Open season

Anyone care to identify this?

>But since the Bush tax cuts went into effect in 2003, the economy’s growth rate (3.5 percent) has been better than the average for the 1980s (3.1) and 1990s (3.3). Today’s unemployment rate (4.6 percent) is lower than the average for the 1990s (5.8) — lower, in fact, than the average for the past 40 years (6.0).

After you identify and defend your identification, we’ll adjust the categories–and perhaps post your explanation. So have at it.

12 thoughts on “Open season”

  1. Non causa pro causa, or more specifically, post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

    This is a favorite argument of political types. And for all logicians may know about what’s good reasoning, politicians know what’s good bad-reasoning — ie, what fallacies “work.”

    Yes, Bush’s ’03 tax cuts preceded the economic growth and unemployment measures reported. However, economics is more complex than that. George Will might be surprised to learn it’s a whole field of study, with books to read and everything. And I bet none of them consist entirely of:

    “There is a direct causal relationship such that tax cuts (of any sort) lead to both a lowering of unemployment and a raising of GDP. There are no extraneous variables or other factors whatsoever which may confound economic performance.”

    My preferred rejoinder for such arguments is to note that, for all we know, the GDP rose 3.5% *IN SPITE OF* the tax cuts. Imagine how much more it could have risen if not hampered by Bush’s attempts to starve social services through income reduction!

  2. Will’s argument appears to be an attempt to dismiss Pelosi’s claim that the Democrat’s will “jump-start” the economy, if they are elected. He infers that the economy would need to be first stalled in order to be “jump-started.” Of course, if the metaphor is dealing with cars, then stalled is not the proper comparison, since you only would need to jump-start a car whose battery is “dead.” So Pelosi’s metaphor may be problematic before Will even begins, therefore making Will’s argument against it worthless.

    However, if we bracket the semantic issues and simply assume that Pelosi is claiming that the Democrats will in some way stimulate a struggling economy, then Will would appear to be arguing that the economy is not struggling and the above quote is his “proof.” If this is the case, then I believe there may be two fallacies here.

    The claim that appears to connect Bush’s tax cuts of 2003 to the current condition of the economy would seem to be a form of false cause as Jeremy points out above. By the way, didn’t the winner of this year’s Noble Prize in economics argue that deficit spending does not stimulate demand? (I would assume that the economist’s argument entails that a government that lowers taxes but continues to spend at the same level, i.e. deficit spending, does not stimulate demand and therefore cannot have the effect that Will is claiming). However, it is not entirely clear that Will is making the claim that Bush’s tax cuts have caused the economic growth and low unemployment rates. It could be read as just a simple fact of comparison (a point in history) and not as an argument.

    In addition to the fallacy of false cause (if there was one), I also believe that we may have the fallacy of suppressed evidence in regards to the claim that the economy is not stalled. The economic growth rate and the unemployment rate alone could not possibly serve as proof for anything. If five years ago the value of the economy had fallen to one dollar and the unemployment rate sky-rocketed so the government instituted emergency measures by giving nearly everyone a government job, which in turn slightly stimulated economic growth and caused a low unemployment rate, then would this be cause for celebration that the economy was doing well and didn’t need a “jump-start.” Basically, Will has not given us enough information to make an informed judgment. Of course, this would only be the fallacy of suppressed evidence if it could be shown that Will actually ignores evidence that shows that the economy is not doing well. If no such evidence exists and he has simply ignored evidence that could confirm his claim, then he has not committed a fallacy but has just made a bad inductive argument.

  3. though I think Jeremy is mostly right, I think that the argument is more likely an example of oversimplified cause. In addition, I think that we should be concerned with the possibility here of suppressed evidence. We are warranted in asking what kind of jobs have been created in the last ten years, not just assuming that these jobs are the equivalent (in terms of earning power, working conditons, job security, etc.) to jobs created in previous years. Real income has actually decreased over the last thirty years, and the average work week has increased. Thus, not all economic growth is desired or sustainable growth, and these facts lead me to surmise that the above argument is a likely candidate for a fallacy of presumption: suppressed evidence.

  4. i’m arguing for another of my hybrid fallacies. this one i’ll call the “suppressed cause.” forgive my lack of a latin nomeclature. As Mr.’s Dolan and Hilton have noted, we have the ridiculous puntidtocracy standby of false cause, but also there seems a lack of necessary information here. there fore, we might articulate the “suppressed cause” like so: the ecidence needed to draw the proper conclusion is intentionally suppressed, while at the same time, the lack of the suppressed evidence is to create , nad produce a conclusion from, the false cause. all hail mr. will’s attempt at frankensteinian logic: the fallacy of suppressed cause.

  5. I infer from Mr. Mayo’s spelling that those liquid refreshments after class affected his analytical abilities as much as mine, so this should be a fair fight. I wonder what evidence is being “intentionally suppressed.” I suspect Will is simply naïve enough to believe that an increase in GDP is causally related to previous tax cuts.

    Doesn’t suppressed evidence require an accepted piece of evidence to be advanced when pointing out the claim? What’s the missing premise here — some obscure economic theory?

    Also: fun fact! (just to harp on the English lit. guy who’s contemplating learning French). The plural of “Mr.” is not “Mr.’s” but “Messrs.,” from the French “messieurs.” (pronounced “Miss-yeur,” with as snooty an accent as you can muster)

  6. as to any insinuation that i have been libationally led towards poor spelling, i say poppycock. that was careless keyboarding, pure and simple. to quote the immportal clancey wiggum, the day i can’t do my job drunk, is the day i turn in my badge and gun. seondly, will is not naive. he is bilious, indignant, and cheap, but not naive. i won’t pretend that i have the figures, but i’m guessing that it would take more than two lines of figures to prove will’s point; therefore, i infer two things. one, tht will simply oversimplified from seemingly congruent statistics, or, two, that he has simply chosen the statistics that best support his conclusion, and discarded those that don’t. my argument is that it’s a little of both. you’ve made a good case for the false cause/oversimplified cause and jem has introduced at least one good question of the evidence that may have been supressed here, but i’ll press it further. will ignores the fact that this economic upswing has come while the country is at war, a notrious economy booster. he credits the president’s economic policy, not his warmongering. perhaps they are one and the same. will also neglects to mention the nosedive the economy was in before the advent of war, instead focusing on the present. he picks and chooses accepted facts that prove his point, while ignoring others that might denigrate his claims.

  7. Mr. Mayo,

    I find your insinuation that the military intervention in Iraq has raised the GDP and lowered the unemployment rate no less fallacious than Will’s original argument. I would think that evidence is required to draw the assertion that *this* “war,” as you call it, has entailed the same economic effects as very different encounters (e.g., World War 2). Without such evidence, I would say your analogy is inadequate and thus fallacious (weak analogy).

    As for Will’s picking and choosing of facts, GDP and unemployment are, by my knowledge, the main measures of economic condition. I maintain that the problem is not his selection of facts regarding the current economic condition, but rather his assertion that the tax cuts were their predominant cause.

    Economics is a complicated field, and causal assertions require rigorous evidence. Will has not provided such, nor, I would think, is anyone on this page qualified to provide such.

    And on that note, I think I’m going to go pull Steven Levitt’s book off my bookshelf for a laugh.

  8. one problem: will never cites GDP, he cites the rate of economic growth. perhaps the GDP number doesn’t support the flawed thesis you’ve aptly identified, while the rate of economic growth does, albeit by the slimmest of margins. he references a reference by Kerry to the GDP, yet never cites it himself. perhaps i’m paranoid and i will readily admit i sorely lack the credentials to speak authoritatively on economics, but i want to know what will’s not telling us, which seems to be a lot. on the subject of war, it seems that war makes an immediate impact to the economy, which is often positive, even if it comes bereft of the massive mobilization of labor and resources we saw in WW II. however, if it is funded in the manner that this war has been–“deficit spending”, as MattK noted, then it carries a long term negaticve impact with it, for it saddles the american public with a huge debt, which will inevitably lead to higher taxes. even if bush’s tax cuts did cause the upturn, the war he’s fighting will eventually become the cause of higher taxes, rendering the short term impact will is trumpeting moot. you’ve correctly identified the false cause, but there is blatant supression of evidence here: the jobs aren’t qualified, the war factor, with its positive and negative impacts, is flatly ignored, and, as you’ve noted, the GDP is an important way of assessing the economy, yet will references it only obliquely, as part of a derisive slam on Kerry, not as a premise.

  9. Hey! easy on the calls for substantial evidence. We’re philosophers, not social scientists or nerdy number crunchers. All we are doing is analyzing the LIKELIHOOD that the rise in GDP is somehow caused solely (or in a large part) by Bush’s tax cuts. One doesn’t have to be an economics guru to surmise that this claim is on the surface false. On what grounds do I say this? Well, for starters, if we’ve learned nothing in higher education, we’ve at least learned that one to one causal connections seldom hold in complicated, abstract scenarios, and that the burden of proof is on the arguer to provide sufficient evidence to support his or her conclusion. All we have to do here is show that Will has not supplied the requisite evidence to bolster his rather simpletonian, one-sided economic argument.

    Actually, the more I think about the nature of the suppressed evidence, the closer it seems to look like this fallacy:

    meaning that we can attribute the rise in GDP and job growth to almost any seemingly relevant cause.

    Again, we must not assume that whatever growth that has occurred is either desirable or sustainable.

    Jeremy, though it is true that we should defer to the properly trained economist for substantial support, that does not mean that we can’t make ANY comments about the argument. Again, that’s why we’re philosophers! License to speak on any topic we want! (as long as we constrain ourselves to common-sense probabilities and logical form, and clearly limit the scope of our arguments).

  10. well, jim, i think that might be it. “the texas sharpshooter.” all too fitting, huh?

  11. Jem wrote: *Hey! easy on the calls for substantial evidence. . . . Jeremy, though it is true that we should defer to the properly trained economist for substantial support, that does not mean that we can’t make ANY comments about the argument.*

    Phil is the one, I believe, who brought up the evidence/lack-of issue. I only maintain that in claiming “suppressed evidence” you need to at least be able to point to what’s missing — not give it’s exact value, but at least be able to point to what kind of evidence it is. For example, if Will’s argument said “in 2004, the GDP rose 5.8% and in 2005 unemployment fell by 1.2%,” then you can claim that he is purposely suppressing evidence by selecting particular years which support his argument. But Will takes the broad swath by saying “since 2003.” The problem is not his intermediate conclusion that the economy is doing well now (debatably true), but that his two figures don’t provide anything resembling sufficient cause to link the *tax cuts* to the current economic state (*post hoc, ergo propter hoc*).

    Phil wrote: *one problem: will never cites GDP, he cites the rate of economic growth.*

    Are you sure about that? I thought he was equating the two. How is he quantifying “economic growth,” then?

    Phil wrote: *there is blatant supression [sic] of evidence here: the jobs aren’t qualified, the war factor, with its positive and negative impacts, is flatly ignored*

    Now that I’ve resorted to sic’ing you guys, my impersonation of intellectual asshole in this discussion is complete and this will be my last comment.

    Whether or not the jobs are qualified is not necessarily relevant. The definition of a good economy for many republicans would include a high level of outsourcing at the expense of American jobs. I think his claim is that the economy is good “overall,” not for any particular sector of the middle-class, e.g., auto workers.

    As for the war factor, you’ve done an able job in arguing for its relevance, and I am becoming convinced. However, the bottom line is that your argument for “suppressed evidence” seems to ascribe dishonest intention to him. While I don’t put Will above such deception, and it’s possible that he did intentionally deceive by cherry picking evidence — I find it more likely that he saw pretty numbers for growth and unemployment and, being in his laissez-faire, Republican mindset, jumped to a causal conclusion. In the absence of evidence as the to author’s intention (anonymous manuscripts found in a secret desk compartment, anyone?), it seems more correct to simply state the evidence is insufficient, not maliciously suppressed.

Comments are closed.