a The Daily Insult

The Daily Insult
Anything approaching a fully satisfactory explanation of the phenomena of knowledge requires the co-operative efforts of all those who believe that there is a world of real existence independent of human minds and that this real existence can be truly known as it really is.
— Francis Parker, “Realistic Epistemology
In this section, I shall post brief discussions of errors in logic in commercials, news items, fiction — errors that just vex me. I just need a place to get this stuff out of my system. [Note: “Daily” in this context should not lead the reader to expect that I will be posting something every day.]
May 12, 2018
In my book on limited government and the free market, I used the image of a Penrose Stairway to characterize the error of those who think that the two can coexist. I argued that such a limited government, like the Penrose Stairway, can be described, but it cannot be built.

The error of the Penrose Stairway shows up more often than you might think. I recently heard one described in an interview of Jared Taylor by Jorge Ramos, a news anchorman on Univison. Señor Ramos does not seem to have quite grasped what an interview is, because instead of letting Mr. Taylor answer his questions, he keeps interrupting him. Mr. Taylor, as usual, retains his composure and perhaps even finds Señnor Ramos’s impoliteness mildly amusing.

There are many things one can say about the interview. But this being the “Torn Fingernails” corner of thornwalker.com, I am focusing only on Señor Ramos’s failure to grasp the logically absurd nature of one of his statements. Señor Ramos is dissatisfied with the representation of Hispanics in the Senate. He complains that although Hispanics are about 17 percent of the population, they have only three senators in the U.S. Senate. He thinks that there should be 14 more, to correspond to the 17 percent of the American population that is composed of Hispanics.

With this aspiration, Señor Ramos reveals himself to be a constitutional ignoramos. In the first place, despite the Seventeenth Amendment’s establishing direct election of senators, it is obvious that the Senate is not intended as a proportionally representative body: perhaps it has escaped Señor Ramos’s notice, but Rhode Island and California have the same number of senators.

So how, one may ask, where would Señor Ramos get his other 14 Hispanic senators? At the very least, there would have to be 14 more Hispanic candidates running in 14 separate state elections. And each of them would have to win. And how would each of them win? Clearly, they cannot win simply by getting 100 percent of the Hispanic vote, because even if all Hispanics were confined to a single state, they would constitute only 17 percent of the population of that state.

The only way that Señor Ramos can get his additional 14 Hispanic senators, even supposing he could round up 14 plausible candidates, would be for non-Hispanics to vote for them. And why should they do that? Señor Ramos seems to think they should vote for them because they are Hispanic. Even if the voters disagree with the Hispanic candidates on their issues?

I suspect that is what he believes. Fair enough. How will he get voters to do that? Does he imagine that black voters will vote against a black candidate in order to help Señor Ramos get his 17 senators? Does he imagine that the non-white population of Hawaii will vote for a Hispanic rather than one of their own Hawaiians in an election? And when I say “in an election,” I mean “in any election,” including the primaries. For before Señor Ramos’s candidates can win their Senate seats in a general election, they have to win nomination in their partys’ primaries.

Before saying he wants 14 more Hispanic senators in the U.S. Senate, did Señor Ramos think any of this through? Even to get a 17 percent “representation” in the House of Representatives, or in a state legislature would require all the same of him. Can he put together a slate of Hispanics large enough to win primaries and then seats in such numbers as to occupy 17 percent of the state legislature? 17 percent of the state governorships?

I think it is fairly clear that Señor Ramos, in addition to not understanding the Constitution, does not understand the first thing about elections. Even the Congressional Black Caucus — even with the advantage of gerrymandering designed to favor black candidates — has only about 35 members, less than 10 percent of the House of Representatives. As for the Senate, there have been only 10 black senators since 1860!

Of course, as the demographics of this country change it may happen that Señor Ramos will get his 17 senators in a few decades. But that is not what he is saying. He is unhappy because Hispanics do not have proportional representation in the Senate now.

It is possible that Señor Ramos believes in magic, that merely desiring a certain outcome and scolding Americans for not having produced it already is sufficient to produce the outcome. Or maybe he wants courts to rule elections that do not produce whatever figure he proposes to be invalid, to be “non-representative.” Whatever it is that he thinks will realize his fantasy, we can be sure that it will not be the free choices of a free people.

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