Thoughts on bad reasoning. #171 –Robert M. Shelby, 9-20-12. [488 txt wds]

It intrigues me how people arrive at bad conclusions by a process of thinking which at face value seems staightforward and uncontorted yet proceeds from distorted premise. One can argue correctly from indefensible assumptions. When that happens, the results may seem valid but will actually be quite false or, what is just as bad, be entirely beside whatever point was ostensibly intended.

A case in point is Thomas Sowell’s, “The fallacy of redistribution.” He thinks he is talking about Barack Obama’s 1998 statement favoring the principle of economic redistribution, but by failing to understand Obama’s view, Sowell wanders off into the swamp of his own right-wing ideology. We should detest patterns of pseudo-logic that start from wrongly framed or ill-focused assumption, or which, whether deliberately or blindly, accept a badly defined term at the outset, for they usually go awry however well they reach that person’s desired result. Sowell’s misunderstanding stems from a-priori rejection without real examination. He  “knows the whole subject” already.

First: What is “redistribution” or what can the word mean? Second: How can it be managed or achieved? Clearly, Obama didn’t mean redistribution as an activity where the people are lined up in two groups, each person in one group with a bag containing his property earned or not, the other group’s members holding empty bags while between the groups men in jack-boots and wearing arm-bands take contents from one group’s bags and carry them over to the other group to even up their bag’s contents.

In other words, redistribution does not entail confiscation from the “haves” to give to “have nots.” This is no more than a fearsome bugaboo and nothing like what Obama had in mind.

Obama sensed what every liberal understands, that too great a gap between top and bottom of the economic ladder is not healthy for good relations between national economy and political democracy. Sensible policy then will promote means to shorten the ladder and reduce the gap. Naturally, the wealthiest persons and companies will start a hullaballoo, crying about “confiscation” if they see themselves gaining less or paying more tax than they’re used to, or than they feel they should. They may not see their privileged positions as enabling them to “suck it up” but are happy to see those less privileged getting their “blood sucked out.”

But, policy aimed at balance never takes inordinately from the wealthy nor does it ever give indiscriminantly to the poor or undeserving, remembering that the poor are not invariably undeserving. Injustice will tend to be in the eye of the beholder.

Lastly, Sowell’s game of reasoning is scarcely pure since however correct his points may be within the frame of his argument, his most basic premise is ad hominem attack on Obama, to make him look as bad a possible and his aims thoroughly suspect. From the standpoint of semantic strength and health, Sowell’s project, or projection, is weak and sickly.

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