Monday, August 08, 2011

Flubber arguments are almost as bad as slippery-slope arguments

I've spent the last week-plus swimming in Sierra mountain lakes instead of watching the Republican Party leadership play chicken with the economy. In the run-up to it all, though, I heard a rehashed version of a bad debating point that I'm calling the Flubber Argument.

Flubber was the fictional material in the film The Absent Minded Professor that bounces back with more energy and a higher bounce than is in the kinetic energy used by Flubber to hit a surface. I've criticized the slippery slope argument in other venues as an excuse to support a position that has little direct support, so some indirect consequence are therefore invented. The Flubber Argument is similar.

In a To the Point podcast last month (sorry I can't remember which), a pollster described a Tea Party argument that debt default was an acceptable price to pay in order to learn to live within our means, and that the ultimate effect would be positive. The Flubber Argument, in other words. In my day job, I've also heard the Reverse Flubber Argument - if we succeed in doing something good to protect the environment, that will just incentivize open space developers to get organized and make things worse than they would have been.

Like other bad arguments, it's not completely wrong. Sometimes the blowback is stronger than the initial effect. What I usually fail to hear, however, is an analysis proving why that's going to be the case.


Captain Pithart said...

I found this book a nice overview over some of the fallacies that groups have been using to stop progress:

Albert O. Hirschman: "The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy"


EliRabett said...

As featured at Rabett Run

Anonymous said...

Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

I personally had and have no reason to care if the government defaults. The federal government takes in about 120 billion in revenue every month and we owe 20 billion in debt payments monthly. So we can pay off our debt, the government just doesn't want to cut programs, which I'm in favor of. I don't benefit from any government program. If I had a choice, I wouldn't pay social security. I don't think it will be there when I'm retired.

frank -- Decoding SwiftHack said...

'Doctor' Jay Cadbury ignores the actual content of the blog post by posting irrelevant junk.

-- frank

Marion Delgado said...

Jay Cadbury who won't say where his self-applied titles come from:

Anonymous said...

J. Cadbury: "I don't benefit from any government program."


You were born in the wilderness and never benefited from tax dollars spent to reduce infant mortality and improve post-natal care? You are entirely self-educated and have never attended a government-subsidized school, used a government-subsidized text book, or visited a library? You drive only on roads you planned, paved, and maintain yourself in a vehicle of your own construction, which has never undergone any form of safety testing? Have all your supplies air-lifted in to your remote wilderness cabin, which is connected to no public road, by illegal airlines whose safety is not ensured by the government? Drill all your own wells, grow all your own food without any form of agricultural subsidy, and test your own food and water for harmful bacteria and other contaminants? Refuse to use the Internet? Police your own land and put out your own fires? Never have and never will benefit from any government program in any way, shape, or form?

Fascinating. I'm surprised you were able to post, as you must lack the necessary technology and education, and have little time to spare from raising your own food, treating your own illnesses, and building your own civic infrastructure.