A larger point

Today another example of the argument by anecdote. I’m still uncertain how to classify this–and thanks commenters for the comments–but this one instance of it I think is emblematic.

That was a joke. Today George Will finds two examples–two anecdotes as it were–of silly regulation by government at the behest of business interests.

>PHOENIX — In the West, where the deer and the antelope used to play, the spirit of “leave us alone” government used to prevail. But governments of Western states are becoming more like those elsewhere, alas.

>Consider the minor — but symptomatic — matter of the government-abetted aggression by “interior designers” against mere “decorators,” or against interior designers whom other interior designers wish to demote to the status of decorators. Some designers think decorators should be a lesser breed without the law on its side.

And that’s the thing. Let’s say the anecdotes are true as told. How can we conclude that they are “symptomatic of government-abetted agression.” These are two–only two–instances of apparently silly regulation. Why bother writing a column devoted to pointing out two instances of government silliness? Well, maybe, as some will certainly object, you have a “larger point.”

In the world of reasoning and logic, larger points follow from smaller points, and without smaller points, larger points do not exist. Or at least they are not justified.

So, what larger points could Will think he’s making?

He makes no effort to entertain the justifications for such regulations, he cannot conclude that they are unjustified. They certainly sound silly as he has described them. But one shouldn’t have a lot of confidence is such obviously uncharitable descriptions of minor consequences of regulation. One can certainly ask how emblematic those particular rules are of the regulation in question. And Will hasn’t done anything to establish that.

Could it be true that this regulation is actually strangling business? No evidence is offered of that. Now I suppose the reader might fill in his or her own outrageous anecdotes. But no effort is made even to gesture in the direction of evidence that would justify such broad conclusions as these:

>Beyond the banal economic motive for such laws, they also involve a more bizarre misuse of government. They assuage the status anxieties of particular groups by giving them the prestige, such as it is, that comes from government recognition as a certified profession.

So in the end we have what might be evidence that some of the rules consequent upon a couple of laws make people laugh. That’s comedy–and it’s certainly funny–but it’s not much of an argument.

But the larger point he’s making? There isn’t one.

2 thoughts on “A larger point”

  1. “Could it be true that this regulation is actually strangling business…?” in my small world the answer is yes. I have a 4 year degree in Interior Design and try to run a design business for residential homeowners. However, in my state I cannot call myself an Interior Designer because of a title law. Sure I know about space planning and proper furniture or wall placement for safety reasons, and building codes, and fire ratings for fabrics, etc. That was all included in my education. So what gives? The fact that I cannot list my business in say the yellow pages under “interior designer” hurts my business. I’m listed under “interior decorators” and to many that means I can do paint and pillows and not much more. So I get calls for small jobs rather than the large scale, high paying projects for which I was trained.

  2. That’s fine, but does the outrageous anecdote establish anything other than its own outrageousness? What’s keeping you from getting the appropriate title?

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