Friday, October 22, 2010

"That's All I Need"

It happens in the schoolyard. At least, it did in my day, and, I imagine, it continues today.

A person makes a claim, or a boast, and the person they make their claim to says,

“Prove it!”

This scenario was exemplified most entertainingly in the movie Cool Hand Luke (1967).

To rally the spirits of the inmates of a Southern prison, the Paul Newman character incites a betting contest with the claim,

“I can eat fifty eggs!”

There was the inevitable response,

“Prove it!”

And, then, very memorably,

He did.

To me, asking for proof of some claim or argument does not seem to be an unreasonable demand. In fact, it is, literally, a reasonable demand, in that it demands evidence that would provide a reason to believe that that particular claim or argument is correct.

A couple of days ago, I described in a post how people – in this case, people in Kansas – whose best interests suggested that they’d vote one way – Democratic – in fact, voted in exactly the opposite way. Which would be Republican.

The explanation for this curious phenomenon was that those voters who voted against their best interests did so, because they were motivated in their vote, not by reason, but by emotion.

My post received two responses, one representing each side of the political spectrum. One commenter slammed the Republicans for favoring the wealthy; the other accused the Democrats of fostering an culture of dependency amongst the poor.

I was affected by each commenter’s energetic commitment to their point of view.

I was less moved by their accompanying arguments.

The pro-Democratic commenter began by saying,

It seems the Republicans are actually intent on making the income gap even bigger.

There’s an underlying assumption in that statement. The assumption is that a widening income disparity between our richest and our poorest citizens makes a difference. The commenter appears to be asserting – and I don’t mean to put words into their mouth, and if they’re the wrong words, I apologize – that if the very rich were a little less very rich, then the considerably less rich would be better off.

To which I respectfully respond, as they responded in Cool Hand Luke, and in the schoolyard,

Prove it.

Raging against unfairness is one thing. Proving that it matters is another.

Let me now switch to the other side’s argument for unlimited personal enrichment. To wit:

A rising tide lifts all boats.

Well, now.

The capitalist system has been around long enough to have gone through a considerable number of economic cycles. This gives us available evidence in regards to this claim. Does “a rising tide lift all boats”, or doesn’t it?

The words have a poetry and common sense sturdiness to them. The principle underlying them may, in fact, be valid. All I ask for is the evidence. Which would include the evidence that the evidence claiming that a rising tide does not lift all boats is wrong.

Switching back…

The pro-Democratic commenter writes,

When there is such a gap between rich and poor, the rich get richer and the poor still have no jobs, because they’re being outsourced.

To me, this confuses two issues. It is not the “the poor’s” jobs that are being outsourced. Nobody’s outsourcing, “May I refill you water glass?” or “Paper or plastic?” Those jobs are still here. It’s the better-paying manufacturing jobs that were shipped overseas.

Additionally, if we were somehow able to require that those manufacturing jobs remain in this country – and I don’t see how we can – the prices that everyone, including the poor, would have to pay for those products manufactured in this country would be considerably higher. That doesn’t seem helpful. Though I am not insensitive to the impulse.

On the other side, describing the Democrats’ policy of subsidizing the poor as

“…making them comfortable in their neediness…”

suggests, at best, “tough love (for others)”, and, at worst, a position that seems heartless and uncaring. Further on, the commenter writes,

Feeding people like tame livestock [is] an insidious slavery of dependence.

Though I would never use those words, I am not beyond wondering whether an expectation of dependency is not, at least to some degree, problematic. Case in point: The children of the rich.

Regardless, however, of what I’m not beyond wondering, a colorful assertion of your point is not nearly enough to win me over.

A passionately-held position is one thing. A persuasive argument is something considerably different.

The essence of that difference is embodied in two little words:

Prove it.

4 comments:

Arthur said...

Don't know if these are proof, but they are arguments ..

The Corrosive effect of welfare ...

http://www.heritage.org/research/testimony/the-effects-of-welfare-reform

Income disparity

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6845

Diann said...

For years, I believed the rising tide idea. It makes intuitive sense to me. However, it doesn't seem to have worked out that way. For income disparity, I found this table interesting enough that it has stuck in my head for over a year (which, for me, is pretty remarkable):

http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com/2009/04/americas-income-distribution-disparity.html

Blitzen said...

A graph of income growth rate compared over Democratic and Republican presidents: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/bartelschart.gif

If this was just reflective of inflation, every bracket would be going up at the same rate. However, clearly, that is not the case.

Blitzen said...

And now I see that's not your point. It appears you believe that the income gap is, in fact, made higher by Rebublicans. But why does that matter?

Well, it's not just the income growth for low-income people. Economic growth is actually higher across the board when Democrats are in power. See: http://i.imgur.com/Tt8qs.png.

For the actual effects of income disparity, I'd point you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_inequality#Effects_of_inequality, since all I's write is a summary of that page anyway.