Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Cecil the Lion and the 3 Pitfalls of Outrage Politics

The viral story of the week is the tragic shooting of Cecil the Lion. Cecil was a famous lion that was tracked by researchers from the University of Oxford. The shooting has many people outraged at the hunter–American dentist Walter Palmer. Palmer is receiving an immense amount of abuse on the internet, and some are even calling for Palmer to be hurt. It is and should be a crime to kill research animals and it is and should be a crime to lure protected species out of their protected areas for the purpose of killing them. Nonetheless, the reaction and the reactions to the reaction are leaving me a bit uneasy. Outrage politics is ugly politics. When we are motivated by rage and righteous indignation, we rarely show thoughtfulness or empathy. Let me show you what I mean.

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Candidate Evaluations: Jim Gilmore

Jim Gilmore is a late addition to the presidential race. This means it’s time for one more candidate evaluation. I’ll be looking at Gilmore’s background, policy history, and explicit statements to determine whether or not he would make a good president. I won’t be paying attention to electability or likeability, as is often common elsewhere on the web.

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The Planned Parenthood Video Doesn’t Matter

A new anti-abortion video has been doing the rounds. The video accuses US healthcare provider Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses:

Planned Parenthood issued a video response in which it denied profiting from the sale of tissues and pointed out that the tissues are used for medical research:

Factcheck.org investigated and determined that the video is quite misleading–sections were edited out that indicate that the money PP receives merely helps to offset the costs of collecting, storing, and managing the tissues. Other researchers corroborated that account, pointing out that clinics generally take a loss. The law prohibiting the sale of tissues explicitly contains exemptions for these cost offsetting practices, and they are commonplace in medical research.

None of this likely to assuage abortion opponents because their objection has little to do with whether or not a profit has been made and everything to do with persuading the public that the use of fetal tissue for medical research is in and of itself morally disgusting. It’s for this reason that they opposed embryonic stem cell research regardless of its profitability for clinics. Their argument should not be persuasive. Here’s why.

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Jeb Bush’s Plan to Privatize Medicare Would Be a Disaster

US Presidential contender Jeb Bush recently spoke out in favor of the old Paul Ryan plan to “phase out” Medicare and replace it with a voucher program:

Said Bush:

I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they’re not going to have anything.

When pressed on the point, Bush doubled down:

It took less than a day for me to be attacked for the very thing that I predicted would happen and that’s just ridiculous. We need to have a grown-up conversation about these issues.

Bush argues that if we do not privatize Medicare, the system will collapse. Consequently, he thinks those who disagree with him are not taking the issue seriously. But this argument is grossly misleading–Medicare is in a much stronger financial position than Bush would have us believe, and a privatized system would sharply increase healthcare costs for seniors.

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What Democracy and Free Market Capitalism Have in Common

Many on the left love democracy but distrust capitalism. We often hear people argue that democracy is the antidote to the ills of capitalism–that we ought to increase the role of democracy in our political system, making political processes more direct and more consensus-driven. But I find that when we really think about the fundamental premises underlying these systems, they have some important things in common that we ought not to gloss over.

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