Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lipson on basic decency

Why are people gloating over Rush Limbaugh’s death? Charles Lipson writes 

The gloating over Rush Limbaugh’s death ought to shock the conscience. That’s not a political statement. That’s a cri de coeur about how our basic sense of human decency has been warped by political differences.

To take one example, a Yale Law professor tweeted he wasn’t just happy Limbaugh had died, he was euphoric.


He’s not some drunk being carried out of a rowdy bar. He’s the Charles F. Southmayd Professor of Law and Philosophy at Yale Law School and the Director of Yale’s Center for Law and Philosophy. ...

The New York Times chose to write about Limbaugh's "Legacy of Venom:", "Weaponizing conspiracy theories and bigotry."  Could they not wait for his body to be cold? Or show less respect for the tens of millions of apparently deplorable fellow citizens who listened to him? 

This is not one more complaint about the woke left. This is a problem on both sides. 

Rush’s friends on the right are happy to claim the moral high ground when the left is degrading itself like this. But they only hold it for a moment. They act the same way when the opportunity arises. Do you think they would behave any better if a Nancy Pelosi was hit by a bus? Many would think it was the perfect time to share with the world how much they hated the Speaker, how glad they were to see her gone.

Quite a few expressed that view when invading the Capitol a month or so ago.  

Lipson's main point, and mine: 

The point here is not only that this behavior is despicable, though it is. The point is that so many people think their views are righteous and worth sharing with the world. That smugness and moral self-righteousness are signs of our political divisions and the moral decay they generate.

...

When prominent people celebrate Rush Limbaugh’s death they are, inadvertently, telling us something about the decay of our civic culture. They are showing that we are now behaving as if we are at war, a cultural and political civil war. In the process, we are losing our sense of respect for each other at a very basic level.

No one has the moral high ground here. Far too many take every fleeting opportunity to cry, ‘Vengeance is mine.’ That cry springs from battles that both sides now consider life-or-death. That is not how political differences should be contested in a constitutional democracy. That is not how people in tolerant, liberal societies treat each other. For those who say, ‘We are better than that,’ it’s time to show it.

Both sides of our partisan politics are acting as if this is a life or death battle, the point being to wipe the other side off the face if not of the earth, of our political life. As I have opined, if it is so, we need to change the winner take all rules of our game. 

My mother advised, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. George Shultz, who we have been remembering this week at Hoover,  would not have behaved this way, even on the death of a deep ideological opponent. "Show respect" was one of his watchwords. He did, even to the Soviets. 

Let's try to keep comments polite on this one. 

72 comments:

  1. So Rush was a lifelong drunk being dragged out of rowdy bars?

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  2. The vitriol comes not from ideological divide, but Limbaugh's own vitriol. For instance, consider the man's own words on Jerry Garcia's death, which I won't repeat here because they apply to Limbaugh with as much cruelty as they did to Jerry.

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    1. While I am not aware of every little thing Rush Limbaugh might have said, the point being raised here isn't that you cannot find ways to justify the vitriol, but that you shouldn't.

      I heard a guy once talk about a movie that really touched him as a kid. If I recall correctly, it took place in a German concentration camp during WWII. One guy explained to another than there is power in forgiveness, that strong men have the ability to hurt, yet choose not to use it. A kid later makes a mistake and the guard lets him walk out... at first. He then shot him dead.

      The point here is that he shot him because he was weak. People who can do great things do not feel the need to exert every once of power they have, especially not against people more vulnerable than themselves. It's people who feel like they never have control that will always pull the trigger.


      Not insulting Limbaugh around the time of his death isn't a statement about him, or his ideas. There is an element of respect, of course, because Limbaugh wasn't just crude all the time. Sometimes, he was giving little people a voice and, to them, a small truce of a few days is a mark of respect. It's called showing mercy.

      But beyond all of this, there is also something distasteful about attacking a dead person on account that they cannot respond. Even if you see no value in what he said or did, you can only attack dead people by debasing yourself.

      If you have something ugly to say about a dead man, keep your mouth shut. Let people mourn. The insults and criticism will still ring true a week or two later.

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  3. we [definitely do] need to change the winner take all rules of our game. Start by enforcing constitutional limitations on Federal power (in all three branches, but particularly the executive)

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  4. Twitter is a channel self selected by the worst of us. Remember Marsh McLuhan: The medium is the message.

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  5. I really liked the following observations on the problem:

    "Why We’re Taught to Not Speak Ill of the Dead" By Jim Geraghty on February 18, 2021
    https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/why-we-are-taught-to-not-speak-ill-of-the-dead/

    "The public figures you love and adore will die. The public figures you hate and detest will die. In their final moments, the differences between them will become quite insignificant. Few of us are likely to feel “ready” to die when our time comes. Few of us will believe, in our final days, that we lived with no regrets. In our final moments, we are likely to feel vulnerable, frightened, and perhaps pained. Even the most powerful dictator looks frail and weak and sad on his deathbed. Death humbles us all, and death comes for us all."

    "We have a hard enough time grappling with our own mortality as is. It gets even tougher when a beloved or iconic figure who seemed likely to be around forever — say, Alex Trebek — shuffles off this mortal coil. Recognizing that the public figures we can’t stand are human beings means recognizing that they are mortal, and that they are as vulnerable to age and cancer or heart disease other health problems as anyone else. That is one more stark reminder that our days are numbered as well. The powerful and wealthy and famous may have the resources and good doctors to delay the grim reaper’s arrival for a bit, but not to deny him."

    "I liked the observation in this editorial of the U.K.’s Reform magazine, written after Margaret Thatcher passed away in 2013: 'It seems to me, that if we rail against someone while they live and change our tone when they die, we show respect not for them, but for death. This powerful and divisive figure, the enemy within, can’t be voted out or overthrown, and even medicine and technology can offer no lasting alternative to its regime. Despite the colossal changes to our moral landscape over the last 50 years, and the death of deference towards traditional authorities and mores, our profound and ancient deference towards death is as alive as ever — presumably because it has as much power over us as it ever did'"

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  6. Limbaugh used to read the names of homosexuals who died of AIDS, and cheer their deaths with bells and sound effects. If you view that as one moment of an indecent life, then it, and similar stories, are appropriate epitaphs.

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    1. Of course that is not true. Just another one of those lies that is perpetuated and passed around through pernicious gossip.

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    2. sorry but you MADE THAT UP!

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    3. https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-did-rush-limbaugh-mock-aids-death-radio-show-1570282

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  7. The unhinged left have really shown their true colors on this one. Obviously they are solely responsible for bringing down the public discourse, and nothing can be laid at the feet of this honorable man who spread joy to the world by befriending underage residents in the Dominican Republic and spoke no ill of his fellow man all his days. Why, it was with a veritable halo that this saint walked the earth.

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  8. "Limbaugh used to read the names of homosexuals who died of AIDS, and cheer their deaths with bells and sound effects." Apparently, nobody has any proof of this claim. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/rush-limbaugh-mock-aids-gays/ . Snopes admits this, and points out that Limbaugh said he regretted something, but not exactly what he was regretting. Don't believe it until you see evidence.

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    1. There were contemporaneous reports and criticisms of his "Aids updates": https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-did-rush-limbaugh-mock-aids-death-radio-show-1570282

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    2. He was a radio show host. There are archives. During that dark prehistoric period before the internet I recorded with an ordinary tape recorder things I wanted to preserve from radio. Why have no recordings of this "regular segment" emerged? Ever?

      I'm not a Limbaugh fan nor have I paid attention to him during my life, but people repeating what they've heard from others is nothing more than boring hearsay designed to control the narrative by any means necessary.

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  9. sorry but the Democrats are German Socialists 1930's
    Republicans are Chamberlain.

    The entire top of the federal and state Democrat party..is filled with truly evil people! The Russian Hoax was a tiny window...where as people like Sen Menendez or Hunter Biden and Joe...are caught red handed...and NOTHING!

    Better start fighting.!

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  10. It is fine and good to condemn and even to ridicule people who have just died,if you think they were evil. But you have an obligation to do it in a dignified way, not just to show delight that they're dead. Rather, you should solemnly describe what they did that you think was evil, and why it was evil. It is an awful thing to meet your maker, but it is also the right time to sum up a man's legacy.

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  11. My 87-year old dad would say this is what you get when people wear cut off jeans to church. We’ve lost a lot of decorum and what used to be just good manners. Hopefully, my kids will be better.

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  12. I completely agree that civility and respect should be the order of the day. My parents, also, would warn me to say nothing if I had nothing nice to say. If only Limbaugh had received the same advice. The vitriol being displayed upon his death is unfortunate but equally understandable. It is always difficult for many people to rise above the behavior they have seen displayed and treat someone with greater respect than he has shown others.

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  13. R.I.P.. May his soul be absolved of his deeds in this life. Meanwhile we are stuck with their malignant consequences.
    --E5

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  14. "That is not how people in tolerant, liberal societies treat each other." Hello? What world is Mr. Lipson living in? Not the one I live in, and it certainly wasn't the one Rush Limbaugh inhabited.

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  15. I would be more interested if John stuck to what he knows best and devised a model to figure out under what conditions we could say that Limbaugh's demise was welfare-enhancing for the US. John?

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  16. This is a life or death battle. It was for the LGBT people dying of AIDS epidemic in 80s and 90s, it is for victims of unmasked COVID plague spreaders, it is for our children being shot in school, it is for the millions at risk from climate change, and it is for the officers defending the US Capitol from attack. It is not a parlor game or an intellectual exercise. There is a war against truth, and lives are on the line.

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    1. While you are free to adopt the view that not only all the good, but also all the truth lies with you, you should perhaps make sure you take a cold hard look in the mirror before casting stones.

      Last time I checked, all prominent figures on the political right immediately and unambiguously denounced the political violence that took place on January 6th. None of them published articles or a book entitled "In defense of insurrection." If you recall, there were months of uninterrupted riots involving a small segment of the political left over the summer... We're talking vandalism, theft, arson, assault and even some murders. I am certain that you believe Donald Trump incited violence, in which case I wonder what do you call publishing articles "in defense of looting"? (I'm putting quotes because it's also a book.) What would you call a BLM organizer saying in the aftermath of a riot in Chicago that the looting which occurred was reparations? We're talking people coming in stores with bags and backing up trucks to the window front...

      Even though you would have reasons to point to black people suffering injustices, it's going to be very hard to convince me hurting yet more innocent people by taking or destroying their property is somehow justice.

      Just to refresh your memory, Donald Trump signed a bill on judicial reform before the Georges Floyd incident. Short after, Republicans introduced a bill in the Senate to make further changes and said they were open to changing almost all of it. Then and there, without any violence, people could have made real changes... The political violence I just illustrated above not only cost billions and about two dozen lives, it **spoiled an opportunity to have a positive impact.**


      I can play that game of gotcha all night long. You picked questions that will get people on the right to say stupid things. I can pick other questions that will make people on the left say stupid things. Many people on the left hold on to an extreme version of social constructivism that have unambiguous implications. Sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation turn out to be very correlated across all cultures... but the extreme view above implies independence. Men and women are more different across just about any psychological metric of your choice in countries where gender norms are more egalitarian, but the above theory predicts the exact opposite.

      I have a much simpler explanation for the conservatives and climate change than assuming you're so much better than them: they're human beings and human beings suffer from motivated reasoning...

      Conservatives tend to react poorly to comments about climate change because it tends to come with advocacy for a centralized response. Some people on the left react poorly to actual research on psychological differences between men and women because bogus claims about "natural" differences were used to treat some people as second class citizens.

      But climate change can be addressed while making sure you don't create too much opportunity for corruption. Likewise, even if men and women tend to be slightly different, what the hell does this have to do with equality? We don't care people aren't the same and that they make different choices. We care that they get similar opportunities to build a life for themselves as they see fit. You might not see the problem here, but I have heard enough incredibly indoctrinated people who confuse the quantity of jargon in a book with intellectual rigor to tell you this is a problem on the political left -- though not all of the left.

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    2. Stephane writes: "Some people on the left react poorly to actual research on psychological differences between men and women …". I don't disagree.

      I hope someday to see a discussion here that there is actual research on psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Our left-right political differences may be innate as well as chosen.

      If you think choice matters most, consider: almost certainly you are either left-handed or right-handed. How did you come to be that way?

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    3. @JZ Jonathan Haidt has some good research papers and a book on moral reasoning and Jordan Peterson had a project on the links between personality traits and political ideology.

      My understanding is that people on the left and the right tend to be psychologically different. For example, Haidt found that people who identify as liberals tend to put a lot more weight on emotional triggers related to care and harm. Libertarians are unsurprisingly driven mostly by emotions tied to abuse of power and corruption and conservatives tend to respond more evenly on all types of moral emotions. They are concerned with care, but not always at the expense of fairness (as proportionality), for example. One key prediction here is that you give conservatives and liberals a test and ask them to explain the positions of the other side to the satisfaction of the other side, conservatives will do a little better. Why? Because conservatives respond more evenly to all moral emotions, it's easier for them to see the world as a liberal sees it than the other way around.

      It's also the case that they tend to have different tendencies. People who identify as liberals tend to score higher in openness and lower in conscientiousness. This just means they tend to be more inclined to explore new ideas, new places, new uses for existing things and they tend to be less organized or even messier. Conservatives are the opposite. In a sense, if you have a problem to tackle, you want liberals sorting through possible solutions and conservatives to implement them.

      Anyone who has given any of this even an ounce of serious thought probably understands you cannot make anything work with just the one type of people. It strikes me as such an obvious thing that it boggles the mind why I even need to say it.

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    4. Stephane, thank you very much for the link to Jonathan Haidt.

      For a one-stop glimpse into Haidt's work, I found this New York Times science column by John Tierney:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/science/08tier.html

      Incidentally, I'd judge this column to be a work of analysis done to The Times newsroom standards for reporting. It is not an Op-Ed piece.


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  17. > George Shultz....Show respect".... even to the Soviets.

    To Nazis?

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    1. If you actually expanded any effort to genuinely hear what a conservative has to say, you wouldn't believe for a minute they could be compared to Nazis.

      Have you ever read or heard someone who self-identifies as a white supremacist or a Neo-Nazi? They do not encode their communications to make sound pretty, believe you me. They utterly despise the notion of individual rights and liberties. They regard all the ways in which the American governmental apparatus is designed to limit the power of people involved as an obstacle to their ability to enforce their ideals. They do not believe all are created equals -- and they're not shy about never paying even lip service to the notion. Most of their comments circle around a sense of biologically rooted superiority.

      Those are actual Nazis. It's an illiberal ideology that attacks the core of western civilization from the right. Free markets, elected and accountable governments, the rule of law, individual rights and liberties... That's western civilization and they hate all of it. The only other group of people I know who talk like this is the fringe of people who make the entire left look bad -- that's because their strand of postmodern philosophy is an illiberal ideology that attacks the core of western civilization from the left.


      Stop calling people Nazis over political disagreements. They're not Nazis. They're not racists. They're not misogynists. They just disagree with you about which concerns are more important than others or what are the best way to attack what often are the exact same problems.

      All this sort of comment does is ensure discussions that are already hard become harder still to have. That's a game where everyone who isn't a well connected billionaire looses. As long as you think they're crazy, ignorant, evil or all of the above, you can't figure out that you might agree on some things. As long as this is true, someone can profit from the outrage by tossing oil over it or enjoying the cloaking power of public noise and discord.

      You think they're the enemy? No. The enemy is the people who told you the right is evil -- those are the enemy.

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    2. Stephen,

      Even the Nazi's had their day in court. See:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_trials

      And believe it or not, some members of the Nazi party received acquittals.

      Hans Fritzsche
      Franz vo Papen
      Dr. Hjalmar Schacht

      Fritzsche is of note because he was the head of the news division of the Nazi Propaganda Ministry and was a familiar voice on German radio.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Fritzsche

      "According to the IMT prosecution, he incited and encouraged the commission of War Crimes by deliberately falsifying news to arouse in the German People those passions which led them to the commission of atrocities. Fritzsche was acquitted because the court was not prepared to hold that his broadcasts were intended to incite the German people to commit atrocities on conquered peoples."

      Ring any bells? - Hans Fritzsche, inciter in chief

      I am not defending or condoning anything said or done by either Rush Limbaugh or Hans Fritzsche. I am saying that words and an open exchange of ideas are our defense against violence. Once we stop talking or screaming and yelling at each other, that's when the real problems start.

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    3. @FRestly Some people admit little to no distinction between their personal sense of ethics and the proper way to administer social interactions.

      The only reason why societies as culturally and ethnically diverse as those found in North America or Europe function even remotely well is that we draw a line between them.

      As Bill Maher put it, the idea behind America is finding a way to share a country with people you think are complete a**holes. This roughly summarizes the goal of the so-called "liberal order" (constitutionally guaranteed individual rights and liberties, elected government, and the rule of law). All of it is designed to formalize the idea that you need to live and let live.

      Yet, some people don't see that as a strength. You only see the value once you stop being naive and realize disagreements and different points of views are both useful and unavoidable.

      Maybe Stephen agrees and just wanted to make an exception for Nazis. Then, again, they're not Nazis and the fact that he calls them Nazis and moves to the exception confirms we're right to fear making such exceptions is a bad idea: it's going to be used in a partisan way.

      A majority of people ganging up to to silence or even stamp out the minority doesn't sound liberal to me.

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    4. Stephane,

      "This roughly summarizes the goal of the so-called "liberal order" (constitutionally guaranteed individual rights and liberties, elected government, and the rule of law)."

      The actual German Nazis were shown respect when they were subjected to the rule of law - that was my point. They could have been executed on sight without the opportunity to defend their actions. The original question by Stephen was should even Nazis be offered some level of respect - the answer is yes.

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  18. This is nothing new. St. Jerome of Bethlehem once wrote a short story called, "Mark the little pig," a story of his spiritual adversary who had died, who was being roasted in hell, turned into bacon, etc. So he was villifying the dead. Augustine could be nasty of his views on the Roman Empire in City of God.

    It's been winner take all for a while. Hearts and minds, an eternal competition for both. Fight Club was right in a sense: we have no great existential threat to cooperate on, not even COVID. Pretty sad we have to wait for such things to happen to cooperate.

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    1. Mykel,

      If you follow game theory, you will find that part of our problem is that two party decision making (right / wrong, left / right, Republican / Democrat, borrower / lender) is either too rash or too indecisive.

      In two party decision making you have one of four outcomes:
      #1. Party A - Yes, Party B - Yes
      #2. Party A - Yes, Party B - No
      #3. Party A - No, Party B - Yes
      #4. Party A - No, Party B - No

      With approval by majority rule, parties A and B proceed only 25% of the time - too indecisive.

      With approval by single yes vote, parties A and B proceed 75% of the time - too rash.

      Any decision without weighing any beneficial / detrimental factors should begin as a 50/50 proposition.

      The way to achieve that balance is with three party decision making. With three party decision making you have 8 possible outcomes:

      #1. Party A - Yes, Party B - Yes, Party C - Yes
      #2. Party A - Yes, Party B - Yes, Party C - No
      #3. Party A - Yes, Party B - No, Party C - Yes
      #4. Party A - No, Party B - Yes, Party C - Yes
      #5. Party A - Yes, Party B - No, Party C - No
      #6. Party A - No, Party B - Yes, Party C - No
      #7. Party A - No, Party B - No, Party C - Yes
      #8. Party A - No, Party B - No, Party C - No

      With three party decision making, there are 4 voting patterns (#1, #2, #3, and #4 from above) that result in a majority yes decision and 4 voting patterns (#5, #6, #7, and #8) that result in a majority no decision. Meaning before any beneficial / detrimental factors are weighed, we begin with a 50/50 proposition.

      The same thing can be seen in economics with boom / bust cycles. During the boom cycle the two party arrangement generates a lot of yes's (75% of the time). During the bust cycle the two party arrangement generates a lot of no's (75% of the time).

      "Fight Club was right in a sense: we have no great existential threat to cooperate on, not even COVID."

      Funny you should mention that. In the movie "Fight Club", Brad Pitt's character mentions that he talked to his dad on the phone asking for advice and his father's reply was "Get Married". Having children with mother and father present creates that 3rd party that stabilizes decision making.

      Where am I going with all this, you might ask??

      https://www.the-sun.com/news/2354663/rush-limbaugh-former-wives-conservative-pundit-kathryn/

      "Limbaugh did not have any children despite being married four times."

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    2. Frestly,

      The payout matrices matter a great deal. If set up as cooperate/not cooperate and the perceived payouts are set up in a certain manner, well yes, non cooperation will end up being the equilibrium. But if the patout matrices were reformulated to have a greater benefit for cooperation, well, things change- maybe even for the better.

      The bit about children is interesting indeed. Some people are terrible parents while others manage to escape the coercive behavior chains and raise competent and social children. Why Rush never had children, well - preferences perhaps? On both parties' sides? Who knows. But yes, having children is one thing. Raising them is quite another. Parenting requires cooperation - cooperation in the best interest of this 3rd party.

      North may have said institutions matter. I'm of the belief that preferences matter more - wanting the right things. After all, what are institutions other than manifestations of preferences, hmm? We trust in what we value and hence build structures and systems to perpetuate the rewards from trusting in those same values. And thus, trust in those very same structures and systems.

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    3. Mykel,

      The point of my post was simply stipulating that before we even talk about cost / benefit analysis and payouts, the decision making process must begin as a 50/50 proposition.

      Otherwise, we are handicapping ourselves.

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    4. Mykel,

      "We trust in what we value and hence build structures and systems to perpetuate the rewards from trusting in those same values. And thus, trust in those very same structures and systems."

      Interesting that you should mention structures. What is true in economics and governance is also true in structural engineering. I presume that you are familiar with geodesic domes, the great pyramids, and steel trusses. Have you ever wondered why these structures are constructed of three sided shapes?

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    5. Well, a lot of transactions are between two parties, sure. That's a given, however. There's very little escaping that proposition. Why else do labor unions form as a monopolistic counterweight to managers and shareholders in a firm, hmm? What if all were stakeholders? Then there's some incentive to not only decide in one's best interest, but the decisions coincide with others', too. There's still majority rule but the hope is that most (>75%) are in agreement versus razor thin margins that incentivize to maintain that margin for fear of losing it, and thus losing a seat at the table in decision making.

      My point is cooperation is a great alternative to winner take all. Otherwise, things really do devolve into chaos.

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    6. Frestly,

      Yes, it's interesting you mention:

      'Interesting that you should mention structures. What is true in economics and governance is also true in structural engineering. I presume that you are familiar with geodesic domes, the great pyramids, and steel trusses. Have you ever wondered why these structures are constructed of three sided shapes?"

      Look at our three branches of Government. Cooperation between Congress and the Presidency would be nice, and we have the Courts to call balls and strikes, essentially. But politics in my mind is about one thing only: Power: how are resources are collected and distributed to whom. Where there is power, there is the danger of abusing it. Remember, the Tyranny of Should is a constant in all politics. It ends up being a normative battle. Can a third side bring balance? Maybe. Depends on the people running the institutions and what their allegiance is to.

      Good insights, I like.

      Best,
      M

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    7. Mykel,

      "My point is cooperation is a great alternative to winner take all. Otherwise, things really do devolve into chaos."

      I agree that cooperation is important, but...

      In Congress, there is something called a super-majority (2/3 vote). I don't think it is enough to say we have achieved a voting majority to proceed when 51 Senators vote yes and 49 Senators vote no.

      With narrow majorities, extreme elements of any voting group have an outsized effect on the outcome on any vote.

      It is interesting that you mention things devolving into "chaos". In Chaos Theory, some systems that are quasi-stable can be rendered unstable by small changes in the makeup of that system. I am sure you have seen the movie "The Butterfly Effect".

      Let me give a modern day example. Congress (both parties) have overused and abused the reconciliation procedure to pass legislation because of narrow majorities in both the House and Senate. This is a mistake, because it puts us on a wild and unpredictable path of a small majority passing legislation that can be undone in the next voting cycle when that small majority loses.

      This is the heart of Chaos Theory - small changes having pronounced effects.

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    8. Mykel,

      "Look at our three branches of Government. Cooperation between Congress and the Presidency would be nice, and we have the Courts to call balls and strikes, essentially."

      PRECISELY. Now you are catching on. Now suppose there was a viable 3rd party in politics that served as a moderating influence between the extreme left and extreme right.

      To get anything done, give and take (cooperation) would be forced upon the Congress rather than the process we have today of shoving through legislation with the slimmest of majorities under two party rule.

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  19. Regarding the observation of the Venom spewed in hate, Thomas Sowell has some interesting claims about mistaken visions of social justice. I first saw this in his "Conflict of Visions" and his observations about utopian fantasy, demonizing its 'obstacles,' fits very well the bipolar disorder of American politics.

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  20. I suspect, given the duality of man's nature, this behavior is endemic to us as humans. The great Rabbi Hillel the Elder understood this when he said, "What you find hateful to yourself, don't do to others. The rest is commentary." Still, often the thin veneer of civility is stripped away when differences of opinion between and among people make them mortal enemies

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  21. "One of my favorite stories along these lines is from I960, when Sir Winston learned of the death of his great Labour nemesis, Aneurin Bevan. To the astonishment of listeners, WSC launched into an impromptu valedictory— about the man he had once called the “Minister of Disease.” Then, suddenly, half-way through and in mid-sentence, Churchill paused and inquired, sotto voce: 'Are you sure he’s dead?'” —RML https://winstonchurchill.org/publications/finest-hour/finest-hour-137/editors-essay-churchill-and-people/

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  22. The majority of the comments on here seem determined to prove Lipson's point.

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    1. Some on the right were disgusting when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died and some on the left have been disgusting since Rush Limbaugh died.

      There is some irony in this. People on the left complained in October about it and spend day in and day out telling people to be mindful of others around them when they talk. Yet, when they were given the chance to be bigger persons, they preferred to debase themselves by attacking the name of a man who can no longer respond on account of being dead.

      Of course, Limbaugh will not suffer the injury, but others who loved him will.


      I don't know if I should be cynical and simply content myself of being amused at the obvious lack of self-awareness in presenting hyperbolic partisan responses to an opinion piece which just said that nastiness was the result of excessive partisanship?

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    2. I wouldn't compare RBG to Rush. Whole different class of human being.

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    3. Hard to see in 3 dimensions if one only knows the world as a Cartesian X,Y plane. It's easy to sneer at the ridiculousness of it all, but it's quite normal. ;)

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    4. @Anonymous You're missing the point entirely. It's not about how well you personally think you are justified in being critical of either Limbaugh or Ginsberg.

      Let me spell out the rule more clearly: you don't criticize someone when they just died out of respect for those who mourn their loss.

      The only admissible exception: if you have widespread bi-partisan agreement that the person was exceptionally vile and evil.

      You do not have bipartisan agreement that RBG was undermining individual rights and liberties. You do not have bipartisan agreement that Rush Limbaugh was promoting hatred. You have strict partisan lines here. If you cannot convince Republicans of your argument, that means it isn't as obvious and impermeable to criticism as you think -- and you'd be naive to assume away all disagreements by convincing yourself all the good and all the truth lies with you.


      THAT was the whole point. It is distasteful, rude and inconsiderate. I don't care about your partisan need to explain to me that your favorite load of self-serving tone deaf morons is slightly less moronic than the other one.

      It's always like that with partisan hacks. You point out both sides are doing something similarly stupid and they have this obsessive compulsive itch to scratch: but we have our reasons and they're evil... No. Both of these things are wrong and all of those people are too naive to appreciate the extent to which emotions can blind them to the limits of their own knowledge and understanding.

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  24. I never liked Rush's style very much but what this Yale law professor writes is utterly deplorable. Of course nothing will happen to him, he is liberal.

    Thanks for bringing up these issues Mr. Cochrane. This is a very bad moment for the Country and I very much appreciate your efforts to restore sanity.

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    1. He doesn't sound liberal to me, but he is definitely on the left.

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  26. Instead of celebrating his death, which is very uncouth, his critics should mourn his life.

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  27. Cochrane: could the New York Times have shown less respect to Rush Limbaugh?

    Yes, they could have. In fact the Times' coverage of Limbaugh was relatively measured and restrained.

    For the Times' definitive response to Cochrane's criticism of it see the opinion: "Must We Dance on Rush Limbaugh's Grave?" by Frank Bruni.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/20/opinion/sunday/rush-limbaugh-dead-reaction.html
    [corrected]

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    1. Update. The Frank Bruni essay in the New York Times is part of a Times "package" of four opinions on the life and death of Rush Limbaugh. I think The Times did a magnificent job with its coverage of this highly controversial public figure.

      Here Bruni directly addresses the politeness issue, a part of Cochrane's longstanding complaint with The Times:

      Bruni: "If you’re going to fling your opinions at the world, you must be braced for the world to fling its reaction back at you. Those are the terms of the contract."

      That's exactly right.

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    2. The thing is that no one is flinging anything at Rush Limbaugh since the man is dead. The people at whom the flinging is done are his wife, his relatives, his friends and his fans...

      It's perfectly fair game to be harsh to someone who is being harsh in public when they live, but it's also quite debasing to attack a man who can no longer respond and to insult him with complete disregard for the people who loved him. If anyone felt the need to throw insults on account of the insults Limbaugh had thrown, they could have waited a few more days.


      There isn't a reason that would make this okay. It wasn't okay when the right did it with Ginsburg and it's not okay now. And I don't want to hear about it if you're going to try to play a game where you're trying to determine which of the two kinds of scumbags is the worst: rats and pigs are both filthy.

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  28. You take for granted that people with political power and influence should be treated like the rest of us. But these are special people, willing and potentially able to impose their will on us all. I have no reason to be elated at the death of an ordinary person; not so at the death of a noxious politician or influential political pundit.

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  29. Mr Cochrane hasn't been paying attention. A group of about 230 people have been charged in the attack on the Capitol. Out of that 31 have been found to have ties to extremist groups. Compare that to the BLM and Antifa rioters this summer. Compare that to the recent Time magazine article about how Democrats organized protestors, shifted election laws, conspired with big tech to censor political opposition, played on the business communities fear of violence ("The summer’s racial-justice protests had sent a signal to business owners too: the potential for economy-disrupting civil disorder.") President Trump was forced into a bunker by Secret Service agents, 60 officers defending the White House were injured. The Capitol attack saw damage to the Capitol reminiscent of the student takeover of university buildings in the 60's. The White House attackers continued for nights while destroying property and setting fires. How many people have been charged with those White House attacks? Yet Justice Garland during confirmation hearings for Attorney General talks of the need to fight white supremacists who attacked the Capitol but understanding for the rioters who looted and burned buildings while attacking police. What would have happened if Trump said that he was going to investigate the military for sympathizers of BLM rioters or Antifa? A former CIA director talks about the need to go after Libertarians for their views. CNBC hosts suggest that drones be used against Americans? The constant attacks attacks against 74 million deplorables that oppose the left. White supremacists must be attacked, but who are they? People who say all lives matter, if you oppose racial quotas, if you express a desire for a color blind society, if you oppose critical race theory, if you dare oppose almost any spending program the left dreams up. Rush used the airwaves to express his views. The left is trying to use the full power of the government. We should be afraid. The left does not want to speak out against conservatives, they want to destroy them using the power of government.

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  30. Why don't you get rid of the comments? Most of them are thoughtless propaganda. People read this blog to hear your views not the views of random usually anonymous people.

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  31. Thanks you for striking a tone of civility in an otherwise uncivil society that only seems to be getting worse. And in my view Twitter and the like are a primary driver of the trend (no the causality does not run the other way).

    Another key point you make which still baffles me is why anyone thinks anyone else cares enough about what they think to post every thought they have for all to see. I never look at Twitter/Social Media and simply don't understand the mindset. I prefer full sentences and paragraphs that are written with intention by thoughtful people to mindless blathering.

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  32. Lots of irony here. no more so that Cochrane rails about behaviour that said Limbaugh so loudly supported.

    Is your country better off or worse off after his death. It would be the former me thinks.
    When a person dies do you lie about their life or tell the truth??

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    1. A person who he disagrees with is now dead, and "Not Rampis" believes that makes the world a "better place". Imagine how better the world would be if we all decided to act against those whose absence "would make the world a better place". Why wait----just be proactive. After all, who does not want a "better world"? While I "feel" like I am being "hyperbolic", I think this is the implication---or reductio ad absurdum---of this way of thinking.

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    2. is the word better off now the man is dead. I believe the answer is yes. Why you have gone off on a tangent is for you to write about

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  33. It should be shocking that a Yale Law School professor has the moral arrogance, maybe degeneracy is a better description, to make such a comment. Maybe the optimistic perspective is he is the only such figure of his stature to do so publicly. And, yes, I would expect certain types of people to say it and agree. But I cannot imagine, as much as I loath her politics, to even think, let alone state proudly, how euphoric I would be if Speaker Pelosi were hit by a bus. So Professor Cochrane, please make distinctions here——there is something deeply nihilistic —-a redundancy perhaps, happening in this country——and it is driven by the left—-because it is their intellectuals who feed us this.

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  34. Rush was certainly an entertaining personality. I still remember a gag he did during the Clinton years--a throw-away about using a $50 to make a lapel ribbon to show he cared more about the deficit than others did. And he was laughing the whole time, clearly enjoying himself.

    There's no way I could do what he did, get on the air and hold people's interest for hours a day. I respect the accomplishment.

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  35. My thoughts exactly, for a while now. I immigrated to the US 24 years ago in an effort to escape a toxic, divisive political environment. For a while, I though I had finally found a place where political discourse was based on reason and remained within the boundaries of civility. Suddenly, it seems the reality in my old and new countries is the mirror image of what it was back then. Am I cursed or something?

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    1. Fortunately Greece is somewhat inefficient, moves slowly and they have a sense of humor.
      Here things move much quicker, the downfall to barbarism might be very fast and furious.

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  36. Rush was someone who reveled in the suffering and misfortune of those he didn't like. If I think someone has despicable values and a horrid way of doing business why can't I be happy they died?

    Here is evidence he mocked those dying of AIDS: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/rush-limbaugh-mock-aids-gays/

    I don't have to help you find instances of him being a vile racist. Why is it necessary to mourn such a terrible human being?

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  37. I have been listening to Rush since 1992. The people trashing Rush obviously haven't listened to him; they are just repeating the old lies. I saw something where CNN was horrified by Rush's parody of Barack the Magic Negro, not realizing that he was riffing off a column by the same title in the LA Times. Harry Reid tried to get Rush kicked off his network spreading a lie that Rush was denigrating soldiers. He auctioned off Harry Reid's letter for $2 MM (IIRC) and matched that amount to charity. It's the same technique used over and over by the left against Trump (injecting disinfectant, fine people on both sides, etc.)

    Nancy Pelosi is a vile person. I don't think death would redeem her and I wouldn't comment on her passing. I'm sure that the fawning tributes would make me nauseous.

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  38. What you say is what you are. Wishing others ill will , even bad people, hurts the subject. That hatred in inside of the subject and it can only make that person worse off. There is such thing as just anger but the example in this post is not an example of just anger.

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  39. When someone says they are at war with you and behave as if they are at war with you it is important to prepare appropriately. You can not simply declare unilaterally that there is no war as much as you may like that. It is of course important not to unnecessarily expand the war as that will just make your life worse.

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Comments are welcome. Keep it short, polite, and on topic.

Thanks to a few abusers I am now moderating comments. I welcome thoughtful disagreement. I will block comments with insulting or abusive language. I'm also blocking totally inane comments. Try to make some sense. I am much more likely to allow critical comments if you have the honesty and courage to use your real name.