Sunday, February 6, 2011


Sometimes, I feel compelled to compile a list of my own "Iron Lawz" of politics and maybe of reality in general. If I did, one of them would be as follows:
Any time an organization must be cited as "non-partisan", it probably isn't.
I bring this up because of a post I read recently calling the website PolitiFact a "non-partisan" source for analysis about political decisions. But this is, itself, pretty misleading. For instance, when PolitiFact claimed that the "Biggest Lie of 2010" was the labeling of the healthcare reform bill as a "government takeover", the Wall Street Journal pointed out that:
"PolitiFact's decree is part of a larger journalistic trend that seeks to recast all political debates as matters of lies, misinformation and "facts," rather than differences of world view or principles. PolitiFact wants to define for everyone else what qualifies as a "fact," though in political debates the facts are often legitimately in dispute."
This is certainly the big problem with a lot of sites like PolitiFact. Defining phrases and philosophical viewpoints in literal terms not only misses the point, it also inherently exposes the biases of the definer.

If you're going to be a fact-checker, then you should probably stick to checking actual facts... For instance, if I said, "The national debt is $900 Trillion dollars!", you could say, "Uh, no... It's closer to $14.1 Trillion", and that would be fact-checking.

If, however, I said that "The national debt is a severe problem which can only be solved with substantial budget cuts, across-the-board reductions in spending and a serious re-adjustment in the currently accepted roles of government", that's an opinion based on a particular viewpoint (and yes, concluded from checkable facts). So you can't just declare it "a lie", and doing so would do nothing but demonstrate that you hold a different opinion based on a different philosophical viewpoint.

This might just make my point, but additionally, saying that last year's healthcare bill is a "government takeover" seems at least half-reasonable to me... As it did to Peter Suderman at Reason, who wrote an article titled; "Politifact’s Lie of the Year Is An Exaggeration With Elements of Truth":
"Say what you will about the rest of its accomplishments (or lack thereof), but the White House has proven a remarkably consistent and high-quality bullshit factory this year. The way they churn this stuff out, you might think they'd be up for an award! No such luck: According to the enlightened fact-checkers at Politifact, the number one lie of the year—the nastiest, falsest, untrue-est, lying-est line of sheer baloney in politics over the past 12 ugly and lie-filled months—was the Republican slogan that the health care law represents a “government takeover” of the health care system.

If you want to point out that the GOP stretched this one, then by all means go ahead. The PPACA wasn’t strictly a government takeover of the entire health care system. No, it was just a dramatic increase in government regulation, oversight, and control of many parts of the system."
Suderman goes on to point out the myriad things that PolitiFact ignores and simply leaves out about the bill in terms of the ways in which it represents a massive expansion of the state into the healthcare decisions of individuals across the United States.

This isn't the first time PolitiFact has been accused of somewhat explicit partisan bias, either. For instance they also supported Obama's nonsensical claim that his policies had "saved or created 2 million jobs". For godsake, there is no way to measure jobs "saved" by a stimulus package!

No one keeps, or is capable of keeping, those kinds of statistics.

We can only look at history, and use logic, to determine the potential success or likely failure of an economic policy, and stimulus packages just don't work. So not only is the "saved or created" nonsense impossible to prove or measure in the first place, all of the logic and historical evidence suggests that it's utter bollocks anyway. And of course, even though we can't see alternate futures exactly, we can always look back on these things after the fact and see the (failed) effects of other economic policies, like minimum wage laws or the endless "war on poverty".

The words, "non-partisan", conjure up some image of impartiality - but this isn't really how the world works, and anyone who needs to use "non-partisan" as a disclaimer is probably just hiding their biases. Thus, as a corollary, I must point out that even if an organization or an individual is "non-partisan", that doesn't mean they don't have a well-defined viewpoint.

I'm actually a perfect example of this point.

As anyone who knows me, or has spent much time reading this blog or looking at my media work should probably be able to tell, I hate political parties. I also really dislike false dichotomies and the "left" vs "right" nonsense that passes for a political spectrum analysis in the eyes of most of America.

I don't do candidate advocacy and I don't to party advocacy - not even for the Libertarian Party. I don't like it.

What I will do, however, is idea advocacy. I am in favor of Lockeian natural rights to life, liberty & property. I am in favor of freedom, of rational thinking, of the permanent reduction of religious & superstitious jive like palmistry, homeopathy and astrology. I'm in favor of free markets & free minds, which means that I am in favor of a society that interacts not through one-sided, state sanctioned acts of violence, but via mutual exchange and peaceful, contractual agreement... and that means that I'm in favor of an extremely limited government (or none at all).

I am in favor of all of these things, because first & foremost, I'm in favor of truth and reason and that's where those values have led.

The principles I believe in come through in nearly everything I do, and most certainly in everything I write or produce.

But that does not, for one second, mean that I am willing to lie, cheat or deliberately mislead in order to accomplish my goals. Fortunately, I strongly believe that my principles stand on their own merits, and no obfuscating is necessary in any case. But I make no pretense about my biases. They are right out in the open for anyone who wants to know what I think and why. However, I pride myself on always backing up my opinions with well-supported sources, facts & logical arguments.

I encourage everyone (as the note attached to Logicology can attest) to challenge me on the facts and on the logic if it is believed to be in error. I welcome and relish those challenges.

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