Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How not to argue

Peter Singer, one of the world's most eminent philosophers, has written a 5 page article for the New York Times arguing the necessity and value of planned, public health care rationing in contrast to the form of ineffective, inefficient and costly private health care rationing that we already have. You may disagree with him, but to do so would require grasping the argument he is making, following the logic, and having some type of understanding of how our health care system currently works and the way proposed alternate systems might function.

Which is why I'm picking out at random one of the voices from AM radio world to highlight just how far that parallel universe is from the sort of process of constructive debate I just described. Here's AM radio host and regular O'Reilly Factor guest Tammy Bruce responding to Peter Singer's article on her website

Obama moral relativist begin making fascist argument for rationing health care which is what this has been about from the beginning–eliminating “costs” from the budget. For fascists, people are the budget.
One, Peter Singer is not a moral relativist, but a preference utilitarian. (I suppose we can assume that one of the qualifications required to run one's mouth for hours a day on the AM dial isn't to actually know anything about philosophy.) Two, Singer isn't saying we should "eliminate 'costs'" in some sort of Nazi eugenics program. He's saying that we already necessarily make choices - yes, life and death choices -about the type of health care we provide, and bad ones. His point is that we should strive to at least get the best possible outcome by applying some rational consideration to the process. Like I said, you can disagree with his ideas, but at least bother to indicate you know what they are.

No matter how many times I see something like this I just really marvel that we have a significant political movement in this country which operates at such a juvenile level. (i.e., Bruce isn't capable of engaging Singer's argument, so she calls him a "fascist.")

Update: It's also worth pointing out the utter incomprehensibility of this sort of reasoning. If you're opposed to providing public health care, the conditions that might be left to the private market under the type of prioritizing of public funds Singer is talking about still wouldn't be funded in a completely privatized system.


Left-wing Wacko said...

Thanks for linking to and alerting me to the Singer article.

Did Bruce even bother to read 2 pages of the article before she decided to post the link and make scare statement?

Perhaps she trusts that her readers won't bother to actually read the article so that they would be able to fairly consider Britain's NICE rationing process compared to the U.S. corporate health insurance process of rationing health care? How completely disingenuous!

jerm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jerm said...

Thank you for posting this article. I am a fan of Peter Singer's work although I do not always agree with him (I eat meat). The one thing many people say about Singer is he develops coherent and well thought out arguments that are not easy to attack. I don't see them easily tackled by AM radio.

Psyberian said...

Excellent article - thanks.