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Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality 2019-12-06 18:19:00

Summary:
John Holbo: The Steelwool Scrub–A Fallacy http://crookedtimber.org/2019/05/07/the-steelwool-scrub-a-fallacy/: 'There’s a common "religious liberty" trope... an invalid variant on a Steelman-style argument.... The Steelwool Scrub is quite bad.... Take same-sex marriage (more recently, trans issues): you can always rustle up some Ryan T. Anderson-type to spin up some Thomistic-ish natural law (Christian anthropology etc.) argument. Even if this is weak ‘steel’ (I would judge), belated scholasticism, wandering the modern world, looks ornamental–harmless, innocent, unassuming. At worst, a curious mooncalf; at best, considerably more academically polished than old-school fag-bashing. Now comes the bait-and-switch (indulgence-by-proxy, steelman-to-absolve-all-sins.) If anyone now says

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John Holbo: The Steelwool Scrub–A Fallacy http://crookedtimber.org/2019/05/07/the-steelwool-scrub-a-fallacy/: 'There’s a common "religious liberty" trope... an invalid variant on a Steelman-style argument.... The Steelwool Scrub is quite bad.... Take same-sex marriage (more recently, trans issues): you can always rustle up some Ryan T. Anderson-type to spin up some Thomistic-ish natural law (Christian anthropology etc.) argument. Even if this is weak ‘steel’ (I would judge), belated scholasticism, wandering the modern world, looks ornamental–harmless, innocent, unassuming. At worst, a curious mooncalf; at best, considerably more academically polished than old-school fag-bashing. Now comes the bait-and-switch (indulgence-by-proxy, steelman-to-absolve-all-sins.) If anyone now says ‘opposition to LGBTQ rights is bigotry and irrational animus’–the response comes quick. ‘Unfair! Will no one think of poor Ryan T. Anderson! Of his elaborate, perhaps failed yet earnestly-exposited, to-all-appearances sincere arguments! Is the world so unable to tolerate a little [insert squirrel gaze GIF] DIFFERENCE? Can all this be dismissed as mere, base homophobia! Mindless bigotry! Surely not! Surely, then, it is those who call it ‘bigotry’ who must be [squirrel GIF again] the REAL BIGOTS!’... Descriptively–sociologically–it’s absurd to steelman a socio-cultural order-or-group by conflating its practices and norms with unrepresentative, intellectual outliers. If you think the reason trans people struggle for respect, recognition, rights is that they are surrounded by well-meaning, rationally-convicted neo-Thomists, you’re nuts. Trans people struggle and suffer because they are members of a despised, oppressed minority group. SSM was a fight because gays face irrational animus, not a thicket of para-Aristotelian arguments. Spinning actually-existing bigotry as, ideally, the better angel of some natural law argument, is just a weird way to excuse what’s right there in front of you...

Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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