Tom Delay and the False Choice

28 June 2007

Tom "The Hammer" Delay wrote an article at Politico on Monday containing his opinions on climate change and energy policy. But before looking at what Delay has to say on the topic, let's review the logical fallacy of False Dilemma:

The formal fallacy of false dilemma—also known as false choice, false dichotomy, falsified dilemma, fallacy of the excluded middle, black and white thinking, false correlative, either/or fallacy, and bifurcation—involves a situation in which two alternative statements are held to be the only possible options, when in reality there exist one or more other options which have not been considered. The fallacy relies on a misuse of the or operator.

And just to be sure, here's an example:

"Mark is late for work. Either his car has broken down, or he has overslept. We telephoned and learned he isn't at home, so his car must have broken down."

Now let's see what The Hammer has to say:

"[W]e have two options. First of all, we can stop. Everything. In order to make a real change, a revolutionary change, in our "carbon footprint" or whatever idiotic standard Al Gore is using to scold the American people this week, we would have to shut down every combustion engine in the country. No cars. No trucks. No planes. We'd also have to shut down every earth-moving vehicles and no excavation construction projects...we wouldn't have any building materials, because we'd have to shut down the timber new resources, no manufacturing industry, rationed goods and service, rationed electricity availability, no supermarkets (no trucks, remember). Basically, we'd hop into our time machines and land back in the, say, 1920s..."

Okay, I don't think that anyone has ever proposed that. But anyway, what are our other options, Mr. Hammer?

"So what's left? Two viable political options.

First, someone could propose a truly workable package of reforms -- a series of tax credits and market-based incentives for companies to reduce their emissions, for instance, rather than the zero-sum silliness of current cap-and-trade schemes.

Any serious proposal would have to begin with increasing domestic production, which could be done "green" by way of modern drilling technology or nuclear energy. But then again, no one's going to vote for a Republican because of his campaign's clever environmental white paper."

Hm. So that's the totally innovative Republican position that no Democratic politician has ever even proposed? Because all that business about tax credits and market based incentives were a part of Al Gore's 2000 Presidential platform, and are still included in every Democratic candidate's current platform. (Also, what's this about "green drilling"?)

And our second option?

"This brings us to option No. 2, the liberals' preference: insincere hectoring."

So there you have it. According to The Hammer, if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to atmospheric warming, Democrats can either (1) shut down everything, (2) give a few tax cuts here and there, or (3) bitch and moan without doing anything at all.

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