Jonah then uses his misunderstanding of welfare to perform a victory dance in my ideological end zone. "It's not that liberals have maturely adapted to new data, it's that they've been proven wrong so often — either empirically or at the polls — that they've had to change," he writes. Ah. So it's just a matter of time before liberals accept that the income tax, child labor laws, environmental regulations, the minimum wage, federal food inspectors, and so on will cripple American business. And that's why Ronald Reagan's prediction that if Medicare was enacted, "you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was like in America when men were free" is conventional wisdom today.
Stick a fork in him, he's done.
Update: The more of this debate I read, the more puzzled I get. Here's Jonah:
I would add that many liberals would have the same reaction, depending on the economic policy in question. Surely, at some point, some liberals would object to the mass seizure of private property — even if it "worked" to help the poor — on principled grounds having to do with liberty and the rule of law. If not, then Jonathan's distinction between socialists and liberals is meaningless. Speaking broadly, socialists believe the redistribution of private property is a good in and of itself. If liberals are persuadable of the same, but just need a bit more data to be convinced, then liberalism isn't a distinct philosophy, it's merely a doughy socialism in need of a few more minutes in the oven.
What Jonah's saying here is that if God came down and explained that the best way to run society is via socialism, we should tell Him to screw off. If we don't, even hypothetically, we're just socialists in waiting.
I'm not a socialist because I don't think socialism works. That makes me not a socialist. Further, I'm not a Christian because I don't think Christianity is true. But if God came down tomorrow, explained the whole thing to me, and offered some irrefutable evidence validating the Bible, I'd be a Christian so fast it'd make your head spin. Does that mean I'm a "doughy" Christian now? What about a "doughy" Muslim? And Buddhist*? And every other religion? Jonah, here, proves Chait's point: conservatives aren't looking for empiricism and don't believe others should be either.
Anyway, go read the Duel. As Chris Rasmussen e-mailed to me, Chait's response to Jonah's post is really a knock-out punch. And it's really quite funny to watch Jonah dance, and take umbrage, and muddle ideas, and simply get pummeled throughout the exchange. I almost feel bad for the guy. Almost.
* Actually, I kinda am a Buddhist.