Aaron Ross Powel makes a good point about how the false dilemma is used to put down libertarian principles. But, the false dilemma is used much more widely to dupe an illogical public.
Take, for instance, the sequester. We all know that there is about 40% of government that could easily be trimmed without affecting a single person’s welfare or entitlements. Yet, when speaking of the sequester, Obama offered us a choice of A – approving more spending or B – cutting someones pay or benefits.
Obama attacked Mitt Romney with a false dilemma. Either elect me or elect a guy who only cares for his rich friends. This was false for two reasons. First, as Obama even said in the debates, Obama is also a one-percent-er. So, voting for Obama was a sure way to vote for someone who only cares for his rich friends. But, more importantly, it precluded the possibility that Mitt Romney might actually care for his country.
Another false dilemma: Either we extend unemployment or we let people starve. The fallacy here is that the clear third choice would be to stop propping up the broken economic status quo so that the private sector could right itself and start creating new jobs for the unemployed. But, you’d have to know the truth about FDR’s failed policies, on which Obama doubled down, to even have an understanding that the third option existed.
False dilemmas raise their heads every day in out lives, and failure to think beyond choice one and two is what dooms many of us to the thought that situations are hopeless. It’s good to learn to think outside the box. A lot of times, it’s good to get someone else’s perspective on something before jumping to a conclusion. There are professionals out there willing to help us plan our finances, fix our marriages, remodel our homes, and all kinds of things where we might struggle to see another way. There are also these same people when it comes to understanding politics (the land of false dilemmas). Usually, you aren’t going to find these people on Fox or MSNBC. You’ll have to shop around a little. Mostly, you’ll have to get an understanding of what is logical and illogical. May I suggest Introduction to Logic, by Irving M. Copi. It’s been around a long time. It was my textbook in college back in the last millennium a ways. There are other good titles on that link, I’m sure. Since you can get a used copy for less than $10 with shipping, it’s probably within your education budget. Of course, it will present you will a false dilemma. “Do I get a book on logic or do I buy two Starbucks lattes?”
- “Austerity vs. Growth – A False Dilemma?”, OECD FORUM, 28th May (yanisvaroufakis.eu)
- Bcom 275 guide 1 10) Providing only two choices when others are available defines which fallacy? A. Genetic fallacy B. Straw man C. False dilemma D. Ad hominem (slideshare.net)
- Black-and-white or Infinite Integration? (frugal2free.typepad.com)
- (False) Dilemma: Adapt in Real Time or Vanish (zemanta.com)