The following is from the Powerblogs archive. Originally posted 5 November 2005.
Can't get a job teaching philosophy? Perhaps you can market yourself as a talk show umpire. There is a dire need for argumentative quality control on the shout circuit.
Last night I was pleased to see my favorite gun-totin' lesbian on Hannity and Colmes, the irrepressible Tammy Bruce. (That's her above with her pal 'Snubby.' The gal needs a lesson in trigger discipline: 'Get yer booger-hooker off the bang switch!') At one point, Bruce came out against governmental wealth redistribution via the tax code. Colmes the liberal replied in effect: So you're opposed to taxation!
At this point, a competent umpire would have called a timeout and thrown Colmes into the penalty box. For he committed a truly grotesque conceptual mistake by gratuitously assuming that it is somehow built into the very concept of taxation that it should involve redistribution of wealth. Taxation is the process whereby monies are extracted from the populace to offset the costs of government. There is nothing in the nature of taxation as such to require a 'progressive' scheme of taxation. Otherwise, a flat tax would be a contradiction in terms.
Here is an analogy. Suppose I warn you not to confuse insurance with investment and advise you to buy a term life insurance policy. An insurance agent, eager to line his own pockets, objects: So you're
opposed to insurance! The counterresponse is that there is nothing in the concept of life insurance to require that it have any investment features. An umpire on the scene would slap a penalty on the greedy agent.
Of course, my umpire proposal is utopian. Average viewers apparently like shouting and mindless contention. They wouldn't put up with any close analysis or careful argument assessment. Ratings would plummet. Hannity and his sidekick would be out of a job.
This begs raises the question: Are the masses inherently stupid, or have they been stupefied by the media? The answer, I suspect, is both: thinking is hard work and even people with an aptitude for it are not inclined to engage in it. But it is also the case that the media do not encourage thoughtfulness and are quite willing to pander to their audiences to turn a buck.
It is the ugly side of capitalism; but socialism and government control of the media would obviously be a disaster.
The solution? C-Span and cyberspace. (By the way, I apologize for my uses of 'masses'; I thereby violated my own rule that a conservative should not talk like a leftist. So maybe I shouldn't have used 'capitalism' either.)