The Six-Year-Old Argument
I was sent this snoped email recently and was really surprised that it was still going around.
It is chuck full of poor analogy and even more importantly it’s flat out inaccurate.
It’s laden with what I like to call “The Six-Year-Old Argument.”
This is going to take some explaining, because many people with no experience in truly defending their beliefs unfortunately are often as equally inept at attacking others’. Thus continually using what most people refer to as fallacies…also known in slang as bullshit.
Now for the person that has a general idea of what fallacies are, let’s be even more clear. They are points of an argument that either invalidate or weaken it. In this particular case it’s almost like someone tried to pump as many fallacious tactics into one email as they could!
So where are we? Personally I find the continued and repeated attacks on politicians by politicians and their parties detestable. What is more saddening is seeing people outside the government managing to convince themselves that slander and bad media are acceptable methods of delivering the message for their political parties. Why? Because in teaching someone to argue improperly, we’ve hurt not only the person that thinks they’re delivering a message or point properly, but we’re also hurting anyone and everyone that is convinced of these beliefs for the wrong reasons. The Six-Year-Old Argument is a tactic by which an idea or story is given so much vanilla attention that facts aren’t debated or disputed. Just like Six-Year-Olds, we’re given to trust that what we’re being fed isn’t in fact a big bucket of bullshit.
It’s a tactic used with absolutely no regard for truth or legitimacy to gain popular opinion. It’s like imprisoning a man for the rest of his life deliberately under false pretenses just to get him incarcerated. This is not a tactic of our government, it isn’t just in our court of law and is in fact illegal here. But it’s okay to give others the misinformation in amounts just adequate enough to make them want to “spread the word.” It’s that mentality…where our trust in the information we’re given is accurate solely on the basis that we trust the speaker. I’ve named this tactic the Six-Year-Old Argument. It’s that string of bullshit given to a six year old to elicit a desired reaction/response because the speaker is either incapable or unwilling to give a more accurate analogy or argument to prove a point. And here we go!
It doesn’t take a genius…..
“When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”
-Adrian Rogers, 1931
I am going to start with this quote. Whoever used this didn’t really do any research on the person they quoted, otherwise they would have known that the date 1931 is incorrect. In addition, where I would definitely expect some famous experts opinion here someplace, what we’ve found is that this person is not in any manner a political guru, he was in fact a religious icon and lobbyist, he was a stanch conservative that was opposed to separation of church and state and in no manner identified with the present world view, and certainly had no hand in the economic problems we face now (much to his credit). My point is that while the quote sounds correct, it is incomplete and unfortunately is the start of a long example of begging the question 1 In this case allowing you to assume this argument is prefaced by someone important that knows what they’re talking about. Here’s the real quote:
“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the industrious out of it. You don’t multiply wealth by dividing it. Government cannot give anything to anybody that it doesn’t first take from somebody else. Whenever somebody receives something without working for it, somebody else has to work for it without receiving. The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for half of the people to get the idea they don’t have to work because somebody else will work for them, and the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work because they don’t get to enjoy the fruit of their labor.”
What is described above is not Socialism2. It’s a description of quid pro quo (i.e. this for that) and a hypothetical imbalance in the economy when the government gives money away. How this equated to the foundations of worker-ownership in the author’s eyes I do not know, but simply put this quote not only doesn’t apply to Socialism, it barely relatees to the scenario depicted in the rest of the email. Now to be clear, I am not trying to Poison the Well.3 I am simply saying that the person quoted is not in any manner an authority on Socialism, Communism, or even Capitalism.
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan.”
To be clear, “a local college” was originally emailed as Texas Tech. The teacher was supposedly Cecile Gericke, but that also turned out to be outright lie, as “Cecile Gericke”…either of them, have never held an American doctorate nor have they taught in the U.S. Making a reference to “Obama’s Socialism” further lands the reader in a scenario whereby we associate Obama with Socialism as if it were an established fact, when it actually isn’t established in the least, being neither belonging to Obama, nor being Socialism in any respect. I would lay this Straw Man4 at the squarely at the feet of the author.
All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little. The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
The sentence stressed at the beginning of this paragraph prove the experiment didn’t work. Not that it did. The parameters of the test dictated that no one would Ace, nor would anyone fail. This parameter was not breached by those being tested, but by the administrator of the test. By any measure this isn’t a test of Socialism but of administrative corruption. We don’t need to cry Socialism for that 😉
The scores never increased as bickering, blame, and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
Again, we see the Straw Man prominently displayed, making the allusion to Socialism when this is very clearly geared towards a Communist5
Could not be any simpler than that.
Simple…yeah, but it leaves soooo much lacking in accuracy that it’s albeit useless to read.
NOW…….DO YOU DARE PASS THIS ON TO EDUCATE OTHERS, OR DO YOU LEAVE YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND?
I did more than dare. I just stamped my name on this for thousands of readers. I can only hope that mine sees more readers. One of my nephews thinks my pointing out the inaccuracy in this was a waste of time. I am not sure about waste, but I can’t really think of a good reason to not break this down into the bullshit it represents. I can’t help but be concerned that people are buying into this kind of media.
Anyhow, below are a few of the links that might help explain my point. The Snopes forum dialog is a fun read but makes a TON of interesting points.
- Begging The Question: Asking the reader to simply accept the conclusion without providing real evidence, often the argument either relies on a premise that says the same thing as the conclusion or simply ignores an important (but questionable) assumption that the argument rests on. ↩
- Socialism refers to various theories of economic organization advocating public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with a method of compensation based on the amount of labor expended.In a very basic view, the workers own the business, and earn profits based on the labor they provide. Keep this in mind when comparing to the scenario above. ↩
- Poisoning the well is an attacker tries to discredit what a person might later claim by presenting unfavorable information (be it true or false) about the person. ↩
- A Straw Man is an argument or aspect of argument that deliberately misleads/miscommunicates an opponents position and then attacks based on the assumption that the distortion is true. ↩
- Communism is a system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people. ↩