Causality and Reynolds’ Law
Causality is a funny thing, isn’t it? Perhaps one could write a book on it…
In any case, I was struck recently by my first encounter with Reynolds’ Law, which I suppose some of you, dear readers, may be familiar with already. Named after Glenn Reynolds, known as the Instapundit, I would like to share it with you today:
The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.
Causality (and even conditionality) seem to be too difficult a concept for many. Substituting the effect for the cause and the required for the merely sufficient are logical errors of the most common sort. This is perhaps the most practical and succinct statement of these logical fallacies I have seen in quite a long time.