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December 02, 2005

Comments

Scott Tribe

Well, like it or not, until the NDP or the Greens or some other mysterious unknown Party rises up and shows it has the broad support of the public, the Liberal Party is the best defence progressives have against the forces of neo and social conservatism. It has nothing to do with perpetually worshipping "Liberal Gods" - no one would claim (and I certainly won't) that the Liberals are perfect.. nor are they filled with 100% progressive members... bt for now.. they're the best we have... and if electing a few members to the Liberal Party that arent completely in sync with progressives views is the prive we currently have to pay to keep the barbarians outside the walls... then so be it.

Mandos

Well, it's that kind of calculation that I was precisely referring to as one I think is still legitimately progressive: my reference was merely to indicate that I thought it was defeatistic.

Polly Jones

It's so tricky. In Alberta, the PCs always get in. As one person put it to the Calgary Herald, "a chimpanzee wearing a PC button would be voted in." I, like many others, vote for the Liberals as it seems the only possible hope. However, I have grown tired of this strategy and feel that I am now wasting my vote. I believe that those of us who lean towards NDP or Green need to send the Liberals a message that they will need to address certain issues if they want our votes.

I am also feeling like the PCs might have to get in eventually, before people in Canada will wake up and stop being so complacent about everything.

Craig

The idea of "progressive", by definition, excludes the idea of "status quo". The suggestion that the Liberals are "the best defence progressives have against the forces of neo and social conservatism" is tantamount to saying, "Well, with the Liberals, we can only hope that things won't get any worse". That's not "progressive". It's bankrupt, cynical, nihilistic and, frankly, idiotic. And if you seriously think that Paul Martin is a "progressive", then, well you're even stupider than your naive comment suggests.

It's also, by definition, conservative.

(In the interest of disclosure: I have no idea who Scott Tribe is, I've never been to his website and likely never will, and all I know about his position is what Mandos has recounted and how this Scott character replied.)

Mandos

Scott Tribe is one of the managers of a web-aggregator for Canadian political blogs that call themselves "progressive". My complaint here is that I'm suspicious that the site is too, um, liberal in its membership policy. It's grown more so with the addition of a lot of new members.

I would partially agree with you, Craig, but I have one niggling little exception: even if one has progressive goals, it's possible to argue that in real life, the goals are so endangered by a FURTHER menace that retreating behind the Lesser Evil is the only option to defend the weak. In almost every case where this argument is used, it is difficult to substantiate; and I may write a post in the near future where I discuss why it not the case for the Liberal Party.

You could accuse me of paralleling Ignatieff's argument in making THIS argument...except in the case of Ignatieff, almost all of his arguments (that I heard in the radio lecture) were carefully and artificially constructed to permit only once answer, and in doing so carefully disconnected themselves from observable reality. Ignatieff not only defends the Lesser Evil, he tells us what we MUST think it is, and it is precisely what he always wanted it to be: him.

Mandos

PS: PLEASE don't identify me as the flesh-being whose name you know here. Pretty please? Yes, the flesh-being is a coward where Mandos is fearless.

Craig

It appears I'm not "progressive" for to the best of my knowledge I have not yet been "aggregated". Likely for the better anyway.

Frank, I have no idea what this means: it's possible to argue that in real life. It's a trope you resort to in your discussion of economics as well. I'm not sure what this "real life" is you speak of and where I can find it. Smacks of what we call -- and rightly so -- "naive empiricism". But I imagine you'll clarify the issue in your aforementioned post.

Back to "progressive": anyone who votes Liberal and calls themselves "progressive" is an idiot. And to wrap up your conservative politics as a "strategic" decision is pure cowardice. On the topic, I gave in to curiousity and went to the website in question. One of the contributors, Craig Cantin, appears to be a former Reform Party activist and employee, but is now a "progressive" because he got fired, or something? And now he's a Green Party activist? And calls Jack Layton a "socialist"? About as "progressive" as a pre-emptive strike in Iraq.

P.S. Feel free to edit any comment I've made where I've used your first name.

Mandos

You actually have to explicitly ask to join the Progressive Bloggers aggregator. I did so with my eyes somewhat open before I joined it: I did it because I antipated hits and comments from people I didn't agree with. It's certainly more palatable than joining some of the specifically partisan aggregators, but it also means I have no control over who gets to join or how the managers admit blogs. They've rejected a few people, like my old troll Peter Rempel from way back at the beginning.

But it was all a bid for attention on my part.

"Frank, I have no idea what this means: it's possible to argue that in real life. It's a trope you resort to in your discussion of economics as well. I'm not sure what this "real life" is you speak of and where I can find it. Smacks of what we call -- and rightly so -- "naive empiricism". But I imagine you'll clarify the issue in your aforementioned post."

I probably won't because that will open cans of worms that occupied many an idle hour with you in that Other Place you know well. At least, I won't clarify it in terms you'd like. You already know that my position is always significantly closer to "naive empiricism" than yours.

If it makes you happy at least to get *some* answer, let me say that I do think there is something wrong when the ideas and methodologies of economists can never achieve effects observable using tools *that they agree* are appropriate tools of observation. Putting it this way is, I think, more neutral from your POV than a reference to "real life."

"Back to "progressive": anyone who votes Liberal and calls themselves "progressive" is an idiot. And to wrap up your conservative politics as a "strategic" decision is pure cowardice."

I can say this for the Liberal party, but I have a harder time saying this for, say, the Democratic Party in the US. It IS a little bit glib to call it cowardice when for, say, feminists, reproductive freedom very much on the line. But I agree with you fully in the Canadian case.

And as for the membership of the group, yeah, I know. It's gotten a lot worse after my 3 month hiatus. But I am still a link-hound, especially since I have no natural "group" to write to, unlike you.

"P.S. Feel free to edit any comment I've made where I've used your first name."

Sure. Actually, it's probably very easy to find out my real name with some effort. But I don't want to have Mandos and [insert name] appear in the same Google search too much.

Mandos

By the way, my blog-life started out as the Token Pinko Commie on www.pointsofinformation.ca, so I'm no stranger to being the odd man out.

Craig

(Is there anyway you could change your column widths? The center column is far too narrow and gets in the way of reading -- a traditional blog problem, especially for people, like myself, with small notebook screens.)

You actually have to explicitly ask to join the Progressive Bloggers aggregator.

Okay. Pass. Forget not, friends, that the Conservative Party used to be "Progressive"! The new party, of course, either should have remained the Reform Party or taken on the more apt name, the Reactionary Party.

If it makes you happy at least to get *some* answer, let me say that I do think there is something wrong when the ideas and methodologies of economists can never achieve effects observable using tools *that they agree* are appropriate tools of observation.

Make no mistake: a "sophisticated" empiricism is no better. An empiricism built around (1) a faulty conception of human activity and (2) a faulty conception of the relation between mathematic models and human action is no better than saying, "Gee, that's nice in theory, but what about in reality?". I'm no fan of econometrics, sociometrics, psychometrics, biometrics or any another mathematical model of human action. But, I guess to some people, saying "2.437" is more convincing than an actual argument. It's why I hate that TV show, "Numbers" about the mathematician/FBI consultant. In the opening, he tells us, that we "use math everyday" and gives a bunch of idiotic examples: crossing the street, filling up the car with gas, making a sandwich, or whatever. He's confused the possibility of a mathematical model with the object of the model. Just because I could engage in a series of explicit calculations regarding my speed relative to the oncoming car with reference to the distance of the car from me and the distance to my goal, does not mean that I am doing that when I cross the street. Indeed, if we were, we'd never get across a street!

I can say this for the Liberal party, but I have a harder time saying this for, say, the Democratic Party in the US.

I don't understand the "in the US" caveat. The NDP isn't running in the US, but in Canada. Unless you mean from your vantage point as a Canadian in the US. Just remember: Jack's told us he's no progressive -- "private clinics are fine".

It IS a little bit glib to call it cowardice when for, say, feminists, reproductive freedom very much on the line.

Once again, a comparison to American politics is a red herring. The politics of abortion have a significantly different dynamic in Canada -- no point in going into detail, you're well aware of it. A major point of difference, however, is that reproductive technology regulation is increasingly taking place at the level of the pharmacist. It is up to the pharmacist whether to dispense "Plan B" or not. A woman is required to give a sexual history, list of identification pieces, addresses, etc and then the pharmacist makes a decision -- despite the fact that "Plan B" is no more regulated than Tylenol 3.

Mandos

My column widths are set by this predefined format. I'm still experimenting but all the attractive predefined formats seem to have inflexible column widths. I'll try a few other designs first. The only way for me to get TRUE freedom of design under TypePad is for me to upgrade to the most expensive package.

I'm partly in agreement with you about numbers and reality, but only partly---there are conditions under which numbers are a useful and necessary component of an argument regarding human action. I agree (and in fact all serious science implicitly agrees) that it is important to have the right conception of the object of study before performing measurements and interpreting them. My point about economists was precisely that their conception of the problem is not well-founded.

Well-founded with regards to what, you ask? I think that's where we might most differ.

And your discussion of street-crossing opens up yet another giant can of worms---even though again I'm in partial, but more enthusiastic agreement with you. A different can this time though. There's a nontrivial argument for numerical models as being a sufficient description of cognition at a certain level and thus an appropriate way to characterize the mental aspects of crossing the street. (No less than Chomsky built his linguistics career specifically *rejecting* this argument, btw.)

You are on somewhat weaker ground, though, when you say, "Just because I could engage in a series of explicit calculations regarding my speed relative to the oncoming car with reference to the distance of the car from me and the distance to my goal, does not mean that I am doing that when I cross the street." No one at all claims that you are doing this--explicitly. They would instead by claiming that there are organs of the mind whose role it is to actuate motion and they perform something analogous to these computations, perhaps in a nondiscrete manner. These organs are not among the subset of mental organs involved with what we call "conscious thought."

Lastly, you misunderstood the context of my point. I was dealing with the general argument about political cowardice and using the US Democratic Party as a case where the logic you reject wrt the Liberals might legitimately apply. I mostly agree with the remainder of your analysis---none of it related to the point I intended to make, however.

Craig

Well-founded with regards to what, you ask? I think that's where we might most differ.

Seeing as how that "Freakonomics" (or whatever) guy is big right now: how about the premise that all human action is rational in the first instance. It's an assumption that is shared, for instance, with nearly all forms of econometrics, especially rational choice. (Err... public choice... Or whatever is being chosen and how these days.)

Lastly, you misunderstood the context of my point.

I think I'm still missing your point. I'm not sure what it is at all. I maintain that it is cowardice to "strategically" vote Liberal because "they are the only possible progressive force". Both assumptions are wrong -- i.e., the strategic and the progressive. And to assert the opposite is cowardice.

(PS. I can't remember how I changed the width in on my site. One of the templates allowed me to do so. Mind you, you might not want as large a center column as I.)

Mandos

I agree with you about Freakonomics the freakonomics, etc.

I agree with you also about the Liberals. I'm not sure how to express what I was trying to tell you in a way that you would grok what I meant, so I'll let that remark drop. Yes, I genuinely agree with you about voting for the Liberals.

Craig

Capitulation!

Mandos

If I were a girl I'd say "boys!" and roll my eyes.

Craig

Don't know if you saw this... Seems that he may have misunderstood the conversation.

Mandos

I saw it. It was too much effort for me to respond. Another in my long list of posts that I *may* write is a follow-up to this one discussing what I think would have been appropriate criteria for membership in my fantasy Progressive Bloggers aggregator.

Craig

Shows how flexible "progressive" is. A "new" idea (reducing GST from 7% to 5%) is "progressive" by mere virtue of being "new"? Strange world.

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