by David King

Missing Link

"Citizens support warfare through their tax dollars."

"Scientists are responsible for the danger of nuclear war."

"The advance of modern medicine underlies the present population explosion."

"Auto manufacturers are responsible for air pollution."

"Taxpayers are forced to finance policies that many of them would oppose."

These are frequently-heard statements nowadays. I believe they are cruel misrepresentation of the facts. They seem to be variants of the POST HOC fallacy. The designated entity may be a contributory cause but is certainly not a sufficient cause of the phenomenon specified. An attempt is being made to lay blame on someone who is only marginally (or not at all) responsible.

Consider the first statement on the list. The citizens do not do the supporting--the government does. The statement implies that the citizen is performing some positive action, when in fact he is only the passive victim of acts of theft committed by the entity that DOES support warfare.

The statement asserts that there is a chain of causation consisting of two links: the "citizens" and the "warfare." But in fact there is a link missing from that chain. The missing link in the middle of the chain is "the government."

That same link, government, lies between the "scientists" and the "nuclear war."

The missing link in the third statement, connecting "modern medicine" and the "population explosion" is "all these f___ing people!" (I just couldn't resist that.)

The missing links connecting "auto manufacturers" and "air pollution" are "the automobiles" and "the people who drive the cars."

Another example: The government contracts with Daddy Warbucks Corp. to provide the army with a New Gun. The gun turns out to be poorly designed and will not work. During a congressional hearing to investigate the multi- million dollar boondoggle, congressman Flatula is heard to declare "This whole mess was financed by the taxpayers!"

The implication is that the Taxpayers paid for the New Gun. But this is not the case. Daddy Warbucks received payment from the accounting office of the Department of Defense--he got a cheque from the government for $Mega. If this particular contract had never been issued (and the New Gun had never been manufactured) the $Mega would have stayed, NOT in the pockets of the Taxpayers but in the coffers of the government.

In fact, the whole scheme was done at government expense. The fact that the government got its money by robbing a selected group of people does not in ANY way implicate those people in the actions of the government.

Consider a personal example: If you are robbed of $100 by a hoodlum, and the hoodlum subsequently uses part of that money to finance an abortion for his girlfriend, can it be said that this abortion occurred at your expense?

Did you participate in the abortion? No, you did not. It was performed by a quack doctor of whose very existence you were completely unaware. Did you sanction the abortion? No, you did not. You didn't even KNOW about the abortion! Did you finance the abortion? No, you did not. The doctor received his payment from the hoodlum. The doctor didn't know where the hoodlum got the money, or even that you exist. And the hoodlum, like the government, would likely neither know nor care which particular victim the money had come from.

And here we see the underlying motivation of those who use this phrase "at taxpayers' expense": the desire to impose upon YOU personally the ethical culpability of sanctioning the behavior of the government and the people who DO support it. What they say, in effect, is that because you are the victim of an act of robbery (taxation) you are therefore responsible ethically for the manner in which the thief uses the money he has stolen from you.

This same viciousness can be observed in another assertion I encounter frequently when I chide people for using the word "we" when referring to the actions of the government (see the Ambiguous Collective fallacy). They reply with "Well, you're a taxpayer too!"

The fact that I am a victim is being used as justification for assigning to me culpability for the behavior of the thief.

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