Friday, May 05, 2006

Oh Glenn how do I disagree with you ? Let me count the ways.

The post below was supposed to be about Glenn Reynolds recent idiocy as denounced by Jim Henley.



Of course, if we seized the Saudi and Iranian oil fields and ran the pumps full speed, oil prices would plummet, dictators would be broke, and poor nations would benefit from cheap energy. But we'd be called imperialist oppressors, then.

UPDATE: Various people (with various degrees of enthusiasm) see the above as a call for invasion. It was, rather, a comment on the vacuity of the "imperialist oppressors" language. Though I was probably wrong there anyway: If we really were imperialist oppressors, the critics would be sucking up.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ah, I see that Scott Adams has engaged in a similar thought experiment. His closing line rings true.

But just to troll a bit more, I do think that seizing Saudi and Iranian oil would be entirely morally justifiable on terms usually approved of by the left: They didn't earn it, they inherited it (it's like the Estate Tax writ large!). They're extracting huge profits for fatcats at the expense of the poor. They're racist, sexist, homophobic theocrats! (Literally!) Surely if it's ever permissible to redistibute wealth by force, this is the case. Right?

Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias offers a practical objection: That there isn't enough surplus capacity in Saudi Arabia and Iran to make a difference. That's possible, but hardly undercuts the point. He also quotes Tim Lambert, who invokes Iraq -- but Lambert assumes, wrongly as usual, that Iraq was a war for oil. Had we wanted oil, we could have simply ended sanctions against Saddam, who after years of being limited to what he could launder through corrupt UN bureaucrats would have pumped plenty without us having to invade.

But practicalities aside, the point is -- why isn't war for oil not only morally permissible, but morally required, if the forcible redistibution of wealth in other ways (including "windfall profit" taxes -- or Evo Morales' seizure of natural gas wells in Bolivia) is OK?

MORE: Reader Tom O'Brien writes on practicalities:

Running the Saudi fields wide open would not do much for price. They are now being run at close to their maximum sustainable capacity. Running beyond that level for any length of time damages the reserve and curtails production. Can't fight Mother Nature regarding the reserve.

The Saudis don't really like these prices, although they surely enjoy them. They know as well as we do how markets respond to high prices, and the last thing they want is more exploration drilling in other parts of the world, more hybrid cars, more methanol plants, and the great horror of a plug-in hybrid that can run 40 miles on battery alone.

Well, that's about practicalities -- and based on practicality, the Estate Tax is a bust, too! (And the "windfall profits" tax, and, undoubtedly, Morales' nationalization.)

I'm all for the plug-in hybrids, though. As I noted in our podcast yesterday, I could do my commute plus errands without ever firing up the gas engine. Bring it on!

But while you do, ponder the fact that an arrangement that subsidizes fatcat dictators is sanctioned -- and even defended -- by people on the left, while even the idea of doing anything about it is condemned. That's not about practicalities, but philosophies.
posted at 09:35 AM by Glenn Reynolds


Henley writes "There are almost more errors than I can count here," I take that as a challenge and attempt to count them. My honest thought is that this is a complete waste of time (just what I like best) since anyone who can read Reynolds without seeing that he is an idiot is hopeless. It is interesting that he has become so prominent. I think the idiocy and the prominence are both based on supreme free floating arrogance (just what I like second best) which enables him to state opinion as fact, falsehood as fact, whatever he pleases as fact. People who agree with him may find this comforting. I suspect that a large fraction of his readers are people who disagree with him and want to get their blood flowing. Works for me.

OK errors.

1. Pointed out by Yglesias and O'Briend: Saudi and Iranian oil is being pumped at close to full capacity. Thus Reynolds claim is false. Reynolds cheerfully acknowledges this then boldly lies about what he wrote

2. Reynolds claims that his original post was not about "practicalities" but rather "Philosophy". Thus a post which talks about what would happen to oil prices if we "ran the [Saudi and Iranian] pumps full speed" is not a statment about oil, prices or pumps but about ethics. The fact that right and wrong are not mentioned in Reynolds original clearly false claim does not phase him a bit. His line is that a statement about what the price of oil would be is a statement about right and wrong and not about the price of oil because he says so.

3. "the vacuity" a rhetorical error for Reynolds to use this phrase. He's asking for it.

4. "the vacuity of the 'imperialist oppressors' language" is in no way addressed in the original claim. In fact, the action discussed by Reynolds would clearly be imperialist and oppressive being based on conquest and command. He might be in favor of imperialism oppression, but his original post serves only to provide weak evidence that the phrase remains useful as it makes it appear more likely that there is a wannabee imperialist oppressor among us. Since he denies imperialist aims, this is only weak evidence.

5. "I do think that seizing Saudi and Iranian oil would be entirely morally justifiable on terms usually approved of by the left." No one on "the left" is quoted. If by "the left" Reynolds means Lenin, he is clearly right, clearly not trolling and clearly not saying anything that isn't obvious. If he means supporters of the estate tax, he ignores the bloodshed involved. The estate tax, like all acts of the state, is based on the threat of force. However, very few heirs go down fighting it (I'd say so far zero). That something would be nice, does not mean it is worth a war to achieve it. Sure I would like Saudi oil to be managed in the common interest of humanity (and unlike Henley, I would guess that it would work fine so long as getting there didn't involve killing people). However, the means affect the achievement of the end. Reynolds might claim that taxes are like robbery, but he should not assume that everyone else ignores "practicalities" like how many people are actually killed. Nor should he assume that everyone else sees no difference between a law enacted by a democracy and a foreign invasion. Some of us think the democratic process provides some ligitimacy.

Also note that his original sentence said nothing about right and wrong. Being totally wrong about the basic facts which were the subject of his original assertion, he is claiming that he wrote something other than what he clearly wrote.

6. The libertarian's use of "by force" reminds me of 80s pacifists denouncing "war and preparations for war" to assert, rather than argue, that deterence was like mass murder. Taxes are backed by the threat of force. Seizing oil fields would require killing lots of people. "by force" equates the threat of force back in the background and actually shooting people. Most people obey the law because it is the law. Only if forced to look into the matter, they would understand that it is the law, as opposed to a public appeal, because it is enforced, that is people are threatened with force when they break it and force is applied if they resist arrest. Most people most of the time would obey the law even if they could get away with breaking it. That means we are acting freely under the law. The immence difference between different policies both of which work "by force" means that the phrase obscures rather than explains (or rather it attempts to obscure as it probably convinced almost no one with the possible exception of Reynolds himself).

1 & 2 again "Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias offers a practical objection: That there isn't enough surplus capacity in Saudi Arabia and Iran to make a difference. That's possible, but hardly undercuts the point." The original claim was exactly that there is enough surplus capacity in Saudi Arabia and Iran to make a difference. Reynolds claims that he wrote something other than what he plainly wrote. The brazenness is almost psychotic. He could have responded to the criticism by saying he mis wrote and that he meant to argue that "*if* (his false claim) then the stated views of Lenin and therefore "the left" would imply that they are in favor of overthrowing the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran by force" (as mirable dictu Lenin was). Instead he claims that Yglesias misunderstood, because Yglesias interpreted his plain indicative statement using the standard rules of English instead of predicting the other statement Reynolds made later. Why is it so impossible for Reynolds to admit any mistake. In this case all he needed to do to avoid absurdity is write "what I meant to write was" or "what I should have written was". Why is that so impossible that he makes a claim about what his point was which is obviously false and makes him look like an insane idiot ?

8 "He also quotes Tim Lambert, who invokes Iraq -- but Lambert assumes, wrongly as usual, that Iraq was a war for oil." Lambert argues that we can predict the consequences of possible future seisures or oil fields by observing the consequences of past seisures of oil fields. For Reynolds' reply to make any sense at all, it has to be interpreted as a claim that the consequences of seizing oil fields depend on the motivation of the invaders. Since the US clearly wanted high output from Iraqi oil fields, this is still clearly nonsence. He has to argue that, if the US had invaded Iraq for oil, we would have done something different after the invasion. I haven't read Lambert and don't know if he assumed that Iraq was a war for oil. The motivation of the invasion is irrelevant to his argument, so I don't see why he would make the claim. Reynolds can't possibly believe his argument. He is just trying to change the subject by tyring to open an irrelevant controversy about a marginallly related issue.

9 "Had we wanted oil, we could have simply ended sanctions against Saddam, who after years of being limited to what he could launder through corrupt UN bureaucrats would have pumped plenty without us having to invade." Reynolds is apparantly un-aware that limits on the amount of oil that Iraq could sell were eliminated long before the invasion. The Oil for Food program could affect exports in two ways -- reparations to Kuwait and restrictions on what could be bought with the oil might have lead Saddam Hussein to hold oil off the market. However, Iraq was pumping all it could. The requirement that Iraq showed that some import was food, medicine or necessary to keep the oil flowing may have delayed imports that were indeed useful in keeping the oil flowing. Reynolds seems to imply that oil had to be laundered to be sold (by the way think of trying to launder oil and repeat "never use a metaphor without calling an image to mind"). Again the point seems to be to bring up an unrelated issue.

10. "But practicalities aside, the point is -- why isn't war for oil not only morally permissible, but morally required, if the forcible redistibution of wealth in other ways (including "windfall profit" taxes -- or Evo Morales' seizure of natural gas wells in Bolivia) is OK?" Some leftists are consequentialists (see Yglesias, Matthew or Waldmann, Robert). To us practicalities can not be set aside when deciding what is morally permissible or morally required. In fact it is not necessary to be a consequentialist to see the absurdity of Reynolds' staw man's moral reasoning. Even if consequences aren't everything, they aren't nothing either. In Reynolds straw man reasoning the question of whether the means will achieve the end is completely irrelevant to deciding if the end justifies the means. This is not leftism. It is a parody of a travesty of idiocy.

1&2 again "Well that's about practicalities" as was the original claim.

12 "Well, that's about practicalities -- and based on practicality, the Estate Tax is a bust, too! (And the "windfall profits" tax, and, undoubtedly, Morales' nationalization.)" Notice that Reynolds has no less doubt about the future than about the past. This is because all of his claims are based on faith and not evidence. He doesn't even explain in what way he thinks the estate tax or the "windfall profits" tax were a bust let alone present any evidence. The windfall profits tax is not purely hypothetical. One was imposed on oil companies when the insane restrictions on the price of domestically produced oil were lifted. I don't remember exactly when, but I assume like all authentically pro market policies in the past 38 years it was enacted during the Carter administration (which reminds me Jim why is it that the only politician who seems to have actual respect for free markets is a Democrat ?).

13. "But while you do, ponder the fact that an arrangement that subsidizes fatcat dictators is sanctioned -- and even defended -- by people on the left, while even the idea of doing anything about it is condemned. That's not about practicalities, but philosophies." Note that "anything" means war. Reynolds seems to be incapable of understanding the possibility that someone considers war a rather bad thing and is willing to support something but not war.

I'm sure I missed many gross errors. I think the problem is that Reynolds simply asserts anything which is useful in getting to the conclusion he wants. Also he seems to be an insane idiot.

No comments: