The conservative endpoint:
For a while, conservatives will make arguments defending their policy preferences that involve some sort of theory (e.g. Laffer curve, unregulated market is superior, people can invest better with a 401K than professional pension managers) that eventually is shown to be invalid.
What then? Do they admit they are wrong and abandon those policies?
No. In fact, they roll out the argument that was, deep down, what they really believed. But it's not pretty and hence, the flim-flam noted above. This week, Limbaugh does us the favor by spelling it out
: (emp add)
"I want to say something. I know this is not going to go down well among those who have knee-jerk reactions and I know this is not going to go down well among people who have this notion that fairness is the overriding objective of any society. I've made the point throughout my career, the undeniable truths of life, many monologues on this program, that life is not fair by definition. Life isn't fair. I mean, it just isn't, and there's no way that you can change certain aspects that make life unfair to make them fair. Life is not equal. Sometimes people earn more than others. Some people have children when other people can't. There's nothing unfair about that. That's just the way it is. Unspeakable tragedies happen to some families; they don't happen to others. Some people live a long time; some people don't. There's no explaining any of this. Nobody's in charge of this. There's no government that can change this, although we have plenty of busybodies trying to on this "living longer" business. (imitating busybody) "Oh yeah, some people are living longer because they don't smoke, drink, eat trans fats," and go down that ridiculous road. But the vast majority of things that occur in the process of living life are unequal and unfair."
There you have it. Interested in regulating coal mines so that workers don't get killed? Forget it, since the universe has decreed that life is unfair, and there's no point trying to counter that with mine inspections or mandatory safety procedures.
Unemployed? Since life is unfair, there's no point it trying to remedy that with unemployment insurance or a stimulus. Sick? No need to have a health plan for you. Instead, pay what you can until you lose all your money and then be destitute (and possibly die). It's the way it should be.
Saying "life is unfair" works for all situations: Under despotic rule. While slavery was practiced. For unnecessary wars. When thieves loot.
Of course, it could be used the other way. If the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and the Fox News crowd is complaining, they could be told to shut the hell up and accept that life is unfair. But somehow this never happens.
UPDATE: Chait has a post
congruent with this one.