anil dash’s strawmen

Blogger/Entrepreneur Anil Dash sets up a conservative strawman to debate with in a seemingly eloquent piece on his site, and takes him down to the applause of many otherwise very intelligent people. None of them will ever read this reply, but I wanted to type it out before I forgot how much Dash’s appallingly poor logic and flippant stereotypes infuriated me.

Dash first explains that Jobs is:

…the anchor baby of an activist Arab muslim who came to the U.S. on a student visa and had a child out of wedlock. He’s a non-Christian, arugula-eating, drug-using follower of unabashedly old-fashioned liberal teachings from the hippies and folk music stars of the 60s. And he believes in science, in things that science can demonstrate like climate change and Pi having a value more specific than “3”, and in extending responsible benefits to his employees while encouraging his company to lead by being environmentally responsible.

And then Dash says that because Jobs has been successful, anyone who disagrees with any aspect of Jobs’s beliefs is inept at business and has no business voicing an opinion:

Every single person who’d attack Steve Jobs on any of these grounds is, demonstrably, worse at business than Jobs. They’re unqualified to assert that liberal values are bad for business, when the demonstrable, factual, obvious evidence contradicts those assertions.

In other words: Successful man A believes B—as do I—ergo, you’re either with us or you’re dead wrong. (Sounds a lot like a particular reviled Texan, but I digress.)

No, That’s Not Me

This strawman—Dash’s “they” who disagree with “liberal” values as espoused by Jobs—is an intellectual minstrel show. I do believe in the scientific viability of the theory of evolution. I believe in significantly more open borders. I believe we get a negative ROI on the Drug War.1 I believe that America’s strength lies in the Rule of Law, and not in any single faith. I think that Victorian-era social mores have a destructive effect on society. I’m not a white, evangelical (or otherwise) Christian conservative who can be shoehorned into a Knuckle-Dragging Conservative ReThuglican™ stereotype, and to imply that disagreeing with modern liberalism means I am is disgraceful.

The worst part of this all-or-nothing approach is that in focusing on social values, it ignores the economic values that are the cornerstone of innovation and prosperity. Any student of post-colonial India who isn’t waist deep in Marxist fables could see that India tried ruthless egalitarianism, trading away economic growth and individual profit to ensure that the nation remained equal according to Gandhian notions of fairness. They made it hard for small-business owners at every step of their companies’ development: financing projects was a sin, hiring and firing workers were determined by almost anything but the content of one’s character, buying equipment required running to government officials like a twelve-year-old asking for his allowance, and any profits that were made after all of these hurdles were stripped from the entrepreneurs’ hands. Indians had a vibrant democracy with some of the greatest freedoms of any Asiatic people. But it meant nothing because individuals couldn’t thrive without worrying that they were going to be shaken down by a government who thought they were getting too big for their britches.

This system that assumes the worst of the most successful almost destroyed the Indian economy for three generations. It led to thousands fleeing India (like my own parents, and presumably some of Dash’s family), while those who couldn’t make it out were trapped in a vicious cycle of corruption and despair.


The myopic liberal economic values that pave this road to Hell with good intentions are what “they” are protecting us from. A pretty good chunk of conservatives like yours truly don’t give a damn if Jobs eats arugula. We don’t even care that he’s Arab-American. But we do care if the next Steve Jobs is thwarted from his dreams at every turn because Washington (or Albany or Sacramento) has decided that stopping his future greed through taxation and regulation is more important than allowing his current innovation through freedom from either. Social freedom is as important as Dash says it is. But without economic freedom, innovation will never leave the cocktail napkin.

1 Incidentally, these last two are explicitly supported by those evil, conservative-backing Koch brothers everyone’s getting so many emotional hemorrhoids about.

updated 9/9 Added the link to the original post, because I’m not a jerk. This is why late night posts are terrible. Also, Anil himself commented below, so…that’s pretty awesome.

also, green day

anarchist (?n’?r-k?st) – n. – political and social provocateur whose activist education is rooted in a used Fight Club DVD and six Rage Against the Machine MP3s. cf. mook with an associate degree.

Merlin Mann

gustav relief

Hurricane Gustav made landfall earlier today, and it shouldn’t be hard to find ways to help through your favorite charitable organization. (Bonus for anarcho-capitalists: go ahead and pretend those evil taxes you pay are for charity.)

One of the first requests for help I received was, oddly enough, from Design Observer. It seems the AIGA’s New Orleans chapter is mobilizing its members to direct relief from the design industry to affected areas. DO has a good list of ways to help, including non-design organizations.

how the colombians freed betancourt

For those of you following the story of the dramatic hostage rescue in Colombia last week, you may wonder how a government helicopter snuck into a leftist rebel camp armed to the teeth. Well, they disguised themselves as members of an NGO.

Since the late 1990s, the NGO practice of dragging the military into court on allegations of human rights violations has destroyed the careers of some of the country\'s finest officers, even though most of these men were found innocent after years of proceedings. \"Judicial warfare\" turned out to be especially effective because under legislation pushed by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, \"credible\" charges against officers put at risk U.S. military aid unless the accused was removed. The NGOs knew that they only had to point fingers to get rid of an effective leader and demoralize the ranks. Given this history, it\'s not surprising that the FARC thought a helicopter from an NGO was perfectly natural.

Well, in a sense, I suppose we can thank the human rights organizations that make a living out of keeping Colombians in terror, in the interest of the safety of their fellow travelers.

islamic lobby hates cute puppies

If CAIR wants to hunt down those who are making Islam look bad, maybe they want to look at some of their own followers. It seems Muslims in Scotland are outraged by a postcard that local police sent to publicize their new phone number, featuring a “wide-eyed, 6-week-old puppy” named Rebel. A comment over at Alarming News, whence this link came, quotes a Russian-language blog:

Islamists became inconsistent. Why single out just puppies? According to Homeini, the list of unclean things (offensive to Muslims) goes like this: urine, excrements, sperm, corpse, blood, dog, pig, non-Muslim, wine, beer, and the sweat of a camel if he ate something unclean listed above. Judging by this list, a portrait of the Queen is offensive, too.

the "conservative" case for gay marriage

Jonathan Rauch, a scholar at the Brookings Institute and a writer for the National Journal makes a good case for encouraging the movement toward gay marriage. For once, it doesn’t say “Gay marriage is good, because people who are against it are uptight Bush-loving Methhead NASCAR freaks who are probably closeted anyway.” Just a note: that case doesn’t win much support.

The final paragraph is an excellent one:

There are two ways to see the legal marriage of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon [the first gay couple to be married in California]. One is as the start of something radical: an experiment that jeopardizes millennia of accumulated social patrimony. The other is as the end of something radical: an experiment in which gay people were told that they could have all the sex and love they could find, but they could not even think about marriage. If I take the second view, it is on conservative – in fact, traditional – grounds that gay souls and straight society are healthiest when sex, love and marriage all walk in step.

Now if we could just rid ourselves of that annoying “Adam and Steve” cliché.

twenty-one accents

Sure, her southern accent is a little rusty, and her Texan and Brooklyn are sketchy, but it’s far better than I could hope to do.

h/t: the sister.

addendum Click here for an interview with Amy Walker and an answer to just which of those accents is the real one.

another step "backwards"

My dear friend Shruti Rajagopalan writes in the WSJ Asia about the Indian Supreme Court ruling on caste-based quotas in higher education. For those unfamiliar with the matter, it’s definitely worth a read.

The prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management were some of the last bastions of meritocracy left in India, but it seems that they, too, have now fallen to the decades-old “temporary” quotas that have calcified in the Indian polity.

the myth of the middle class squeeze

iPod-toting hipsters love to talk about income inequality and the evils of capitalism.

After my lecture, one young woman walked up to me on her way out and huffed: “What I favor is a radical redistribution of wealth in America.” I tried to tell her that America’s greatness is a result of our focus on creating wealth, not redistributing it. But it was too late — she was already tuning in to her iPod.

But looks at Lou Dobbs’s War on the Middle Class!!!1eleventy1 and finds that the numbers don’t exactly hold up. Video after the jump.

"i ain't never heard nobody complain 'bout the beer we got"

Obviously Alabama Representative Alvin Holmes (D) has never listened to Jeremiah mocking Coors adverts. From Reason’s Hit & Run, an excerpt from the debate on the gourmet beers bill in the Alabama House:

“What’s the matter with the beer we got? I mean, the beer we got drink pretty good, don’t it? I ain’t never heard nobody complain about the, uh, beer we have. It drink pretty good, don’t it? Budweiser. What’s the names of some of them other beers?…”

The bill, which would allow beers over the current 6% ABV limit to be sold in the state, eventually passed 48-42. But not before several apocalyptic warnings about belgian beer touching the lips of young people.