The Political Value of Being Polite and Friendly

This is as quoted by Julian Simon at the end of his epilogue to The Ultimate Resource 2

The worst offence... which can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatise those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men. To calumny of this sort, those who hold any unpopular opinion are peculiarly exposed, because they are in general few and uninfluential, and nobody but themselves feels much interested in seeing justice done them; but this weapon is, from the nature of the case, denied to those who attack a prevailing opinion: they can neither use it with safety to themselves, nor, if they could, would it do anything but recoil on their own cause. In general, opinions contrary to those commonly received can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of language, and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, which they hardly ever deviate even in a slight degree without losing ground: while unmeasured vituperation employed on the side of the prevailing opinion really does deter people from professing contrary opinions, and from listening to those who profess them.

It is from John Stuart Mill in On Liberty.

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"I am aware that many object

"I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen, but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest - I will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence - humble as it is - is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years - not perniciously, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right."

(William Lloyd Garrison, "An Immediate End To Slavery", editorial in The Liberator, January 1, 1831, emphases original)

I am not asking anyone to

I am not asking anyone to agree to disagree. I do not believe such a thing is possible.

Please reread the original quote I put up. I believe you may have misunderstood my purpose in bringing it to everyone's attention in the first place.

The prevailing opinion where

The prevailing opinion where William Lloyd Garrison published was that slavery should be ended. Slavery had already been abolished in his home state.

In any case, you seem to have missed the point of my post. I was not trying to say that radical opinions should not be expressed. Simply that when expressed, it is not wise to regard those with differing political opinions from your own as inherently unethical, bad, evil, or in some other way less than a normal human being.

If you treat someone with respect and regard them as distinct from the positions they hold. They come to respectfully consider the positions you hold and can think of themselves as independent of their own positions.

No one ever changes someone else's mind. One always changes one's own mind. And then, only generally when given good reason to (either by book, person, or life experience). I have never found my persuasive efforts hindered by being polite, friendly, and considerate of someone else's background.

"...it is not wise to regard

"...it is not wise to regard those with differing political opinions from your own as inherently unethical, bad, evil, or in some other way less than a normal human being."

Here's my problem: I see all kinds of variations of this argument, but I never see allowance for the fact when an opponent is inherently unethical, bad, evil, or in some other way less than a normal human being.

These issues are just about never simply about "opinions". That's because they are always reducible to facts which are immutable to "opinions".

Call me Impolite and Unfriendly, but I never, ever agree to disagree over political issues. And the closer any given debate verges on that dodge, the more I am convinced that I'm dealing with a person who either cannot or (far worse) will not grasp and integrate facts, precisely because that is the imperative of a fully functional human being. Nothing less will do.

So, Billy Beck is the

So, Billy Beck is the possesser of all "facts", and anybody who disagrees with him is a priori "wrong"?

How blissful it must be to lead such a deterministic life.

"...it is not wise to regard

"...it is not wise to regard those with differing political opinions from your own as inherently unethical, bad, evil, or in some other way less than a normal human being.

If *what they are doing* and supporting and endorsing *is* inherently unethical, bad, and evil, then what's wrong with telling them so without sugar coating it?

One is only capable of doing evil precisely because one *is* a human being. Evil entails choice, when I say someone is doing evil it follows of course that they are free to do better.

The worst offence? which can

The worst offence? which can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatise those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men.

Is there no such thing as a bad or immoral man?

A slaveholder isn't just holding a contrary opinion, he's doing evil. Likewise someone wielding the state isn't just holding a contrary opinion.

If what they are doing and

If what they are doing and supporting and endorsing is inherently unethical, bad, and evil, then what?s wrong with telling them so without sugar coating it?

Absolutely nothing. One can say something bluntly while seeking to "avoid unnecessary offence". Some offenses may be unavoidable. This does not mean we should offend unnecessarily.

One is only capable of doing evil precisely because one is a human being. Evil entails choice, when I say someone is doing evil it follows of course that they are free to do better.

I completely agree, but sadly the prevailing understanding of ethical philosophy is not this nuanced. This should be remembered when arguing positions. It is wise to have this stance. It is not so wise to presume that most people do.

It is important to persuasive efforts often to bring up the possibility of change. I generally accomplish this by reminding people that I haven't always had the views I currently have.

Is there no such thing as a bad or immoral man?

Of course there is.

A slaveholder isn?t just holding a contrary opinion, he?s doing evil...

Yes, but there were many in the slave states that did not own slaves and they might have thought that slavery should remain legal simply because it was the prevailing opinion.

A strong argument to them may have been that the institution of slavery slowed the economic development of slave states. It did this by artificially keeping more of the labor in the rural areas of the state. If labor can move freely, urban industrialization can occur more rapidly. (This is just sample reasoning, I'm still trying not to digress to much.)

...Likewise someone wielding the state isn?t just holding a contrary opinion.

Well, if this is like the slaveholder, then the same argument applies.

Frankly, I don't think in terms of "wielding the state", because I view it as an illusion or mapmaker's convenience. (I'm not sure, yet.) So, I have trouble understanding what is meant when other libertarians say this. Perhaps, I simply have to read the right books and all will become clear to me. ;-)

Kennedy: Is there no such

Kennedy: Is there no such thing as a bad or immoral man?

Miller: Of course there is.

Then, contrary to the quoted passage from Mill, stigmatizing them is no offence.

If, during a political

If, during a political discussion, my opposite says he wants the government to spend more money on education and I explain to him that such a desire entails massive institutionalized theft, he may take offense at being called accessory to theft. That doesn't bother me. Being offended at the truth is generally the first step towards realizing a mistake you've made.

I don't normally go about screaming "commie!" at everyone because that turns people away from discussion. But if those people can't understand simple concepts like ownership, then that's their fault and not mine.

Let's say I'm Stalin. I

Let's say I'm Stalin. I don't see how you can rationally convince me that mass murder, slavery, plunder, etc. are objectively evil. Engaging in them makes me better off and brings me great happiness and joy. Why should I stop? Because "God" will punish me for my evil actions? HAHAHAHAHA! Because I will burn in some non-existent afterlife? All available evidence indicates that my course of action (of which you disapprove) is far more beneficial to me (and therefore good) than this whole respecting the property of others garbage.

Now, if anyone here can come up with an argument that would convince Stalin, a wise and rational man, that what he was doing was objectively wrong, I'd be very interested in hearing it.

"Kennedy: Is there no such

"Kennedy: Is there no such thing as a bad or immoral man?

Miller: Of course there is.

Then, contrary to the quoted passage from Mill, stigmatizing them is no offence."

If you are not one that holds an opinion consistent with the mainstream or popular opinion than your attempts to "stigmatize" your opponent will likely fail. Stigmatizing someone is more than simply calling names, and throwing out labels. It's something that can only happen if others listen to you, agree with you (or respect your opinion) and decide that said person is in fact immoral or whatever you have claimed that they are.

If you are not a person whose opinion on a topic can carry that sort of weight (i.e., you are a minority in your viewpoints) than your attempts to stigmatize or negatively label your opponent will likely only make your own position seem unreasonable.

The point of stigmatizing an opponent is to keep others from seriously considering their views, or to keep others who might hold the same views as your opponent from expressing them.

There is nothing necessarily immoral about holding a specific opinion even if that opinion is advocating immoral action. Saying "I consider your position to be immoral" is very different from saying "you are immoral, because you advocate taxation."

One is attacking a position, the other is attacking the person.

Mill's quote does not imply that you should never say that "hitler was immoral" or that "this or that person is immoral."

This is specifically within the context of someone expressing a distinct and specific opinion claiming that those who hold the opposite position are necessarily bad and immoral for holding that position.