For this edition of Bad Arguments, I started to look through a few different arguments I’ve seen floating out there recently that I could use as an example for this article. Going through them, however, I realized that there are quite a few fallacious arguments out there that don’t necessarily require or deserve the time I usually afford them in this series. Nevertheless, they are still common fallacies in our political discussions so I was left with a dilemma: leave them be and find arguments more fitting, or try to work them into a different piece.
I realized that, in the end, that was a false dilemma I had presented to myself. Instead, I thought back to the recent installment on the faction wars argument and realized that I should collect some of them together and get through the pile in a single swoop. So, for this installment of Bad Arguments, I present to you a small collection of simply countered arguments that are far too common yet seem to continue to be used without reproach. Hopefully, that will end here.
Extended Analogy Fallacy
An extended analogy occurs when someone attempts to connect A to C through the use of B despite their associations to B being for different reasons. Here’s the political example.
“When Obama was in office, I had way more money in my pockets and things were more affordable for me than after Trump took office. If our economy can slip so soon, so will our place as a global superpower, the respect of other nations, and everything will go to hell if this continues.”
We can knock this down even if it were true without having to pull up a single stat. In logical form their argument is:
A: I have less money now that Trump is in office.
B: Our status as a superpower is also affected by who is in office.
C: Trump will lead to us no longer being a superpower.
The statement tried to link A to C through B despite the two being related to B in different ways. There are several other fallacies at play with the claim, but this is the main one to keep in mind when you see these types of links being made.
Rights to Ought
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” This classic line from Jurassic Park nicely covers this type of fallacy. When we get into discussions regarding people’s rights to do things, the existence of the right does not automatically prove that they should have actually done it or justify the action itself.
For example, let’s assume some radio/YouTube personality starts using derogatory racial language as part of their show, not to make some bold point about them just being words or the like but, rather, just because they feel like it. In turn, the platform decides not to host them anymore. People will cry out saying that their constitutional right to free speech means they should be free to speak that way and use that language. The fallacy here is clear. The people defending the host are trying to infer that simply because the right exists that justifies the host using it. Just because I have a right to insult my boss doesn’t mean that I’d be justified in doing so, nor that I should be free of consequence.
This is a logical fallacy most people feel in their wallets, but also one that applies to the government. The concept is that failure to continue investment in something means forfeiting the initial investment and not wanting to lose that justifies further investments. A personal level example would be having paid $1500 to fix a car recently, followed by it breaking down again in 6 months needing another $1500. Because you don’t want the first sum to be wasted, you decide to spend the second sum to keep the car going even though it is clear the car is on its way out and likely soon to fail.
The political version of this is Social Security. Same fallacies at play, same terrible conclusion.
The last one I’ll touch on in this set is the Subjectivist fallacy. This fallacy occurs when someone assumes that an empirically proven, objective fact is, in truth, only relative to a select group of people. For this, we can look to the impact that police brutality, governmental waste, the prison industrial complex, etc, all have on us.
Here’s an example conversation that you might have had (though, perhaps, on a different topic):
Person A: “The drug war is bad for all of us.”
Person B: “It might be bad for drug users, but I don’t use drugs so it doesn’t apply to me.”
On the surface, this seems like, despite its coldheartedness, a logical and sound argument. The empirical evidence disagrees. The continuation of the drug war impacts us all because of the continuous increase in police spending and, generally, increases in general taxation. There is also the gangs that arise in the trade of most criminalized goods that lead to increased bouts of violence in cities and thus higher risks for nearby citizens. Throw in the increased violations of rights to privacy for police making searches, and the overreach a cause like a drug war grants the government and we all, indeed, face some forms of negatives from its persistence. It’s as silly and fallacious an argument as saying “most people get cancer playing in radioactive waste, but I’ll likely just get superpowers.” Reality and logic disagree.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.