Monday, February 18, 2013

Marco Rubio responds to the president or does he?

I've listened to Rubio's response several times now and I noticed something worth commenting on.

Early in Rubio's speech he brings up his concern that liberals always make an unfair assessment of the motives for the current Republican party. Claiming that their focus on smaller government and Laissez-faire economics is due to being only concerned with corporations and rich people.

I might surprise some of my readers by saying that I actually agree with Rubio on this point. Though  I have reason to disagree with many of the economic conclusions his party has taken I do agree that it is wrong to attack their motives in this way.  As a skeptic I am inclined to think that, while there are sometimes good reasons to infer an individuals motives, such inferences are not based upon the most certain of evidence since we cannot read people's minds. How much less reliable must it be then to infer the motives of an entire group of people? Secondly, even if we infer correctly it does nothing to prove your opponents arguments wrong, which means at the worst it's just an ad hominem used to distract ones listeners from a poorly defended argument.

This brings me to the part of my post where Rubio and I part ways, and where I wonder at his lack of introspection. Though he is unhappy when people make sweeping generalizations about the motives of Republicans most of his speech involves sweeping generalizations about the motives of other groups.  Rather than asserting the evidence for his own economics he asserts that anyone who disagrees must hate capitalism.  Rather than believing the evidence for anthropogenic climate change he asserts that anyone who believes it wants to destroy the energy industry.  He promotes school vouchers as a matter of personal choice which I suppose suggests that those that oppose vouchers are somehow against choice.

Of course he his statements are not quite as overt as say Paul Ryan's Randian diatribes about takers and makers, but the message is essentially the same. The problem is that very little of this really engages with the actual arguments people from the other side are making. Most liberals don't hate capitalism, but they do want some limits on corporations to protect individuals and the environment from being abused for the sake of profit.  Climate scientists are not a bunch of luddites who want to destroy the energy industry and force us to live in pre-industrial conditions, they propose developing new and better energy technologies that will offer cleaner and more plentiful energy to meet our increasing demands. Those who oppose school vouchers do so because we believe it is not a good solution to our education problems and it is often used to get children sent to schools where they are taught pseudo-science and revisionist history as it is currently being used in Louisiana.

Rubio presents the battle lines drawn between the liberals and conservatives to be about big vs. small government, and then suggests smaller government is apparently the solution to every problem.  Even though his own party is actually quite inconsistent in its obedience to this principle. I would suggest that instead of worrying about the governments size we try to promote intelligent government. I know that may sound like an oxymoron to some but we've tried everything else, maybe we could give it a try?

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