Tricky Rhetoric and Bad Logic


I recently came across an example of bad logic. It was relatively well-hidden in rhetoric, so I thought I would pass it on.

The context was government policy. People are currently divided into 2 groups, which I will call A and C. There are also some extra people to whom the distinction isn't meaningful (group N), but everyone agrees they are irrelevant to this question.

As a result of various studies, surveys, and similar, it seems everything works best if we have as many people in group C as possible. A group does worse on all sorts of commonly-agreed-on measurements of well-being. However, the issue in question is ideologically charged (on both sides), so everything is more complicated.

The article I was reading proposed 3 approaches the powers that be could take, and a short analysis of each. They were:
  1. Let people decide whether they are 'A's or 'C's. This is what currently happens in most places. It also results in a lot of people (an ever-increasing fraction, in fact) ending up in group A.
  2. Create a new group (or groups) B part way between A and C. This will give people more options, and hopefully they will find one that fits them better. Empirically, however, it doesn't change the number of 'A's much. Instead, you get a fair number of 'B's, but they are the people who otherwise would have been 'C's.
  3. Hide a bunch of gotchas in the rules. Whenever someone triggers one accidentally, move them over from group A to group C. This allows you to get people in 'C' group even if they don't do it intentionally. This is also what most people think the rules say now, so there presumably wouldn't be too much public opposition to changing it.
Based on this analysis (which I got from the article), the author concluded that the best option was 2: Create a new group(s) B. However, s/he managed to make it sound reasonable every step of the way. As this was from a source that I normally consider pretty reliable, I admit this worries me. I wonder what other broken logic they have slipped past me before.

Note: If anyone is wondering, A, B, C, and N do not stand for Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, and Non-affiliated. That was just a red herring (of the mystery type, not the logic type).


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