I was weeding my garden the other day.  A neighbor sees me out there and remarks; “Nice looking garden you have there.”
“Thanks” I reply, “Other than some deer nipping the tops off a few of my beets, it’s doing pretty well.  I have some nice 
radishes coming in right now.  Would you like some radishes?”
“Rabbit stew!” he replies, with enthusiasm.
(I paused a moment) “No; radishes.  Would you like some radishes?”
Without another word, he turned around and walked away.

That one was quick in getting to the point where both parties realized that they were engaging in a conversation which had 
nothing to do with what the other was saying.  I’ve had this sort of thing go on for a long time before I realized that the 
conversation I was having bore little or no resemblance to the conversation the other person thought he was having, even when 
the individual words were all intelligible.

A recurring theme in such instances relates to the difference between principles and group identification, or “group think”.  
There is a saying floating around lately, which says “When the government has its boot on your throat, it makes no difference 
whether it’s a left boot or a right boot.”  It makes sense, I suppose, if your world centers around group, or political party, 
identity, but it’s a blitheringly stupid statement if you care about principles.  I stated, over at Kevin’s, that if there’s a 
government boot on your neck (and you don’t deserve it) then by definition it is a left boot. QED– those who uphold the 
principles of liberty do not abuse people as a matter of policy.

The response?

“I find your lack of insight disturbing. As a libertarian, I see just as much interference in my life coming from the so-called 
right as from the so-called left.”

Fair enough– the operative term being “so-called”.  But that was my whole point after all, see.

“Maybe because I have friends from each of those camps, I can somewhat understand how each only sees the abuses of the other, 
but not their own.”

I’m sorry; my own abuses?

“The ‘giveaway’ in your case is the ‘deserve’ line: who are you, or anyone else, to be the sole arbiter of whether someone 
“deserves” abuse? Please don’t go on about breaking the law, that is not what the poster is referring to, as I would suspect you 
know. And having a boot on one’s neck is not an appropriate response to law-breaking; arrest and trial would be (if the crime is 
real and not a consensual activity of which you disapprove).”

What if they resist arrest?  Yeah, I’m going with the boot, thank you.

“No arbitrary political group is either all good or all bad; the same goes for people in general, unless you want to bring up 
mass murderers or serial child molesters. So to attribute all evil intent to your political opponents is not only facile and 
simplistic, but often leads down the path to violence, pogroms, and war.”

Umm….yes; I do attribute all (political) evil to my political opponents.  The moment someone commits an evil, I oppose them, 
see.  Individually.  Not the whole group, unless the whole group embraces the evil act in which case the whole group is leftist and I oppose it.

I was talking about principles and he was talking about political parties (group think– tribal association).  Two different 
subjects.  Lets break this down further.

If some members of the Catholic Church are found to be sex abusers, are all those who try to follow the teachings of Jesus then 
to be held accountable for the abuse?  More important; are the teachings of Jesus thereby rendered invalid and useless, or even 
evil?  If some who claim to be Christians are practicing serial child abuse, then Christ himself was an evil man, and 
anything he said should be dismissed out of hand?  That would have to be the conclusion of the tribalist, and of course it would 
be insane.

If I’d left out the “and you don’t deserve it” bit, someone would have said, “Oh yeah?  What if you just murdered someone?  Does 
that mean that anyone who comes after you for it is a leftist?!!!”  Since I put it in, I got criticized with “…who are you, 
or anyone else, to be the sole arbiter of whether someone ‘deserves’ abuse?”  Either way it’s a change of subject– a diversion 
from the point.  I’m talking about principles and he’s talking about something else– anything but the point.  It’s a 
sophisticated version of “Oh yeah?  Well your mother wears Army boots!” after which I suppose I am to argue about my mother’s 
fashion sense instead of the fact that leftists are all authoritarians and all authoritarians are leftists whereas those on the 
right are for liberty.  That someone may falsely claim to be on the right, or that someone on the right might commit a crime of 
some kind, is not my fault, and it certainly does not say anything whatsoever about the validity of my principles.

What that self-described libertarian is actually saying (probably without thinking about it) is that the principles of liberty 
are invalid because, for generations, leftists have been posing as Republicans.  Therefore, if I espouse the principles of liberty, I’m a hypocrite.


6 thoughts on “Communication

  1. The left-right continuum is a tool used by the collectivists to slander their enemies. Simply, it allows them to say ” you’re not on our team, so you’re on Hitler’s team”.

    You have tried to redefine the continuum as a liberty versus oppression continuum. The trouble is there are political factions that are commonly understood to be rightist that are anti-liberty.

    The principled approach is to avoid using the left-right language carelessly. Tribalism is built into it.

  2. I suppose one could redefine the left-right spectrum that way, but going back to your first point about communication: no one else will have any idea what you’re talking about.

  3. No true Scotsman fallacy.

    “All Scotsmen like haggis”

    “My uncle is Scottish, and he hates haggis.”

    “Your uncle is not a true Scotsman.”

    When someone throws that at you, you must first define what “Scotsman” is. If he refuses, then he is a troll who needs to go on ignore.

  4. If the church was ADVOCATING child abuse, THEN it would be fair to fight against that church. THAT analogy works for your argument about the left. The left advocates totalitarianism. There is no actual “right” totalitarianism. The idea that there is was invented by the socialists. Fascists, nazis, communists, etc,…any sort that puts the “needs” of the collective over the rights of the individual is, by nature, leftist. To the “right” is only varying degrees of liberty as one “moves” along that arbitrary line. Parties have nothing to do with it.

  5. The earlier commenters have all referenced the problem with the fallacy behind the left-right boot statement. It only makes sense if one believes that the continuum is between Communists on the left, i.e. International Socialists, and Nazi’s on the right, i.e. National Socialists, with Fabian Socialists in the middle. On such a one-axis graph, there is no room for less government. Hence the Libertarian’s continuum of less and more liberty, or the two axis cartesian plane of less and more personal liberty and less and more economic liberty.

  6. The argument by leftists that oppression is universally applied by all authority is incomplete unless one adds to it that their oppression should be accepted by individuals and groups of citizens so oppressed, because in some future time the current oppression leads to some variety of utopian result. If not for those oppressed, at least for their neighbors, some deserving group, or even “the children” of the present or future.

    In other words, “Eat this spinach that tastes horrible, and you will grow big and strong.”

    When one points out that growing big and strong absolutely does not require eating spinach, one is accused of opposing healthy childhood nutrition, or even advocating starvation of children.

    A swift kick ‘tween the thighs to get their attention, and then a resounding, “No!” should be the proper response to all such fallacious arguments.

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