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Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use, Philosophy by Alice Salles Comments are off

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

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We often hear that persuasion is an obstacle to freedom. “Rhetoric,” they say, is why we’re in such trouble. After all, voters would make better decisions if they had been better educated about the issues facing the nation.

To Deirdre McCloskey, the celebrated Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, people who scapegoat persuasion are misguided.

PersuasionIn a video for the Learn Liberty series, McCloskey argues that while many people with different points of view on politics all agree that free speech is “sacred,” few agree that persuasion is just as important, if not a feature of a free society.

“Rhetoric,” she tells the viewer, “sounds like a bad word.” Media outlets are the first ones to accuse politicians and key figures of indulging in rhetoric, and never getting to the point. But McCloskey believes that this approach to persuasion is superficial, especially when considering the alternative.

She explains that, persuasion would be bad if the alternative to “sweet-talking” people into believing something or siding with someone wasn’t persuasion through force.

Because we are humans, McCloskey adds, we depend on language. But if we cannot use language, there is another way of persuading people into taking a particular stance: Violence. If I have a gun in hands while telling you to believe in economics and stop arguing with me if you want to stay alive, you will most certainly choose to agree with me, just so you may avoid getting shot in the head. But if there aren’t any guns involved, all we can do to make our point stick is to try to persuade folks by selling our idea the best way we can.

“In a society of free choice, free ideas, free consumption,” McCloskey adds, “you have persuasion as the only alternative to violence.”

Henry David Thoreau once said that “thaw, with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor, with his hammer.” The late, prolific author Gore Vidal once said that advertising is the only art form ever invented in the United States of America. To McCloskey, “a free society is an advertising society,” after all, a free society is where people debate and persuade, rather than threaten others into going along with their ideas. Americans should be proud of this very American tradition.

Instead of demonizing rhetoric by complaining that propaganda alone is the root of our problems, McCloskey seems to argue, we should celebrate the “speaking, rather than violent, society,” and take part in the activity, rather than decry it as the root of all evil.

They Said It… P. J. O’Rourke, Nick Gillespie, And More!

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Senator Rand Paul

RAND PAUL ON WHY WE SHOULD MINIMIZE GOV’T:
“You want to minimize how much government we have because government frankly isn’t good at anything.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweet, July 19, 2014.

P.J. O’ROURKE ON LEGISLATING PERSONAL MORALITY: 

P.J. O'Rourke

“Imagine trying to make the Ten Commandments into laws. There goes Hollywood Buddhism, representative art, golf on Sunday, the language I use during golf on Sunday, most sex, Wall Street, fibbing to escape the Tupperware party next door, and envying your boss’s Porsche. And we’d all be jailed for putting mom in the nursing home.” — P.J. O’Rourke, “Up To A Point: My Problem With People Who Agree With Me,” The Daily Beast, July 20, 2007.

Nick GillespieBACK TO IRAQ:
“[T]roops — well, advisers — are going back to Iraq, six years after this president was elected on a promise to get us out of there.” — Nick Gillespie, “After Bipartisan Bush-Obama Blundering, Let’s Try a Libertarian Foreign Policy,” The Daily Beat, July 16, 2014.


GOV’T VS THE POOR:

Cory Massimino“How do states harm poor people? Oh let me count the ways… patent and copyright laws, which impede competition, immigration restrictions, which lock people out of opportunities, licenses, which prevent people from entering the market, regulation that is often originated in rent seeking, the money monopoly, which helps large banks and currency manipulators, credit laws, which crush small banks through capitalization requirements, tariffs, which protect large companies from foreign competition, transportation, which helps big box corporations through highway subsidies, urban sprawl policies, which enrich construction companies, research subsidies, which hook the public on risky investments, limited liability laws that protect large corporations from lawsuits, labor laws that restrict the ability of unions to defend their workers, bailouts that directly redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich, eminent domain, which rewards land to political donors, a tax code that can be gamed by the wealthy, the military industrial complex that enriches weapons manufacturers, and more.” — Cory Massimino, “The Conscience of an Anarchist: A Review,” Center for a Stateless Society, May 30th, 2014.

UH-OH:

David Letterman“According to a new study, the largest producer of oil is now the United States. So you know what that means — any day now we’ll be invading ourselves.” — David Letterman, July 11, 2014.

 

REAL BREAKING NEWS:
“They want to make it so the president can instantly Jimmy Falloninterrupt TV broadcasts whenever there’s breaking news. Then Obama said, ‘And I mean REAL breaking news, not that CNN stuff.’” — Jimmy Fallon, July 15, 2014.

POWER OF THE PEN:
“House Speaker John Boehner is threatening to sue President Obama for using executive actions to create laws, instead of going through Congress first. Then Obama shrugged and made a new law that you can’t sue the president.” — Jimmy Fallon, July 7, 2014.

NOTED AND REQUOTED

LIBERTARIANISM:
Murray Rothbard“The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a non-aggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.” — Murray Rothbard, from his classic 1963 essay “War, Peace and the State,” recently requoted by Sheldon Richman.