A Big Logical Fallacy is about to Doom Us

It goes without saying that the fields of Logic and Critical Thinking are not big priorities in our present educational system. I do not believe that many people are familiar with the fallacy known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc, but I am declaring now that American society is about to see the most egregious version of this fallacy ever known to man.

Translated “after this, therefore because of this”, the post hoc fallacy is a real classic. When I begin teaching my son Logic next year (he is only four years old now), I will start with this fallacy. For if we do not learn that “correlation is not causation”, we are going to fall for an unbelievably damaging lie of political spin very soon.

I do not expect that it is possible for this to be avoided. American voters historically associate circumstances they see or feel with some kind of “executive cause and effect”, no matter how silly that may be. But I am praying that this time will be different, because I fear that it will take generations for us to reverse the consequences of this fallacy being successfully sold to the American people. Keynesianism belongs in the dustbin of economic history, and the sequence of events in the business cycle may just give it more life than it deserves in an economically unsophisticated society.

I am referring to the post hoc that is already developing out of the leftist media and Democratic White House which will say that economic improvement came because of government intervention, and not despite it. It is economically indisputable that the spending bill of 2009 has provided no true stimulus to the American economy, and in fact, not even 15% of this ghastly redistribution of wealth has even been distributed (thus far). Digging ditches and paying people to fill them up no more creates economic wealth than Bastiat’s broken window did over a century ago. The government can not create prosperity ex nihilo (out of nothing). If and when (and it really is a matter of when, not if), the American economy begins showing the statistical improvement that was always, no matter what, going to come in a market economy, it will be an unforgivable lie for Obama and the Congress to take the credit for it. But take credit they will, and give credit we will. Does anyone doubt that if the Obama administration committed itself to extending the Bush tax cuts, that recovery would be more robust, and more accelerated? How then, can we give him credit when he lets the tax cuts expire, thereby enabling the largest tax increase in world history to take place in one day? Does anyone believe that if America was not burdened with an eventual deficit burden of $7 trillion, that economic productivity would be more achievable and more sustainable? How then, can we credit the deficit-creating labors of this administration with rescuing the economy? But that is what we are about to do.

And the reason is nothing more than the aforementioned post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. The idea that the sun comes up in the morning because I turned cartoons on the television set for my kids may make sense to a child, but it is unbecoming of a grown-up. It is going to take a targeted and intelligent effort by those on the side of economic freedom to keep this logical fallacy from permeating society. And sadly, it will take some political imagination, because like I said, logic does not come easy to today’s generation.