A Stupid Argument

One of the most common arguments I’ve seen people bring up in criticisms of ( conservatism / Ayn Rand’s Objectivism / whatever strawman they’re trying to tear down to show how potent their political positions are ) is the American interstate highway system.

You’ve probably heard or read the objection yourself; it usually goes something like this:  “You use the interstate system and products shipped on it – shouldn’t you be boycotting the evil governmental interference in the market?”

I’d like to suggest a reply to such people.  They presumably contract for the services of various utility companies – electricity, water, oil or natural gas, and so on.  In the United States, these utilities are almost always, to the best of my knowledge, privately owned companies.

Shouldn’t these advocates of government influence in the markets be boycotting the evil corporations trying to dominate their lives, and refuse to use utilities until such time as they can be nationalized into government services?

As for the argument that many of the people who have shaped the technological and sociological structure of our society had at least some public schooling, and the government subsidizes many kinds of education, therefore our wonderful society is utterly dependent upon government activity… well, I don’t think any argument is effective against Duckspeak.

On a totally unrelated note:  the Eurythmics’ soundtrack to 1984 is fantastic.  I particularly recommend Doubleplusgood, although the fan video which accompanies it is a bit rough around the edges.

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5 Responses to “A Stupid Argument”

  1. nazgulnarsil Says:

    I like to use supermarkets as an example of a service where even a minor interruption would be catastrophic. And yet we consider the idea of government run supermarkets laughable. We sensibly use vouchers when we want to institute food welfare. it should be the same elsewhere.

  2. I think your argument is bad, and I oppose government involvement in the places you mentioned. Lots of people basically accept the status quo where things currently provided privately should be provided privately and things provided publicly should be provided publicly. They are immune to your argument.

  3. There are those who advocate for a state that we happen to be in, and then those who support the status quo in itself.

    I’m interested to hear arguments from the former, but I almost always come across the latter. And they’re inherently immune to argument.

    As the purpose of the argument is to show the absurdity of the principles it’s based on, I’m not sure how to interpret your criticism. I’ll think about it.

  4. You don’t have to support “the govt should control everything” to oppose “the got should control nothing”. Many people think there is a distinction between the sort of Public Goods govts could be properly involved in, and the areas they shouldn’t be.

    • Certainly. But I find it strange, and suspicious, that expressing the sentiment that perhaps the government ought not to have control over a specific thing leads to outraged rejection of the idea that government ought not control anything, while expressing the idea that the government ought not to have nearly as much power as it currently does leads to outraged attacks of the idea that some specific intervention was useful in some degree.

      It’s possible to think that, say, the interstate highway system is useful and valuable, and still disapprove of the manner of its construction. And it’s quite plausible to think both that government shouldn’t be involved in a particular thing AND that it should be involved in lots of things.

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