Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Logic Fail

Argumentum ab iniquum opes = Argument from "Well, you're a member of the 1%." Lit. "The argument of unfair means."

This logical fallacy, which has become increasingly common since the short-lived Occupy Wall Street movement, operates on the idea that the ideas of the (apparently) wealthy are suspect simply because the speaker has more wealth than "the common person," and thus is "out of touch" with reality as anyone who isn't wealthy experiences, when that isn't the topic actually under discussion.

Alice: People who favor user fees over taxes are actually attempting to gut public services to save themselves money.

Bob: As someone who pays $20,000 a year to send my children to private schools, I can assure you that it's more expensive - I only do so because there isn't a good public alternative.

Alice: Well, regular people can't afford to pay $20,000 for their children's education. So why should they listen to you?
Alice's response to Bob does not address his rebuttal of her original point - that people who use private goods over public ones are stingy, but instead seeks to undermine his credibility by using his (apparent) wealth to insinuate a lack of understanding of the problems of regular people who have no choice but to use taxpayer-funded schools. Which may be true, but that doesn't mean that he would rather not pay taxes to support those schools, or that he thinks that a system of ubiquitous private schools would be less expensive for him, personally.

Of course, "Argumentum ab iniquum opes" isn't really a new logical fallacy. It's just a variation on the Appeal to Poverty (argumentum ad lazarum) red herring fallacy.

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