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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8927/common-false-dichotomies/

Common False Dichotomies

November 11, 2008 by

Bob Murphy has unwittingly made a great contribution in his article today to a short list of common false dichotomies in the area of political economy:

The first thing to realize is that people do not decide to “spend” or not; rather, they decide whether to spend in the present versus in the future.

Here is a similar false dichotomy spotted by Hayek who wrote about the use of the term “planning” to mask what was really at stake… Who should plan? The government or individuals?:


“Planning” owes its popularity largely to the fact that everybody desires, of course, that we should handle our common problems as rationally as possible, and that in so doing we should use as much foresight as we can command… According to the modern planners, and for their purposes, it is not sufficient to design the most rational permanent framework within which the various activities would be conducted by different persons according to their individual plans. This liberal plan, according to them, is no plan…”

The Road To Serfdom, p. 36 (emphasis mine).

It has long been a habit of welfare statists to say that those who oppose government provision for the needy oppose “compassion” or “caring”. So, in short, here are some common false dichotomies:

  • Spend vs. Not Spend
  • Plan vs. No Plan
  • Compassion vs. No Compassion

What these have in common, of course, is that they are logical fallacies used in service to the growth of the State. Can you think of others?

{ 27 comments }

Pat November 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm

I can think of pollution vs no pollution.

Andy von Guerard November 11, 2008 at 3:34 pm

safety vs no safety

Matt H. November 11, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Pat & Andy,

Can you explain your suggestions a bit further?

fundamentalist November 11, 2008 at 3:59 pm

1. Bail out vs the end of the world.
2. Government redistribution vs. all poor people starve to death.

Charlie Perkins November 11, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Fair vs Free Market
Economic growth vs Economic inequality
Government helping Wall St vs Government helping Main St
poverty vs happiness

FarSide November 11, 2008 at 4:31 pm

“Government helping Wall St vs Government helping Main St”

Excellent.

Oil Shock November 11, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Trickle Down vs Bottom Up

Arend November 11, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Democratic Party vs. Republican Party
Democracy vs. Hobbes’ war of all-against-all
State democracies vs. Banana Republics

Pat November 11, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Sure, Matt. I was referring to the environmental laws against pollution. I should have been more specific. I thought the general attitude was that without government-imposed regulation, the problems caused by pollution won’t be addressed.

Jeff Pratt November 11, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Environmentalist vs anti-environment
Pro-affirmative action or pro-illegal immigration vs racist
Pro–public education vs anti-education
Pro-feminist vs anti-woman
The Chicago School vs Keynesianism
Obama vs McCain

Kristian Joensen November 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Government justice vs no justice.
Government police vs no police.
Government courts vs no courts.
Government roads vs no roads.
Capitalism vs the poor.
Walmart vs the world.
Profits vs fairness and justice.
Profits vs welfare.
Libertarianism vs compassion

erica November 11, 2008 at 6:19 pm

If someone already addressed this one, sorry.
Pro-Life
Anti-Life.
An important one because so many libertarians ARE “pro-life”.

erica November 11, 2008 at 6:22 pm

“Government justice vs no justice.
Government police vs no police.
Government courts vs no courts.
Government roads vs no roads.
Capitalism vs the poor.
Walmart vs the world.
Profits vs fairness and justice.
Profits vs welfare.
Libertarianism vs compassion”
PERFECT!!!!

Ralph H November 11, 2008 at 9:17 pm

The most dangerous policy of all. Jobs vs loss of jobs.

Mark Humphrey November 11, 2008 at 11:10 pm

One of my favorite false dichotomies is between “economic growth” and “recession”. But why is this dichotomy false?

“Economic growth” is the term that Keynesians and other political collectivists use to describe a booming economy. But the term “growth” is not an unequivacable moral value, because in many situations growth can be excessive. In fact, growth is a process that must be often monitored and, if necessary, controlled or destroyed. Cancer cells grow promiscuously; waistlines grow annoyingly; urban sprawl grows “perniciously”; carbon dioxide releases grow “danerously”.

To Keynesians, there can be too much economic growth, or too little. The issue of exactly how much growth “we” should seek is supposedly understood only by wise and learned Keynesian scholars.

The primary danger that Keynesians believe they must guard against is sagging consumption, which they imagine threatens recession. To ward off this danger, they inflate the money supply and ramp up state spending. When prices rise persistently after an extended period of inflating–an economic condition Keynesians believe stems from “too much growth” or “overheating”–they slow monetary inflating and pray that the bottom doesn’t fall out of the economy.

When the recession inevitably arrives–a condition of “too little growth”–they rush to pump up the money supply and ramp up state spending, until stock markets are sizzling and Goldman Sachs executives are rolling in gold.

Clearly, the dichotomy between “growth and recession” is false. What the world needs is not Keynesian administered growth, but “economic progress”–a term that has fallen almost completely out of popular usage.

Economic progress denotes the moral value of material well being and human advancement. Austrian economics properly relies on “value-free” analytical methodology to isolate cause and effect in economic relationships. But the goal and purpose of econmics is to uphold and defend the moral values of economic freedom, prosperity, and individual flourishing.

Slate November 12, 2008 at 1:02 am

taxing big business vs taxing the middle class

A friend, in the midst of whining about her middle class parents losing a big portion of retirement in the stock market proposes that these greedy companies should have to pay more taxes. She goes on to say that if I don’t support taxing the rich and big companies in order to giver her family a tax cut then that means I don’t want her family to get some money back. I try to explain to her that by investing in the stock market her parents essentially are big business by owning it- and that taxing big business would keep the business from making more money, and thus keep the stock prices down, and thus indirectly be a tax on her parents retirement fund. She doesn’t get it.

Lewis November 12, 2008 at 1:27 am

Federal Education Department vs NEA and low test scores

Labor Department vs %10 unemployment

Interior Department vs $200 per barrel of oil

Federal Reserve vs Undeclared War

chris November 12, 2008 at 4:34 am

how about:
free health care vs. poor old people/children?
or
anarchy vs. orderly,safe, and prosperous civilization,
energy independence vs. middle east terrorist,
war on drugs vs. helpless children
welfare vs. poor minorities
oil prices vs. inflation
price controls vs. mass poverty
wage controls vs. mass poverty
economic aid vs. starving, poor Africa.
economic barriers vs. dictators
u.s government vs. all evil in the world
job creation/job security vs. free trade/markets
and last but not least: Canada vs. u.s.

chris November 12, 2008 at 4:34 am

how about:
free health care vs. poor old people/children?
or
anarchy vs. orderly,safe, and prosperous civilization,
energy independence vs. middle east terrorist,
war on drugs vs. helpless children
welfare vs. poor minorities
oil prices vs. inflation
price controls vs. mass poverty
wage controls vs. mass poverty
economic aid vs. starving, poor Africa.
economic barriers vs. dictators
u.s government vs. all evil in the world
job creation/job security vs. free trade/markets
and last but not least: Canada vs. u.s.

Gil November 12, 2008 at 5:43 am

Libertarianism vs. Communism?

Actually whenever someone gets told “there’s no third way” they’re getting whacked with a False Dichotomy.

Pat November 12, 2008 at 7:32 am

“taxing big business vs taxing the middle class”

Slate, you could also add that businesses do not get taxed, its customers do.

maera November 12, 2008 at 11:05 am

Gil : “Libertarianism vs. Communism?

Actually whenever someone gets told “there’s no third way” they’re getting whacked with a False Dichotomy.”

Don’t worry, Gil, I’ve no doubt many “libertarians” are part of this 3rd rail. In theory, libertarianism, sounds like the perfect way to allow probablitity, human drives and the market to order society. But it’s all too easy to enter such a self-directed system and distort or disrupt it.

Which brings me to another false dichotomy:

libertarianism vs respect for your enemy’s right to privacy

You can’t expect people to restrain their urges to violate other people’s rights when there are no repercussions for doing so. The anarchy created by small groups who just expect each other to behave in a moral, principled manner will devolve into factions then fascism.

No doubt libertarianism could be an effective tool for acts of “creative destruction”/deconstruction leaving a country open to takeover by a well organized group who had hidden their own agenda under the guise of libertarian thought.

Disillusioning, isn’t it?

Book 'em Danno November 12, 2008 at 11:51 am

Public schooling vs. No education

Damn educrats!

Gil November 13, 2008 at 2:05 am

“You can’t expect people to restrain their urges to violate other people’s rights when there are no repercussions for doing so. The anarchy created by small groups who just expect each other to behave in a moral, principled manner will devolve into factions then fascism. ”

I believe I agree with that sentiment. If a landowner is truly a sovereign owner then that person has no duty to accept any arbitration by an outsider. For me saying “let’s privatise landownership” is akin to “let’s divy up a large business and each worker becomes self-employed in a way they’d replicate what they did before except better so”. Personally I believe minarchism makes better sense because you’d have one government on a tight leash whereas I see ‘anarcho-capitalism’ as having heaps of unaccountable mini-me monarchs.

Martin OB September 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

One of my favourites: freedom to choose Vs freedom from choice.

It is often argued that people are sheep and they are afraid to make their own difficult decisions, so they will always prefer the government to choose for them. The implication is that freedom to choose makes it impossible to delegate choice, that it requires to become an expert in every field where choice is possible. The fact is that in a free market (or anything remotely similar) you can be as sheepish as you want, going with the mainstream in every decision. So, you don’t need to have a daring, independent character to enjoy the benefits of freedom.

J. Murray September 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I read somewhere that only 20% of the customers of any product are truly knowledgable about the product. Companies cater to the discriminatory taste of the 20% and the other 80% benefit as a result. It’s the 20% that make or break the product.

Martin OB September 16, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Other two:

_Progress Vs conservatism:

Who doesn’t like “progress” (well, some people don’t, but their opinions are not that popular)?. Also, people like to “conserve” whatever is good about the status quo. The arguments are always about what should be conserved and what should be changed.

_ Big projects Vs no big projects:

It is assumed that only government can finance big projects, like sending a men to the Moon or building a huge particle accelerator. But the government can only raise the funds for these projects by taking them from the citizens, which proves that the market could raise the funds for these project if people want their money to be spent in such a way, if those funds were not already taken by the government and if there were no common assumption that big projects are the government’s job.

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