Belfast Telegraph

Nuala McKeever: How the government’s just trying to sell us all a big lie

By Nuala McKeever

One of the few things I remember from the year of philosophy I studied at university is the concept of a fallacy. It’s where you give two statements and a conclusion, but a conclusion doesn’t actually follow from the argument.

The example we were given was this: A) Socrates is a man. B) Some men are homosexual. C) Therefore, Socrates is homosexual.

(For those who aren’t up on their ancient Greek figures, Socrates was not homosexual, by the way).

And it just occurs to me that this example was not from a lecturer but is actually a line from a Woody Allen film.

Wherever it comes from, it’s a good example of an argument that doesn’t stand up.

It seems there’s just such a fallacy being bandied around at the moment when it comes to deciding economic policy and social strategy. The current fallacy goes something like this:

A) Individuals in the financial world have brought us to economic ruin and got away with it. B) The public sector could be more efficient. C) Therefore, ordinary people should be punished.

The sad thing is, people are falling for it.

Just the other night at a business awards event, a woman with a glass of champers and a straight face explained to me that the cuts were inevitable because there is some wastage in the public sector.

With the sad but resigned air of a disinterested neighbour talking over the garden fence, she might as well have been describing the fate of a local teenage boy: “Well, yeah, the teachers burned down the school, he failed to hand in his homework on time so the head had no choice but to cut his gonads off. Tough, but what can y’do, eh?”

Oh how they must be laughing in the boardrooms of Big Business Inc. to see how the little people are happily throwing each other into the ovens.

The police announced this week they’d be clamping down on metal thieves — those who go into buildings and strip out copper etc to sell it on.

So why is no one going after the foundation thieves? The speculators who happily stole the economic foundations of our society’s house out from under us, to flog it for quick profit and who are now watching with delight as we justify punishing each other because one or two of us scratched the wallpaper in the living room?

Not only are the two ‘crimes’ unequal, they aren’t even related. Could we not have a straight conversation that doesn’t try to exonerate the guilt of the financial scoundrels by linking their failings to the totally unrelated subject of public sector efficiency? The two are not connected!

If Daddy ran off with the family’s savings and proceeded to live a high life would our response be, “Right, we have to tighten our belts, take the child’s milk off her.”? No, I think we’d be outraged and go after the Daddy to pay back what he took and take some punishment for his greed in the first place.

Strange that a Conservative party that was so keen to make fathers pay for their children that it created the Child Support Agency to pursue errant men for £20 a week seems to have lost its moral outrage when it comes to pursuing the men who’ve abdicated their responsibility on a massive scale.

But that’s the thing with bullies — they always pick on the weak.

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