Thursday, April 06, 2006

Right answer, wrong reason

Gus Van Horm makes a key observation about the libertarians:

In Naval Nuclear Power School -- the only place I have ever had to pass a final to lift an average for a class (thermodynamics) into passing range -- test grading is especially brutal. An acronym I never got myself was RAWR, short for "right answer, wrong reason".

NNPS wasn't some slacker college course where a student could just slap down whatever he knew on paper to get partial credit. Quite to the contrary. Your underlying reasoning had to be good. This meant that even if you somehow regurgitated the right "short version" of the correct answer to a question, if what you said demonstrated that you did not know the way to get there, you lost points. All the points. Why? Because in the real world, you can't guess correctly all the time. Only a thorough knowledge of the relevant facts and the applicable principles will carry the day.

Paul Hsieh's post on "Why it's important to agree on the fundamentals" reminded me, indirectly, of that. His point carries RAWR into the arena of ideas as he points out why Objectivists make it clear we are not Libertarians. A Libertarian might, for example, oppose taxation. But then, since the Libertarian movement can't be bothered with silly details like, "Why is taxation wrong?" or even "What is liberty?" that same Libertarian might also be against our government having a military, or even against us having a government at all. Both of these stands contradict the first since the purpose of (and need for) a government is to protect individual rights. Individual rights ultimately derive from man's nature as the rational animal, his consequent need to think in order to survive, and the fact that the initiation of force by other men can prevent someone from benefitting from the use of his intellect. But without such an understanding, the Libertarian who guesses "correctly" about taxation misses the mark on other issues, to the ultimate detriment of his professed cause.

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