Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Nation of Laws, or a Nation of Emotion?

Well, I know I'm preaching the choir here, but I think this is worth reading. This was posted on an school associate's facebook page (Jeffrey Thayne), and he is the one who talked to Senator Bennett and wrote this. This just goes to show how far we have come as a nation away from principle towards ill-perceived practicality. Notice, as Jeffery stated, how Bennett changes mid-argument over the republic/democracy issue when it served his own needs! Nothing like prostituting and polluting the foundational premise of a Republic over a Democracy!

I find it extremely poignant that at the end of this discussion with Senator Bennett a women interrupts their conversation using as strong a fallacy of appeal to emotion as I have ever read. Indeed, the logical fallacy of an appeal to emotion -- and its sibling fallacy, an appeal to false dichotomy -- are perhaps the strongest driving forces that keep failing socialistic programs running. Apparently, according to this women, either the government needs to take care of her or else she would starve. Are those really the only two choices? Starvation or government intervention? No, but an appeal to a false dichotomy is a strong argument when accompanied with an appeal to emotion -- regardless of the illogical assertion.

After reading this, take a moment to realize that this Senator is a prominent "conservative" leader in the US Federal Government. And I wonder why people stare at me with blank faces when I tell them that there is little-to-no difference between the political right and left anymore.



Today, I went to a Q&A forum hosted by Senator Bennett. There were many thoughtful questions asked. My overall impression, however, is that Bennett never once justified a decision in terms of moral principles or principles of good government; rather, he justified his decisions in terms of political and economic expediency.

Senator Bennett spent a large amount of time advertising his Social Security reform. According to Bennett, the changes would eliminate the present insolvency of the system. Not only that, but it would allow us to perpetuate the Social Security program down through the generations, "providing our children and grandchildren" with even more benefits than we receive today.

I was the second to the last person to ask a question (after having my hand raised for nearly two hours). I said,

"Senator Bennett, you've talked today about Social Security and entitlement reform. I would like to hear your perspective on this question: Where do you, as a senator, derive the Constitutional authority for these programs in the first place?"

He responded:

"I never really researched it. Social Security is as entrenched a program in the American public as there is, and so the issue has never been much of a concern for me. This is because even if the program were found to be unconstitutional, there is such an overwhelming public support for the program that a constitutional amendment would pass by a landslide. Also, no court has ever declared the program unconstitutional. Some early New-Deal programs were challenged in the courts, and they were deemed perfectly appropriate, so I have no doubt this one would be too. Beyond that, I've never thought of it, nor have I researched it, because it has never seemed relevant. The people have decided they want it, and that's all I need to know."

After the meeting closed, my mom and I approached the senator and asked him some more questions. Here is my report of a portion of that conversation.

My mom asked, "Are we so far gone as a nation, and so reliant on government support, that we can't even address whether we SHOULD have Social Security?" She explained herself, "I don't want my grandchildren to have Social Security. I don't want them to feel as though they have a RIGHT to taxpayer money and government benefits. I want them to learn about self-reliance, not government entitlement."

Senator Bennett responded, "Well, I understand your position. However, this is a democracy, and the people have decided that they want Social Security."

I said, "Actually this is a REPUBLIC, governed by law. If the Constitution doesn't give the government authority, then no matter what the people say, the government shouldn't do it."

Bennett: "Actually, although we are structured as a Republic, we are accountable to the people. The preamble of the Constitution says that 'We the PEOPLE' are the source of government authority. Thus, the people can authorize the government to act according to their wishes, and we accountable to the voice of the people."

Mom: "That wasn't the impression I got last fall, when you ignored the voice of your constituents by voting for the bail-out. Polls show that the majority of your constituents were against it, and pleaded with you to vote against it. Yet you voted for it, and encouraged others to vote for it."

Bennett: "As you said, this is a Republic, not a Democracy. The people vote for me because they want me to use my brains, rather than just parrot the polls. They expect me to use the judgment and information I have to make an informed decision, rather than simply parroting the voice of the people. Otherwise, we would need no representatives, just polls."

Me: "I believe that we should do our best to maintain the principles of self-reliance and small government this nation was founded upon, including principles of constitutional government. Government should never act outside of its constitutional authority."

Bennett: "Unfortunately, the majority of people don't think that way. People want government benefits. We can't try to change everyone's mind... a campaign in favor of self-reliance isn't going to solve anything, because people have already made up their minds in terms of want they want from government."

Me: "When you embark on a campaign in favor of self-reliance and small government, that is when I'll respect you as a senator. Those are the principles we need as a nation."

Bennett: "I'm not going to try to overthrow the government."

Me: "I'm not asking you to. I'm just asking you to stick to small-government principles."

At this moment, a woman who was listening to our conversation interrupted us. She began to tell us all about how poor she's been her entire life. She described how she's lost six thousand in her retirement fund. She described how she's been a single mother for many years. She began to weep, and said, "Life has been so hard. Without Medicare, Social Security, and other government aid, I wouldn't have a home. I wouldn't have a life. I wouldn't have been able to care for my children."

She was extremely emotional. Senator Bennett gave her hug, and said, "This is exactly why we will never get rid of Social Security. It helps everyone, especially people like you. That is why my Social Security reform needs to pass, so that future generations won't have the same worries as you do."


Michael Williams said...

Try this dichotomy (which may or may not be false): Sen. Bennett is either knowingly self-contradicting or an idiot.

Great post.

Shiloh Logan said...

Yes, it's time to vote him out in 2010.