Arguing for the opposition

That’s one piece of it. I’m trying to give them a taste of some different political arguments, rather than a comprehensive understanding of one. As such, I’m more concerned about being fair to both sides than about giving all the arguments for both sides. And I’ve definitely heard people who object to government requirements that everyone have insurance.

OK. I certainly think your original statement is fair. But if the issue were really “government shouldn’t be able to make people buy insurance”, then the bill would not allow states to do just that. Not a big deal, but I just think the way the bill is written, it’s more “let the states decide this issue” rather than “legislate from DC”.

The wording of the poll wasn’t specific enough to make me despair (it just asked if you’re “adept,” not how adept).

A useful concept here might be the “ideological Turing test:” instead of a computer trying to fool a human into seeing the computer as human, you do the same thing with ideology. See The Ideological Turing Test - Econlib
I see that someone’s posted at least one ITT online – gonna try taking it out of curiosity, and see if I think it’s a good judge of adeptness (then I’ll post a link if it is). EDIT: never mind, it’s essay-based, and I won’t have time to do it.

I would say it’s fair to both sides, in the sense that both sides are being hugely over-simplified, which I think you recognize.

As to the OP, I would say I was better than average at arguing for the opposition. I have read the opposition on a nearly daily basis for the last seventeen years.


It might have helped to have more than just two categories: I’m good at or I’m not good at it.

I voted “good”, but I really only think I’m good at certain topics, not all of them. But I generally don’t try to argue those sides of the opposition I don’t understand that well. Should I have voted “bad” instead?

I think I know enough about both conservative and liberal positions to be able to argue either fairly convincingly. As with the OP, my very diverse family means I frequently get into ‘discussions’ (in Hispanic terms, this generally means who can shout the loudest and make the most impressive arm-waving gestures :p) and am arguing either a liberal position against conservative family members (generally this means social conservative positions) or conservative positions against hardcore liberal members (this generally breaks down to economics or the like). It helps that I usually know more about both sides than the people arguing do, at least wrt my family.

On contentious issues, I find there are very few viewpoints that are correct or incorrect, as a matter of fact. Given a set fact pattern, different people with the exact same set of information can come to different conclusions based on their own personal experience, value system, etc. I think being able to empathize with those that disagree is critical to arguing for the opposition.

I think A/B questions can be more revealing than ones that have many choices on a spectrum. It’s self eval anyways :slight_smile:

I do the same with my kids. I try to present issues and current event topics in simplified ways to capture the salient issues. It’s enlightening how easy it is to sway one way or another based on how an issue is presented.

Nope, missed it by a mile.

Of course. I need to stay informed enough to understand the entire issue. Knowing only one side of an issue is showing one’s idiocy. Discounting the other side’s perspective isn’t helping, either.

I’m not one to argue much, though. I don’t express myself well and so I find that very few battles are worth fighting. When I do, I’m usually being incisive and sarcastic but I’m also being as authentic as my understanding will allow.

I’m terrible at it. Generally I either can’t think what the other side would say, or can’t force myself to say it. And forget about saying it without looking extremely uncomfortable.

Saying the opposite of what I believe is lying after all, and I’m a terrible liar. Even when I’m *supposed *to lie.

Speaking as a social studies teacher… I am very well aware of my own beliefs and prejudices, and try very heard to make cogent arguments for religious and political views I do not share. I do it well enough that many of my students think I’m a left winger, and a few parents have complained to the principal that I am anti-Christian and Anti-Republican!

I can advocate for an opposition position if it is in an academic setting. However, when I meet people who are the constant devil’s advocate, they always are people I don’t ever want to see again. They get quite tiring, as they often turn into being an jerk for the sake of being a jerk.

Regarding being disingenuous or dishonest - I don’t see it that way. If someone makes an argument but it has weaknesses or is flawed in some way, I enjoy the act of addressing those weaknesses or at least presenting counter arguments as a thought exercise. If someone were to say, Hillary Clinton wanted to raise taxes so much on the rich to make them paupers, so she could use the money to dive Scrooge McDuck style into a vault full of gold, it wouldn’t be dishonest to present her actual position, it’s goals, and potential reasons it may achieve those goals.

I think it’s a valuable thing to be able to do that.

I’m with Maggie. My debate skills usually have me resorting to, “Oh, Yeah? Well *FUCK YOU!” * pretty quick. :wink:

I agree, but I’ve noticed lately* that this doesn’t seem to be an accepted wisdom. Most people seem to think that there is a Right answer and a Wrong answer to every question, and if you’re on the Wrong side you don’t deserve having your argument taken seriously because you’re either too stupid, stubborn, or evil.


(*maybe it’s always been this way and I’ve just never noticed . . .)