A Philosopher's Blog

Stray Animals

Posted in Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on January 28, 2010
Picutre of Lt.
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As everyone now knows,  Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer of South Carolina made news by seeming to compare the folks who receive government support to stray animals.

His exact words were:

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better…”

Interestingly enough, Bauer does have a point. However, it is not the point he thought he was making. Now, if we take the companies that we bailed out as being analogous to stray animals, then he is dead on. By providing these companies with tax payer money we are simply encouraging their bad and irresponsible behavior. As he argued, we need to hold stray animals like Goldman Sachs accountable and make those feral fat cats give something back in return.

Bauer also said the following:

“I can show you a bar graph where free and reduced lunch has the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina,” adding, “You show me the school that has the highest free and reduced lunch, and I’ll show you the worst test scores, folks. It’s there, period.”

Bauer seems to be right about this. Schools that have the free and reduced lunches do tend to have lower test scores. However, Bauer is making an error in his causal reasoning. It is not the free or reduced lunch prices that are lowering scores. After all, imagine if top scoring schools were given free lunch programs. This would not result in lower scores because the price of lunch has nothing to do with academic performance.

The most likely explanation for this correlation is that there is a another factor that is causing both (he is thus committing the fallacy of ignoring a possible common cause) effects. To be specific, poverty leads to a need for reduced price or free lunches and likewise tends to result in worse academic performance. Schools in poorer areas obviously tend to pay teachers less and tend to have far less money for supplies, equipment and programs. Also, people who are poor generally lack the resources to provide their kids with what is needed to do better in school. As such, the culprit here is not the lunch programs but rather poverty.

As a final point, it continues to amaze me that people can reach fairly high political offices without having an adequate grasp of what to say and not to say. I can understand a person making a quick and stupid slip, but Bauer developed his remarks at length. Even his attempts to defend himself merely dug a deeper hole. Then again, it is interesting to see a politician who seems to be willing to say what he really thinks-even if it is rather horrible.

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7 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on January 28, 2010 at 9:22 am

    “However, Bauer is making an error in his causal reasoning. It is not the free or reduced lunch prices that are lowering scores.”

    I think Bauer knows this.

    • A.K.A.Alias said, on January 28, 2010 at 9:34 am

      If he does, he must be fairly confident that his intended audience (guess who?) is not aware of this. It’s more likely this is the way he and his audience think.Why would he say it and risk having his audience respond as the professor did?

  2. A.K.A.Alias said, on January 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

    “As a final point, it continues to amaze me that people can reach fairly high political offices without having an adequate grasp of what to say and not to say.” No amazement here. It’s what I wrote about at “Brown’s Election”. The stupidity of his audience. It’s the same stupidity that makes me fear the long-term effects of the recent SC decision.

    • kernunos said, on January 28, 2010 at 10:55 am

      How about the stupidity of Obama’s audience? Transperancy, no ear-marks and bi-partisanship. Oh, don’t forget world peace. His audience believes what he says even though he is doing the opposite. Hold on, maybe Brown’s audience wasn’t so stupid after all. Maybe they are on to Obama.

      • A.K.A.Alias said, on January 28, 2010 at 11:30 am

        In “Brown’s Election” you and I discussed the SC decision. I said I had little faith in the American public to make sensible political decisions. That I feared eventually we’d become a corporate oligarchy. You ere much more positive. Now you criticize over half of the voting public for lack of analytical skills. Let me add to that number without fear of contradiction by any but fools the people who voted twice for George W. Bush. And the audience Bauer is obviously catering to. Assuming they’re not one and the same.Still sanguine about the future of the Republic after the SC decision?

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 29, 2010 at 10:37 am

        Everyone who watched the speech?

  3. kernunos said, on January 30, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Both the Dems and the Republicans can go the way of the ‘wild weasel’ for all I care.

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