Liberals Defend Bad Ideas by Claiming 'Everyone Knows'

Tuesday, 04 Jan 2011 01:18 PM

By Herbert London

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There is a decidedly arrogant claim engendered by the horde of progressives which starts with the words “everyone knows.” For example, everyone knows the tea partyers have a racist agenda. And everyone knows patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

Presumably if everyone knows, evidence to buttress one’s argument is unnecessary. Dissent is a function of those conservative know-nothings, the grass roots mob wallowing in ignorance. If the tea partyers display none of the characteristics attributed to them, the labels still persist. After all, “everyone knows.” If demonstrators avow their loyalty to the nation, but disavow President Obama, they are ipso facto scoundrels. Who doesn’t know that?

That there is a natural order to opinions is manifest in what elitist ideas embrace. Free speech is desirable until you say something elite opinion-makers disapprove of. Suppose you say homosexuality is related to nurture, not nature; observe how the panjandrums of free speech use their free speech placards to beat you into submission. When “everyone knows . . . ,” dissent is beside the point.

It takes courage to stand up to the bromides masquerading as current truth. Until the environmental movement was unmasked over global warming, those who challenged the prevailing sentiment were perceived as cranks. That tag hasn’t evanesced despite evidence of wrong doing by the so-called environmental scientists.

Similarly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg invokes libertarian principles when he wants to burnish his liberal credentials, then considers it appropriate through ukase to impose his view on what New Yorkers should eat and drink. While he doesn’t quite say “everyone knows,” it is implied in his public commentary. “Everyone knows transfats are bad for you.”

President Obama is not inoculated against this condition. In fact, his economic policies are usually defended as “everyone knows.” Everyone knows something had to be done to save the nation from financial ruination after “the destructive policies of the Bush administration.” It is too bad I hadn’t received this doctrinal statement in my morning reading fare.

It is also axiomatic that everyone knows steps had to be taken to control the increase in healthcare expenditures and to provide insurance coverage for the uninsured. The fact that Obamacare increases healthcare expenses and imposes insurance on those who may not want it, is merely a pettifogging critique. After all, everyone knows it had to be done.

The experts in foreign affairs know that everyone knows: the U.S. cannot afford to play its traditional role of stabilizing global influence. Of course defense spending is 4.5 percent of GDP and pales in significance to entitlement expenses, but not everyone knows that.

There is little doubt that “everyone knows” is a conversation stopper. It puts the naysayers in the penalty box. It says you cannot possibly have an informed opinion. It is comparable to reading a Frank Rich column or a New Yorker article in which the cognoscenti contend “everyone knows” the truth.

That there may be other points of view, that no one has a monopoly on the truth, are conditions rarely considered by those who reflexively invoke “everyone knows” in argumentation. Needless to say, the reliance on this phrase isn’t an argument, but for those who assume their positions are in the orbit of natural order, it seems likely that this phrase will continue to be relied on.


Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute and author of the book "Decline and Revival in Higher Education" (Transaction Publishers).

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