The Statist Fallacy:

Fallacies come in several varieties, formal and informal.
There are many informal fallacies, and these probably constitute the bulk of our thinking errors, as they allow a person to weigh something too highly. For instance, an attack on a person (ad hominem), moves a person from thinking about a given argument that does not depend on a person at all, to thinking about the speaker (if the guy is racist, bigot, insert anything ‘ist’), then you don’t have to consider their argument. Or, overweighting a group of people, as if something is more likely to be true if a bunch of people says it is (but there is no necessary connection).

Here is a fallacy that I think deserves its own name. This is what I call the ‘Statist fallacy’, it is a form of false dichotomy, where there are only two options: either (1) you support cause ‘x’ and must use the government to implement policy in the causes’ name, or (2) you do not support cause ‘x,’ because government is the only means to effect the policy in question.

Essentially, then, government is the only kind of group-agent/collective that can do the work….for basically everything. Of course, the problem is that it is completely untrue. A person may support a cause, whole-heartedly, and think that the government is not the most efficient mechanism tackle the cause in question. You can have voluntary groups, like private schools, private businesses, church, etc (these are all voluntary; they are not coerced to exist by outside forces, like the government)

Take gun control: there is evidence that having guns actually protects people (society as a whole, and citizens in particular). https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulhsieh/2018/03/20/any-study-of-gun-violence-should-include-how-guns-save-lives/#300c20155edc Additionally, gun rights, as a measure against growing government tyranny, as well as an extension of individual rights to safety and protection. See an article from Huemer here.

Take free markets: someone might believe that there is both a moral and an empirical foundation to valuing and promoting the freemarkets. See here.

Now, with these in mind, the unscrupulous thinker might find it offensive that somebody is advocating for less government intervention in healthcare, gun control, and the free market. This unscrupulous thinker might argue that the person advocating for free markets, gun rights, and less government meddling with healthcare, is arguing these things because he wants more murders, more medical tragedies, and more greed. However, if you’ve read this post, then you would be able to point out that because someone adopts a given policy, this does not mean that they oppose the cause that actually stands behind it (because only the government can solve problems, and if you’re against government doing something, then you must be against the cause too! Monster). That is, there are people that actually believe that people will be happier if there is a free market, more self-reliant people, and that government can often actually make things worse when they are operating outside of their proper sphere. Shocking, I know, but true.

Should you uncritically adopt any position? No. Should you assume that I have done my research and that I am right to support gun rights and free markets? No. Additionally, however, you should not assume that if someone says “I’m not sure the government should do ‘x’, […]” then this person is opposed to a thriving country, more equity, justice for all, etc. Some people believe that the government shouldn’t do something because– historically– there are reasons to believe that the government often does things inefficiently.

Now, it does not follow that because someone has done their research, that they are necessarily right. Nor does it follow that because somebody believes something different than you, that they have bad intentions in their heart. However, it does follow that if you assume the other person has nefarious aims that poison all of their thoughts, and they are, therefore, necessarily wrong and evil, that you will be unable to objectively evaluate what they are saying.

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Author: TheCommoner

I am a philosopher that is interested in what makes life worth living, what is worth pursuing, and how we can learn from the past. I believe that good philosophy benefits everyone and that there should be philosophers that present philosophy to those outside of the academy.

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