Thursday, September 21, 2006

Another surreal piece from World Magazine

One might not believe it from reading my weblog, but ordinarily I have a lot of kind things to say about World Magazine. Writers such as Marvin Olasky, Joel Belz, Gene Edward Veith, and Andree' Seu have really revolutionized my worldview.

The most recent issue, on the other hand, has a very, um, "interesting" interview with Randall Balmer, a professor at Barnard College who evidently believes that the state has a crucial role to play in charity, that the Social Security trust fund was somehow diverted or stolen from the program, and that tax cuts predominantly benefit the rich.

While I'm certainly happy to engage those of other opinions, I think it's pretty sad that Dr. Olasky doesn't really see fit to confront Dr. Balmer with reality. Ask him exactly what kind of "lock box" would generate interest like the Social Security trust fund. Ask him how the workers who found jobs due to the Reagan recovery qualify as the "rich" who "overwhelmingly benefited" from those tax cuts. Ask where the Bible tells the state to become involved in charity.

Again, yes, we need to engage those of other opinions. The linked article, however, clearly demonstrates how we need to respond when opinions clearly at variance with known facts are presented. There are an awful lot of people who take this sort of thing seriously simply because the facts are not presented.


Mercy Now said...

BALMER: The best way to restore the Social Security system to solvency is for the federal government to exercise fiscal discipline

Uhm, can anyone name one instance when the govt has exercised fiscal discipline?

WORLD: Agreed that torture is terrible and sometimes useless in gaining information, but if the imminent explosion of a nuclear bomb would kill millions of people, and if by applying some kind of physical pressure to a terrorist you could gain information that would lead to its location and disarming, would you do it?

BALMER: No, absolutely not, and I'm surprised that you would even suggest such a thing! I was under the impression that conservatives were allergic to utilitarian arguments; certainly that is what I learned from Paul Ramsey in graduate school. No Christian, he insisted, ever made an ethical decision solely on utilitarian grounds—what is the greatest good for the greatest number of people—especially if it compromises the worth and dignity of an individual.

I find this kind of logic idealistic cuz we know what he would do if terrorists held his loved ones and the only way he can save them is to use necessary means to get info from an agent.

Bike Bubba said...

Methinks Balmer misses the point in that instance, too. Sometimes the existence of evil compels us to choose a lesser sin over a greater, as in the very real case where government agents are looking for the Frank family in your attic. Do you abandon this family to Auschwitz and near certain death in order to avoid lying?

In the same way, do we abandon Omaha to being nuked in order to avoid subjecting a terrorist to pain? Not a utilitarian argument at all, but rather one of choosing the best available alternative.

Now the question of whether torture works hasn't been sufficiently understood by me, so I can't take a side here. But if it is as advertised, I need to take the side of the waterboarders, not the suicide bombers.