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Privatization vs. government control


Here's something I wrote in the summer of 2006, during an instance of a recurring political flame war on a mailing list. Been meaning to post it here for a while. I'm posting it now, at a time when I'm not involved in any arguments on this topic, so that it won't be seen as being about any particular discussion or argument.

In the bracketed bits in the following, the "|" symbol (the vertical bar, a.k.a. "pipe") is to be read, loosely, as meaning "or"; I'm kinda misusing it, but the idea is to present a list of options. Italicized terms are variables (like in Mad Libs), where you can plug in a relevant value of your choice.

I've seen a lot of instances of this argument in a lot of contexts. Figured it was time for someone to summarize. Feel free to use the following cogent and unanswerable argument whenever this topic comes up.

I support [privatization|government control] ("my system" for short). You, on the other hand, support [government control|privatization] ("your system" for short).

My system is the best system. That's because under your system, bad stuff happens, whereas under my system, nothing bad ever happens. Anything bad that does happen under my system is the result of [imperfect implementation of my system|the influence of your system]. Anything good that happens under your system is the result of [historical accident|the influence of my system].

For example, you gave an example of [disaster] to show that my system is bad, and [good thing] to show that your system is good. However, both [disaster] and [good thing] actually prove that my system is best!

Furthermore, only my system handles monopolies in a good way. As the example of [specific monopoly] clearly shows, and as history demonstrates, my system is best for dealing with monopolies, while under your system, monopolies are handled badly. Also, your definition of "monopoly" is wrong, and your ideas about how they should be handled are bad ones.

Similarly, only my system handles large-scale projects in a good way. As the example of [the US interstate highway system|the US space program|Europe|the US phone system|the US power grid|the Internet] clearly shows, only my system is capable of [doing a good job|producing innovation|serving the interests of ordinary people] when it comes to large-scale projects; none of those projects did well [until my system started running them|after your system started running them].

Also, your argument is flawed because you don't seem to realize that competition is inherently [good|bad].

The thing I don't get is why you keep arguing for your system, because as I've shown, my system is clearly and obviously the one and only correct system. I'm not sure how anyone could think otherwise.


The thing is, you've forgotten that although you claim that you are interested in [privatization|government control] because it will work for everybody, really you are only interested in how it helps your own demographic. And look at [famous person] who supports your system—[he|she] said [something stupid about global warming|the war in Iraq|Valerie Plame|Gitmo|Battlestar Galactica]! What a [fat|stupid|hypocritical|effeminate|female|ignorant|corrupt|foreign] [politician|Frenchman|homosexual|businessman|creep|buffoon]! Why don't you and [famous person] [move to France|have sex in a men's room|torture people|run for office youselves|masturbate to internet pornography|write poetry together|drive your SUVs off a cliff]?

If that doesn't convince you of the logical superiority of my position over yours, I don't know what will.


This general pattern is a large part of why I am no longer on That Mailing List, if it is the one I suspect it is. I felt like the conversation was more rhetoric from entrenched and immutable positions than true dialog so I felt like nothing I wrote was likely to be considered on its own merits.

Vardibidian: :) :) Nice.

Laura: Actually, this wasn't from That List--I never even signed up for that one, if I'm thinking of the one you're talking about. But I think this argument happens on mailing lists and newsgroups everywhere.

When I first posted this, someone suggested that with a little work, it could be generalized to cover any standard online argument. But I ended up just sticking with the specifics of the particular argument at hand.

Thanks Vardibidian, first time I have laughed out loud in a week!


I have a lot of conversations ... er, no ... I've experienced ... monologues like this. Many. Tips on turning these into exploratory discussion/discovery/curiosity conversations instead of "Agree With Me!" rounds would be always welcome.

Kir: Good question; sadly, I have no answers. I'm normally in favor of discussing specifics rather than generalities, but in this particular sort of argument, specifics don't seem to help. I tend to just avoid certain topics with certain people (and on mailing lists and public forums).

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