I'm not being facetious, it really is sad.
I see this, and I know he's not alone. I see not just him, but whole armies of fine minds going to waste. Absent this corruption, what would they have accomplished? What heights could they achieve? Think about it. What things, which now don't even exist, would be ubiquitous in a world where this disease had never taken hold?
Instead of making those things, coming up with those ideas, he's picking on the weak.
"[t]he China infant milk scandal, even though it has so far not damaged any American babies, has exposed a major defect in the concept of free trade. It's dangerous to buy products from a nation whose economy is not based on Judeo-Christian morality."But, we expect that Republicans - especially the kind Niven is fond of showcasing - to be very Christian. For Phyllis Schlafly, basically anyone she doesn't like will be labelled 'un-Christian' and therefore 'dangerous.' It's a code phrase, not to be taken seriously. Let me translate.
"[t]he China infant milk scandal, even though it has so far not damaged any American babies, has exposed a major defect in the concept of free trade. It's dangerous to freely buy products from a nation who is immoral."
Frankly, this doesn't strike me as "dodgy reasoning" but rather as tautological. If free trade is a moral proposition, by the principle of self-defence, you don't open your borders to immoral people.
So, is China immoral* because it's not Christian? Frankly, who cares? People will always label other people they don't like as the out-group, which is what Schlafly is doing here. Schlafly isn't a philosopher, - and hopefully doesn't pretend to be - and we shouldn't expect her to be epistemologically sound, because it's hard to be epistemologically sound.
*(Niven: "China does not exactly qualify as a trustworthy exporter")
So I mention all this to demonstrate my concerns. (Well, convictions, but there's no substitute for 'convictions' with the connotations of 'concerns.') Also, we can see exactly what Niven is responding to; he has been labelled as out-group, and so, by reflex, he must out-group Schlafly. His codes are different. His sect has learnt from the mistakes of Schlafly's, and doesn't have a synonym for 'heresy,' and instead deploys sarcasm, misdirection, and intentional misunderstanding. There's no way to convince me that Niven couldn't have understood that Schlafly speaks in code - he already thinks she's dishonest, both to herself and others - if he wanted to.
Having written this, I seem to have gotten something out of my system, and I've noticed that the person who wrote the above is, to some degree, a mask. I have assumed that Niven really is incurable which, frankly, seems pretty likely. But, what do I really know? Have I even tried?
Well, sort of. I have been pleasantly surprised by Niven before. Perhaps this is just election fever, and he will return to a more respectable mode in the future. However, even in this, Niven is an exception; he sometimes rises above his creed, but rarely disappoints it. But still, what do I know?
Here's what I should say:
"Basically, Niven, you need to go after liberals. Idiocy is far from monopolized by the right. "This blog will seek to expose fallacies in today's mass media so that philosophers can better practice their craft." As in, not a progressivism advocacy blog, which is what you've written.
"In the piece at hand, because you're picking on the weak (Schlafly is not a philosopher, and hopefully doesn't pretend) you're essentially attacking a straw man. If, without reminding her of China, you go and ask Schafly about Japan, trade, and Christian morality, she is going to say something contradictory - but that contradiction works for her. She trades with Japan, but not China. The fact is, she does not herself know the exact reasons why this is, as, I repeat, she is not a philosopher. Townhall is an advocacy site. Analyzing her as if she did is dishonest. And you are a philosopher, and I expect, nay, demand better.
"You are also just as guilty of confusing, apparently intentionally, correlation with identity.
"but many followers of the Abrahamic religions still manage to muck things up (see e.g. the entire banking industry in the U.S. right now).""This has nothing to do with trade. If Schlafly were a philosopher, she might respond, 'The situation of a financial system has little to no connection to quality of consumer goods and general trustworthiness of exchanged products, unless the exact products in question are financial.'"
That's the main thrust, but I could go on.
"Most obviously, they don't care much, if at all, about human rights (Judeo-Christian or otherwise). Schlafly herself also points out that the poison-producing Chinese companies "enjoyed inspection-exempt status called 'mianjian'" under which "companies that passed quality tests for three years [are] trusted to regulate themselves." Such self-policing has a truly dismal record, so she could equally easily have concluded that any particular industry which serves as its own overseer will be vulnerable to these kinds of abuses"
All of which are rolled into Schafly's code, which basically translates to out-group badness.
"Apparently, for her, poisoned pet food, toothpaste, and paint on children's toys are all forgivable offenses, or perhaps she just operates on the old four-strikes-you're-out policy."Mockery is not an argument. Engaging in it only discredits yourself. Think about it; either you're in a position of strength, socially speaking, and the mockery can work - but is unnecessary. Everyone already agrees with you. Or, if you're in a position of weakness, it will accomplish nothing but counter-derision. In other words, by using it effectively you prove that you should not have used it at all.
"The sheer stupidity of this argument might not be ultimately attributable to Schlafly's age, but whatever the cause, her claims in this case simply beg to be rejected."Assuming you're an uncharitable, left-leaning fanatic and intellectual bully, I agree. (I shouldn't say this part.)
In this particular case, I know exactly what the coat-maker would have bought absent the broken window. Niven would be executing a project I myself often have the urge to do; back when I read papers, I wanted to whap the journalists upside the head with their own papers for their astounding intellectual gaffes. And indeed, many of them can be responded to exactly as Niven responded to this one.
However, because I also fell into the trap Niven has stumbled into here, I began to find it necessary to disprove someone using their own statements - to reference their system of values, not mine. Similarly, to ask if Schlafly ("has exposed a major defect in the concept of free trade") was aware of previous disappointments by China, ("for her, poisoned pet food, toothpaste, and paint on children's toys are all forgivable offenses") or if rather the others were somehow different in her view. For instance, if she missed the toys, then none of the products were aimed at vulnerable children. (Incidentally, in a commercial context, are their non-children's toys for which we need to differentiate?)
Do note that there are valid uses of mockery. For instance, if someone self-contradicts, you can go right ahead and make fun of them for it. In this case, the mockery highlights something which goes unnoticed (nobody self-contradicts on purpose) and can, in fact, turn a hostile crowd into a supportive one...I think, anyway. I can't exactly test that right now.