Courtesy of George Will, here’s a new fallacy (one he doesn’t commit, by the way):
U.S. policy toward Cuba should, however, be conditioned, and perhaps haunted, by U.S. policy toward China.
That policy was supposed to result in steady, slow-motion regime change
through candid subversion in broad daylight. The premise has been that
the cure for communism is commerce with the capitalist world. The
assumption is that capitalism brings, because it requires, an ethic of
trust and the rule of law in the form of promise-keeping (contracts).
Also, the protection of private property gives individuals a sphere of
sovereignty and whets their appetites for a politics of popular
This has been called "the Starbucks
fallacy" (see James Mann’s book "The China Fantasy"): When people
become accustomed to many choices of coffee, they will demand many
political choices. This doctrine may be being refuted by the emergence
of a China that has become wealthier without becoming less
In addition to this self-effacing tidbit, the rest of his op-ed today seemed a model of reasonableness. It’s not so hard to do, really.
One thought on “New fallacies”
I’ve been taking JCasey’s advice and periodically browsing the archives when I came upon this piece. In the context of some other items I’ve come across recently (for example http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/09/14/democracy_on_the_wane/?page=full) I got to thinking (yes, I know, always a bad sign) about simply about the range of choices that are available to people but the purposes behind those choices.
Specifically, is the purpose of the choice (as it is presented, viewed, exercised, and variously embedded in the consciousness of the social group) merely an increase in pleasure? Or is the purpose of the choice human development and flourishing? Making explicit what is implicit in the foregoing: Is choice about Utilitarianism, or is it about a kind of Aristotelian/John Dewey notion of eudaimonia/growth?
Since the Utilitarian model dominates all of our social/policital/economic discourse, it is also the driving ideal behind the “choice=democracy” Starbucks Fallacy. Consumerism is equated with freedom. But when people achieve middle class standing with such a model, there seems to come an increasing interest in “big-daddy” protections that are strikingly anti-democratic.
There are other models, however, and Amartya Sen has offered a distinctively neo-Aristotelian example in Development as Freedom. John Dewey’s particularly robust notions about democracy go far beyond the franchise and consumerism; his social/moral theory might be described as “Aristotle infomed by the scientific revolution, technological development and the reality of change.”
The logical point being, perhaps what underlies the Starbucks Fallacy is a kind of Complex Question fallacy. One is treating “choice” as though it were a simplistic matter of consumer options, and effectively ends up wondering, “if you are still beating your wife?”
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