***Chapter Twenty-Nine--Conservative Debate Handbook***

Cause & Effect, Avoiding Obvious Error

Confusing effects (material & cultural achievements or failures) of those with or without certain aptitudes, as causes both for those very achievements, or failures, and parallel achievements, in education, economics, and political societies: The error underlying most Socialist argument.

One of the most obvious errors in the false reasoning, so evident in "Liberal" political and ideological discourse--a true favorite among the rhetorical devices employed by the Leftist demagogues of the world--involves the confusion of cause and effect. It is important that the Conservative debater learn analytic techniques to recognize and avoid such error. This usually necessitates questioning whether the alleged cause for the subject effect is really its cause or merely another symptom or effect of an unrecognized or unacknowledged common cause; in other words, no cause at all, only a parallel effect.

Let us note some clear examples, and then pursue less obvious ones. While the same conceptual error will doubtless be found in almost every human discipline, we will concentrate here on matters which relate to the well being of a human Society and its components--subjects likely to be involved in the clash of political and social ideologies--focusing principally on education, economics and general human achievement. While some of this material may overlap that discussed in other Chapters, the perspective here will be sufficiently different as to justify the decision to develop this as a separate Chapter.

The most obvious example, of course, is the argument which underlies the rationalization for every form of Socialism, the foundation for the idea that collective intervention is necessary for a fair allocation of resources: The claim that those who succeed do so from an unfair advantage (see Chapter 7). This has many facets, often supported by statistics which show that those who had the benefit of various attributes of past success, in general, comfortably out-perform and over-achieve those who did not. There are many variants on this theme, some of which may appear to have nothing whatever to do with a Socialist perspective.

Consider the iteration of statistics, which equate the extent of one's formal education with one's later level of success. While it might not be correct to say that there is no cause and effect relationship here, there is still a large measure of error. The element of legitimacy comes in the fact that educated intelligence will be superior to uneducated intelligence. While the educable mind is usually an inquiring mind, which will tend to educate itself even as we suggest in Chapter 28, it would be foolish to argue that there is no benefit from the structured curriculum and instruction available in a legitimate High School or College. Even taking into account the misdirection of study as a result of the influence of Socialist dogma, there should still be some increase in the earning potential of the student. (If nothing else, the perception of a net benefit will open many jobs.)

But the parallel symptom, rather than cause and effect, aspect of the correlation of education with future achievement, becomes more obvious when we consider the argument, sometimes made, that being able to attend schools where most of the children come from affluent families is likely to prove a major determinant for future success. While, even here, it should be acknowledged that there is some benefit to the bright in associating with other bright people, the principal qualities likely to be involved in that future success are still the better innate skills and aptitudes, which one would ordinarily expect among those who come from the more successful families.

To better illustrate, that there is no clear cause and effect relationship between future success and having attended school with the children of successful parents, we could refer back to the Clairette P. Armstrong studies, cited in Chapter 5; where many students, who did not have comparable academic aptitudes to those perceived as setting school norms, became alienated and defensive with sometimes very tragic personal consequences. But virtually anyone who has ever attended a public high school in a major American city, in recent decades, has personally observed aspects of this phenomenon.

A yet more obvious illustration, of a similar confusion of causation with a parallel symptom of the real cause, is in the argument sometimes made that you can improve prospects for the "poor" by placing public housing projects in affluent neighborhoods: The theory behind such environmental manipulation being that, since people in those affluent neighborhoods are on average high achievers, the neighborhood must somehow be a major contributor to their achievement. While again, no one can deny that associating with bright people can be very beneficial, the extent of that benefit is clearly going to depend upon the actual level of interaction and on the capacity of the one, supposedly being benefited, to relate meaningfully to that experience.

The logic to a notion that one with an I.Q. of 82 will materially benefit, developmentally, from living next door to a family with average I.Q.s over 130, is neither compelling nor self-evident. If such neighbors converse at all, it is likely to be at the most rudimentary level. Extensive interaction is more likely to send the affluent family to a Realtor, and the pursuit of a new home, than to confer any lasting benefit on the new neighbor. In no rational analysis, is the neighborhood the cause for the success of its residents; rather, the success or failure of the residents and the overall quality of the neighborhood, are both symptoms of the characteristics of those residents.

Such examples of confused attribution of causation for human failure or achievement, are typical of a whole panorama of deceptive rationalizations used by the exponents of ever increasing Governmental involvement in efforts to solve the economic and social problems of the poor or alienated, by artificially improving their social environment. Since the underlying perception is flawed, the resulting programs are more likely to aggravate than mitigate the misunderstood problems.

The confusion of causation with parallel effects is still more common in the field of macro economics; yet even more likely to be misunderstood. The problems in determining causation for economic phenomena are compounded by popular misconceptions of such concepts as money, inflation, and what macro economic statistics really signify. While we deal with some of these underlying concepts in Chapter 14, and again in the Section on Lord Keynes in Chapter 16, one should always bear in mind that money is never something mystic or magic. It is a medium of exchange--pure and simple. It enables us to exchange goods or services for other goods or services, without having to actually physically swap those goods or services with every purchase or sale. It also enables us to swap present production of goods and services for future enjoyment of the value of those goods and services, or to invest such fruits of current production for future prospects.

Inflation or deflation, correctly understood, relates to the ratio of money--or effective money substitutes--to the total available goods and services. Inflation or deflation in the supply of money is usually the major cause for changes in the level of prices; but neither is the sole determinant of the latter. As we have noted elsewhere, there are other factors--including psychological factors and perceptions--which are also present and active in the pricing mechanism. On the other hand, the price levels of goods and services, alone, are seldom a major cause for fundamental changes in the economy, although they are often so perceived. In fact, they are almost always symptoms; symptoms parallel to problems, symptoms of what is really causing those problems.

If the monetary authority has artificially inflated the money supply, there will likely be a delayed effect. But once the basic price inertia is overcome, a general rise in prices may be expected. That rise may be seen as causing an imbalance in the factors of production, as well as injuring those with savings, the value of which is dependent upon the purchasing power of a monetary unit. But it is not the price rise, rather the inflation of the money supply, which is the actual cause of what is being observed. The price rise is simply a symptom. Moreover, for the price rise to cause an imbalance in the factors of production (or consumption) there must be other causative factors present, beyond that mere increase in the supply of money.

If prices were determined purely by the supply of money, the nominal cost (price in monetary units) of all factors would rise or fall in unison. There would be no imbalance. The appeal to politicians and special interests in artificially increasing the supply of money--other than as a forced consequence of a previous devaluation in fixed exchange rates for the purpose of obtaining a trade advantage--is two-fold. First, as a method (the Keynesian trick) of devaluing real wages, without appearing to be anti-Labor. Secondly, as a way to create a false sense of well being with more money in circulation, during the brief period before the hoped increase in demand drives prices up by an equivalent or greater increment. Whether the device helps bring about economic improvement (in real terms) or not, will depend upon those other variables--the other causative factors--present. But the increase in prices will almost always be a symptom, not a cause, of the confluence of factors (i.e., the increase in money supply interacting with those other variables).

While there are other aspects to the reverse situation, where you have a fall in prices, that process is usually set in motion by something which has caused a contraction in the money supply. (Perhaps the result of massive losses, after a market bubble bursts, where cash reserves are liquidated in meeting margin calls on stocks that can no longer be sold for any equivalent to the cash plus debt incurred for their purchase.) Yet even as an inflation in the money supply does not immediately drive prices upward, a deflation in the money supply will not immediately lower prices. In each case, it will take a while to overcome the psychological inertia. However, when such inertia is once overcome, a new momentum may easily effect changes in prices that exceed what would be directly proportionate to the underlying cause. It is in the nature of human economic psychology to bounce from one excess to its opposite. In the falling price scenario, there is also a "doom and gloom" mood that tends to set in among the business community, which can limit future risk taking.

This does not mean that falling prices are themselves the cause for protracted business slumps. They remain primarily a symptom of the contraction from the burst bubble, although they may appear to be a cause for the delay in any rebound. Since appearances are important market factors, in this latter sense they can indeed contribute to a pessimism in the business community, which delays a rebound; but as they did not cause the fundamental damage--the destruction in savings and investment from the burst bubble--they are still only a compounding effect of that destruction.

Yet, as we draft this Chapter in early December, 2003, several respected Wall Street analysts have cited a sudden upturn in price levels as a positive factor, that is one suggesting coming economic improvement. Considering the enormous level of 'pump priming' that has taken place, between an accommodating Federal Reserve increasing liquidity, incredible Budget deficits and the acceleration of tax rebates, we have seen almost every Keynesian trick in the book employed to stimulate the economy. It would be extremely unlikely that this would not result in rising price levels. But this upturn in prices does not indicate whether the stimulus will work or not, in the long-run, beyond the benefits to the actual recipients of Government contracts. The upturn in prices is no more than a symptom of what has already been done by the Government and the Federal Reserve.

Another field rife with analytic error in the recognition of cause and effect in economics and social development, comes in what we shall call the "Democracy Fallacy"; the notion that there is a causal relationship between having a Government chosen by universal suffrage and the level of prosperity within a particular country. The mistake, here, involves much the same analytic fallacy as that which suggests that you can improve the prospects and capacity of the poor, simply by moving them into public housing in an affluent neighborhood. As in the latter case, it was the characteristics of the people which made the neighborhood, not the other way around; so it is the characteristics of a population that will determine both its level of prosperity and the type of Government, likely to work well for that population. It is a mark of the demagogue--not the statesman or objective economist--to ignore the characteristics of a population in postulating solutions for any of its problems.

To better appreciate the folly in such causal attribution, consider the facts: Switzerland prospers, and has long prospered as an effective Democracy. Tiny Liechtenstein, immediately next door with a population genetically similar, prospers with an hereditary ruler, who rules as well as reigns. Great Britain, with considerable personal freedom but certainly not Democracy in the 18th Century, clearly outstripped the rest of the planet in economic progress. As she later extended the suffrage and became far more democratic, moving into the 20th Century, that edge vanished and her relative prosperity became a thing of the past. One of the frequently claimed examples, supposed to establish a causal relation between the adoption of Democracy and prosperity, has been Japan in the era since World War II. But is there really any creditable evidence of a causal connection?

It is true that after World War II, Japan rebuilt a war ravished country under a Democratic Government; yet, probably more significant from the perspective of causation, it was under a freer dispensation as to the liberty of the individual, than the Japanese had previously been accustomed to. There is no question but that, in the subject time frame, a dynamic people focused their attention on peaceful industry, and achieved much. Yet how is there any evidence of a greater level of relative achievement, in the first fifty years after World War II, than what the same able race, with the same work ethic, managed between the 1870s and 1920s, when the Japanese caught up with 350 years of Western progress in a mere half century?

The fact is that when a non-Democratic Japanese leadership decided to abandon an ideologically enforced isolation, which had deliberately prevented technological progress for three centuries, in the 1860s, they rapidly caught up with the European world. By the 1920s, Japan had become the third greatest naval power on earth. She did not have a democratic government, but that did not slow her formidable progress. That "Democracy" has even worked in Japan, since the war, demonstrates but a parallel symptom, or effect, of the characteristics of her able population.

One of the "flip-sides" of the "Democracy Fallacy," is a tendency for those of a collectivist bent to blame economic failure in Third World countries on the persistence of tribal values and tribal identifications and loyalties. This compounds many analytic errors. It flows, in part, from the ongoing battle throughout the Third World between the collectivist demagogue and the forces of tradition, compounded by a Socialist compulsion to consolidate peoples. Yet again, foremost among those analytic errors, is a confusion between causation and parallel effects. Indeed, the issue is so confused that few even recognize the underlying cause for those widely blamed tribal conflicts.

In Chapter 15, we quoted Vattel's classic 18th Century treatise on The Law Of Nations, as follows:

Nations or states are bodies politic, societies of men united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by the joint efforts of their combined strength.
Such a society has her affairs and her interests; she deliberates and takes resolutions in common; thus becoming a moral person, who possesses an understanding and a will peculiar to herself, and is susceptible of "obligations" and "rights."

We have explored several aspects of this, not only in Chapter 15 on immigration to America, but in Chapters 18 and 25, which deal with America's sometimes unfortunate policies towards Third World peoples. The basic point, the cause for tribal problems in certain Third World countries, is that those countries are not nations in the true sense--not in the sense that the founders of America would have understood the term--but Administrative units, the results of maps drawn by imperial powers for their own convenience. Those troublesome tribes are the true nations--the conquered nations, involved. And if they are sometimes troublesome, they are troublesome only in ways that unhappy conquered peoples have often been troublesome; sometimes in ways that the, never conquered, Sons Of Liberty were troublesome in the American colonies, in the early to mid 1770s.

It is either confusion or deception to blame an ethnic group, which desire to preserve their traditional values in their traditional homeland, because they choose not to be absorbed into some amorphous collective--a veritable human menagerie. Anyone who understands heritage, the Fifth Commandment, the profundity of human variation, or who simply respects other people's rights to have a different point of view, will understand very well, why "tribes" opt out of cooperation with those who would suppress their culture and wipe out their historic patterns of personal identification.

On the other hand, there is no evidence, whatsoever, that tribal identification prevents anyone from fully developing their economic or social skills. Indeed, a number of high achieving groups, which have contributed significantly to the overall economy of the United States, have used a sense of such identity to advantage after coming to America. (Would anyone suggest that the Amish or Orthodox Jews, are an impediment to American prosperity?)

There is, by contrast, an abundance of evidence that losing tribal identification in a multi-cultural country can be quite destructive. For example, compare the almost total absence of crime in many tribal areas of Africa, with the incredible levels of crime in detribalized metropolitan areas. Before the change of Government in South Africa, they found that they could alleviate the problem somewhat by finding who, in the detribalized milieu of the urban townships, had originally had higher tribal standing; trying, then, to establish such men as leaders in each township. Thus the townships around Pretoria, with a Conservative Municipal authority, were far more peaceful than those around "Liberal" Johannesburg, where no effort was made to counter detribalization. But, of course, such efforts have probably not survived the new "one man, one vote" regime of the A.N.C.. What is of interest--or should be--is that on our side of the ocean, in our Northern Hemisphere--in South Carolina to be exact--there has been clear confirmation of the same cause and effect relationship.

South Carolina had by far the lowest per capita Negro to Caucasian felony crime ratio of any American State, for many decades. They were on a virtual par, year after year, while every other State had a Negro felony rate at least 2 1/2 times as high as the White rate! The salient difference? South Carolina was the one American State, where the Negro inhabitants retained some of the rudiments of traditional African culture--the culture that their ancestors had developed; a culture that reflected their personalities, not those of their conquerors or of White politicians or social theorists. Contrast that with the 12 to 1 ratio of Negro to White crime, achieved in New York and Massachusetts--where multi-culturalism was the norm during that same period--and you will begin to see a pattern. That pattern does not support the abandonment or trivialization of roots or ethnicity.

It is not a sense of tribal or ethnic identity, which stultifies human progress, or causes failure in the Third World. Rather, it is the Socialist determination to collectivize mankind, which forces the head-in-the-sands pursuit of ever more inclusive political structures, further reducing each of us to insignificance. The problem is unrealistic body politics, artificial States, contrived for the use of those with undisclosed but fervently pursued agendas; and sometimes enforced by the cruelest means imaginable (see Chapter 18). We refer you also to Chapter 16, which deals with the same deceptive and destructive mindset, applied to America.

Once again, we come face to face with the denied reality of our times. Mankind is not a unity; and you solve none of its problems, nor those of any of its parts, by a self-inflicted ignorance of that underlying reality. Destructive friction, in the contrived multi-cultural State, is not caused by the victims, forced to submit against their will and against nature. The cause lies in the folly that believes that you can create a nation by drawing lines upon a map.

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Conservative Debate Handbook

Table Of Contents--Instant Links, All Chapters

Specific Chapters Referred To Above:

Chapter 5--The Rape Of Tolerance

Chapter 7--The Lies Of Socialism

Chapter 14--Economics & Common Sense

Chapter 15--Immigration & The American Future

Chapter 16--Myths & Myth Makers In American Education

Chapter 18--An American Foreign Policy

Chapter 25--'Democracy' In The Third World

Chapter 28--Public Schools--Issues & Reality

War On Terror

Karl Rove--Dysron, Quack Or Mole?