I mentioned that I was attending a debate (billed as a “Liberal vs. Conservative: Debate to the Death”) for Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs) as part of the University of Texas’ Lecture Series.
(Thanks to Barbara at Quidnimis for alerting me to this debate. Her blog entry about the debate can be found here.)
The debate, which was held before a packed house of mostly 19-20 year old kids on the UT campus, was between:
- Dr. James K Galbraith, a distinguished and world-renowned Economics professor and — even in an academic environment run over by Liberals, considered to be one of the most Liberal.
- Dr. Daniel Bonevac, a Professor of Philosophy and a core faculty member of the Program in Western Civilization and American Institutions at UT. Considered to be one of the most Conservative professors on campus. Meaning he might be the only one.
The various FIGs submitted questions several weeks ago, so the questions being asked last night were already known to the professors, which allowed them to prepare their answers. Which is pretty weak. But at least the rebuttal part of the debate was unscripted.
My overall feeling: Dr. Galbraith was shrill and dismissive of both the students in the audience and his distinguished colleague. I thought that Dr. Galbraith came across as angry and cynical. On the other hand, Dr. Bonevac seemed cheerful and optimistic.
I think the students picked up on this difference too.
I think there was a clear winner: Dr. Bonevac, who focused more on facts and actually answering the questions asked than did his opponent, who was content to insult his audience (“You’re way too young to understand what I’m referring to.”) and rely on zingers instead of actual substance.
What follows are my notes exactly as I took them while watching last night. They’re kind of lengthy, so I’ve buried them beneath the fold.
Human Kind FIG asked: What are the main issues in this election?
- Galbraith — Starts off with some name dropping and self-backpatting, then slams McCain for dropping out of debate, “I didn’t drop out. I’m here.” Weak applause. Says that Democrats “de-regulated” the mortgage industry by forcing mortgage lenders — the ones we’re bailing out today — to float loans to people who were bad loan risks. This “de-regulation” was actually done with “regulations”. For an Economics professor, I would assume he knew the difference. Unless he’s being intentionally deceptive. I vote the later. Thinks Obama would be better than McCain in terms of the economy for the simple fact that Phil Gramm would not be an influence in Obama administration.
- Bonevac — Started off with a great compare/contrast between the two parties on the various issues. Made a very strong case for the Conservative position.
New Perspective FIG asked: What is the best solution to the energy crisis?
- Bonevac — “All of the Above”. Quotes, “Drill here, Drill now”. Awesome. This guy gets it. Mentions nuclear energy several times. Says there are two caveats to the All of the Above approach. 1) do not substitute the judgment of the government for the judgment of free markets, and 2) be aware of un-intended consequences.
- Galbraith — A global warming gloom and doom warning. Doesn’t give a solution. Any, just that we must do “something” about global warming. Typical Dem — lots of talk, no solutions.
- Bonevac (on rebuttal) — Global warming is “not a problem at all”. Wow. Lots of applause. Explains that global warming theory is based on unreliable and inconsistent data. Stresses that government and private enterprise working hand-in-hand is dangerous due to Cronie-capitalism.
Global Citizens FIG — Why should the government be responsible for universal health care?
- Galbraith — Immediately changed the topic and focus from health care to health insurance. Lies and says health care isn’t there for people who need it. Which just isn’t true.
- Bonevac — The problem with the current system isn’t that the government isn’t involved enough, it’s that they’re already too involved…to much intervention. We need less, not more. Solution: 1) tax credits to people and not just to businesses, 2) portable health insurance, and 3) choices across state lines. Wow an actual plan.
- Galbraith — “The rest of the world laughs at our health care system.” Yet this is still where the world comes for the best health care in the world.
Future Business Leaders FIG — What are the consequences in Iraq if we stay or if we leave?
- Bonevac — We must see it through to victory. Thanks to the surge, the one Obama opposed and said couldn’t work, victory is close. Takes a shot at Obama’s home town by stating that Iraq is statistically safer than Chicago. I think I’ve said the same thing. Is Dr. Bonevac reading my blog?
- Galbraith — Suggests that if we had known the war was going to take this long and cost this much right up front, we never would have started it. Typical Democrat, doesn’t care about victory. “This is not a war. It’s an occupation. And you can’t win an occupation” Idiot. It is a war. Ask the soldiers and marines over there fighting and killing our enemies. Continues to call Iraq a “civil war.” It’s almost like he doesn’t know anything at all about war.
- Bonevac — “The proof that you can win an “occupation” is that we’re doing it.” I am developing a bit of a man crush on Dr. Bonevac.
Introduction to Communications Studies FIG — What to do about Social Security?
- Galbraith — SS will be around as long as you need it to be and want it to be. Calls it the greatest social success of 20th century. Insults his audience again, “you don’t even know what the baby boom is”.
- Bonevac — Makes the case for privatization. “Anything you can invest in today will be a better return than SS.” We should let people generate wealth that could be transferred and passed on. Notes that women and minorities are most hurt by current SS system. Lots of women and minorities in this crowd nodding their heads.
- Galbraith — a lame joke about a bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Nobody laughed.
Leaders of Tomorrow FIG — Why are we so dependent on Chinese goods?
- Bonavec — Free trade is a wonderful thing for everybody. We all benefit over all.
- Galbraith — I agree with Bonavec on free trade (wow, he really is an economist). Talks about spending time in China, “I’ve seen those jobs shipped off to China. You don’t want those jobs.” Galbraith’s best quote of the night, “We [the US] design jobs for the future, not the jobs of the past.”
NOTE — thinking that this debate would have bored me to tears when I was a Freshman in college. Now? Riveted. I’m impressed that so few students have trickled out at this point.
Introduction to America FIG — What is your stance on lowering the drinking age for college students to 18?
- Bonavec — Generally in favor of it. The pros: an issue of liberty, fairness, and encourages responsibility. Cons: some students at that age just not ready for that responsibility. Why is this or should this be a federal issue? It shouldn’t be. Should be state by state.
- Galbraith — “I’m for whatever a majority of students are for” (what a perfectly nuanced Liberal answer).
Wilbur FIG (what the hell is that?) — to Bonavec: What government programs would you expand, which would you cut? to Galbraith: Why is it the government’s job to care for the poor, why not leave it up to private and religious charity?
- Bonavec — Expand: research and development, especially in military and tech industries. Cut: MANY. There are a lot of government failures. Would conduct a thorough reform of Congress…especially in eliminating earmarks.
- Galbraith — Sure we could depend on private and religious to care for the poor. “Maybe they would. Maybe not.”
- Bonavec — notes that studies show that Conservatives are by far the biggest contributors to charity.
Roll Your Investment FIG — Should religion be a factor in deciding who is our President?
- Galbraith — “No it’s a private matter.” Separation of church and state is what makes our nation great.
- Bonavec — “I’m a religious man. So I think it is important” Many of our great social movements in this country had a religious moral start: civil rights, abolition, etc.
Question from the moderator — Why should students vote?
- Bonavec — Because of the high stakes.
- Galbraith — “You cast your lot on the side of democracy and self government.” Great answer. “Make a habit of participation”. Galbraith’s best and most earnest responses of the night.
- Bonavec — I’m in favor of trust, truth, and facts. Defends Bush and GOP trying to fix the problem of current economic crisis, but notes that the dems obstructed it.
- Galbraith — If you believe the financial crisis was brought about by dems, you “were born yesterday”.