A rather poor opinion piece was published by “News OK” (as in “Oklahoma;” I’ve several friends who are Okies) which, while unremarkable by itself, did open up some interesting topics for discussion. The editorial, written by Professor David Deming at Oklahoma University, while not very well informed, serves to illustrate several points of interest. First off, the author holds a Ph.D. in geology & geophysics, and so he has no more expertise in his opinions on matters of social and political philosophy than a plumber has speaking on medicine. We see here an example of someone using his Very Important Degree as evidently legitimizing his opinion. But compare: by the same accounts, I am a “Doctor” as well. But if you come to me for advice on, say, your cancer treatment, my response will be something along the lines of, “Pay attention to your MEDICAL doctor, and don’t ask me questions for which I cannot possibly offer an intelligent answer.” Legitimate expertise actually matters.
In his opinion piece, Deming bemoans the supposed “fact” that, “an avowed socialist is a viable candidate for president of the United States.” Deming means, of course, Bernie Sanders, and thus in his first sentence demonstrates an astonishing cluelessness about the topics he would presume to lecture others on. Sanders is an avowed Democratic Socialist, and if one hasn’t bothered to learn the difference, one has no business saying foolish things on the subject in public. Deming goes on to announce that socialism – a word he obviously has no idea as to its many meanings – is a universal and unequivocal failure, citing the examples of the USSR and, more recently, Venezuela. It is telling that Deming fails to mention Sweden, or that socialism in the two countries he does name was imposed on cultures rife with staggering and endemic poverty, and exercised with authoritarian rule. A thoughtful person might suppose that such distinctions are important. But the fact that Deming gives no weight to the role of poverty and income inequality is our segue into the point I do wish to discuss: Deming declares that, “The United States is a constitutional republic founded on political equality, not equality of income or circumstances. … The Founding Fathers considered property rights to be sacred and paramount.” The first part is childish in in its naiveté, while the second is frankly disgusting in its utter bone-headed misrepresentations. These are the topics I wish to examine here, and they all pivot on the concept of “the pursuit of happiness.” I’ll start with Deming’s second, and more easily disposed of, claim. Continue reading