Winning an argument is not enough if you win it by conceding your opponent’s erroneous ideas. JTK illustrated this at the start of the recent invasion in Iraq:
This is the argument libertarians need to make, not that war is evil, but that it can never be moral to force others to participate. It will do no good to win the argument that a war is evil while implicitly accepting that it is legitimately a collective decision; thatâ€™s the wrong hill. The right hill is the one where we reject the collectivist premise first.
Recently, a blog post at The Last Free Voice posted a link to a letter. The Governor of Connecticut recently chided Chesapeake Energy for refusing to sell some of its natural gas, since Chesapeake would lose money. Cheapeake’s CEO responded with a letter outlining why the Governor was wrong. The Last Free Voice, which hosts the letter, said that the letter “explain[ed] all the ways in which Governor Rell was wrong.” I read the letter, and it was entertaining. But the letter did not explain all the ways that Governor Rell was wrong. In fact, although the letter may have won on its various arguments, it ultimately lost, because it conceded Governor Rell’s fundamental premise: that the State of Connecticut has any business telling Chesapeake what to do with the gas it drills.
And there’s the problem. Even when you win an argument, if you concede the wrong premises, you lose. Chesapeake nowhere argued that Connecticut has no business messing with its gas. Chesapeake, then, has implicitly conceded that Connecticut does have business messing with its gas. Chesapeake may win this battle, but it has already conceded the war.