False Dichotomies


A false dichotomy is an informal fallacy in which two choices are presented as either/or when other choices exist but are not included or when the two choices presented are by no means mutually exclusive. A good example I recently read was the assertion that Indians either had to fully assimilate or be completely traditional. This is a false dichotomy – there are many choices other than these two, not to mention an Indian can operate quite effectively in both the modern American world and in the traditional world of their nation.  By and large we are smart capable people.

The failure we observe in the lack of ability of the American culture to reason (I am using the word ‘reason’ as a verb) is in no small part due to the culture having fallen in love with false dichotomies. False dichotomies are a failure of logic hence when one uses a false dichotomy as a foundation for their reasoning there is no other outcome achievable other than an illogical conclusion. American society is saturated with false dichotomies. Any time culture or politics is debated, discussed or argued we can almost guarantee at least one false dichotomy will be introduced. Bernie Sanders has spent his entire political career presenting one false dichotomy after another. I seriously doubt it is possible to scroll through a newsfeed on Facebook for more than five minutes without spotting a false dichotomy – they have become that prevalent.

False dichotomies are inherently manipulative – the goal of a false dichotomy is not to reach a truthful or rational conclusion but instead the goal is all too often to communicate a penalty if one is not part of the groupthink. We see that in the ‘Trump is Hitler and if you do not resist and hate him you are a Nazi’ arguments we now see and hear so frequently. Trump is not Hitler and if you fail to hate Trump it does not make you a Nazi – however these are the false choices presented in an attempt to manipulate others. ‘Trump is Hitler and if you do not resist and hate him you are a Nazi’ is completely illogical but that has not prevented a substantial portion of the population from embracing that argument. As I mentioned above, anytime you embrace a false dichotomy you will inevitably also reach an illogical outcome.

Conversely many of the Trump people are prone to false dichotomies as well – ‘If you do not support Trump you are a traitor!’ (I have heard that one more times that I can count). Again completely illogical – a candidate who fails to win my vote does not mean I have committed a crime worthy of the death penalty. The intent is to manipulate and assert a penalty if one does not comply with the groupthink.

When – not if – you are presented with two choices as an either/or please take a step back and ask yourself ‘are there other choices not presented’ and ‘are these choices indeed mutually exclusive’? If what you are presented fails either of those tests then it is a false dichotomy, If you select one of those choices you will inevitably reach an illogical outcome. Whoever is presenting you those choices has in all likelihood already reached an illogical outcome – and they have a desperate emotional need for you to share their illogic with them.

Choose a rational truthful solution – not a manipulative illogical solution.

Context Shifting

Coyote Gulch

Coyote Gulch


Context shifting is hard.


I completed a three day backpacking trip to Coyote Gulch in the Glen Canyon area yesterday and this morning I review the news:
Stolen U.S. Government Computer Code Fuels Cyberattack
Retail Sales Disappoint Again
Global Property Bubble Is Ready To Pop
Doomsday For Malls
Inverse Trump Effect
Empire Fed Plunges Into Contraction
etc etc etc


24 hours ago or so my big decision was how much water I should purify for the next hiking segment and I was contemplating where my last chance to get water may be. Meanwhile the big news while I was hiking was the worldwide ransomware attack. I was in a completely unhackable place. No cell connection, no wifi, I would guess one cannot even get radio reception down in the canyons. I was more than forty miles from the nearest cell signal or wifi.


The differences in the digital and non-digital worlds could not be more apparent.
I have nice modern backpacking equipment. It is not as though I was hiking in a breechclout and carrying a spear. However returning to the ransomware news puts an exclamation point on how invasive the digital world has become.
We are becoming a different people than what we were just a short time ago. I do not know that the digital world is making us a better people.

Denying Opportunity

Some of you may have seen or heard Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup, in recent years talking about how the unemployment rate as published by the Federal government was misleading. In fact Mr. Clifton called it, “The Big Lie.” Here is the heart of what Mr. Clifton had to say:

“Gallup defines a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older.”

If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 you are not counted as ‘unemployed’ by the Federal government. In previous articles we have recounted how, for the last eight years, the United States has very consistently been losing full time private sector jobs and adding part time jobs month after month. There is nothing wrong with a part time job unless what you want is a full time job. If what you want is to buy a home, get married, have children, maybe get a washer and dryer, and so on and so, forth a part time job is not going to provide you the income to do that.

A major reason we have been moving from a model of full time employment to part time employment is the Affordable Care Act, which financially penalizes employers for having their employees work more than twenty-nine hours a week. The ACA, along with the tremendous amount of bureaucratic overhead placed on employers, raises the bar for employment — especially full time employment. This trend of part time instead of full time employment contributes to the historically low marriage rate, the historically low birth rate (U.S. birth rates started falling in 2008 and have fallen each year since), and reaching an all-time low for the rate of home ownership in the United States.

These policies have real consequences on people. These policies have real consequences on the society we live in.

The effect of these policies are especially brutal on younger adults. If you have not worked a job by the time you are twenty years old, statistically speaking you will never work. Statistically speaking if you never work that means you will never marry and never own a home. Employment, marriage, and home ownership are, statistically speaking, tied together. By engaging policies that deny these younger people a chance at employment, particularly full time employment, we are also denying them the chance at marriage and home ownership. Over time, this will change society dramatically — and not in a positive way.

It is one thing to decide on your own that you do not want to marry, have children, work full time, or own a home. These are choices each individual is free to make. It is quite another thing to have government policies effectively deny you those choices. By adopting policies that deny people full time employment this government is also denying people the basic opportunities that Americans have always taken for granted.

Happy Mother’s Day–Odds and Observations

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and children of mothers.

Here is an unhappy history of the happy day. It seems Mother’s Day was created by one Anna Jarvis not to celebrate the concept of motherhood generally, but as an occasion to honor her own deceased mother. Florists and card Printers joined the cause and promoted the idea of people everywhere honoring mothers, with flowers and cards, natch.


President Woodrow Wilson recognized Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May and the natural, easily appreciated impulse to honor moms, fueled by marketing of the card and flower brigade, became a big cultural tradition. It’s not clear when big chocolate tried to muscle onto the playing field.
Anna Jarvis was unhappy with the commercialization and national appropriation and spent the rest of her life opposing what the day had become. She sued companies and events for using the name “Mother’s Day” and tried to have the holiday rescinded. She spent her last years in an asylum.
More currently, Google today has an inscrutable doodle it calls a wish for all Super Mums but looks more like an animated primer for cactus husbandry. Slate Magazine shares the warmth with a cheery column assuring Moms “You will hate your husband after your kid is born.”
On a happier note, which Anna Jarvis would surely disapprove, Time Magazine offers a list of what it calls the most popular Mother’s Day gift in every state.
And with that, Happy Mother’s Day to moms and children everywhere.

A Rent-Seeking Society?

Rent-seeking is increasing your share of existing wealth without creating new wealth. It comes about via the effort to manipulate and control social and political environments in order to profit without actually having to produce anything. Examples of rent-seeking include government, Too Big To Fail banks (Paul Volcker observed that the last time the banks introduced a useful new product it was the ATM machine), grievance and victimhood industries of all kinds, and increasingly education. This list goes on and on.

It has been effectively argued that socialism (yes even ‘democratic socialism’) is nothing more than rent-seeking writ large.
At one point in time not so long ago – say about ten years ago – rent-seeking was considered akin to being a parasite – yet today it is has developed into one of the pillars of the economy and society. Why shouldn’t that be so? We have recently had a Chairman of the Federal Reserve brag about his ability to create unlimited numbers dollars for free with just a few keystrokes – why should people and organizations not manipulate the social and political environment in order to increase their share of those dollars when they cost nothing to create and are given out to the chosen few for free? Hey, why can I not buy some politicians and be one of the chosen ones to receive money for nothing? Why can I not have some laws and regulations passed requiring people to buy my product instead of my competitions product? I exist hence my existence entitles me to some of this free money – or preferably quite a lot of free money.
Is this not where we are at today? Have we not simply become rent-seeking society?
It is looking like we have. That was the easy question, the hard question is how do we recover from this?
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