I'm always amazed at how vulnerable we all are to simple framing tricks.
I greatly admire the writings of Cosma Shalizi in his weblog (and elsewhere), but a recent entry, Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise, left me irritated. He starts a hypothetical discussion with a libertarian with the libertarian asking:
"Why on earth are you in favor of giving the state any more governmental power than is absolutely unavoidable? It'll just be abused."
Cosma then proceeds with a defensive attitude, which by accepting the frames, yields the discussion. (See the Rockridge Institute for how this framing works.)
There are at least seven significant framing tricks in this brief statement.
First, "absolutely unavoidable" translates into "whatever we approve of". It's a waffling expression, and if an anarchist looked at them and said "all government power is avoidable", they'd have to start making it explicit.
Second, this pretends to set up a bright-line rule for avoidable versus not avoidable, and pretends that such a line is significant. The reality is that, as the anarchist says, it is all avoidable, but what we really care about are the consequences of any particular power.
Third, unless you weigh the consequences with an absolutist ideology such as libertarianism, you will rationally choose to delegate powers where the consequences are (on balance) positive.
Fourth, abuse will occur with ANY power granted government. Even the ones libertarians want government to have.
Fifth, abuse is not something we need consider separately: it is just another consequence, and needs to be weighed against the benefits of giving government a power.
Sixth, political power is not created or destroyed by giving it to government: if it is not given to government, it remains in private hands WHERE IT IS ALSO SUBJECT TO ABUSE.
Seventh, the amount of actual abuse must be measured in real-world conditions to know whether it is tolerable or intolerable, and will vary wildly depending on the specifics of the situation. We cannot permit an implicit demand for perfection, because no system is perfect and we thus would automatically fail.
Given time I could probably identify a number of other tricks involved. Amazing what can be crammed into 24 words!