Better than the Alternative – False Dilemma

Better than the Alternative – False Dilemma 

by Voluntary One

As advocates of peace and freedom, we often find ourselves in discussions with those that advocate for statism.  Most of us have learned to “triage” those with whom we speak, and those that are not open minded, are not “all the way there” or those that don’t have enough intellectual horsepower to comprehend voluntaryism are treated with kindness and the topic of philosophy is avoided.  

Every so often though, we optimistically chat with a person that wants “less state” because we agree on some issues of personal or economic freedom.  One of the most frequent arguments that these statists use is the false dilemma of “Better than the alternative.”  It goes like this:
  •   Person A: “I don’t support libertarian-leaning movement/person X because X remains statist.”
  •    Person B: “Yeah, but wouldn’t you rather have X than Hitler, Bush or Hillary?  At least X is a step in the right direction.”

In some cases the untrained and careless person in A’s shoes might be tempted to fall for this logical error.  The implication is incorrect though in that there are only two options.  It is intellectually dishonest to select only two options out of a field of many options, and then require someone to select one of your selected two options.  (No, I am not talking about elections, but it applies, huh?)

Consider the vegan who advocates for not causing harm to any animals.  If a carnivore like me suggests that they should support the sales of 6oz burger patties because they are better than 8 oz patties, what should the principled vegan’s response be?

Consider the peace advocate that says that husbands should not strangle their wives.  What if this advocate is told, “You are being idealistic, historically some men have always strangled their wives, please be pragmatic and support my cause, “Strangle wives less frequently.”  What should the principled peace advocate’s response be?

Conclusions

Beyond whatever conclusions you draw from my above examples and questions, consider also the issue of legitimization.  Carl Watner’s statement of purpose on his site voluntaryist.com explains this well:

“Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society. We reject electoral politics, in theory and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy. Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends.”

From a pragmatic perspective, perhaps it would be tactically sound for a vegan to support 6oz burgers and a peace advocate to support less frequent spousal abuse.  By supporting these things however, the supporter is legitimizing them.  This removes credibility from the advocate.  Bystanders point to the former peace advocate and truthfully can say, “That person supports strangling women infrequently.”

So, for those that suggest I support the Libertarian Party, Log Cabin Republicans, the RLC, Freedomfest, Trump or Gary Johnson, no thank you.  Was Marxist Hitler “better” than Marxist Mao?  Probably so, but I am still not a supporter of either.  I understand the Better than the Alternative – False Dilemma.A good article by a former voluntaryist that explains this well can be found here: http://www.strike-the-root.com/71/molyneux/molyneux3.html

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