The Big Think

June 7, 2011

Do As I Say

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:54 am

An interesting look at the full equation of the hypocrisy defense.

1 Comment »

  1. This article looked promising, till he got to this:

    > for the “at least we’re not hypocrites” sentiment to make sense, there must
    > be an agreed-upon starting point — one which the liberals themselves are
    > confirming each time they make this argument. And what must that starting
    > point necessarily be? For conservatives to be hypocrites when they do something
    > immoral, then that means they must profess a moral ideology in the first place.
    > And — here’s the key — for the liberals to be let off the hook when they do
    > something immoral, then that means they must profess an ideology with no
    > moral claims whatsoever.

    Not necessarily. We can get to a finishing point in which Politician A (who has put an anti-X agenda prominently on his platform) is criticized for engaging in X, while Politician B (who does not have that anti-X agenda) is not criticized as strongly for engaging in X; and we can get there without saying that the only reason A is hypocritical is he took *some* moral stance, and B isn’t because he took *no* moral stance. We can also get there by saying that A took *this* stance and B did not.

    So, for instance, I think it’s valid to point out that a person (liberal or conservative) who proudly and vocally supports politicians and causes who promote the defense of traditional marriage should pause before voting for John McCain, a candidate who discarded his wheelchair-bound wife in favor of a multimillionaire half his age. On the other hand, a person (liberal or conservative) who says it doesn’t matter what a guy does in his private life as long as he by-gosh-gets-things-done in office wouldn’t have to pause in that way. So, my wife, who is slightly left-of-center, and who proudly and vocally votes based on morality, voted in 08 for Obama, the family man who stayed faithful to his wife. I, on the other hand, don’t apply that test to candidates: in my view, it’s possible for an unfaithful husband to do well in office and for a faithful husband to do poorly. I was free to vote based on my overall philosophy of government.

    The argument, then, that one side makes moral claims and the other doesn’t would not quite cut it even if Democrats made no moral claims. As it stands, they of course do: Obama made moral claims (and promises) about the policies that govern our treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. Those who voted for him based on those moral claims are rightly morally outraged that he has not only not followed through but has actively extended those problematic policies beyond his predecessor. Similarly, Timothy Geithner, who was in charge of a large government organization that governed the responsible use of taxpayer money, turned out not to have paid his taxes, and again was rightly vilified for it.

    Even so, the hypocrisy argument is indeed a weak one, but it would have been far more interesting if the writer had gone for the jugular, had attacked the inherent weakness of applying the hypocrisy test — which Genghis Khan passes with flying colors but a politician who’s getting good work done but is caught in a private-sector lie fails — to *any* political representatives.

    Comment by barrybrake — June 7, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

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