A few weeks ago, as you might remember, I put together a short list making up the first part of the Rapid Fire Fallacy Collection. These articles contain some key fallacies broken down that, while important and impactful on our discussions, aren’t issues with enough depth to require entire articles of their own.
Notable Effort Fallacy
The Notable Effort Fallacy occurs when we treat an action, decision, or stance as true not based on its own merits, but rather based on the amount of effort that went into creating or supporting the stance or argument. This is a tactic most commonly used by supporters of theories as seen with flat earth theory, the pyramids in Egypt being massive batteries (which, mathematically, is impossible), and other such stances.
We, sadly, see this in political discussion as well. Support given to Keynesian economics, as an example, based on the depth and quantity of the work created rather than the merits of the theories therein. A similar defence can be seen regarding Marxism and how “thorough” the four full volumes of Das Capital are as evidence that Marx had thought of everything.
In a more subtle form, sometimes we can see with either ourselves or our fellow citizens that we will accept or assume a level of confidence in the decisions made by law makers based on the amount of time spent in deliberation. Further still, a bill can be seen as “good” based on the size and total grounds that it covers. Effort alone means little, and this fallacy is a prime example of why.
This is better know as the “starving kids in Africa” argument, or at least that is a more common example of this fallacy. The core of this particular fallacy lies in purposely comparing a current situation with a best or worse case scenario rather than to a more reasonable standard. This technique is commonly and continuously used in the political sphere to manipulate public opinion about a course of action or the state of things at home or abroad. It is a fallacy because comparisons to extremes fail to highlight or accurately assess the issue at hand.
Imagine the following exchange:
Person A: “I can’t believe that 1.5 million people are in prison in the China!”
Person B: “At least it’s not the 2.2 million in the United States, so I don’t see what the problem is.”
Similar examples could be drawn as seen by those that defend the continuous erosion of privacy faced in the West, only to be deflected by comparisons to China’s social credit system or to Britain’s restrictions on speech, knife ownership, and needing a license for damn near everything.
Often used as a sales tactic, the alternative advance is a form of fallacy in which the same or similar idea is presented in two different ways, then presented as if there was actually a difference. A prime example in the political sphere would be the way we look at tax spending. Politicians will present these often in the forms of spending packages or trade restrictions.
A great example of this would be the approach taken with the “excessive” incomes of the 1% in the U.S. We will hear that “something has to be done” about the accrual of wealth by the billionaires in the country and hear arguments ranging from increased taxes from those like Bernie Sanders, to maximum wages caps like Jesse Ventura and others have proposed. Both of these amount to the same thing: using the force of the state to take money away from those that earned it and adding another layer of overreach and control in our markets. This can be a particularly tricky one to notice in the realm of politics or economics, but one that we need to be the most vigilant for.