There's no way you can collect recylables for a county with a population of 800,000 for a cost of just $2 million. It wouldn't pay for he gas, much less the devoted rolling stock depreciation. That's just the operation of he Recycling Center ($2.1 million in 2005). Your numbers don't pass the smell test.

billo
3.25.2007 6:19pm
NotALegalEagle:
So essentially your value system is based on greed, right? All you care about is having more than everyone else. Thankfully there are people on this planet that aren't like you.


Everyone on this planet is motivated pretty much as I am. The main difference is I'm not telling everyone else that they should beggar themselves to preserve my lifestyle.

You know that Gore is right and you can't stand that. So instead of altering your lifestyle (why should I do anything to help someone else you ask...all i care about is me me me) or attempting to refute him on his merits, you resort to ad hominem attacks. it would be comical if it weren't true.


I don't know if Gore is right or wrong. I've never seen him sit down and present all his information, assumptions and conclusions. I don't see where I attacked Gore, ad hominem or otherwise. I have zero emotional investment in whether Gore is right or wrong. What I am saying is that I'm 100% on board with Al Gore. When my family is consuming 15 megawatt hours per month, then I'll start cutting back. But right now, just living my life the way I am, I'm already doing more to conserve than the celebrity mouth-piece du jour.

And yet you are still taking the time to be disdainful because I'm not willing to be serf to Al Gore's king.
3.25.2007 6:19pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Randy R:

Need I go on? Or are you going to argue that hypocracy is limited to liberals?


Well, no, you don't need to go on. You could, instead, address the actual point I was making.
3.25.2007 6:21pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Andrew Okun:

With all due respect, that is not the point you were making nor the point I was making.



Sorry, I don't play that game. Don't pretend to tell me what I mean. Feel free to argue imaginary points with imaginary people, but I won't play the game of you trying to tell *me* what *I* mean.


You never come out and say it, but some other people on this board do.


Whatever. I'm only responsible for what I say and what I mean. .

The fundamental aspect of the social morality mentioned by Steele is that the outward acts — symbolic acts, advocacy, etc. are important in liberal morality, while individual traditional morality is irrelevant. You have essentially made that point for me. The fact that he buys carbon offsets from himself as indulgences doesn't change his lifestyle.

billo
3.25.2007 6:36pm
Andrew Okun:

Sorry, I don't play that game. Don't pretend to tell me what I mean. Feel free to argue imaginary points with imaginary people, but I won't play the game of you trying to tell *me* what *I* mean.

...

blah blah social morality blah blah ... You have essentially made that point for me.


Oh.
3.25.2007 6:40pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Andrew Okun:

Oh.


Glad I could clear that up for you. The bottom line is this. You've made two salient points about Gore in respect to the point I was making:

1) Gore is not really a hypocrite because he is rich and you buy the carbon offset shellgame, and

2) It doesn't matter. "If he were profligate to a gross degree, I'd still be cheering the guy on..."

I don't care about the first point, though you seem to perseverate about it. I obviously disagree, but that's trumped by your second point. Your second point *is* my point.
3.25.2007 7:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
William Oliver: "The fundamental aspect of the social morality mentioned by Steele is that the outward acts — symbolic acts, advocacy, etc. are important in liberal morality, while individual traditional morality is irrelevant. You have essentially made that point for me."

How this so-called liberal morality is any different from conservative morality is beyond me. Can you explain the difference? As I pointed out, there are plenty of conservatives who advocate social morality through symbolic acts, advocacy, etc,, while their individual morality is deemed irrelevant.

As for recycling, well of course there are plenty of costs associated with recycling that are not in the recycling budget! But those costs would still be there even if there WERE no recycling. Picking up trash has to be done, and if you don't pick up recyclables, then you have to pick up trash. Of course there are upfront costs which have to be amoritized over years. This is all basic gov't accounting, and there is nothing nefarious about that.

However, I still don't understand your point. Even IF recycling didn't pay for itself, so what? Libraries don't pay for themselves. Neither do parks, schools, pools, recreational facilities, and so on. We subsidize those things because we have collectively decided that they are good.
3.25.2007 7:50pm
luagha:
On recycling - one of the points that people are alluding to goes like this:

There are trash companies who provide a special cheaper garbage collection rate. They do it because they have the technology to separate out various high-value, medium-value, and low-value recyclables from the stream of trash they receive, and get value from it. Only no-value recyclables go into the landfill.

However, if your county engages in one of those complex bagging and tagging and separating procedures itself, then those garbage companies above won't take your trash. They know they can't get a decent value out of it because you've already taken out the aluminum and high-grade recyclable plastics. So you have to pay full hauling prices to get it taken away. And the government then sells the bagged and tagged stuff and from the numbers above, they don't do it too well.

When you stack the two methods besides one another, the special trash companies win out both in terms of money saved and environmental bonuses.
3.25.2007 8:36pm
Bottomfish (mail):
We've talked for a while about trash, so a comment about junk food is appropriate. The Whole Food stores don't just sell "healthy" food. They sell ice cream, snacks, candy, gourmet items -- none of which has value according to the canons of "sustainable growth." The milk and cream and sugar that go into ice cream have nothing to do with nutrition. Why not give them to the folks in Africa? And why don't all the eco-fanatics live on lentils?
3.25.2007 8:55pm
Randy R. (mail):
One of the reasons Whole Food is such success is because it is the first healthy foods store that is a full grocery store. They themselves will state that not everything they sell is healthy -- but they're goal is nonetheless to sell the best products using organic ingredients, fair trade, employee-friendly practices as possible. If they didn't sell the ice cream and snack foods, they simply would not be the success that they are. As because of their success, they can expand and offer more organics to more people than is possible. And the more organics are sold, the more profit there is, which means more organic farming can be done.

20 years ago, you couldn't find organic food even if you wanted to. Today, the world is vastly changed. Even Walmart is going to sell organic foods!

Someone said earlier that organic food is a joke. Well, it isn't. Organic means that the fruits and veggies being grown have only organic pesticides and herbicides used on them. It is proven that prolonged exposure to regular pesticides and herbicides are likely causes of cancer. So just for the sake of the farm workers, organic is much better. Furthermore, those chemicals don't break down easily and end up in the food chain, leaching into soils, and eventually getting into aquifers and our lakes, streams and oceans. There are many places were people shouldn't drink ground water because of the accumulation of these chemicals. Organics break down faster and easier, and don't pollute the aquifers and streams.

Today I was shopping at Trader Joes, that bastion of upper class entitlement. They had a sign by the frozen fish that said that all fish contains some levels of mercury, where ever it is caught or raised. Now why is that? Could it be because we have polluted the planet so badly that every fish now contains traces of this toxic ingredient? This mercury came from someplace, and I don't think it's part of God's plan for our food supply!
3.25.2007 9:08pm
Brian K (mail):
laugha,

care to back that assertion up with raw numbers? or are u just making some ideological argument that free markets are better no matter what?
3.25.2007 9:21pm
Brian K (mail):
Truth Seeker,

You have an incredibly ironic name since you obviously care little for the truth. Most (nearly all) climate scientists out there agree that what gore says is, for the most part, true. It is backed up by cold hard science.

He is not trying to "take away [your] freedoms". he is trying to get people to reduce their negative impact on the environment. a big difference can be made without giving a single thing up.

"junk science" - hahaha...your ignorance is amusing.
3.25.2007 9:22pm
Brian K (mail):
NotALegalEagle:

Everyone on this planet is motivated pretty much as I am. The main difference is I'm not telling everyone else that they should beggar themselves to preserve my lifestyle.
- only in the broadest of sense. its like saying people do things that make them happy which is almost universally true and as a result meaningless. Some people gain happiness by accumulating vast amounts of wealth and "proving" that they are better than everyone else. these are the greedy people (e.g. you). other people derive happiness from seeing that other people are happy or by taking care of the environment or by volunteering for a local charity (e.g. other people not like you). you also fall into the trap that you must descend into poverty to reduce your environment impact. that's not true at all. you don't give up anything by using flourescent lights, driving a more efficient vehicle or by wearing a sweater instead of jacking up the heat.


I don't know if Gore is right or wrong. I've never seen him sit down and present all his information, assumptions and conclusions.
- for starters you can easily watch his movie or read his book. if your not satisfied by that you can look at his sources or any of the hundreds of scientific articles describing the effects and causes of global warming. just because your too lazy to research somthing yourself is no excuse for dismissing his claim out of hand. (i skipped his book and movie and went straight to the hard data)

I don't see where I attacked Gore, ad hominem or otherwise. I have zero emotional investment in whether Gore is right or wrong.
- hmmm...you don't think "tree humpers" is an insult? do you really think its an accurate term representing environmentalists or is it some deragatory term that you use to help you avoid considering the merits of their arguments? i'll give you a hint on how to answer this...i've never seen or heard of any actually humping a tree. Your use of "tree humper" also implies an emotional investment...rational people don't use terms like that, unless of course their emotions overrun them.

When my family is consuming 15 megawatt hours per month, then I'll start cutting back. But right now, just living my life the way I am, I'm already doing more to conserve than the celebrity mouth-piece du jour.
- like i said, your dismissing his arguments out of hand and i highly doubt your conserving anything.
3.25.2007 9:22pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Randy R.:

For your first point:

How this so-called liberal morality is any different from conservative morality is beyond me. Can you explain the difference?


Well, first, you should read Steele's book. He explains it much better than I can.

Interestingly, the difference is obvious to someone who is a traditional moralist, but almost nonsensical to someone who is a secular liberal moralist. That's why statements of equivalency such as you made in your previous post are essentially non sequitors.

One way of looking at the difference is to consider this. In traditional Christian morality, there are individual standards of belief and value which are expected to be reflected in behavior. However, it is *also* expected that the standards are such that people will ultimately fail. As the Apostle Paul, who anticipated your question, wrote:

I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. (Romans, Chapter 7)


Paul's answer, of course, is redemption through Jesus Christ. But more important to this discussion, his point is that even though we have standards of belief and conduct, we will fail Failing is *not* hypocrisy. Failing is simply failure. We all fail, because we are all struggling.

Hypocrisy, on the other hand, is pretense. It is pretending to attempt to follow a path, but not really doing so. An alcoholic who says "I'm an alcoholic and it has ruined my life. I've tried and tried to stop, but cannot. Don't be like this," is not a hypocrite. An alcoholic who says "Drinking is evil. Be like me and abstain," while surreptitously drinking is a hypocrite. Or, a person who says "You should not drink. I do, but it's OK for me and not OK for you," is a hypocrite unless there's a good justification for the statement.

In the latter case, it should be remembered that within a broad abstract range of consensus, individual morality is exactly that -- individual. The theology of this is beyond the scope of a comment, but one big mistake that secular liberal moralists make is trying to apply a caricature of traditional morality to all occasions when criticizing traditionalists. Contrary to popular belief among secularists, while basic morality is constant, the expression of it *is* situational. This is *not* so-called "situational morality," though the distinction is lost on many.

In contrast, liberal morality has largely rejected this standard, instead substituting social positioning. Using Steele's paradigm, liberal approaches to racial issues are profoundly counterproductive, but are adhered to because they provide exculpatory social statements. In essence, it doesn't matter whether or not you *actually* do things and advocate positions that *really* help African-Americans, it only matters that you engage in social actions that give the *appearance* of doing so.

In this kind of liberal morality hypocrisy, per se, has no meaning. It *doesn't* matter what Gore really does -- it only matter what he advocates. It *doesn't* matter what anybody actually does -- it only matters what they advocate and what symbolic acts they do. If Gore *were* to adhere to traditional morality, he would arguably be a hypocrite. Interestingly, that hypocrisy would have nothing to do with whether or not the carbon offsets were "real." He is *not* a hypocrite, however, because his morality does not really admit the concept.

Because liberal moralists, and in particular secular liberal moralists do not really comprehend traditional morality, when they criticize traditionalists they do so within the context of a stereotyped and frankly bigoted caricature of traditional morality. Thus, for instance, Bill Bennett was roundly criticized as a "hypocrite" because he gambles. Of course, many if not most traditionalists do not believe gambling within one's means is a sin, and Bennett never preached against it. Thus, Bennett was not a hypocrite in terms of traditional morality, but instead only in terms of a specious bigoted stereotype applied by people without a clue.

Thus, your question about Bush refusing to discuss his youthful sexual experiences or whether or not he has *ever* cheated on Laura are examples of not actually comprehending what hypocrisy actually is. If Bush claimed that he was perfect and said "Be like me," he would be a hypocrite if he had ever committed adultery. If he says "I am imperfect and if I have failed, that would be bad," he would not. He is not, in fact holding people to a standard higher than he holds to himself. It is not necessary that he confess his sins because he is not holding himself up as a standard. Most of your other stock political accusations, such as the one about armor and medical care are simply cheap shots without factual basis, and can be argued at another time as the empty BS they are. They have nothing to do with hypocrisy.

Were Bush a liberal, however, he would also not be a hypocrite because the concept has no meaning. In that case, the important thing would be that he advocate the appropriate standard. Whether or not he adhered to it would be irrelevant.

Your example of the preacher caught engaging in homosexual activity *is* an example of hypocrisy, though interestingly enough once he is exposed and admits his error he is no longer a hypocrite. Thus, through his repentance he is redeemed both of his sin (under his own beliefs) of homosexuality, and that of hypocrisy. Once again, however, secular liberal concepts of repentance do not map to traditional moral concepts of repentence. When secular moralists talk about "repentance" they generally equate it with remorse. In traditional Christian morality, repentance means turning away from the sin; remorse may be appropriate, but it's the following acts that matter. Thus, this person's repentance is an ongoing test.

As to your question about recycling:

First, the extra cost of picking up recyclables is egregious because "regular" trash is *also* picked up. The recycling program requires a second set of specialized transport. The marginal increase in the cost of picking up more regular trash is insignificant in contrast to the increased cost of running duplicate routes with specialized carriers.

But, indeed, the fact that it's a waste of money is a secondary issue. The primary issue is that recycling done in the manner that Montgomery County does it actually *increases* pollution and energy use, and does not decrease it. It is thus an expensive feel-good measure that has exactly the opposite effect that it pretends to have. It is a perfect example of liberal social morality in which the symbolic act of recycling is religiously adhered to on the grounds of environmentalism in spite of the fact that it damages the environment. It's classic.

For an amusing discussion of it, I would refer you to Penn and Teller's episode of it in the series "Bullshit"
3.25.2007 9:24pm
Avatar (mail):
My biggest problem with the concept of carbon offsets is that they are NOT a widespread solution to the problem, nor can they be made to be so, and this should be obvious to the observer.

Absurd example. Can we all make ourselves carbon neutral by investing in offsets? Obviously not - things like power generation and industry and transportation, the whole "essential for an industrial economy" package, result in CO2 emissions. There's room for the low-hanging fruit, as it were, as far as offsets financing carbon-reducing equipment. However, once you've reached that point (determined by your carbon-reducing technology, of which we frankly don't have very much), further money will not result in further reductions of emissions, but just bid up the price of existing offsets.

Geopolitics example. One of the problems with Kyoto was that it chose 1990 as the baseline year for emissions; this means that Russia, whose economy suffered a post-Soviet collapse, gets credit for a significant "cut" in emissions that (a) has already happened, (b) for reasons totally unrelated to global warming. Trading money to Russia in exchange for "carbon credits" does not actually REDUCE carbon emissions - you're paying them for carbon they were not going to emit anyway.

A lot of the anger wrt. Gore is that he's advocating restrictions, not on the basis of optimal climate, but in order to avert an environmental catastrophe - that if everyone doesn't suck in their belt, terrible things are likely to happen. His own carbon emissions are such, however, that relatively small and painless changes on his part can affect the environment significantly more than a total reversion to savagery would constitute on my behalf. Yet he hasn't even done that much? If you're gonna own a big plantation, don't tell me my garden's too big...

Note that Gore's behavior is entirely defensible IF you view it from a more conservative perspective - there's obviously an economic and utility analysis to be made made for any changes in individual behavior, "reduction of chance of unlikely future catastrophe" is properly discounted, the utility of having big houses and flying around the world is high, and he gets more utility out of the stuff and the travel than the expected value of the disaster aversion. Okay, but that fails to correspond with his rhetoric on the issue - so either he's a confused thinker on the topic, which is a damn good reason to disregard him, or he's mendacious and wants you to make cuts he's not willing to make himself. (Alternatively, he needs you to make cuts so that he can spend his money on the resulting offsets! Heh.)

This is hardly the only reason to oppose Gore on the issue - even if he divested himself of all worldly goods and lived in the forest, wearing leaves and eating nuts and berries he gathered, his position is still wrong. However, it takes a relatively sophisticated knowledge of statistics and computer modeling to have an informed opinion on the current state of global warming research, which few people on either side of the issue actually have, and thus attacking Gore's apparent hypocrisy is an "easier" argument and harder to defend against. (You can say "this scientist said, that scientist said", but hypocrisy is an easy argument to understand and analyze, even with no technical or logical training whatsoever.)
3.25.2007 9:52pm
Mark Field (mail):

The milk and cream and sugar that go into ice cream have nothing to do with nutrition. Why not give them to the folks in Africa? And why don't all the eco-fanatics live on lentils?


This has always struck me as among the weakest, and cheapest, arguments in the whole repetoire (and we've pretty much seen all of its competitors in this thread). Put aside the specifics (why would you give sugar to people whose basic need is protein? who could live on lentils alone?). The real flaw is the whole "gotcha" aspect, and it's essentially the same as the argument regarding Al Gore.

The basic fact is that no human being on earth can do every single thing right or even every single thing within his/her power to achieve a desired goal. There's ALWAYS something else someone could do, no matter how much they're already doing. Mother Theresa? She slept too much (however much she slept can conveniently be described as "too much") and spent too much time counseling when she could have been seeking alms. Or, she spent too much time seeking alms instead of cooking with her own hands to feed all the hungry people in India. Or whatever. It's not argument, it's cant.

My hat is off to Andrew Okun and to Randy, who both have far more patience than I do.
3.25.2007 9:59pm
Mark Field (mail):

Can we all make ourselves carbon neutral by investing in offsets?


No, but neither can we make ourselves rich by taking in each other's laundry. That hardly discredits capitalism.
3.25.2007 10:01pm
Brian K (mail):
william,

it sounds to me that your argument is based on the premise that christian = good, non-christian/secular = bad. a truly false dichotomy.

when two people engage in the exact some behavior you say its okay for the conservative to do it but wrong for the liberal to do it. and in defense you say "liberals can't understand". maybe we can't understand because your talking nonsense. you've twisted logic (well...technically you're repeating the argument of someone else who has done that so its not your fault) so such a degree that is unrecognizable to us normal folk.

The fallibility argument is just a dodge to avoid blame. if you're fallible then you can't possible be held responsible for your actions, afterall, god made you that way. what a crock, especially coming from conservatives who are real big on "personal responsibility".
3.25.2007 10:56pm
Truth Seeker:
Al Gore is just a modern priest telling those who will believe him that they have been bad and will be punished unless they do what he says.
Maybe most people need to feel guilty about something and for liberals this is easier than original sin.
3.25.2007 11:22pm
Brian K (mail):
HAHAHA...that is a false equivalence. original sin is something that taken on faith. you can believe or not but you can't prove or disprove it. (and i might mention it is not a belief unique to conservatives). global warming is not a belief it is a matter of science. you can measure it, quantify it, study it. you can see its effects or non-effects on the environment. they are not even remotely the same.

also al gore is not advocating punishment, unlike your god.
3.25.2007 11:56pm
NotALegalEagle:
- only in the broadest of sense. its like saying people do things that make them happy which is almost universally true and as a result meaningless. Some people gain happiness by accumulating vast amounts of wealth and "proving" that they are better than everyone else. these are the greedy people (e.g. you). other people derive happiness from seeing that other people are happy or by taking care of the environment or by volunteering for a local charity (e.g. other people not like you).


These are those ad hominem attacks you were talking about, right? For someone who knows nothing about me, you are being astonishingly vituperative and specific in describing me.

- for starters you can easily watch his movie or read his book. if your not satisfied by that you can look at his sources or any of the hundreds of scientific articles describing the effects and causes of global warming. just because your too lazy to research somthing yourself is no excuse for dismissing his claim out of hand. (i skipped his book and movie and went straight to the hard data)


Since you've taken your massive brain and turned it to the task of achieving complete understanding of the the climate, can you explain something to me: Why is Mars warming?

Also, nice to see that mature and rational discrediting of my points by leveraging facts. Instead of calling me names. Oh wait. You just called me lazy instead of supporting your position.

- hmmm...you don't think "tree humpers" is an insult? do you really think its an accurate term representing environmentalists or is it some deragatory term that you use to help you avoid considering the merits of their arguments?


And you attached that phrase to Gore why?

i'll give you a hint on how to answer this...i've never seen or heard of any actually humping a tree. Your use of "tree humper" also implies an emotional investment...rational people don't use terms like that, unless of course their emotions overrun them.


I've met people who described themselves as tree humpers. As someone who is so concerned about the environment I would expect that you would be aware of the slang and humour used by the people who feel strongly about it. I guess you just aren't that in touch with your cause. Here's an example for you.

- like i said, your dismissing his arguments out of hand and i highly doubt your conserving anything.


No, I'm saying a lot of people seem to find Al Gore's consumption acceptable. That's my baseline. What you believe about my "conserving" is irrelevant. But for your edification my electricity bill arrived the other day, for the period 2/13 - 3/15 I used 500 KWH. Last month's bill was 672 KWH. I'm beating the national average by some 30-50% depending on where you find your numbers. I'm beating Al Gore by some 24 times.
3.26.2007 12:12am
William Oliver (mail) (www):

Brian K:

it sounds to me that your argument is based on the premise that christian = good, non-christian/secular = bad. a truly false dichotomy.


"Truly?" You mean in terms of *your* omnicient moral perspective? You mean *that* ultimate truth? Heh.

But no. I am describing Steele's contrast between traditional conservative morality and modern secular liberal morality, and how that is playing out on the political and cultural stages. Obviously, people who adhere to secular liberal morality don't think that traditional conservative morality is all that great. That makes the contrast no less real.

Christian recognition of human fallibility makes sense to people who are fallible. To you it makes no sense. Perhaps when you are older it will.
3.26.2007 2:11am
Brian K (mail):
William,

truly, wholly, completely, obviously...take your pick. they all mean the same thing. It is nonetheless a dichotomy. there are good and bad elements to both christianity and secularism. neither group has a monopoly on one or the other.

While I don't disagree that there are differences between liberal and conservative morality, I don't think Steele's characterization of what conservative and liberal morality is correct. He seems to have designed his definitions with his answer in mind. He picked the shallowest view of morality that he can find and attributed solely to liberals. I'm sure there are conservatives who think the way Steele claims liberals think. (Let's not start on the "then they're not really conservative" argument as that is just defining the groups with the end result in mind and equally fallacious). You also can't generalize to an entire group from a single instance. If that was the case I could rightly call every conservative racist, homophobic, xenophobic barely literate hatemongers based on the actions of ann coulter.

"Christian recognition of human fallibility makes sense to people who are fallible. To you it makes no sense. Perhaps when you are older it will."
- this is just another variation of your previous argument which I rejected. i can't understand because i'm too young is no different than saying i can't understand because i'm a secular liberal. just out of curiousity, how old do you think i am?

Everyone is fallible. I don't anyone, conservative or liberal, who doesn't thinks they are incapable of making errors or who thinks they are god. While there are some people out there like that, neither group has a monopoly on them. The christian version of fallibility as you've explained it is nothing more than a cop-out, a way to avoid personal responsibility.
3.26.2007 2:56am
A.C.:
Can we all at least agree that there really ARE a few liberals out there whose consumer habits call for parody? I saw one at the farmer's market one day. Keep in mind that this was a crunchy, liberal farmer's market to begin with. Even so, this character stood out.

She had to ask about everything. It wasn't good enough for the potatoes to be organic. She had to know how long the field in which they were grown had been farmed organically. She asked if the salt used in the bread was iodized or not. Everywhere she went, lines of extremely impatient people backed up behind her. Her husband, who was holding the shopping basket, stared at his feet and generally looked mortified. I expected her to ask about the exact nature of the poop the mushrooms were grown in, but I didn't hang around long enough to find out if she did.

And the punchline is that she was wearing the biggest political button I have ever seen. It said, "John Kerry shares my values." That's when I knew John Kerry was going to lose.

This woman is hilarious, of course. You could "do" her in a comedy sketch to great effect. But to say that all liberals are like this is an insult. I mean, she was pissing off THE OTHER LIBERALS that day. And extending the generalization beyond liberals is even less reasonable. I'm not a liberal by any means, but I shop at Whole Foods sometimes because they carry things I can't get at Safeway. And I also shop at Safeway because they carry things I can't get a Whole Foods.

Consumer choice is good. Some people exercise their choices in ways I find hilarious, and some do things I find deeply offensive. But, in a free society, people are allowed to be complete dingbats if they want to. The freedom to act like an idiot is essential in a society with a wide range of beliefs about what acting like an idiot actually entails. A lot of people seem to have lost sight of this fact in the rush to enforce a uniform set of values on everyone.
3.26.2007 10:29am
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Brian K;

truly, wholly, completely, obviously...take your pick. they all mean the same thing. It is nonetheless a dichotomy. there are good and bad elements to both christianity and secularism. neither group has a monopoly on one or the other.


You do realize, don't you, that you are engaging in the same behavior you accuse me of? You say it's inappropriate for me to embrace Christian morality as opposed to liberal secular morality because it disagrees with the idiosyncratic absolutism by which you judge both.

While I don't disagree that there are differences between liberal and conservative morality, I don't think Steele's characterization of what conservative and liberal morality is correct. He seems to have designed his definitions with his answer in mind. He picked the shallowest view of morality that he can find and attributed solely to liberals.


Not really. Read his book. Limousine liberals *are* the defining cultural icon for the liberal movement. The left has embraced the influence of Hollywood and the culture of celebrity, and its associated shallow narcissism. This is the natural result. It is why there's no room for Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party.

just out of curiousity, how old do you think i am?


You are either young enough not to have had to deal with these issues in a real way, or immature enough to have declined to do so. In either case, your statement is morally jejeune, even for a liberal.

The christian version of fallibility as you've explained it is nothing more than a cop-out, a way to avoid personal responsibility.


No, Brian. The concept of redemption does not obviate the necessity of repentance, and repentance is a matter of personal responsibility. The difference is that we Christians do allow for redemption. It's unusual a secular liberal to complain that Christian morality is too forgiving of human faults, since the opposite is the usual accusation. I'm glad you understand that accusation, at least is specious.

Your accusations are better directed at liberal morality. There, personal responsibility begins and ends with what the person advocates. Thus, liberal moralists can insist it's irrelevant that Clinton "just lied about sex," while at the same time being obsessed with when Bush lost his virginity as a youth.
3.26.2007 12:55pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Brian K.

also al gore is not advocating punishment, unlike your god.


Yes he his. He is advocating policy change to the arm of the State for the purposes of coercion. If you disobey, you will be fined, jailed or both. Further, he is *casting* it as a religious moral issue, thus embracing the use of the State to enforce his moral laws.
3.26.2007 1:28pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
A. C. Your description of the holier-than-holy organic shopper was hilarious.
We pretty much all have the same behaviors, but to a greater or lesser extent than others. Different places on the continuum. She's 'way out there.

Your comment about "allow" and "enforce" does show you're a liberal. We had a discussion about attitudes and you immediately started pretending to hear talk about compulsion. That's crap. It's also a weakly successful way of stifling a discussion you can't manage on more relevant grounds. But weak. Lame. Crippled. And, more to the point, obvious as hell.


I think the key question about Gore and his house is that if he really believed it, he'd be doing it.

Tom Wolfe, some years ago, talked about the self-appointed elite who wanted the rest of us, the Betas, to be living as we should, in workers' housing, while they, of course, lived fat.

I'd also like to hear Gore or his supporters address the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, the Holocene Maximum and the coming flooding of Mars due to the melting of whatever it is they have there.

It's been said that government cries wolf in order to frighten the subjects into giving them their own power and money. Some times you really have a wolf. Sometimes you have somebody who wants your power and money. It's a good idea to be able to tell the difference. And Global Warming--all religions deserve proper noun status--will require all kinds of rules and regs which, as we see with Gore, out betters do not intend to let inconvenience them.
3.26.2007 1:40pm
A.C.:
Richard Aubrey --

Out of curiosity, which side did you think I was taking aim at when I used the words "allow" and "enforce"? I'm wondering what you are reading in there. I left the matter vague on purpose.

I suspect we agree on the basic point that we need to look out for the sort of "coercion" that comes with calls for ideological conformity in place of debate on the merits of a question. And I do mean calls from either side, perhaps ESPECIALLY from whichever side we happen to agree with. That's the side where each of us is most likely to make errors that infringe on other people. This applies to Al Gore as much as to anyone else.

As for actual government coercion, in the form of lots of rules to prevent carbon emissions, that's another question for a different day.
3.26.2007 2:19pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
A.C. Calls for ideological conformity do not include any element of compulsion, unless you think being cast out by the Cool Kids is next to capital punishment.
3.26.2007 2:25pm
Colin (mail):
I normally don't care a whit about the global warming debate, but Richard, a couple of your points detract enormously from your argument. First, you want "Gore or his supporters" to address a short list of anti-global warming arguments (or at least, anti-athropogenesis). But don't pretend that they haven't. Even I have seen the articles and discussions on those points, and my eyes glass over at the slightest mention of "carbon." Pretending that there are holes where there are none makes you sound like a crank.

Also, the repeating idea that "global warming" is a religion is just goofy. Perhaps you merely have a remarkably loose definition of "religion," but when you spout comments like that, it's a signal that you're more interested in rhetoric than in reason.
3.26.2007 2:41pm
NY (mail):
Re the subject of Gore's personal actions in relation to his public endorsements to the contrary: Is this anything like the "chickenhawk" argument libbers make re the recent to-do in Iraq? I remember being forced to watch a movie where the substantial Michael Moore was suggesting it was wrong to vote for or support the war if you are not either going yourself or sending your kids there. I'm told it gets made a lot on liberal blogs.

There were similar throat-clearings when it came to Bush's and Clinton's Vietnam-era shenanigans contrasted against whatever aggressive actions they were calling for.

The same argument comes up in the debate on school vouchers, i.e. if you don't think sending kids to private schools via vouchers is a good idea, why are you sending yours to private school? I think the NY Post runs yearly articles on this idea, "outing" assorted politicians and where they send their offspring. Rosie O'Donnell ran into a similar situation where her vociferous anti-gun position ran smack into hiring an armed guard for her brat.

At the end of the day, it's only evidence, at most, of hypocrisy of the speaker, not the wrongfulness of his recommendations.
3.26.2007 3:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Colin. The only anti anthro argument I've seen addressed is the Medieval Warm Period. That was done by arguing, against evidence, that it was localized.
What I haven't seen addressed is the question of whether the Roman Warm Period was more congenial than the Dark Ages Cold Period, the Little Ice Age more problematic than the Medieval Warm Period. (There was a recent History Channel documentary on the Little Ice Age. Question? When I retire, can I get a job running around in historical documentaries?) The presumption that Gore is using to terrify us is that it will be a disaster with no redeeming qualities.
And I haven't seen anything at all addressed to the subject of solar forcing. Maybe it's out there. Maybe somebody's saying we have to take steps to ameliorate a process entirely natural in origin, which might make sense if there were anything which could be done, but I haven't seen it.

I call it a religion for two reasons: One is that the counterarguments are not addressed logically but with ad hominems and even with veiled suggestions that people shouldn't say such things. The raft of scientists who say it's bogus are not mentioned, even to confute them. And because educated people, when tasked with one or two counter-arguments, say, invariably, "I don't care...."
3.26.2007 3:58pm
Randy R. (mail):
Sorry, Mr. Oliver: First, thanks for the long response. But it all comes down to all liberals are hypocrites, but all conservatives are good honest people. Both you and Steele have stacked the deck: you have defined liberal morality in a way you don't like, and then said this is bad. You then define traditional conservative morality in a way that you like, and then say that's good.

I could do that just as easily. But the point simply isn't worth arguing. You have constructed a theory that conforms to your view of the world.

You say that I would understand when I get older. Well, I'm now 46, and one thing I have learned is that the world is a tremendously complex place, and trying to place everyone into a convenient box or putting labels on people is not only a waste of time, but it's often wrong anyway. As you get older, you see the world for it is, all shades of gray. Any theory that finds the world so black and white is to me immediately suspect.
3.26.2007 4:09pm
Colin (mail):
The only anti anthro argument I've seen addressed is the Medieval Warm Period. That was done by arguing, against evidence, that it was localized.

Then you aren't looking, or are only looking at sources that agree with your opinions. As I said, even I have seen multiple articles addressing the issues you raised. I glossed over something dealing with apparent warming on Mars on Slashdot a week or so back. These are not hidden issues, and you sound very non-credible when you complain that climate change advocates haven't addressed them.

One is that the counterarguments are not addressed logically but with ad hominems

You're one to talk! You don't appear to have even read the arguments you're complaining about!

The raft of scientists who say it's bogus are not mentioned, even to confute them.

I can't believe you'd say something like that with (presumably) a straight face. Again, I almost never read climate change articles. I generally see them only in passing as I read science blogs for biology material. But even I have seen many, many, many articles addressing the counterarguments and the skeptics in detail. Come on, does Google not work for you?

And because educated people, when tasked with one or two counter-arguments, say, invariably, "I don't care...."

Uh huh. Look, it's not that I don't believe you (although, to be honest, I'm skeptical to say the least), but that doesn't equate to "religion." It might be fun to say, it might make you feel righteous, I don't know or care. But as someone who really doesn't care much one way or the other about the climate change debate, you don't sound like a credible source when you rely on overheated rhetoric and sweeping ignorance to characterize your opposition. Half of what you've said (that your opposition hasn't addressed the counterarguments) just isn't true, and the other half (that their failure to do so makes their beliefs religious) is illogical.
3.26.2007 4:21pm
Andrew Okun:

I think the key question about Gore and his house is that if he really believed it, he'd be doing it.


No, the key question is whether Gore is right on the problem and the policies. If your touchstone for credibility is walking the walk, we can find you some scientists and environmentalists who live modestly and ride bikes to work to tell you what the problem is and what needs to be done about it. In fact, those very people have been trying to tell you for years now and you clearly don't accept what they say either. Pardon me for thinking that your real problem is with the message, not the messenger.

Tom Wolfe, some years ago, talked about the self-appointed elite who wanted the rest of us, the Betas, to be living as we should, in workers' housing, while they, of course, lived fat.


A mighty left wing sentiment for this blog. The alphas exist and their current doctrine for explaining why they get bigger houses is laissez faire economics and the primacy of property rights. I'm no socialist, don't get me wrong, but I'm just guessing that you weren't trotting out Tom Wolfe's vivid depictions a couple of years back when Bush's estate tax repeal was being argued over.


I'd also like to hear Gore or his supporters address the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, the Holocene Maximum and the coming flooding of Mars due to the melting of whatever it is they have there.


Here's a sample of the discussion of the
Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age


I don't have a reference for the Holocene in particular, but in addition to the long discussed potential influence of changes in solar radiation, contenent configuration and our orbit, a correlation -- not necessarily a causation or a sole causation -- between CO2 and global temperature has been observed going back a lot further than that. There are references and diagrams here as well as here if you want further reading.

As for Mars, what are you talking about?

Other than the fact that, like earth, Mars is heated by the sun, the fact that it's location, size, atmosphere, composition, color, rotation, flora and fauna, are wholly different would make any model you propose of climate on Mars pretty useless for modelling earth. And I'm guessing you don't have a model of the martian climate in mind, since the scientific observation you want explained is the "coming floods" of "whatever they have there."
3.26.2007 4:43pm
Adeez (mail):
"You say that I would understand when I get older. Well, I'm now 46, and one thing I have learned is that the world is a tremendously complex place, and trying to place everyone into a convenient box or putting labels on people is not only a waste of time, but it's often wrong anyway."

Very well said Randy R. I used to listen to this fat guy on TV who sounded so smart. He would rail against those he thought were destroying the country and I was sucked-in. Well, in hindsight that was Rush Limbaugh (when he had his TV show) and I was like, 10 or something. Sure, to a 10-year-old Rush Limbaugh sounds like a genius. Fortunately, as I grew older, smarter, and a hell of a lot wiser, I was able to see what a clown he is. Unfortunately, millions upon millions in this country will continue to be hoodwinked.

Yes, this site attracts many intelligent and learned commenters. Unfortunately, there's a vocal minority that feel compelled to frame everything as left/right. And the overwhelming majority of this minority proceeds to attack the left. It's really funny how liberals are spoken of on this site like some freakish fringe group with some crazy subversive agenda. I once even asked on a particular thread to the many commenters blasting liberals if they ever actually listened to Air America, read the Nation or the Voice, or was otherwise privy to what prominent liberals actually espouse. The response? Crickets.

When a proud liberal like myself criticizes this administration, it's b/c I believe that it is destroying our once-great nation and putting the interests of a tiny minority over the majority. Quite often, those who attack liberals (I hesitate to call them conservatives, b/c conservatism is an actual ideology with some merit that should in theory despise this administration as well) they inevitably comeback with the old "But but Clinton...!!!" Here's my response, and that of many liberals: Fuck Clinton! I could care less about him personally, and disagree with many of his policy decisions. Were he still president, he too would be criticized for being part of the political establishment. But considering that the current crop has done such immense, irreversible damage, I think what Clinton did is rather irrelevant. Too bad so many haven't yet figured that out.
3.26.2007 4:57pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Andrew. Mars is getting warmer. Its polar caps are shrinking. The presumption has been for some time that the white stuff their is CO2 frozen out as a kind of snow. If it gets warmer, the stuff vaporizes. I said "whatever they have there" because of a recent report that a satellite may have discovered enough water someplace around the Martian antipodes to flood the planet thirty-six feet deep if it melted. Given the situation, the likelihood of it melting is remote.
Anyway, the point is that Mars is getting warmer sans SUVs. So what is it? Something is making it happen. Could be increases in insolation directly. Could be a process begun by an increase starting something with positive feedback. But, since as far as we know, Mars has no energy except for solar energy, a change in solar radiation seems to be the best choice.
Now, if Mars is getting warmer due to solar radiation, perhaps the same is true for us. Unless somebody wants to explain how the sun hits Mars and misses us. Or has a better answer for Mars.

Gore could live as he wants the rest of us to, if he cared enough. Therefore....

Tom Wolfe isn't talking about betas living in subdivisions with three bedrooms and a bath and a half.
3.26.2007 5:31pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Andrew. WRT the link to an article on the warm period and the little ice age, I spent some time five years ago or thereabouts looking at all kinds of reports from scientists.

They were doing their little reports on pollen in Siberia and stalagmites in South Africa and silting in the Baltic ports and and O2 isotopes in New Zealand any number of things. The papers were just that...papers. They were not looking for proof for or against anything. Just results from the question....what do we have going on here? The application to climate change was accidental, not the purpose.
Most of the papers supported common time frames for the world's warmer and colder periods in the last millenium.
So I'll call that a wash.
Where I live, the average temperature over the last million years is under half a mile of ice. And I recall the coming ice age. The Younger Dryas was hauled out and we were told we need to be prepared for practically an instantaneous change. Positive, accelerating feedback in the process.
Next question: What, exactly, was wrong with the warm periods in the last ten thousand years?
I like a good, honest winter and can't see going south to avoid it. But I'm not a farmer on the northern plains, here or in Eurasia. If global warming, anthro or not, frees up more water and extends growing seasons, I don't see the problem.
And twenty feet increase in sea level is nonsense. If we do face so much change, we are marginally the reason, barely marginally the reason, if we are the reason at all, and ruining western economies in favor of India and China probably isn't going to help much, if at all.

Also, there have been quite a number of reports showing that CO2 lags warming in the past.

The science does't exist to justify giving Gore and his cronies control over every aspect of life they can claim affects the climate. And, considering the response of the privileged classes to windmills in sight of Martha's Vinyard, the burden isn't going to fall on the guys whose hot ideas these are. So there will be no personal reason for them to take it easy. It will be us complaining. You know, the knuckle draggers who have to be forced to do the right thing. No skin off their nose.
3.26.2007 5:47pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Randy R:

First, thanks for the long response. But it all comes down to all liberals are hypocrites, but all conservatives are good honest people.


Actually, no. I never said anything about "all" anybodies. I am talking about dominant patterns. Second, of course as a traditionalist I think that people who accept traditional morality are correct and those who don't are wrong. However, that is *different* than noting the difference between the two. That you don't agree with the former does not mean that the latter isn't true.

You say that I would understand when I get older. Well, I'm now 46, and one thing I have learned is that the world is a tremendously complex place, and trying to place everyone into a convenient box or putting labels on people is not only a waste of time, but it's often wrong anyway.


Yet, oddly, you have no problem judging people by your own idiosyncratic and absolutist view of what is "right" and "wrong." Your criticism of me is amusing when in doing so you are engaging in exactly the same practice. The only difference is that I am explicit in the bases for my morality, and you are not.
3.26.2007 6:04pm
Andrew Okun:

... But, since as far as we know, Mars has no energy except for solar energy, a change in solar radiation seems to be the best choice.
Now, if Mars is getting warmer due to solar radiation, perhaps the same is true for us. Unless somebody wants to explain how the sun hits Mars and misses us.


Solar energy is the only energy earth gets either and from what I gather, it definitely is a driver of climate change on earth. Wouldn't doubt that it is on Mars, too. I think there was even a study claiming to correlate sunlight with variation in our temperature over hundreds of years, but the correlation only worked up to 1980, when temperature broke out of the top side of the correlation. The idea that "Mars is melting ... maybe the sun has something to do with global warming" would come as news to climate researchers is really not giving them very much credit at all.


And I recall the coming ice age.


I haven't read a lot about that whole episode, but a few things came to mind when people started mentioning it as a reason to ignore the claim of global warming. First of all, a prediction that is disproven by observation (i.e. we didn't have an ice age in short order) might be good science. In fact, being susceptible to disproof by observation is a hallmark of good science. Second, what reading I have done indicates that the cooling that led to that prediction was by factors that have since changed, mainly air pollution. So the science and the prediction might not have been that bad. Thirdly, time and science have moved on. Today's models and studies, in addition to not having to explain tides on Mars, are not to be held to account for somebody else's studies in 1970. Lastly, how much of the "global freezing" episode is referring to the gaudy Newsweek covers promising a new ice age, rather than the probably calmer claims of the underlying science? I don't know. Were reputable scientists in 1970 suggesting building giant underground cities or something based on a Newsweek cover?

Look, they predicted an ice age, whoever they were, and one didn't happen. Then, in the 80s and early 90s, another they predicted global warming, and it did happen. Read the intro to the first IPCC summary in 1991. It said there was a bit of warming but it was impossible to tell yet if it was manmade and it would remain impossible to tell for probably a decade, but the climate studies show that increasing concentrations of GHGs could cause warming. Since then things have headed in one direction... warmer. People keep feverishly postulating other possible causes, and the academics keep addressing these proposals in good faith and on their merits, but they predicted the warming and it happened, which puts the theory in at least a slightly different category than the cooling.


Next question: What, exactly, was wrong with the warm periods in the last ten thousand years? ... If global warming, anthro or not, frees up more water and extends growing seasons, I don't see the problem.


Then you should read up about the predicted problems. Aside from the fact that the accuracy of predictions of good outcomes from global warming is bounded by the same factors as the accuracy of predicted bad outcomes, the idea that warming will lead to more scrumptious fruit for everyone is a bit simplistic. Against the possible costs of carbon taxes and technology subsidies to prevent the warming, consider that the extra water and heat will not be distributed evenly. Australia, for example, is predicted to lose water in its farming south and get it in its undeveloped north. There is a capital and human cost to shifting farming from one to the other. While Canada and Siberia may have more water and longer growing seasons over more territory, the hugely populated central belt of the world is predicted to get less water. Are we going to move a billion people to Canada? If we can, it's still going to cost. I'm not saying I think these nightmares are definitely going to happen, but I think the idea that it all might work out very nicely doesn't weigh against the problem of it happening at all.

Keep in mind that past climate variation, within the last 1/2 million years, has given rise to conditions which we 6 billion could not survive. Our increase in CO2 meanwhile, has taken one important variable outside the range of the last half million years.


considering the response of the privileged classes to windmills in sight of Martha's Vinyard,


That response is appalling, and short-sighted, from people with millions of dollars of real estate on what are essentially rapidly eroding banks of terminal morain sliding into the Atlantic Ocean.


... ruining western economies in favor of India and China ...


Where does this "ruining the economy" or "living back in the stone age" idea come from? With very few exceptions, scientists and environmentalists of all stripes believe we can make these changes with minimal effect on our standard of living. Is our adaptability and our inventiveness for nought here? By the examples of past big pushes, like WWII or the space program, we will come out ahead. As for control of life, what Gore et al. wants more than anything else is the recognition of an externality, at which point the free market can do what it does best. True, he wants to ban incandescent bulbs and increase CAFE standards, but if it were that or a modest carbon tax, which do you think he'd prefer?


Also, there have been quite a number of reports showing that CO2 lags warming in the past.


A well-measured effect, meaning that CO2 decrease did not trigger those changes. Of course, there was nothing to trigger a significant change in CO2 until a significant climate change was already underway. Now there is. The particular change we are making to the atmosphere is, I think, unprecedented. That increase in CO2 concentration will cause heat to be trapped somewhere here is relatively simple physics, the question is where the heat goes.
3.26.2007 7:12pm
Brian K (mail):
William,

"You do realize, don't you, that you are engaging in the same behavior you accuse me of? You say it's inappropriate for me to embrace Christian morality as opposed to liberal secular morality because it disagrees with the idiosyncratic absolutism by which you judge both."
- how is my view absolute? Do you understand my argument? You are the one making false claims about "liberal morality" and then using that to denigrate liberals. i never said it was inappropriate for you to embrace christianity, i said your characterization of liberals was flawed and as a result your entire argument is flawed. there's a difference there.


"Not really. Read his book. Limousine liberals *are* the defining cultural icon for the liberal movement. The left has embraced the influence of Hollywood and the culture of celebrity, and its associated shallow narcissism. This is the natural result. It is why there's no room for Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party."
- again, you are generalizing a subset of the liberal population and applying to the entire group. I am liberal and i can barely name any movie stars. the conservative group also has its own celebrities, o'reilly, coulter, limbaugh. christianity has its own celebrities too. just because they're not in hollywood doesn't change the fact that some members of all groups love celebrities. like i have repeatedly said before and you conveniently ignore, you are creating a false dichotomy between liberal and conservative morality.


"You are either young enough not to have had to deal with these issues in a real way, or immature enough to have declined to do so. In either case, your statement is morally jejeune, even for a liberal."
- wow...you must be incredibly arrogant. if you don't agree with my worldview you are too stupid, too immature, too young, etc. Do you not realize that there are perfectly valid worldviews out there besides your own? (Thanks to all the previous posters who pointed out the absurdity of his argument!)


"Your accusations are better directed at liberal morality. There, personal responsibility begins and ends with what the person advocates. Thus, liberal moralists can insist it's irrelevant that Clinton "just lied about sex," while at the same time being obsessed with when Bush lost his virginity as a youth."
- you are ignoring a crucial difference. clinton never claimed extramaritial sex was evil or tried to implement policies that punish people for having an affair. Bush is constantly touting the virtues of abstinace and punishing schools and groups that don't teach abstinance. it would be very hypocritical of bush to push abstinace if he never practiced it himself. sound familar? its the same reason you and other conservatives are attempting to ignore gore. yet again you create a double standard for conservatives and liberals.

"I am talking about dominant patterns"
no you are not. you are talking about a minority of liberals. and you attribute viewpoints solely to liberals that are also shared by some conservatives.
3.26.2007 7:19pm
Andrew Okun:
Willo

Actually, no. I never said anything about "all" anybodies. I am talking about dominant patterns. Second, of course as a traditionalist I think that people who accept traditional morality are correct and those who don't are wrong. However, that is *different* than noting the difference between the two. That you don't agree with the former does not mean that the latter isn't true.


To back Randy up here a little, you did say liberal morality does not give weight to the consequences of actions and the reality of conduct, but instead gives weight to empty symbolism and mere advocacy. That's pretty all-ish, even if it is only our "dominant pattern." And you do make Randy's point in there, too. "...of course as a traditionalist I think that people who accept traditional morality are correct and those who don't are wrong." We're wrong, then, and since we're wrong about morality, we're pretty damn wrong. Indeed, Randy lets you off the hook a little when he says you think all liberals are hypocrites. Your view stated earlier is that we can't be hypocrites cause, in moral terms, we can't count that high. Your view of our moral reasoning is sweeping, insulting and wrong. I don't propose to speak for everyone here, but we don't worship empty symbols for their own sake or dissociate act from consequence. Exactly the opposite, far from forgiving anyone anything in exchange for advocacy, we try to measure their actions in the broadest sense. On the one hand, we give credit for works ... on the other, we prefer to judge harm rather than sin.

Which is why the indictment of moral systems is not symmetric. We don't think traditionally minded people such as yourself are amoral or always wrong in your moral judgments. When you do something selfless or take a risk for your community or support your family, we that's good. When we get to an issue we disagree with, we disagree and it gets ugly, but the argument tends to be the liberal believing the traditionalist does not understand the true distribution of harms, not the other way around. You seem to believe that when we get off our tush and try to accomplish something good, the best that can be said for us is that we exhibiting a dissociative mental disorder.
3.26.2007 7:39pm
SCS:
Just an annotation on the Prius commentary...

a recent Harper's Index included the datum that 25% of hybrid car owners also own an SUV.

And a somewhat related fact (relating to symbolic but not actual energy conservation): a more distant Harper's Index cited a study demonstrating that riding one's bike to work will increase gasoline use (because the exercise will add years to life, years of driving around in cars).
3.26.2007 7:59pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Andrew. Here on Earth, as opposed to Mars--we think--the natives are releasing the stored energy of the Sun. Every time we burn a gallon of rotten dinosaur, we are adding energy to the biosphere which got here millions of years ago and lay dormant until now. Nuclear power is not rotten dinosaur, but its slow, slow decay and energy release is sped up millions of times.
So we have more than the daily ration of energy.
I say ruining western economies because Kyoto and, for the same reasons, any other effort, excuses India and China which will continue to grow their own selves and will take over manufacturing which Kyoto penalties make prohibitive here. In the meantime, our economy goes south and their pollution is unchecked. Probably net out negative on the carbon release side and we all get poorer.
I am outraged about the windmills and Martha's Vineyard, but for two reasons. The first is the NIMBY view of some of the loudest proponents, and the second is the demonstration that they will use their influence to isolate themselves from the negative effects they inflict on the rest of us. That would be bad enough, but for them, any further impositions on us would be similarly cost-free. So there is no restraint.
I don't think Al Gore is a free market kind of guy.
The free market is doing what it does best right now. The only way to change that is to impose taxes and regulations. That means the economic choices are artificially torqued. That means the free market is like a kid free to play in his playpen.

One current guru of global warming, Stephen Schneider, was pushing the coming ice age thirty years ago. There he was on television, long sideburns, bell bottoms and so forth.

The point about the coming ice age is that, except for the direction of the temperature, the noise is the same. Unfortunately for the coming ice age folks, there wasn't anything that could be done by virtue of forcing behaviors on the rest of us we didn't want. It wasn't any good.

Several years ago, the New Yorker had one of their non-fiction pieces dealing with ice cores in Greenland. The record went back about 160k years. The line graph of the temperature changes was as if you'd hit caps lock, picked font size fourteen, and held down the A key. There was raggedness, of course. About thirteen thousand years ago, follow me here, the font size changed to eight. Nobody knows why it happened. Which means nobody knows why it hasn't unhappened and nobody can guarantee it won't unhappen next week.
Civilization, said one of the scientists, can't exist when the font size is fourteen. Well, he didn't really say that, but you get what he meant.
Anyway, the last I heard, the Kyoto protocol, as long as you ignore the negative feedback, would make a fraction of a degree's worth of difference. Temporarily, and cost a bundle.
A couple of months ago, two informed folks on VC were arguing whether ethanol is a net energy gain or loss. Apparently, it's so close as to make no difference. But we're sinking huge amounts of money into it and the human cost of increased corn prices is already hitting the poor in Latin America. Grassley loves it. The ecofreaks love it. All the right people love it, but on balance, it's a waste. Why won't the other attempts be as worthless?
3.26.2007 9:53pm
Andrew Okun:
Richard,

So we agree about the windmills.

As for Kyoto saving a half a degree and defoliating the West, those projections are just wrong. The half a degree part is wrong because it treats Kyoto as a one-off with absolutely no secondary technogical or economic or diplomatic effects, as though we would implement this and for a century stop inventing, bargaining, agreeing or emulating. Meanwhile, labor laws, environmental regulations, taxes, welfare and the rest, do affect the economy. We have had them for decades and we remain richer than the rest of the world. It is a matter of economic projections and Gore and the rest of us are not proposing something we believe will roll back our national lifestyle to Tsarist Russian standards. If our economics is faulty, we can argue about it, but I don't think it is.

Ethanol's merits I know little about, but I can't quarrel with your characterization. But don't blame it on enviros. We have highly-subsidized corn-ethanol because of the equal senate franchise, not because of enviros.

I like the image of "civilization can't exist at font size 14." Sums it up. But that's why I can't buy the "it'll be nicer" argument. If we don't understand why the variation declined, we have no business saying "let's switch fonts ... it'll be fun." We shouldn't be playing with the settings, and by pumping gassified dinosaur into the atmosphere by the gigaton, we are switching one of the settings.
3.26.2007 10:26pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Andrew. Ref the windmills: Do you agree the windmill issue demonstrates the likelihood of two levels of impact of eco-laws? Kennedy et al, vs. the rest of us?
Not having Kyoto is projected as if there will be no progress. So either one is a one-off. That's a wash.
I don't know about Gore and the rest of you, but some of your buds think Czarist Russia was living too fat. Too many people today.
I said nothing about defoliation.
The ethanol issue could have come up any time in the last, say, twenty years. I figure that's how long it's been since somebody figured rye whisky can burn in a car. But it took the enviros to work with the farmers to get this done. Were it not for global warming, the enviros would be complaining about the energy costs of farming all corn all the time, of not alternating corn and beans to refresh the soil, of burning food--which should be eaten by the chuldern. Running sunlight through corn is inefficient. The rotten dinosaurs already did that for us, at no cost to us.

And we're not changing the font size. Somebody else did, thirteen thousand years ago.
3.26.2007 11:00pm
A.C.:
Richard Aubrey --

"Coercion" was your word. My point, worded somewhat facetiously, was that there is an independent value in the fact that people have freedom of choice to the extent that they can be bonkers if they want to be. This applies to Organic Shopping Woman, and equally to the dork in the tricked-out Silverado who got in front of me on my way home from work yesterday. The whole thing was meant as an even-handed dig at the sort of people who moan about "climate change denial" AND at the sort (like the authors of the article who started this out) who assume all liberals are as strange as Organic Shopping Woman. THEY are trying to shut down debate, not so much by actual coercion as by groupthink and personal attacks aimed at those who disagree.

The fact that the nuts continue to exist is proof that they aren't succeeding. Which is good, because I don't think we have any idea what "sustainable living" (if that is a desirable goal) will look like a hundred years from now. There are bound to be new ideas, and I'd bet a few of those will come from people who sound nutty to start with. (Why would anyone want a radio with pictures?) Most nuts will just be nuts, of course, because it's a lot easier to have bad ideas than to have good ones. But a few will be geniuses, and we don't know in advance which ones they will be. Therefore, a certain amount of peculiar behavior is the price we pay for having a society that is open to innovation and change.

It's also extremely entertaining.
3.27.2007 11:04am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
A.C. I used the term coercion because I think that's what will happen.
Practically anything can be justified under the issue of global warming or climate change. It only has to be asserted and the usual suspects, of whom there are many, fall in line. They will be supported by whatever interest group will simulataneously benefit.
We have stack scrubbers on eastern coal plants in order to support eastern coal mines. Western coal is cleaner, but requiring stack scrubbers means the expense of getting the stuff from out west is no longer justified. Got to have the scrubbers anyway.
Clinton closed off a huge deposit of clean coal in the west by calling it a national park or something. That his buds in Indonesia--The Riady Group--have the only other source was, of course, irrelevant.
So enviros and interest groups can swing practically anything as long as global warming is promoted as requiring panic and hysteria.
The Nature Conservancy has been using its pull and various laws about building here and there to get really nice lots for its higher-ups. If challenged, it's all about how the wetlands are vital....
And if Teddy Kennedy wants my house--nice view, lots of water--there is no reason to think, between Kelo, some ginned-up enviro crap, a few bribes to 'crats who have more and more power as more and more of our lives are ruled by regs instead of laws--he could have it. I couldn't afford to fight the federal government.
If you think I don't think the greens are honest, you've been paying attention.
3.27.2007 1:47pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):

- how is my view absolute? Do you understand my argument? You are the one making false claims about "liberal morality" and then using that to denigrate liberals. i never said it was inappropriate for you to embrace christianity, i said your characterization of liberals was flawed and as a result your entire argument is flawed. there's a difference there.


Heh. You really don't see it, do you? Let me remind you:

truly, wholly, completely, obviously...take your pick. they all mean the same thing. It is nonetheless a dichotomy. there are good and bad elements to both christianity and secularism. neither group has a monopoly on one or the other.


You are judging my statements about one type of morality being "good" and the other being "bad" as wrong because "there are good and bad elements" to both. Though you don't seem to want to admit it, that means that you are applying your own idiosyncratic moral system and making moral judgments about Christianity and secularism. Otherwise you have no basis for saying that there are "good" and "bad" elements at all. You are assuming that your particular judgements about "good" and "bad" have some validity beyond yourself, though you provide no basis for it -- otherwise your statement is simply solipsistic.

again, you are generalizing a subset of the liberal population and applying to the entire group. I am liberal and i can barely name any movie stars.


I am making a generalization, but I am not applying it to everybody in entire group. I don't see why you can't understand that. If the only way you can make generalizations is to claim that it is true for *every single person,* then you can make no claims about anything involving people. Your complaint is is the equivalent of when I say "I don't like the policy of having active duty soldiers wear a black beret instead of the older traditional cover," for you to come back "How dare you say that active duty soldiers wear the black beret. There are some who don't!! You have no business saying anything about the black beret!!!"

Sorry, the fact that some soldiers don't wear the black beret, and in fact that some don't even wear a uniform at all while on duty (CID folk, for instance) doesn't mean you can't make general statements about army uniforms. Similarly, the fact that not everyone on the left thinks exactly the same doesn't men you can't make general statements about what's going on. You may not be able to name the members of the liberal hollywood establishment, but the DNC and virtually every Democratic candidate can.

And no, I am not talking about a "minority" of liberals, any more than only a "minority" of liberals can name a movie star.

Do you not realize that there are perfectly valid worldviews out there besides your own?


Heh. The postmodern idea that two people holding diametric opposing views are equally correct -- in fact are "perfectly valid" (a claim that even I am not so arrogant as to make) -- is amusing, but wrong. But, OK, since my world view, like others, is perfectly valid, there's no reason for me to believe your's is any better. Since you agree that my views are just as valid as yours, it's just as arrogant for you to believe you are right as it is for me to believe that I am right.

I'm afraid you are caught in one of the other internal paradoxes of liberal morality, though not one that I intended to go into here.


you are ignoring a crucial difference. clinton never claimed extramaritial sex was evil or tried to implement policies that punish people for having an affair.



You recognize, do you not, that you have reframed my statement to reflect *exactly* the point I am making. You are justifying Clinton in terms of his *advocacy.* Bill Clinton's actions are OK not because any issues with their inherent morality, but only in terms of his *advocacy.*

And you even get that wrong. Clinton was quite open in claiming that that adultery was wrong. He initially denied it. Then he stated that it wasn't really sex. Then he stated that it was and that it was further, in his own words, "morally indefensible." You can take your pick of those, but the one you list is not among them.


billo
3.27.2007 3:50pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Andrew Okun:

And you do make Randy's point in there, too. "...of course as a traditionalist I think that people who accept traditional morality are correct and those who don't are wrong." We're wrong, then, and since we're wrong about morality, we're pretty damn wrong.


And since you disagree with me, you think I'm wrong, and since I'm wrong about morality, I'm pretty damn wrong, eh? The problem, Andrew, is that everybody can't be right. Any system of morality that declines to take any stands is not, in fact, a system of morality. Not even the Crowleyists go that far.

Your view stated earlier is that we can't be hypocrites cause, in moral terms, we can't count that high. Your view of our moral reasoning is sweeping, insulting and wrong.


How arrogant of you :-) First, you reframe my statement incorrectly. I didn't say you couldn't count that high. I said that your definition of hypocrisy is different than that in traditional morality, and in terms of traditional morality it had no meaning. Your problem is that you want to adhere to liberal morality but want to justify it in terms of traditional morality. You can't. They are different animals. Your view of my moral reasoning is sweeping, insulting and wrong.

You seem to believe that when we get off our tush and try to accomplish something good, the best that can be said for us is that we exhibiting a dissociative mental disorder.


Not at all. When you guys do the right thing, I praise you for it. Further, "dissociative mental disorder" is a term of art that has nothing to do with this discussion. I am stating that traditionalists and liberal moralists use a different moral calculation. In liberal morality, symbolic acts and advocacy are more important than traditional bases of the individual internal life.


Exactly the opposite, far from forgiving anyone anything in exchange for advocacy, we try to measure their actions in the broadest sense. On the one hand, we give credit for works ... on the other, we prefer to judge harm rather than sin.


Pish posh. You simply redefine sin as "harm" and define it to suit your needs.

And as for choosing advocacy over action, as a clear example, I will refer you to Randy's justification of Clinton as opposed to Bush in his most recent reply to me. It's all a matter of advocacy.
3.27.2007 4:14pm
Brian K (mail):
William,

I still don't see how my view is absolute. I've said there are differences and similarities between conservatives and liberals, which is obviously true. I've also said that some things about each group are good and some things are bad. A claim that is arguably true although it is so vague that it would be hard to argue it is false. Note, I have not said what these things are. How is this an absolute claim? Your claim as I've mentioned is absolute (or very nearly so given the slight backpedaling you've done.)

"I am making a generalization, but I am not applying it to everybody in entire group. I don't see why you can't understand that. If the only way you can make generalizations is to claim that it is true for *every single person,* then you can make no claims about anything involving people. Your complaint is is the equivalent of when I say "I don't like the policy of having active duty soldiers wear a black beret instead of the older traditional cover," for you to come back "How dare you say that active duty soldiers wear the black beret. There are some who don't!! You have no business saying anything about the black beret!!!"

Sorry, the fact that some soldiers don't wear the black beret, and in fact that some don't even wear a uniform at all while on duty (CID folk, for instance) doesn't mean you can't make general statements about army uniforms. Similarly, the fact that not everyone on the left thinks exactly the same doesn't men you can't make general statements about what's going on. You may not be able to name the members of the liberal hollywood establishment, but the DNC and virtually every Democratic candidate can."
- and many republicans can tell me what time o'reilly is on, or the name of coulter's latest book or what channel (station?) limbaugh is on. not to mention the fact that many republicans can also name the members of the "liberal hollywood elite". what's your point? that celebrities are well known? that's true by definition. My point is that your generalization is wrong and that it is designed in a way to denigrate liberals (i.e. people you disagree with) while simultaneously exonerating conservatives (i.e. people you agree with) who engage in the exact same actions.


"Heh. The postmodern idea that two people holding diametric opposing views are equally correct -- in fact are "perfectly valid" (a claim that even I am not so arrogant as to make) -- is amusing, but wrong. But, OK, since my world view, like others, is perfectly valid, there's no reason for me to believe your's is any better. Since you agree that my views are just as valid as yours, it's just as arrogant for you to believe you are right as it is for me to believe that I am right.

I'm afraid you are caught in one of the other internal paradoxes of liberal morality, though not one that I intended to go into here."
- for starters, i never said anything about two diamtrically opposed views. you quoted me so you obviously know what i said. nice strawman. My claim in a nutshell is that there are multiple reasonings for performing the same actions. some are correct and some are wrong. it is very hard to say that there is only one correct reasoning for doing something and that all other reasons are wrong. this is what you are doing. This does not mean that every view is correct. It only means that in most cases there is more than one right one. Note I also never said your viewpoint is correct. I have been arguing that yours is wrong all along. Your view is invalid because it is based on faulty assumptions.


"You recognize, do you not, that you have reframed my statement to reflect *exactly* the point I am making. You are justifying Clinton in terms of his *advocacy.* Bill Clinton's actions are OK not because any issues with their inherent morality, but only in terms of his *advocacy.*

And you even get that wrong. Clinton was quite open in claiming that that adultery was wrong. He initially denied it. Then he stated that it wasn't really sex. Then he stated that it was and that it was further, in his own words, "morally indefensible." You can take your pick of those, but the one you list is not among them."
- You have again managed to build a wonderful strawman. I never did say what my opinions on clinton's actions were. I was responding to a question implicit in one of your earlier comments. "Your accusations are better directed at liberal morality. There, personal responsibility begins and ends with what the person advocates. Thus, liberal moralists can insist it's irrelevant that Clinton "just lied about sex," while at the same time being obsessed with when Bush lost his virginity as a youth." This is just another example of your twisted belief that all things liberal are bad and all things conservative are good. Both Clinton and Bush did the same thing. They simultaneously engaged in actions that they were publically denouncing. I was pointed this fact out. Yet you believe that when Bush does it, it is example of how good conservative morality is and that that when Clinton did it, it was just another example of how bad liberal morality is.
3.27.2007 7:52pm
Brian K (mail):
"And as for choosing advocacy over action, as a clear example, I will refer you to Randy's justification of Clinton as opposed to Bush in his most recent reply to me. It's all a matter of advocacy."

HAHAHAHA...that was me, not Randy.

"How arrogant of you :-) First, you reframe my statement incorrectly."
- You really should take your own advice. You reframed my statement regarding clinton to suit your goals.
3.27.2007 7:58pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Brian:

I still don't see how my view is absolute. I've said there are differences and similarities between conservatives and liberals, which is obviously true. I've also said that some things about each group are good and some things are bad. A claim that is arguably true although it is so vague that it would be hard to argue it is false. Note, I have not said what these things are. How is this an absolute claim? Your claim as I've mentioned is absolute (or very nearly so given the slight backpedaling you've done.)


Brian, you state that there are "good" and "bad" things about Christian and secular morality, and that I am being arrogant, etc. because I believe that traditional Christian morality is right and secular liberal morality is wrong.

The very fact that you impose the judgements of "good" and "bad" on these moral systems, however, means that you adhere to a *different* moral system -- the one that you are using to judge what is good and bad in the other two. Moreover, you consider that idiosyncratic system of yours to be *superior* to both -- since when they come into conflict, you consider *your* moral judgement to be the standard. When your idiosyncratic system conflicts with traditional Christian morality it is traditional morality, not your morality, that must be wrong. When your idiosyncratic system conflicts with liberal secular morality it is secular morality, not your idiosyncratic morality, that is wrong.

This is in contrast to a traditional Christian moralist who makes his or her personal judgements subject to the moral authority of his or her faith. There are different sources of authority in Christianity and different kinds of Christians place different weight and interpretation of those authorities. But whatever those differences, the morality is received -- if my personal judgement conflicts with that morality, then I am necessarily the one who is wrong and my attitude needs changing. Christians are *subject* to their God and the morality that He dictates as they perceive it.

In contrast, you are placing your idiosyncratic system -- for which, by the way, you have never provided a basis or justification -- above all other systems of morality and are using it to judge what is "good" and "bad" in other, inferior systems of morality. In doing so you are imposing your personal morality as an absolute. You can, of course, easily show me that I'm wrong by providing that moral system to which you make your moral system subject -- a moral system and rule which you sometimes personally disagree with and sometimes find onerous, but accept that when it conflicts with your personal judgement that you are by definition the one who is wrong and needs to change your mind -- that it is never "bad" but always "good."

I doubt that there is such an external moral system to which you place yourself subject. Instead, you place your personal moral system as absolute, and judge other systems as "good" or "bad" based upon those absolutes.

it is very hard to say that there is only one correct reasoning for doing something and that all other reasons are wrong. this is what you are doing.


No, I said that traditional and liberal secular morality are different, that one important difference is the role that advocacy plays, and that I believe that traditional morality is superior.

This is just another example of your twisted belief that all things liberal are bad and all things conservative are good. Both Clinton and Bush did the same thing. They simultaneously engaged in actions that they were publically denouncing. I was pointed this fact out. Yet you believe that when Bush does it, it is example of how good conservative morality is and that that when Clinton did it, it was just another example of how bad liberal morality is.


No, and I've already addressed this. And no, I don't believe what you state there. The bottom line is that the "crucial" difference, to you, was the matter of advocacy. That's what you mentioned. As an aside, your claim that Bush was cheating on Laura while in the White House is a canard, and is almost as wrong as your claim that Clinton did not agree that adultery was a sin.

for starters, i never said anything about two diamtrically opposed views. you quoted me so you obviously know what i said. nice strawman. My claim in a nutshell is that there are multiple reasonings for performing the same actions. some are correct and some are wrong.


You said "world views." Choosing between eggs or pancakes for breakfast is not a "world view." Two different world views cannot be equally and perfectly valid, else they would not be different. World views are not rationalizations for specific decisions. They are world views -- coherent philosphies. There simply cannot be many world views that are all different and are all equally and "perfectly" valid.

However, once again, you can show me I'm wrong by providing two such integrated world views, not rationalizations for one particular tactical decision about one particular thing, that are significantly different but are also both "perfectly valid."
3.28.2007 1:27am
William Oliver (mail) (www):

HAHAHAHA...that was me, not Randy.


How old did you say you were, again?
3.28.2007 1:28am
Brian K (mail):
Will,

"Brian, you state that there are "good" and "bad" things about Christian and secular morality, and that I am being arrogant, etc. because I believe that traditional Christian morality is right and secular liberal morality is wrong..."
- You've made a prime facia case why my views are arrogant, but you still haven't answered why my views are absolutist. If you kindly open up a dictionary you would see that the definition of absolutism is not arrogance. For you to prove that my view of morality is absolute, you must show that my views on morality never change or that they "express[] finality with no implication of possible change" according to my dictionary. Your view on the other is absolute (and arrogant). Why? Because you think liberal morality is bad and conservative morality is good. It doesn't matter how the individual moralities change (and they do). You are taking to diverse groups of people, rather arbitrarily splitting them into two groups and declaring one to be good and one to be bad. Never mind the fact that according to a recent Scientific American article, 40% of republicans are more socially liberal than republicans and about an equal % of democrats are more financially conservative than republicans.


"The very fact that you impose the judgements of "good" and "bad" on these moral systems, however, means that you adhere to a *different* moral system -- the one that you are using to judge what is good and bad in the other two. Moreover, you consider that idiosyncratic system of yours to be *superior* to both -- since when they come into conflict, you consider *your* moral judgement to be the standard."
- and how is this different from what you're doing? if your going to argue that your not arrogant and that I am, you should at least make sure our actions are different. As I've explained above, how is this different from what anyone does? we all pick our own morality. you don't hold your moral beliefs because you're christian, you are christian because they agree with your moral beliefs. How else can you explain why you're not muslim or jewish or athiest?


"This is in contrast to a traditional Christian moralist who makes his or her personal judgements subject to the moral authority of his or her faith. There are different sources of authority in Christianity and different kinds of Christians place different weight and interpretation of those authorities. But whatever those differences, the morality is received -- if my personal judgement conflicts with that morality, then I am necessarily the one who is wrong and my attitude needs changing. Christians are *subject* to their God and the morality that He dictates as they perceive it."
- this is evidence of my previous point. some expanation follows later.

"I doubt that there is such an external moral system to which you place yourself subject. Instead, you place your personal moral system as absolute, and judge other systems as "good" or "bad" based upon those absolutes."
- The only reason why I'm judging your moral system at all is because it is wrong. You have based it on gross mischaracterizations of the affected parties. My moral system is not absolute because i acknowledge the existance of other valid and correct moral system out there and because i am perfectly willing to change my system when shown that one of the premises of my morality is wrong or when i realize an internal contradiction. Your view is absolute along similar lines of reasoning.


"for which, by the way, you have never provided a basis or justification"
- why do I need to? what's your justification? God? unfortunately that's not a valid answer. As you yourself admit "There are different sources of authority in Christianity and different kinds of Christians place different weight and interpretation of those authorities". If you don't like the morality of one branch, you changed branches until you find one that you agree with. ALL morality is based on personal preference. The only difference is that I'm honest about that and I don't try to enforce my morality onto others.

"Christians are *subject* to their God and the morality that He dictates as they perceive it."
- "as they perceive it"? so that means that people can interpret god's "morality" as they see fit? So basically all your saying is that my personal morality is better than yours because I claim that mine comes from "God". Now that's arrogant.




"No, I said that traditional and liberal secular morality are different, that one important difference is the role that advocacy plays, and that I believe that traditional morality is superior."
- you mean like how Roe, from Roe v. Wade fame, was trotted out as a reason why abortion is wrong by conservatives? Or the many other similar women? the fact they are advocating a position they clearly have not always held certainly didn't offend the conservative morality. "Advocacy" as you define it, is practiced by every side. Which is yet another reason why you are wrong.



"No, and I've already addressed this. And no, I don't believe what you state there. The bottom line is that the "crucial" difference, to you, was the matter of advocacy. That's what you mentioned. "
- no. that is not the "crucial" difference to me. Why? Because I said IT WAS NOT A DIFFERENCE ("Both Clinton and Bush did the same thing"). It is the crucial difference to YOU which is exactly why it proves my point.

"As an aside, your claim that Bush was cheating on Laura while in the White House is a canard, "
- Where did I make this claim? You must be getting senile in your old age, either that or you have terrible reading comprehension.



"You said "world views." Choosing between eggs or pancakes for breakfast is not a "world view." Two different world views cannot be equally and perfectly valid, else they would not be different. World views are not rationalizations for specific decisions. They are world views -- coherent philosphies. There simply cannot be many world views that are all different and are all equally and "perfectly" valid.

However, once again, you can show me I'm wrong by providing two such integrated world views, not rationalizations for one particular tactical decision about one particular thing, that are significantly different but are also both "perfectly valid.""
- Simple. I can make every decision based on greed (the worldview that "the world is my oyster") or I can make every decision based on altruism. The greedy person would define morality in such a way to benefit himself and the altruistic would define morality in the way that he believes would best help others. Both are equally valid and are in fact held by small minorities of people. I should remind you that validity is not a judgement. A valid viewpoint can be good or bad. Or to use a different example, christains, jews, muslims, buddhists, hindus etc all have different worldviews. all of which are valid. just because you don't agree with them all doesn't make them any less valid.

Now you can undertake to prove a negative and prove why no two different worldviews can ever be perfectly valid. (You should probably start with some sort of science book because then you would realize that my use of "perfectly" was superfluous. something is either valid or not valid)
3.28.2007 3:05am
William Oliver (mail) (www):
Brian:

I'm not going to play dictionary wars. I use absolute in the sense of absolute moral authority — one in which there is no further recourse. You place your personal moral system in that position when you use it as the authority by which you state that other moral systems are lacking.

Your claim that I am somehow wrong in speaking about moral systems in the general sense is belied by your eagerness to do so when discussing Christianity and your claim to know how "Christians" think. My statements about these moral systems are neither as specific nor as dogmatic as yours. But that's OK, the bottom line is that you can't talk about things without talking about them, and that means that you have to make generalizations. However, you don't do yourself a favor by railing against generalizations by making generalizations.


and how is this different from what you're doing? if your going to argue that your not arrogant and that I am, you should at least make sure our actions are different.


It's not. The "arrogance" thing is not the point, though you have seized upon it. I started using that term because it was used against me — to demonstrate that if people want to call me "arrogant" because I call one moral system superior to another, then they are being "arrogant" when they do the same in criticizing my moral system. Goose and gander. My concern is more with absolutism. And you are right. I firmly believe that my morality is absolute. I not only don't deny it, embrace it. The *problem* is that you are setting your idiosyncratic moral system up as a contrasting absolute moral system, but claim it is not. Goose and gander again.


you don't hold your moral beliefs because you're christian, you are christian because they agree with your moral beliefs.


I'm afraid your connection to the psychic hotline has a little static. It fact, it is quite common for Christians to accept moral authority outside themselves. This is most obvious in the Catholic church, where many members accept moral statements about abortion, contraception, and homosexuality that they personally are not particularly comfortable with. But it is also true in the Protestant church, where there is sometimes much gnashing of teeth over the writings of Paul concerning the status of women, homosexuality, etc.

My moral system is not absolute because i acknowledge the existance of other valid and correct moral system out there


Oh? Which one is that? Clearly you should abandon your own system then, and adopt it. Since it is valid and correct, then wherever it differs from you, yours must perforce be incorrect and invalid. Why do you cling to an incorect and invalid moral system when you know of a different valid and correct one?

"as they perceive it"? so that means that people can interpret god's "morality" as they see fit? So basically all your saying is that my personal morality is better than yours because I claim that mine comes from "God". Now that's arrogant.


No, it means that Christians think about it, and they can only do their best. As Paul said in First Corinthians:

" When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."


And yes, it comes from God. I have certainty in my God, not myself. I am quite happy to embrace the idea that my moral reasoning can be wrong. However, the basis for that moral reasoning is not.


"Advocacy" as you define it, is practiced by every side. Which is yet another reason why you are wrong.


Of course advocacy is practiced by every side. What I noted was making advocacy the basis of moral judgement. That's different.


you are ignoring a crucial difference. clinton never claimed extramaritial sex was evil or tried to implement policies that punish people for having an affair.


no. that is not the "crucial" difference to me. Why? Because I said IT WAS NOT A DIFFERENCE


Why don't you choose which position you want to take, and stick with it? Then we can return to it.


"As an aside, your claim that Bush was cheating on Laura while in the White House is a canard, "
- Where did I make this claim? You must be getting senile in your old age, either that or you have terrible reading comprehension.


Simple. Follow the thread. As you remember, I am sure, this comes from the complaint that Bush will not say when he lost his virginity and whether or not he ever cheated on his wife, and the left's obsession with this as opposed to their acceptance of Clinton's frequent adultery as unimportant. Your reply is that they both do the same thing — and use Bush's advocacy of traditional family values is the thing that makes the "crucial" difference in this attitude of dismissing Clinton's adultery while being obsessed with making allegations about Bush. In fact, they did not do the same thing. As you now state, you have no basis to claim that Bush has been unfaithful, and you have no example where Bush has lied about it or misrepresented himself. In traditional morality, for them to have done the same thing, then they would have had to have, well, done the same thing. In liberal morality, for them to have done the same thing, it is only necessary to look at what they advocate. As you have demonstrated.

A valid viewpoint can be good or bad.


Since we are talking about world views, you are then taking the position that one "valid" world view can be "good" and another "valid" world view can be "bad," yet not opposed. First, again, by claiming that both are valid but one is "good" or "bad," you are judging them by a third moral system that you hold superior to both.

Second, and more important, if a moral system considers itself to be "good" but instead is really "bad," then it is not valid.
3.28.2007 12:36pm