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Making the fallacy of false dilemma pay
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, September 30, 2008

David Brooks gives us an example today. He entitles his piece "Revolt of the Nihilists" and thus presents us with a false dilemma. You are either with us (for the bailout) or against us. And if you're against "us", it is because you're a nihilist.

Not because you may have serious and deep problems with the structure of the bailout. Not because you feel the bill doesn't even attempt to address the root causes of the problem. And certainly not because you find it to be Constitutionally beyond the powers granted the federal government to engage in such a bailout.

No, it's because you're a nihilist.
And let us recognize above all the 228 who voted no — the authors of this revolt of the nihilists. They showed the world how much they detest their own leaders and the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed. They did the momentarily popular thing, and if the country slides into a deep recession, they will have the time and leisure to watch public opinion shift against them.
The hidden premise that Brooks (and the administration and Paulson, etc) attempts to assert (because he certainly can't prove it) is that the bailout is not only the right thing to do but it is the moral thing to do.

However it is an implication for which he provides little credible evidence.

And while that is bad enough, Brooks then really stretches credulity:
House Republicans led the way and will get most of the blame. It has been interesting to watch them on their single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Then, too, they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their party, oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most American minds.
You have to immediately question the assumption of "Republicans leading the way". First, it is clear that if Democrats had wanted the bill to pass, they didn't need a single Republican vote to do so. And did you know that the House Financial Services Committee - which had a major hand in writing the bill under Barney Frank's leadership - had 1/3 of the Democrats on that committee vote against their own bill. Interestingly the bill needed 12 votes to pass, and 12 of the Democrats on that committee said "no".

But Republicans "led the way"?

So why is Brooks so upset at Republicans and why is he throwing around words he really doesn't appear to understand?
The Congressional plan was nobody’s darling, but it was an effort to assert some authority. It was an effort to alter the psychology of the markets. People don’t trust the banks; the bankers don’t trust each other. It was an effort to address the crisis of authority in Washington. At least it might have stabilized the situation so fundamental reforms of the world’s financial architecture could be undertaken later.

But the 228 House members who voted no have exacerbated the global psychological free fall, and now we have a crisis of political authority on top of the crisis of financial authority.
Ah, interesting. The plan, although it sucked, has - or had - an important "psychological" component to it. Although a dog of a bill, it was an effort to alter "psychology of the markets".

But when Republicans such as Phil Gramm said we were talking ourselves into a recession and John McCain mentioned that the fundamentals of our economy were sound (something Obama recently claimed as well), those were portrayed as outrageous lies - not attempts to "alter the psychology of the markets." Those who spoke such stupid things were "out of touch".

But when David Brooks (and others) claim that voting for an abysmal bill which just about everyone agrees is equivalent to throwing 700 billion taxpayer dollars down a rat hole, that's an important "psychological aid" to propping up the markets, correct?

And, of course, only nihilists would be against it.

Of course one man's nihilist is another man's freedom fighter I guess.

All-in-all, a sloppy and dishonest "analysis" by Brooks. But it is a part of an ongoing attempt to frame the financial mess as a result of Republican rule, or misrule. The majority of the MSM are choosing to ignore the real history of what got us into this mess in order to help fashion the final nail they think will forever seal the McCain campaign's coffin by simply linking him to other Republicans. They smell blood in the water and the figurative feeding frenzy has begun.

There's certainly no doubt that Republicans share some of the blame, but their primary problem in all of this is they forgot to act like Republicans. In the case of the Democrats, the problems we now face we face because they did act like Democrats. Which should cause you more concern?

And why isn't David Brooks writing about that?
 
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I still don’t know why the media is in love with the Dems to begin with. we quit having news and started having newsertainment a long time ago. If they bash all the republicans out of office who will they smear then? How will they get their ratings if the only scandals out their are from the democraps they love so much? What would the headlines be? "president obama and iranian president sing coombaya" "speaker of the house helps elderly lady cross street" "senator kerry rescues puppy from pound" "vp volunteers at history festival" "chairman of ways and means assist poor with tax prep" I don’t think these will sell.
 
Written By: mac
URL: http://
There’s certainly no doubt that Republicans share some of the blame, but their primary problem in all of this is they forgot to act like Republicans. In the case of the Democrats, the problems we now face we face because they did act like Democrats. Which should cause you more concern?

And why isn’t David Brooks writing about that?
The MSM has discovered during their blitz of Sarah Palin that there really is no limit to bashing Republicans. There’s nobody to hold them accountable. So, everything bad becomes the Republicans’ fault. It’s easy and it’s fun!

This recipe is classic and has worked many times before, in many different places. Simply find some group that to villify and blame its members for all evils. This way, nobody blames YOU for what you have or haven’t done right.

mac,

You presume that the MSM is in it for the money. They aren’t. If they were, they’d be adjusting their coverage to try to stem the loss of readers / viewers that they’ve been experiencing. I don’t say that money is of no importance, but it is secondary to the ideological motive.
 
Written By: docjim505
URL: http://
Brooks:
And let us recognize above all the 228 who voted no - the authors of this revolt of the nihilists. They showed the world how much they detest their own leaders and the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed.
The 228 who voted no mostly showed the world how much they fear being voted out of office and possibly tarred and feathered. The thousands on thousands of voters who put such fear into the 228 showed not necessarily how much they detest anybody, but rather how much they distrust the capabilities and motives of their representatives and the Treasury Department.

Given the up-to-the-eyebrows complicity of Congress and Treasury in this debacle, that distrust is a good thing. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced it can prevail over the panic and pandemonium that the MSM and way too many "leaders" seem intent on sustaining.
At least it might have stabilized the situation so fundamental reforms of the world’s financial architecture could be undertaken later. (my emphasis)
Yeah, Brooks, and it might not have either. You don’t know. But it’s only an unimaginable fortune stolen from American taxpayers and thrown blindly into the maelstrom, so what the hey, huh?

But what is it with all these uppity taxpayers not even kowtowing to government authority here lately? (No offense intended.)
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
Best way for liberals to co-opt a conservative writer: give them a gig at the New York Times.

Brooks’ quality has fallen steadily since the day he went there.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
It’s all good.

Let them destroy McCain, elect Sen Lightworker, provide cover for a deeply dem congress to ram a fairness doctrine (among other things) down our throat.

Because one day, they’ll either annoy a Dem president and he’ll make them pay, or the GOP will recapture at some point......and then destroy them.

I take a long view of the game.

If we’re all gonna wind up in the gutter, I’ll be sure that my enemies are the ones I’m stepping on.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Frankly, I started thinking the "bailout" was a good idea, but now I am having my doubts.

I have noticed that this problem is made worse by our media, who know less about economics than I do (one semester with a Samuelson economics text). So far the media have been hapless to even describe the actual problem, let alone point the way to any answer. You really get the feeling that all history started 8 years ago with them. Their form of intellectual impairment keeps everybody ignorant.

I really wish the media would get a real economics prof on and give him/her enough time to actually explain the underlying problem without a commercial break or interjection of some utterly stupid political posturing by the "talking idiots" who they have as "advisors".

I have noticed a couple of posts from the business schools who are rearranging the curriculum to cover the current "financial crisis". They see this as a once in a lifetime event (we all should hope) that needs to be examined and explained. I hope their students take good notes.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Brooks thinks despite all the lack of trust going round, everyone still has trust in the government and "the collected expertise of the Treasury and the Fed?"

The collective expertise of the Treasury and the Fed is greater than mine, but then again, I don’t have a track record of getting us in this mess. So I should trust them why? This problem has been building for years, no one in government has solved it, and now were supposed to expect them to miraculously do the right thing overnight? How dumb do they think we are? (Please, don’t answer that.)

 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
"So far the media have been hapless to even describe the actual problem..."
Neo, have you not been reading?

"Crisis!"
"Worst X Since The Depression!"
"Depression!"
"10% Unemployment!"
"Cats and Dogs Living Together!"

 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
...who know less about economics than I do (one semester with a Samuelson economics text).
For goodness sake, get Sowell’s Basic Economics right away. Or Dale’s book. Or, if you want to be a bit more broad ranging, New Ideas from Dead Economists. Anything to wash the Samuelson out of your brain.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Brooks is the house vote of the left that still pretends they are Republican. Cant have another election where some clueless (entrenched media) leftist claims they knew no one voting for Nixon.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
I like Brooks’ book on the BoBos (I aspire to being a libertarian BoBo) but he reminds me of Clinton Rossiter and other proponents of a watered-down, fangless "conservatism" in the 1950s and early ’60s. They were the "liberals’" pet conservatives, dubbed "responsible" conservatives. In other words, they posed no threat to State power.
 
Written By: Bilwick
URL: http://
They showed the world how much they detest ... the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

In this case, Humpty Dumpty is the credit market, and all the kings horses and men, undermined the wall he was sitting on.

And now we’re supposed to trust the "collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed." Who did little to forecast and prevent the mess we’re in.
 
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