False Dichotomy Tyranny

logical fallacy is a flaw in the structure of an argument so serious that it ultimately renders the conclusion itself invalid.  The SGU team (podcast link here) provides a great list of 20 logical fallacies on their web site.  Many of them are likely recognizable, like the familiar ad hominem and the ever-present non sequitur.  If you give their list a thorough read, thinking about real world examples of each as you go, you will soon be surprised to find yourself identifying logical fallacies everywhere, simultaneously impressing and irritating your loved ones.  [Be forewarned that skeptical thinkers should ultimately be prepared to explain the difference between a skeptic and a cynic to those who improperly label them as the latter.]

Once it becomes automatic to more skeptically analyze the arguments that people make, it becomes quite apparent that there is no shortage of people who stubbornly hold beliefs based on fallacious logic.  Though a seemingly harmless result like believing in ghosts or psychics is often the outcome of such flawed reasoning, it ceases to be entertaining when one absorbs the reality that nation-changing decisions are being made on the basis of what amounts to illogical half-thinking.  American politics and punditry are rife with examples of logical fallacies that are routinely utilized to skew our perspectives.  More often than not the results are unwise, ill-informed decisions with long lasting unintended consequences.

The slick and relentless utilization of one such logical fallacy, the false dichotomy, is a key part of an attempted wholesale destructive change to the historical American philosophical view of the proper relationship between the State and the Individual.  The SGU list referenced above defines a false dichotomy as “arbitrarily reducing a set of many possibilities to only two”, in other words claiming that there are only two choices in situations where multiple alternatives exist.  An argument can be made that statists long ago perfected an art form implementing this particular logical fallacy, and this flawed logic is regularly on display during our ongoing great debate about the socialization of health care in America.

Those who have debated the so-called Health Care “Reform” now being foisted upon an unwilling American populace have seen this false-choice tactic employed time after time.  Virtually every socialized medicine debate of any depth or duration will ultimately demonstrate the last-ditch logical fallacy that underpins proponents’ fierce support for any piece of legislation that manages to be labeled as health care reform.  Even after yielding on cogent criticisms involving costs and historical government inefficiency, proponents of socialized medicine quite often fall back on one consistent but intellectually bankrupt response:

“Doing nothing is not an option.”

That statement encapsulates the knowingly dishonest statist myth that there exist only two choices in this debate.  The arguments from many supporters of socialized medicine strive to reduce the debate to one of choosing between massively increased governmental intrusions into our health care system or simply leaving the status quo in place.  As employed in this case and in many other proposals from American progressives, that classic false dichotomy argument attempts to force people into choosing between socialism or inaction, soft tyranny or nothing.  Various counterproposals have been discussed at great length in many other places, but it is safe to say that the collection of alternative ideas from conservatives including tort reform, portability, easing of mandates, and interstate sale of health insurance certainly constitutes a middle ground that does not conform to the dishonest false dichotomy presented.

In Atlas Shrugged the author admonished readers to check their premises in order to ensure that the things that are “known” are not built on false ideas or flawed logic.  Unfortunately, much of what many people “know” is often based upon sets of rationalizations and positions that too many of those people intellectually cemented in place long ago, never to be reexamined.  In the current health care debate this phenomenon is often demonstrated when people continue to repeat the allegation that 46 million Americans cannot get health insurance even though that claim has been consistently proven to be flawed and deceitful.  Clever politicians are very adept at contriving proposals based upon flawed premises, always subtly manipulating the public in the direction of increased government power. 

Public opinion polls continue to show increasing opposition to any government health care plan.  At the same time there is a frantic partisan push in the Senate to get this egregious bill passed, including Landrieu-like bribes being thrown around to buy votes.

It is clearer than ever that the sole aim of so-called health care reform legislation is to significantly increase government power over the lives of its subjects.  Nothing else makes logical sense.

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5 responses to “False Dichotomy Tyranny

  1. This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 12/20/2009, at The Unreligious Right

  2. Us of false dichotomies is, indeed, rampant in political disourse. My “favorite” from the last decade: either we invade Iraq or we let appease Saddam Hussein.

    Anyway, Rob, I agree that there is a sensible middle ground in the health care debate that hasn’t been explored . . . you give a good list for starters. But aren’t you setting up something of a false dichotomy as well when you describe the reform package moving through Congress as “socialized” medicine? It may be more regulated than you or I might like, but it’s a far cry from HillaryCare of the early 90’s or the single-payer systems of Canada and the U.K.

  3. You and I may disagree on whether my calling it “socialized medicine” constitutes a false dichotomy, Clark.

    Anyone who did not just fall off the turnip truck knows that this is just the camel’s nose under the tent. This framework is partly engineered to destroy the private health insurance industry, leaving only Big Brother to pick up the pieces.

    Insidious as hell.

    This is not about health care at all. This is simply about power.

  4. Ah, but now you’re using the classic “slippery slope” logical fallacy. Number 14 on the SGU list.

  5. Clark, anyone who has observed politics as long as I have knows that the Slippery Slope is almost always NOT a logical fallacy when applied to government.

    It is their SOP.

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