Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Truth, Conclusions, and the Essence of Conservatism

Responding to the Cunning Realist in regards to his criticism of Jonah Goldberg's conclusion that Nichols is guilty of murder. CR suggested that such a conclusion, without a legal proof of guilt, is the "antithesis of conservatism." I suggest that this is bunk. ;)

I'm still trying to figure out what principle of conservatism dictates denial of reality until government endorses it. "Innocent until proven guilty" is certainly a good legal principle given the array of powers the government wields. We create this presumption because *government* has the power to *punish* an person for the illegal acts they may have done and we want to guard against abuse. Neither you nor the 'Cunning Realist' have that power, hence there is no need to apply that principle to personal judgements. What any of this has to do with 'conservatism' is beyond me. Conservatives, mindful of limited government principles and mistrustful of state power certainly may endorse the IUPG policy as a safeguard against tyranny...but that is only to the extent that it relates to formal governmental action. A case where someone's life, liberty, and property may be in jepoardy. But that isn't what we are talking about here. We are talking about whether you or I can make independent judgements of facts available to us and draw reasonable conclusions. Whether free-thinkers in society are bound to the same limitations we place on government. No conservative worth his salt would endorse such a belief.

I'd suggest that it is the antithesis of conservative principles to assert that an individual must not only withold judgement until the government makes a pronoucement, but in fact *displace* that judgement with that of the court. The 'presumption of innocence' is exactly that. A presumption. Completely fact and evidence free. So our Realist is arguing we should completely absolve/deprive ourselves of making independent judgements *about* reality. That is some how better to pre-judge a situation rather than judge it based on our interpretation of the facts. That's just sloppy thinking. The truth or falsity of the conclusion is not dependent on whether the government has endorsed it through some legal process. And the pre-judgemental decision rule is bound to be wrong, because being 'right' isn't what the rule is about. "100 guilty men go free before 1 innocent is jailed" may be an arguable position for government to take, but it is a lousy way to determine truth. And note, not even the government applies this principle in all cases. We don't have this standard for when mere torts are involved. Then the 'prepodernance of the evidence' rule is operative. No presumption either way. Why? Because life and liberty aren't on the line. Well, they aren't on the line in your or my judgements of the facts, either.

And to suggest that free-thinking individuals should be bound to the same presumption and, necessarily, the same procedural conclusion...is to put a foreclosure sign in the middle of the marketplace of ideas. We're no longer thinking for ourselves, but rather letting government do our thinking for us. I don't need the government's help in assessing evidence, interpreting facts, and drawing my own conclusions, thank you. And as my conclusions are completely unrelated to the legal actions taken against an individual, where I err is of no consequence to the situation or person(s) I have judged. No need for built in safeguards. No need for pre-judgements or decision rules. Too often I see it used in an attempt to shut down rational debate or discussion of the facts. Indeed, it is often used as a way to *deny* reality. And just think about the paths to silliness this takes us down. If you see someone with your *own eyes* commit a murder, you have to ignore that reality in favor of the unreality of the IUPG presumption. Come on. Our Cunning Realist needs to join the 'reality-based' community populated by conservatives and all other seekers and judges of facts, evidence, and the truth. D.GOOCH