Saturday, September 28, 2013

I may not agree with what you say ...

… but I will defend to the death your right to say it. - My mother's explanation to me of the meaning of freedom of speech under the United States Constitution and, yes, I do realize she was quoting - or at least paraphrasing - someone else.

Julian Bond, President Emeritus of the NAACP, was asked recently about the IRS targeting theTea Party, especially in light of his objections to the IRS auditing the NAACP during the Bush Administration. Mr. Bond replied in part:

I think it’s entirely legitimate to look at the tea party. I mean, here are a group of people who are admittedly racist, who are overtly political, who’ve tried as best they can to harm President Obama in every way they can.

That's an interesting argument. Bond appear to be saying that it is legitimate for the IRS to take a special look at the Tea Party because it is:

- it is admittedly racist;
- it is overtly political;
- it has tried its best to harm President Obama.

I'm going to leave aside the issue of whether the Tea Party is overtly political in any sense that matters to the IRS, and the issue of whether the Tea Party has tried to harm President Obama (as well as the issue of what he means by "harm"). Those would be rich subjects to explore but they are not my focus. Furthermore, I am going to note in passing that the Tea Party is not "admittedly" racist but that is not my focus either. My focus is on Mr. Bond's apparent belief that an organization's racism has something to do with whether it is appropriate for the IRS to subject it to exceptional scrutiny. It does not.

The IRS does not exist to police the beliefs of individuals or the policies of groups.

If I believe that straight white Anglo-Saxon Protestant men are the only hope for the country and want to set up a group to educate everyone about my beliefs, I should be able to do so without the IRS subjecting me to a more intensive examination than it would give me if I believed that straight white Anglo-Protestant men were the bane of the country and wanted to educate my fellow citizens about those beliefs. It is no business of the IRS whether an organization is racist, sexist, or feminist; whether it is pro-men, anti-Catholic, pro-amnesty, anti-ethanol, pro-salt, anti-war, pro-LGBT, or anti-Asian. It is no business of the IRS whether an organization supports abortion or opposes it; supports Obamacare or opposes it; supports Israel or opposes it; supports the NAACP or opposes it. It is most emphatically no business of the IRS whether an organization supports the IRS or opposes it.

The only concern of the IRS is whether an organization's activities conform to the guidelines laid down for the type of organization it claims to be.


I wrote this post in May and then realized I didn't know how to finish it. Those who agree with me, agree with me - there's no need for a big finish to convince them. Those who disagree with me see the world too differently for what I write to make any difference. It's not a difference of degree; it's a difference of kind. To people of the latter persuasion, if someone's stance, position, or utterance is wrong, then it's perfectly reasonable to use every means at their disposal, especially government power, to make sure that someone is, at minimum, disadvantaged and, preferably, silenced. Or, rather, not just perfectly reasonable - it's the obligation of decent human beings to make sure that sure error is stamped out.

It's depressing and frightening to realize I'm sharing a country with people who think the way Julian Bond does. It's puzzling and ironic to realize that many of those who think like Mr. Bond are self-proclaimed representatives of the very groups whose views have been so often silenced by society and government in the past.


E Hines said...

Couple things. When I was in college, a young activist Julian Bond came to speak to us. He was as racist then as he is now (racist now? Yew betcha. Playing the race card where none exists is itself racist. He thinks what he said because he's manufactured the racism in it.)

Secondly, what we're seeing now is the effect of an addict (a government dependent, and/or the government man, himself dependent on the dependency of others on him) threatened with the removal of his supply. He gets extremely hysterical and says and does whatever he thinks will help continue that supply. Thus, we get the scurilous and foul ad hominem attacks of the Progressives against Conservatives--terrorists, bombs strapped to their chests, want only to harm the poor, etc--in ever increasing shrillness. Not very many people take Bond seriously, anymore. He's like the erstwhile Far Right's John Birch.

The answer is to (continue to) cut off that supply, utterly, while completely suppressing the addict until he's worked through the worst of the withdrawal.

How does that work in politics? Over however many election cycles it takes, we vote out of office the pushers, of either party, and lock away the drug of government handouts.

That also takes effective communication. Governor Chris Christie has been doing what I've been saying for some time that Conservatives should be doing.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

Assuming your analogy about addicts is correct, your conclusion is wrong. Addicts don't get over their addiction simply by having their supply withdrawn - they need a change in their way of viewing the world. And that's why the fact that there is an (apparently) substantial group that thinks about government, rights, the Constitution so differently than I do is so distressing to me.

As for Chris Christie, yeah, he's great. I was brought to tears watching a video of him from early on in his tenure where he talked to a woman (in Newark, IIRC) who couldn't get her son the help he needed from his school. He's a real Jersey guy in the best senses of that phrase. A lot of Republicans approach traditionally Democratic voting groups as if they (the Republicans) are going on an expedition to some foreign country. Not just politically stupid but just plain wrong.

E Hines said...

I wasn't offering a complete solution to the addiction, only suggesting a necessary first step--breaking the addiction (which is not the same as bringing it under control; that comes after) by removing the supply for long enough.

Certainly, to reduce recidivism, a whole host of subsequent steps are necessary, but those are impossible while the supply remains in full flow.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

Yes, but the very people getting the flow are those who have to vote to cut it off. It might happen but it seems unlikely. That's part of the reason I find Williamson's book, The End Is Near, intriguing. He's arguing that the supply is going to be cut off by reality rather than by voting and then we'll have to change our view of the world.

E Hines said...

Some addicts self-refer, but those are few. That puts a premium on not dawdling in the efforts to reverse the trend.

As to waiting on reality to terminate things, that's catastrophic (and unnecessarily so), not the least from running up the costs of waiting. Also, when other nations have failed--their welfare supply cut off by reality--there always was a fallback: us. Who's our fallback? That adds to the premium.

And see the USSR and it's reality-driven failure. It failed over to present-day Russia. I don't want to risk that outcome for us by sitting by for reality's cold turkey. That adds further.

That whole "we'll have to change our view of the world" thing has bothered me all my life. No. We're humans. The Universe is malleable. It can comport itself to our needs--or we can (must?) force it to. And this tops up the premium.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

That whole "we'll have to change our view of the world" thing has bothered me all my life. No. We're humans. The Universe is malleable. It can comport itself to our needs--or we can (must?) force it to.

The change in world view is about accepting reality. It doesn't mean the Universe isn't malleable - it just means it isn't infinitely malleable and at some point reality will catch up with this. For example, we cannot go on forever spending more money than we make.

I understand that having reality wake us up can be catastrophic but my point is that I don't see any other mechanism for getting us off the gravy train. It's nice to get something for "nothing" and as long as a lot of people really believe (and pretend to believe or want to believe or refuse to disbelieve) that they can get something for nothing, they won't see any reason to voluntarily give up what they're getting.

E Hines said...

There's infinity, and there's infinity. We can't go on spending more than we make forever, but we can make more.

We can change the rules of the Universe--beginning with those of our government--so as to reduce the need to make more by reducing spending. And making more.

But it also means turning the blackguards out.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

reduce the need to make more by reducing spending. And making more.

But it also means turning the blackguards out.

I don't see us voting the current power structure out of office. And without doing that, I certainly don't see us reducing spending and I suspect we won't be making more, either.

See, for example, this Samuelson piece.