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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:Regulating to Zero, to Be Generous

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Master communicator Alex Epstein speaks of a practice too many of us fall into in his video, "Fossil Fuels: Arguing to 0 vs. Arguing to 100" (which I recommend). The essential error lies in accepting an opponent's basic premises when combating a bad argument, as Epstein notes in the case of fracking:

Image by FotoRieth, via Pixabay, license.
What happened in the hydraulic fracturing debate is that ... The person who framed the debate was Josh Fox, who came out with the gas GASLAND [inaudible]. What he said is, "To start with, we all agree that fossil fuels are bad. Right? Everybody knows that fossil fuels are bad." This is a really short thing, but I'm going to walk [over] here. Imagine this is negative 100, so this is evil, and this is positive 100, this is good. When he says, "We all know fossil fuels are bad, and then on top of that this is polluting the water and causing earthquakes and cancer clusters." How does the industry react? They say, "You're exaggerating about the cancer clusters, and you're exaggerating about the earthquakes, and you're exaggerating about the water." Under this approach, what's our best case scenario?
Only neutralizing the argument that the process of fracking is bad on top of the "evil" of the more plentiful oil and gas it delivers. That is the best result when the premise that oil and gas are bad goes unchallenged. Challenge the premise, and one can go on the offensive.

A recent article about the Trump Administration's attempts to "make dishwashers great again," reminds me a little of this point. Jay Homnick of the American Spectator notes that the current regulations that make dishwashers clean poorly and slowly contain language prohibiting their roll-back by any later administration. This Administration's response does not seem to include any attempt to challenge that language, much less the whole premise of central planning. Rather than fight for the 100 of liberty, this administration is fighting for the 0 of what we used to have before the shackles got too noticeable:
Here is the solution they came up with to try and outmaneuver the strictures of Bizarro World. First they ascertained that there were none of the old, fast washers in stock at any of the American manufacturers. Since there weren't, they could now be reinvented. So the rule, now being moved through the comment process, says as follows: a new category will be recognized, under the heading "Fast Dishwashers," defined as machines capable of completing a washing cycle in under 60 minutes.

The new category of "Fast Dishwashers" will not be subject to the restrictions extant on the plain vanilla category of "Dishwashers," thus allowing them to use sufficient water to complete the load in an hour or less. After years of retreat from our inventions, we can now behave normally again -- but only if we follow an abnormal yellow brick road... [bold added]
As glad as I am to hear that a decent dishwasher may soon be available again, I am not exactly overjoyed: In the America I remember, it isn't normal to need permission to do things that harm no one, like building things that actually work. So this clever bit of lawyering -- which might be a decent stopgap measure during a larger, principled effort to dismantle the regulatory state -- will ultimately prove futile. Surely, some Republican somewhere can imagine a President Warren happily regulating this new category into oblivion even more quickly than it was created.

There is no such effort, as witness Trump's addiction to executive orders and regulating foreign trade. We can not and will not "make America great again" by accepting the premise that the government should order us around. But Trump would apparently rather get back to the 0 (at best) of (just) a decent dishwasher than the 100 of liberty for all -- and all the progress and prosperity that would unleash.

-- CAV

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