Brian Donovan presented a direct, though uninspired challenge to liberal ideology in his column “Liberal views are guilty of begging the question” (3/3). He pejoratively asks his reader, “Please spell out, in simple words that even knuckle-dragging Neanderthals like me can understand, the argument for domestic partnership as a ‘basic human right.'” I would like to answer his challenge.
Donovan accuses liberals of begging the question when forming their ideology, a fallacy he handily defines as “taking as given something that required proof by argument.” Since domestic partnership is missing from the Nicomachean Ethics, it has no base in the logic of human rights. He refuses to acknowledge that it is what domestic partnership represents — a collection of rights granted to the rest of the population, including recognition, economic benefits, and acceptance. “Justice,” Aristotle writes in the Nicomachean Ethics, “is complete virtue to the highest degree.” A fundamental part of the American concept of justice is equality, enshrined in the 14th Amendment. It is therefore virtuous to grant all couples the same rights, since “All men are created equal.” QED.
Donovan’s next request is to explain “the leap from ‘objection, mainly on consequentialist grounds, to gay marriage” … to “hate.” While he may not oppose gay marriage because he hates homosexuals, only a truly naïve observer of anti-gay protesters, parading slogans that gays are hated by g-d and damned to hell, could believe that there is no hate directed towards gays.
Donovan next critiques the labeling of George W. Bush as “evil” and “stupid.” He writes that liberals believe that “we went to war with Iraq because Bush is evil.” What Donovan fails to realize is the flow of causality. Bush did not mislead the country to go to war because he is evil (a word brought back into the national parlance by Bush himself, sorely missed since the glory days of Reagan); Bush is “evil” (manipulative and deceitful would be a better description) because he misled the country to war.
Donovan closes with a parting shot at “federal meddling in society” at the expense of “some hardworking American’s pocket.” Here Donovan is guilty of his own fallacy: he assumes that government intervention is inherently ineffective, that all taxes are bad. If he doesn’t say it explicitly, it is clear in his rhetoric. Most liberals try to find a balance, solving problems that call for it with collective action.
Donovan’s judgment of liberal ideology and his inability to investigate any nuance in a liberal’s argument speaks poorly of the success of his Yale education. If I were George W. Bush, I would refuse the request to hire this “soon-to-be-ex Yalie.” Wouldn’t that be evil.
Dan Freeman ’04
March 3, 2004