Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

An Error of Multiplicities

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Imagine a nation containing two jurisdictions, A and B. Imagine further that the population of jurisdiction A divides neatly into two groups: 51%, who oppose and do not receive transfer benefits from the federal state; and 49%, who receive such benefits (whatever their expressed beliefs). Imagine also that the population of jurisdiction B divides neatly into two groups: 67%, who support but do not do not receive transfer benefits from the federal state; and 33%, who receive such benefits (whatever their expressed beliefs).

The majority in jurisdiction A oppose transfer benefits; yet a higher share of people in that jurisdiction draw benefits than in jurisdiction B, where a majority support such programmes. None-the-less, these figures provide no evidence of hypocrisy in jurisdiction A. Possibly no one there who draws benefits speaks out against them or works to prevent others from receiving them.

In the real world, things are messier. (There'd be six relevant types of people.) But I sometimes see it argued that the people of certain jurisdictions are hypocrites simply on the basis that a majority there oppose some set of entitlement programmes, while at the same time a higher share of the population in that district (than of populations in other districts) draw benefits from that set. The hypothetical case above illustrates the fallacy of that argument.

If we had just one jurisdiction, in which a majority opposed some set of benefits yet a large share of people drew those benefits, the idea that there were some sort of hypocrisy wouldn't naturally arise, unless it were suggested that a majority drew those same benefits. Knowing about other jurisdictions doesn't tell one what one needs to know about that one jurisdiction. But many people get befuddled by the multiplicity, especially when the narrator tells them what they are predisposed to believe.

(There's here also another, perhaps more important fallacy, which I discussed in an entry more than five years ago. People who do not believe that some order should prevail can participate in that order without being hypocrites. It is when they deliberately act to sustain an order against which they express themselves that they are acting as hypocrites.)

A Monumental Error

Monday, 29 June 2015

Imagine that, under some law passed long ago, some group of persons was able to take $10 000 from you, without your consent. Further imagine that they spent this money on a statue of your beloved dog, Earl, and presented it to you.

The statue is actually rather nice. The artist truly managed to convey Earl's personality! Setting aside what it cost you, you'd like it a great deal. And, if you'd tried to have one made like it, it would perhaps have cost you $20 000, rather than $10 000. (They have many statues made, and get each at significant discount.)

None-the-less, you don't like it as much as you'd like $20 000; you don't like it as much as you'd like to have kept your $10 000. And no one else is willing to pay $10 000 for a statue of your dog.

Most of us would say that you're entitled to feel yourself worse-off, not-withstanding that, by some accounting, you've got a $20 000 return on a $10 000 cost.

Yet officials and other citizens who complain about Federal tax burdens (or about intervention in general from the Federal government) are often mocked as supposed hypocrites if they come from jurisdictions in which the Federal government spends more than it takes in revenue. The principle may be exactly the same. Even if the Federal government delivers money (rather than commodities) to the constituent state, if it requires that the money be spent in a particular way, then this is like compelling someone to buy a statue of Earl. And the constituent states were not themselves the taxpayers, so giving those states money without mandates still leaves people with reason to feel aggrieved, even when the money is more than that taken from taxpayer. (It is not as if each constituent state has just one taxpayer who is also its one voter, able then to direct how the money be spent.)

I Don't Much Bother with Television News

Thursday, 18 March 2010

There is a hugely important difference between consent within a system and consent to that system.

Some examples:

  • Many people object to some matters being decided by bullet; they think that such violence is a Bad Thing. But that doesn't make them hypocrites if they respond to shooting or to the threat of shooting with bullets of their own.
  • Some of us object to some things being decided by ballot; we feel that some things (such as the ability of consenting adults to marry) are rights that cannot be taken (though power may be taken) no matter how many people object. But that doesn't make us hypocrites when we respond to voting or to the threat of voting with ballots of our own.
  • Quite a few people think that Social Security is a Bad Idea. But that doesn't make them hypocrites if they accept it when offered; they were forced to pay into the system, and they may conclude that refusing to take the money may have no marginal effect on whether it continues.
It is a separate issue whether returning fire, voting in elections that one feels should not be held, or consuming entitlements that one believes should not exist would be wise practical responses; the point is that none of these actions is hypocritical.

Okay, I'm going to presume that all my readers recognize the class of distinction upon which I'm focussing.

So, to-night, I saw NBC News present a report on United States Senators and Representatives who have voted against stimulus bills, yet had subsequently sought to get some of the monies therefrom for their respective districts. The report treated these people as hypocrites. The reporter repeatedly claimed that they'd somehow reversed themselves, and quoted others representing them as hypocrites; and no one was quoted offering any sort of explanation of why this would not be hypocrisy. The only defense quoted was merely that of one congressman, allowed to explain that he thought that seeking monies for which his constituents had paid was in their interests.

…and Eating It Too

Friday, 4 September 2009
White House Objects to School Lunch Advocates' Poster Mentioning Obama Daughters by Jake Tapper at ABC News

We've been very clear I think from even before the administration started that their two girls would have a very private life, and we want to protect that private life and their privacy, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said this morning when asked about the PCRM posters. And we hope that others will be respectful, as many in the media have been, about not using the girls as a publicity stunt.

Obama photo evokes Kennedy moment from the BBC

The US White House has released a photograph of President Barack Obama's daughter Sasha sneaking up on her father as he works in the Oval Office.

The image has drawn comparisons with the famous 1963 image of John F Kennedy Jnr playing underneath the Oval Office desk as his father reads documents.