Sunday, August 21, 2011

WWDD

What Would David Cronrath Do? Found these while going through my old architecture notes the other day.

Rule #1
Everything is made of C's, L's and J's

Rule #2
Three Dimensionalize [sic]. As Dave was fond of saying, this is not Mario Brothers

Rule #3
Faceted Forms are crisp, precise & powerful. They lend mass to composition

Rule #4
Pivots change direction of space. Voids can be pivots as can mass.

Rule #5
Space is not gravity bound. Gravity kills.

Rule #6
Difference defines everything...or as I like to say, understanding comes through difference.

Rule #7
Compose, don't vomit.

Rule #8
Void is cheaper than mass.

Rule #9
Layers are made by overlap and void.

Rule #10
Continuity is an arrow through the head (see Steve Martin)

Rule #11
Two volumes of space can collide and still retain their shapes.

Rule #12
Band aids can reinforce continuity through discontinuity (see rule #6)

Thus spoke Dave.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Oracle of Op-Ed

My liberal friends have all recently been oohing and aahhhing over Warren Buffett's latest call for Washington to tax the rich ('Stop Coddling' to use his words). It must feel like the ultimate vindication for the raise taxes argument. For the record, I think that Warren Buffett is a brilliant investor, and he inspired me to read his mentor, Benjamin Graham ('The Intelligent Investor' and 'Security Analysis'), another brilliant investor in his own right. If shares of Berkshire Hathoway (a hollowed out textile business turned investment house in a value purchase) were available in my 401k offering, I would put a sizable amount of my nest egg there. But all that glitters is not gold. I want to address the fallacies of using this Op-Ed as a blunt instrument in a political debate.

Argumentum Ad Crumenam
An appeal to the purse. In simpler terms, it means assuming that someones argument is valid because they have lots of money. The fact that Warren Buffett is rich has nothing to do with his ability to understand or dictate tax policy. In fact, there are some people who I would consider as dangerously insane who have made quite a bit of money and have no business in politics or taxation (Donald Trump comes to mind). Liberals have posted this Op-Ed to say 'look, one of their own advocates the same policies as we do!' Just because Warren Buffett endorses higher taxes doesn't negate the possibility that it could prove economically disastrous. As an aide, I personally feel like Michelle Bachman's assertions that she is qualified to be our president because she has owned a business in the private sector is another form of this argument.

Fallacy of Composition
This is more implied than actually presented in the argument. I think the temptation is to think that Warren Buffett and his super-rich friends all agree that raising taxes is the best course of action. (using quotes: "most [mega-rich friends] wouldn't mind being told to pay more taxes as well...) If some of the rich people are brave enough to come forward and say its a good idea, it's not that hard to imagine that a majority or whole of that category agrees with Mr. Buffett, or perhaps that at least one could argue that. Unfortunately, this is an illogical conclusion. This also transitions nicely into the next fallacy.

Dicto Simpliciter
An easier way of thinking of this is as a sweeping, un-substantiated claim as fact or truth. As a quote from the piece: 'while most Americans struggle to make ends meet...' Perhaps most do, but I have my doubts and you should too. I had one liberal friend suggest that 75% of Americans agree with the piece implying that us doubters should get on board. Do 75% agree? I don't know, but does that matter? Next Fallacy!

Ad Populum
The above 75% argument is a great example of this. Because most people agree, and there is consensus, it must be the best course of action, right? Wrong! I believe that history has proven this time and time again, and because of the brevity of this post, I will offer an example that Liberals can appreciate: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both had wide public support with near unanimous support in Congress (a rare act of bipartisanship), but it was in fact the completely wrong and illogical decision with serious consequences to boot. [another dicto simpliciter]

Post Hoc Ergo Prompter Hoc
This is a fallacy where one event precedes another, and the second event is assumed to be the result of the first. It is extremely popular in politics, and it is a tool Warren Buffett is comfortable wielding. Quote: "And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. [higher tax rates implied] You know what's happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation." This statement seems to suggest that lower tax rates are to blame for our high unemployment but there is nothing to prove that one is the cause of the other. In all fairness it could be true but I have to think that if he could actually prove that then he should be upgraded from Oracle to Omniscient.

None of these fallacies prove Warren Buffett wrong. He could be entirely right and we could be on the cusp of a revolution in economics, market performance, employment and taxation. Furthermore, many bad ideas can be argued on the grounds of logic alone, and in my opinion an appeal to human emotion is not unfair in our politics. However, we should never discount the possibility that Warren Buffet's ideas may be dangerous if implemented or that opposition cannot stand to the shaky logic presented in the Op-Ed piece.

Don't give your politically passionate friends a free pass on bad arguments. After all, no one will extend you the courtesy of allowing you to say whatever you like regardless of how illogical it may seem.