A fallacy is the use of faulty or invalid reasoning while constructing an argument. An argument that is fallacious may be deceptive in the sense that it seems to be better than it actually is. Whereas some fallacies are developed intentionally to persuade or manipulate through the use of deception, others are unintentional as a result of ignorance or carelessness. On that account the following paper will examine two fallacies in recent publications. These fallacies lie in the disciplines of philosophy and economics. The first fallacy states that the leadership of a country should experts, that is, people who possess broad philosophical knowledge. The second fallacy asserts that technology is the primary cause of unemployment in the 21st century.
The First Fallacy
On 26 March, 2017, The Guardian published an article titled Nigeria in Need of Demosthenes, written by Simon Abah. The author states that Nigeria is facing a leadership problem due to the lack of ideological education. Abah (1) believes the lack of “thought leadership” is the casue of many problems that Nigeria is experiencing. He bases argument on Plato’s idea in The Republic. Plato proposes the idea of philosophical rule whereby kings should be philosophers to enable a country to be prosperous. This section of the essay will illustrate why Abah’s and Plato’s argument is a fallacy.
The Writer’s Motive and Intention
In The Republic, Plato systematically questions human behaviour with a particular focus on the government and justice system. Plato states that philosophers should be kings since they have the ideal level of knowledge required to rule a state (Plato 5). Abah (1) forms his reasoning along this line when he states that it would be great if a state could be ruled by knowledge rather than power. The author’s motive was to show that power corrupts individuals and thus should not be the basis of leadership. His intention was to show that an ideal leader should have broad knowledge of social structures and policy. This is the flaw of Plato’s and Abah’s perspective that this paper will discuss.
The Fallacy’s Importance to the Argument
Plato addresses the issue of justice by stating his depiction of the ideal state. He believes that such a state should made up of an autonomous government. In such a state there should be a clear association between the structure of the state and the desire for justice. Plato argues that philosophers should be kings since they are focused on discovering the ideal state. He brings forward the idea of a “kallipolis” (beautiful city); he terms it as a “just place” where political rule is centred on knowledge which is in the domain of the philosopher kings (Plato 76). Plato’s definition of democracy is crucial in understanding the argument that philosophers should be the rulers. He defines democracy as ‘’the rule by the demos’’ (Plato 77). Demos refers to people who are unfit to rule. Plato’s argument is against the ideology of democracy. States in the contemporary world are democratic, that is, people have a say in the affairs of the state. Debate of what constitutes a democracy has been ongoing since Plato’s era; the major ideologies are that of majority rule and protection of minorities (the Madisonian view). To Plato, democracy means rule by people who are unfit to do so(Plato). Since political decisions require skill and judgement, Plato believes that ruling should be done by experts rather than the people who are chosen by the majority.
He emphasizes his point by using the allegory of the ship which is navigated by men who have no knowledge of the “craft of navigation” (Plato, 204). Plato used this allegory to demonstrate that expertise is key in leadership. By using the allegory of the ship, Plato not only stresses that specialization is important when governing a state. The ship in the allegory embodies the state while the sailors and captains represent the ordinary people and their non-skilled leaders respectively. In this argument, Plato illustrates the downside of equality and liberty, and the uneven nature of democracy. Plato’s perspective is aligned to his definition of democracy, that is, rule by people who are unfit to do so. His argument is relevant in the sense that he illustrates that the philosophers possess the “capacity to grasp the eternal and immutable” (Plato, 204), while the ordinary man cannot rule since they have “no true knowledge of reality, and no clear standard of perfection in their mind to which they can turn” (Plato, 204-205). However, his argument is not realistic in the contemporary world. Therefore, it is strange that Abah structures uses Plato’s ideology as the basis of his argument
The Probable Effect of the Fallacy
Abah’s argument is not valid because nations in the contemporary world insist that the modern democracy is a government that is formed by the people, for the people. His suggestion brings forward the idea of dictatorship whereby power is concentrated among a few elite people. Due to the terrible experiences of dictatorship, many states have become advocates of the representative model of government, whereby citizens choose who represent them at the state level, and are also practising pluralism. Therefore, the modern ideology of the state depicts it as neutral and public arena where the concerned parties gather to debate policies that are centred on economic affairs. Plato’s perspective of the state is a body that is in the control of the philosopher who should determine what best suits the majority. In the ideal state, the concerned parties should possess the knowledge required to usher in political change, however, it’s hard to quantify and determine the knowledge that is required to facilitate this change. A person who is a philosopher and has knowledge on political philosophy, metaphysics, and the ethics of logic, is not necessarily an expert on determining the interests of the majority. Even if this philosopher understands the nature of goodwill, he cannot determine what is good for everyone since human beings have different wants and degrees of satisfaction.
In his argument, Abah is clearly not interested with the representative model of government that is required these days. Democracy is the most effective way of ensuring that even the most marginalized person gets a say in the affairs of the state. Plato’s idea of expert rule is not appropriate since it’s hard to ensure that each individually is well represented. Democracy works because people get to vote for the person whose ideology suits their needs.
Another reason that renders Abah’s argument invalid is the fact that he is advocating for compassionate dictatorship. In such a rule, the elite takes actions without consulting the people who are affected by the decisions. Philosopher’s may possess vast knowledge, however, one cannot determine the needs of a person without asking him/her. This is why citizens in the modern world are striving for a greater say in the affairs of the government. Hence, Plato’s argument is wrong because a few individuals cannot determine the needs of the majority.
Overall, even though Abah’s proposal that knowledgeable people who possess the ability to bring justice and happiness in a state is ideal, it is very unrealistic and unachievable. Rule by a few people brings about dictatorship. In his argument, Abah is not only asking his audience to disregard the political process, but also abandon our rights and opinions whenever we encounter a compassionate dictator. Due to this reasons, his ideology is not only unrealistic but unattainable in the modern world.
The Second Fallacy
The article The Long-Term Jobs Killer Is Not China. It’s Automation by Claire Cain Miller, published on December 21, 2016, states that technology (automation) is the main cause of employment in the modern world. Miller (1) bases her argument on employment statistics from different time periods and utilizes the opinions of left wing economists. The following section will examine why Miller’s argument is a fallacy.
The Writer’s Motive and Intention
Miller’s intention of writing the article was to illustrate that even though technology is useful, it has some significant drawbacks. The greatest drawback of technology is felt in the manufacturing sector where automation has led to massive job losses. The author’s intention was to show that globalization is not the main cause of unemployment in the United States.
The Fallacy’s Importance to the Argument
Automation of business processes has enabled organizations to enhance efficiency and overall quality of products and services. As a result, firms are able to realize greater profit margins. Miller (1), however, believes automation has come at the cost of human labor since machines eliminate the need to have workers especially for repetitive processes. She states that automation is the primary factor that causes unemployment in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started formal collection of employment statistics in 1940; however, the data stretches as far back as World War 1 when unemployment levels were at 1%. During the period of the great depression, unemployment hit 25% which is the highest ever recorded. The largest recorded ever since was 10.8% in 1982 and 10.0% in 2009. From 1948 to 2015 the averageunemployment rate has been 5.8. In 2015 the rate of unemployed Americans was at 5%. Miller (1) believes unemployment levels tend to rise during times of innovation and recession. However, it should be noted that the accurate comparison of unemployment figures between that period and today is not possible due to the different measures applied. For instance, the modern definition of unemployment is a person who is willing to work but unable but to find a job while in the 1930s citizens who were in the public works program were counted as unemployed(Miller and Aktkinson, 55).
Theories of unemployment stretch back to the classical era and are based on the Keynesian ideology. The classical theory states that unemployment is an indication that labor is being obstructed by certain factors. As such, it has led to the development of other ideologies which try to explain the factors causing unemployment. Technological unemployment states that job losses are caused by changes on technology while the natural rate of unemployment states that there will always be people lacking jobs due to inefficiencies in the labor market. On the other hand, the Luddite Fallacy is concerned with the long term impact of technology on unemployment. To justify her argument, Miller (1) forms her reasoning from these theories. She disregards the fact that there are other factors that affect unemployment such as economic decline and inflation. In fact, the Federal Reserve serves two main purposes which are reduction of unemployment while maintaining a steady inflation rate. Also factors such as relocation and entry of new firms and seasonal fluctuations affect the rate of unemployment(Miller and Aktkinson 78).
The Probable Effect of the Fallacy
Miller’s argument is biased and wrong since it does consider the benefits of adoption, which are far greater. The primary goal of process technologies is to improve the productivity of workers since it eliminates repetitive tasks thus freeing up employees to perform important functions that enable a firm to achieve its goals(Miller and Aktkinson 122). For example, automation of records in hospitals has enabled doctors to treat patients more effectively since the medical history is available at the click of a button. Automation are high variable cost projects since the expenses related to such projects depend on various factors such as scale and demands of an organization. Therefore, they are more suited for stable operating environments which are predictable, even though it is rare to find an operating manager in a stable environment since the business world is ever-changing. It means that operating managers should select productivity improvement projects that fit the demands of an organization.
The capitalist system of economy provides economic freedom where markets are subjected to the natural laws of demand and supply. Therefore, the capitalist system enables creation of employment since more opportunities are brought about by economic growth. The broken window fallacy is a parable developed by Frederic Bastiat where he used a broken window to express why destruction is harmful to an economy. Destructions such as unemployment have a negative effect on any economy. Technology does not create unemployment in the long run because it brings with it new opportunities. These technologies need to be built and maintained which gives rise to new jobs. Furthermore, firms providing technological solutions also need workers to run the various departments. The role of managers in the productivity-unemployment relationship is to ensure that automation of processes reduce the burden on employees so that they are able to take on more productive work. Overall, even though Miller attempts to vilify automation, she manages to do the opposite by highlighting its aspects.
Abah, Simon. Nigeria in Need of Demosthenes. The Guardian, 2017.
Miller, Ben and Robert Aktkinson. “Are Robots Taking Our Jobs, or Making Them?” 2013.
Miller, Claire Cain. The Long-Term Jobs Killer Is Not China. It’s Automation. The New York Times, 2016.
Plato. The Republic. New York: First Avenue Editions, 2015.