Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Cognitive Bias of the Left

"A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own "subjective social reality" from their perception of the input. ... Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality."
I just finished reading an article entitled "Impeach Obama!" in The New Yorker. It suggests that president Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment's statement that "[T]he validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned" in order to unilaterally increase the debt limit. Despite my obsession with constitutional law I am not a legal scholar, so I won't spend a lot of time on the legality of this request. Furthermore, that is not my biggest problem with this article. However, a plain modern reading of the clause suggests that whenever the U.S. issues a debt instrument, if ever confronted in a court of law about whether a U.S. created debt instrument is valid, the answer must always be yes.

It takes a denial or complete misunderstanding of a hundred of years of legal precedent and wilful ignorance of the Liberty Bond Act of 1917 (law that established the statutory debt limit) to make this leap of logic. Or, per my opening quote, it just takes cognitive bias. But as anyone that holds general obligation bonds from the city of Detroit can tell you, just because its valid doesn't mean it will get paid.

A default, in very simple terms, is not getting back the money you were promised. In fact, since the ratification of the 14th Amendment the United States has defaulted not once, but twice! We defaulted in 1934, with Executive Order 6102 (and other legislative actions during the early 1930's), where FDR made it illegal to "hoard" gold and refused to honor gold contracts. The second time was in 1971 where President Nixon refused to exchange dollars for gold despite the language written right on all U.S. currency saying "...and is redeemable in lawful money at the United States Treasury, of at any Federal Reserve Bank." In case you didn't know, the bills you hold in your purses and wallets are not money, they are currency and there's a HUGE difference. But that's a completely different discussion.

So, no matter what president Obama says, defaulting on the U.S. debt would not be "the first time in history" that it has happened.

Sorry for that diversion, but it sets up my real concern. Leftist love a crisis, even a manufactured one, because they use the inherent irrationality of the public to institute policies that under normal conditions would unlikely be considered. In this case, the author Hendrik Hertzberg is requesting nothing short of an Obama dictatorship (yes, dictators are elected as well.) He openly suggests that Obama should subvert the Constitution because he can't be impeached for doing it. Of the many things Obama would have to ignore in the Constitution and the United States Code would be:

Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 1
"All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives"

Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 2
"The Congress shall have power ... To borrow money on the credit of the United States."

Article 2, Section 3, Paragraph 1
"...he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

United States Code Title 31, Section 3101, paragraph (b)
"The face amount of obligations issued under this chapter ... may not be more than $14,294,000,000,000, outstanding at one time, subject to changes periodically made in that amount as provided by law through the congressional budget process ...."

Hertzberg suggests that Obama would be greeted as a conquering hero because he'd only be guilty of "...saving the nation’s economy, and the world’s." You see, leftist don't intrinsically dislike dictatorships or totalitarian governments (Fidel Castro anyone?) They are unconcerned with John Dalberg-Acton's admonition that "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." As long as the dictator is benevolent, everything is fine. This can be seen in the socialist, politically pornographic, Pre-Code Hollywood era (1933) film "Gabriel Over the White House." As well as in a video by Kfir Alafia and Alan Davidson's video "Crashing the Protests" where they crash an A.N.S.W.E.R. anti-war rally and a woman actually says:
"If a dictator provides clean water for their people... if they provide free health care, I like that dictator. If he provides university and education for everyone, I like that dictator."
Some would say our American society would never allow a dictator to take control of our lives. I'm not so certain, especially if the economic conditions in America are bad enough. The movie mentioned above was created during the Great Depression and the heroic lead is modeled after FDR. This may seem small, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to outlawed the sale and distribution of all 32 ounce sugary beverages. He had overwhelming support from the liberal, Whole Foods, anti-GMO, Climate Change, anti-Fracking, Gaia hypothesis community of NYC. Of course the courts overturned his law unanimously. But we can't always rely on our court system to protect our freedoms (see Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.) Remember, judges are people and they have agendas too.

I'm reminded of a famous poem by Martin Niemöller that is on a large monolith at the end of the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston. I've taken some poetic license with it:
They came first for the 32 ounce sugary beverage drinkers,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a beverage drinker.
Then they came for the gun owners,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a gun owner.
Then they came for the health care free riders,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a health care free rider.
Then they came for the Republicans,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Democrat.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
I'm not suggesting that we are headed for a new holocaust. Nor do I think that Godwin's Law has been invoked here, but that's debatable. Rather, I'm suggesting that the road to serfdom is also paved with good intentions.

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