False accusations of “hypocrisy” II

by Ted Frank on November 30, 2006

For those who care about these things, Justinian Lane demonstrates a fundamental lack of reading comprehension in a response to my earlier post. Lane writes: “If I do the very thing I oppose, that does indeed make me a hypocrite.” This is technically inaccurate in a prescriptivist sense (look it up), but even under the descriptivist definition, Lane continues to confuse the idea of “I believe that X is bad public policy” with “I believe those who take advantage of X are immoral.” This is precisely the error I pointed out in the original post, but Lane says nothing to rationalize the conflation other than to repeat the assertion. He then proceeds to insult me for taking a legal tax deduction. Let’s be clear: I don’t oppose individuals taking Schedule A deductions for state taxes; that’s just common sense, and one’s tax rate is already higher to reflect the fact that deductions are available. I oppose the government’s policy of offering deductions for state taxes. There’s no hypocrisy, any more than there is hypocrisy because Lane pays his federal taxes even though his taxes are used to support the war in Iraq or some other government spending that he might object to, or because Lane votes for an elected official who doesn’t agree with Lane on every single jot and tittle.

Lane opposes making people better off through lower prices and higher wages, as Wal-Mart does; that is his right, and (unlike John Edwards) he can feel good about his abnegation that he goes without a toolbox because Wal-Mart is the only store that provides a reasonably priced model (though I don’t see Lane demanding to pay his supermarket and other stores more money to reflect the fact that they lowered prices to match Wal-Mart’s competition, so he’s not completely innocent of taking advantage of the benefits Wal-Mart brings to the economy). But it’s not remotely analogous to the scenario I describe.


Lane, as is his regular tactic, also makes the out-and-out dishonest accusation that “reformers fight to eliminate the sort of lawsuit that protected Esenjay’s workers”: he can point to no reformer that would permit Esenjay to violate with impunity a contractual agreement to provide safety measures, which is why the accusation is only made in the abstract. I would suggest that the writers at Lane’s site attempt to read and understand the reformers they purport to criticize, but that implies that they are interested in intellectual debate to reach an optimal public policy, rather than parroting the litigation lobby.

Separately, Crime and Federalism’s Mike comments on the original post but, I think, focuses too heavily on motivations. I respond:

There isn’t a single reformer who argues that lawsuits should be abolished. I’m not even aware of a reformer who opposes lawsuits that efficiently deter corporate misbehavior; the argument of reformers is that the status quo litigation system does not do this. The act of filing a lawsuit isn’t necessarily inconsistent with reformers’ stated goals; that a reformer files a legitimate lawsuit isn’t even a double standard, much less hypocrisy.

This attack on motivations is pointless. If a politician propounded policies that actually helped the poor or improved the legal system, I wouldn’t care what her personal motivation for doing so is. Similarly, if a politician propounds counterproductive policies that hurt the poor, and refuses to budge from those positions, it’s irrelevant that his motives are pure of heart. Some of the worst policies in US history have come about because of misguided intentions.

{ 2 comments }

1 Deoxy 11.30.06 at 10:47 am

“I would suggest that the writers at Lane’s site attempt to read and understand the reformers they purport to criticize, but that implies that they are interested in intellectual debate to reach an optimal public policy, rather than parroting the litigation lobby.”

Which is why I hav suggested that you simply ignore them. They are trolls, completely uninterested in actual debate or other intellctual excercise. They wear the outer look of dbate simply to get others to either believe them without argument or thought or to try to engage them, thus wasting their time.

When my 2-year-old decides the sky is green, I tll him that it’s not. When he repeats the assertion, I tell him that th rest of th world defines that color as blue. When he repeats the assertion, I ignore him.

2 E-Bell 11.30.06 at 12:59 pm

I agree with Deoxy. The only comments I see with any regularity over at that site tend to be from the same folks who regularly comment on Overlawyered.

I bet this blog sends more traffic to TortDeform than any other referrer.

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