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Popular trends can mask illogical thinking

Reader comment on item: Welcome, Conservatives, to Pariah Status

Submitted by Dave (United States), Jan 4, 2021 at 20:51

Obviously, we are seeing a major leftward shift in public attitudes, most notably among the more educated classes of people in the West, but aside from sociological explanations, an important question arises: Does this mean an improvement in our lives stemming from better public policies? Will the liberal agenda bring us more prosperity, environmental improvement, more freedom, better health, safer streets and a more peaceful world? Instead, will we have more crime and anarchy, more authoritarian government, more terrorism, more crowding, higher taxes and lower income, will we be in thrall to rogue states?
This seems like a good time to mention a common logical fallacy from the "red herring" category called "argumentum ad populum" (see wikipedia for more details). This involves an appeal to widespread belief, the bandwagon argument, an appeal to the majority, that a proposition is claimed to be true or good solely because a majority or many people believe it to be so. History is replete with this sort of fallacy, from ancient myths to alchemy, crackpot racial theories, and blood libels. Picture those mass Nazi rallies. Even highly intelligent people have been snookered into leaving behind a legacy of bloody foolishness. Humans are part rational beings and part herd animals.
Conservatives, please do not despair that the conventional wisdom is being stolen from you at this point. As the liberal economist J.K. Galbraith once wrote in "The Affluent Society": "The enemy of conventional wisdom is not ideas, but the march of events." We'll just have to be patient and see how things turn out. I just hope we can recover from it in the end and make wisdom the convention again.

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