Ten Signs of Political Quackery

Here are some other signs of quackery…

3. Word Manipulation and Code-words
The proponent hides behind code-words or slogans instead of concretes. Using Rand’s Question (what concretes does this concept subsume in reality ?) usually proves these code-words to be vacuous. The proponent redefines words (especially emotionally-charged words) to suit his viewpoint.

example : If you read the rhetoric of a statist, you will find routine references to the notion of “class” and “class struggle”. Every time you hear a code-word being brandied like this, you should ask yourself : what do these words designate in reality ? In this case, nothing. The words “class” and “class struggle” designate nothing in reality, and are used to divide individuals into arbitrary groups in order to attempt to break the premise of harmony of interests in a free society.

4. Fanciful Dreaming
The proponent proposes to use political or social control to achieve objective X, when such objective is not in the interest of the agents who would implement it, and thus would never happen in reality. Also present in people who claim there is a conspiracy to suppress something by scientists, corporations, and so on, even if the individual who made it public would profit the most from such a discovery. At the core of these fallacious fancies is a willful omission of how people’s interests direct their actions.

example : When collectivizing markets, people expect that they will still be served like customers. But unlike companies, the government does not depend on customers to survive : it uses coercion to accomplish its goals.

5. Slippery Slopes
The proponent commits equivocations (equivocating privatization with loss, equivocating a society and its flaws with a single system even though it is mixed), Scare Tactics (“if we allow people to have handguns, then everyone will have nukes !”), and False Causality (citing rising poverty as an argument, for example, when one cannot isolate causal factors adequately, and one ignores empirical data in favour of such nitpicking).

6. Doom Sayers
Our society/the economy/the environment/ is on the verge of collapse, and it’s all because of ideology X (even though ideology Y and Z are also present in the society – related to Slippery Slopes).

example : Many people believe that global warming is a product of human activity, and pin the blame on capitalism – even though it is proven that pollution goes down with economic progress, our societies are not primarily capitalist, and there is no empirical data that proves that human activity has a significant impact on weather.

7. Magical Thinking
The proponent refuses to acknowledge the progress necessary to accomplish economic levels or societal well-being.

example : People who argue in favour of the third world but against its economic expansion, wishing for a political miracle solution.

8. Antagonism Towards Other Groups
To a political crackpot, there is always an “enemy”. Another race or religion, the “bourgeoisie”, the “left” or the “right”, “junkies”, “the poor” or “the rich”, any stereotype or racist construct will do. Enemies increase fear and group fanatism, like in cults.

This is usually accompanied by conspiracy theories (“the vast right-wing conspiracy”, “the left-wing media conspiracy”, “suppression of the truth”). Conspiracy theories make suppression of contrary opinions much easier, and make one’s opinions seem undefeatable. If everyone is in on the conspiracy, then how can one trust any contrary evidence at all ? But conspiracy theories, whether true or not (almost always false, of course), add no validity to one’s position.

9. Ad Hominems
They warn you not to trust anyone except them, and especially not professionals. One should eschew expert opinions and reasoned arguments in favour of emotion and personal testimony. A minority think society is suppressing their vital discoveries.

10. Oversimplification of Complex Issues
Simplification is good, but oversimplification of a complex issue can be disastrous. Usually due to undialectical thinking (only considering one side or one part of an issue).

example : Some people will claim that individual incompetence is a reason to give up power to politicians, by that same token excluding politicians from the individual incompetence they were claiming as a premise.