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Common False Dichotomies

November 11, 2009

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?

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