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A common rhetorical tactic is to change the definition of a key word in a debate to fit a preferred conclusion. This tactic is now being used by President Biden and other lawmakers in support of an anticipated $2 trillion infrastructure bill they are expected to propose by arguing that the definition of “infrastructure” should be expanded to include anything remotely connected to the economy.
Article by Robert Zumwalt from Mises.
The forthcoming bill is expected to propose approximately $400 billion for childcare and other care programs under the heading of “infrastructure,” the argument being that spending taxpayer money on these programs would free up more mothers and others who currently devote their time to providing care to take jobs outside the home. Because it would enable more mothers to work outside the home, the argument goes, “infrastructure” should include childcare.
There is, of course, nothing new about lawmakers seeking to implement new programs at taxpayers’ expense. What is new is how open supporters of this effort have been about the fact that they are attempting to do this by changing the definition of a word, the New York Times opining with approval that Biden’s plan “is a radical reimagining of what infrastructure means.”
The Fallacy of Four Terms
Supporters of the anticipated bill wish to reach the conclusion that the United States should enact progressive social programs and, to reach that conclusion, they are attempting to change the definition of “infrastructure” in this context from “the system of public works of a country, state, or region” to anything that makes it easier for an individual to get to her job. The New York Times opinion piece noted above frames it thusly:
“Functioning and affordable care is a public good: It is the foundation for Americans to provide for their families, tend to their loved ones and perform their jobs.”
This type of argumentation tactic relies on the so-called fallacy of four terms. Typically, a basic logical argument is said to consist of three terms, for example, all A are B, and all B are C, therefore all A are C. This logically valid argument contains three terms, A, B, and C.
However, if each time we mentioned B, we really meant two different things, then this argument would really be, all A are B1, and all B2 are C, therefore all A are C. This argument actually has four terms and is logically invalid because the equivalency between A and C depended on B being the same thing both times it was mentioned.
One way the middle “B” term gets distorted like this is when the meaning of a word used for that term is ambiguous. An argument makes this error if it says, for example: all boys swing bats, all bats are nocturnal flying mammals, therefore all boys swing nocturnal flying mammals. The single word “bat” in this example actually must count as two terms because we have used it with two different meanings.
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It is not necessarily false to say childcare is in some sense a kind of infrastructure if it allows more mothers to take on jobs outside the home, (although it does beg the question why mothers should be deemed more productive when working outside the home than when working in it). Because childcare can plausibly be called a kind of infrastructure, it can pseudo-logically be grafted onto existing beliefs among most Americans about the propriety of government spending on traditional infrastructure, even though the ideas are materially different.
Why This Rhetoric Matters
None of this is intended to mean that governments should involve themselves in the provision of traditional infrastructure in the first place. However, as Murray Rothbard pointed out in his work Man, Economy, and State, it is nonetheless a common modern belief that such spending is appropriate, or even necessary:
“[E]very single service generally assumed to be suppliable by government alone has been historically supplied by private enterprise. This includes such services as education, road building and maintenance, coinage, postal delivery, fire protection, police protection, judicial decisions, and military defense—all of which are often held to be self-evidently and necessarily within the exclusive province of government.”
This existing acceptance most people seem to have of government spending on traditional infrastructure, misguided as it may be, is now being used to expand their ideas about what is acceptable government expenditure to include publicly funded childcare programs.
In a practical sense, new government programs like these will undoubtedly involve not only higher taxes, but also more regulatory control over things that ought to remain within the capable discretion of private individuals and families. New regulations on how many children a childcare provider can enroll at a time and whether providers will be required to have a college degree and a state-issued license are likely to follow, placing needless new burdens on existing childcare providers. (Any doubt about this can be dispelled by reviewing some of the recommendations already published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Child Care here.) If our experience with government intervention in healthcare is predictive, the cost of childcare will only increase and its provision will become more impersonal and less responsive to the particular needs of individual families.
But this use of deceptive rhetoric raises even more fundamental concerns. There is nothing new about lawmakers using false or nonexistent logic to support their proposals, but there is something novel to the boldness with which even established mainline party politicians—including influential senators like Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand—are now so openly embracing this rhetorical tactic despite its reliance on a “radical reimagining” of the meaning of an existing word. The issue it raises is this: Do we really believe that these experienced politicians actually think voters are so dimwitted they cannot grasp the relevant difference between bridges and childcare? As Professor David Gordon recently pointed out, “unless there is very strong evidence, we should avoid attributing to someone an error it would be hard to overlook.”
It therefore seems unlikely they really expect these arguments to cause a significant number of the public to undergo a personal revelatory enlightenment and suddenly realize they have supported government provided childcare all along. It seems more likely they are instead dictating to the rest of us what the new meaning of infrastructure shall be in order to make enactment of their desired social programs possible.
Finally, this seems to represent an importation of the kind of Orwellian newspeak rhetorical methods we are used to hearing from more openly socialist voices in society. We have long heard, for example, about the “exploitation” of labor. While it may be true that an entrepreneur “exploits” the use of labor in the same mundane sense that a carpenter “exploits” the force multiplying effect of a lever to pry nails out of a piece of wood, advocates of the Marxian concept of exploitation rely on the deep negative connotations of the word to justify condemning owners of capital who earn a profit by hiring workers. The current calls for “social justice” are similar. Advocates of collectivist redistribution schemes describe their socialist goals as a certain kind of justice. Changing the definition of justice to “social justice” shifts the focus of the debate about what is just from people receiving what they deserve to people receiving the same thing regardless of what they deserve.
If this new argument about infrastructure arises from the same mindset as social justice ideology, as I argue, we should heed Professor Michael Rectenwald’s warning about social justice that the:
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“claims of social justice ideologues amount to a form of philosophical and social idealism that is enforced with a moral absolutism. Once beliefs are unconstrained by the object world and people can believe anything they like with impunity, the possibility for assuming a pretense of infallibility becomes almost irresistible, especially when the requisite power is available to support such a pretense. […] Because it usually contains so much nonsense, the social and philosophical idealism of the social justice creed must be established by force, or the threat of force.”
The attempt to characterize childcare and similar government programs as infrastructure cannot be understood as an honest attempt to convince average Americans to support a policy through rational argumentation. It should instead be understood as powerful lawmakers openly adopting a rhetorical tactic common to social justice ideologues to dictate to the masses what they should believe about the expanded role the state should play in everyone else’s lives.
‘The Purge’ by Big Tech targets conservatives, including us
Just when we thought the Covid-19 lockdowns were ending and our ability to stay afloat was improving, censorship reared its ugly head.
For the last few months, NOQ Report, Conservative Playbook, and the American Conservative Movement have appealed to our readers for assistance in staying afloat through Covid-19 lockdowns. The downturn in the economy has limited our ability to generate proper ad revenue just as our traffic was skyrocketing. We had our first sustained stretch of three months with over a million visitors in November, December, and January, but February saw a dip.
It wasn’t just the shortened month. We expected that. We also expected the continuation of dropping traffic from “woke” Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but it has actually been much worse than anticipated. Our Twitter account was banned. Both of our YouTube accounts were banned. Facebook “fact-checks” everything we post. Spotify canceled us. Medium canceled us. Apple canceled us. Why? Because we believe in the truth prevailing, and that means we will continue to discuss “taboo” topics.
The 2020 presidential election was stolen. You can’t say that on Big Tech platforms without risking cancellation, but we’d rather get cancelled for telling the truth rather than staying around to repeat mainstream media’s lies. They have been covering it up since before the election and they’ve convinced the vast majority of conservative news outlets that they will be harmed if they continue to discuss voter fraud. We refuse to back down. The truth is the truth.
The lies associated with Covid-19 are only slightly more prevalent than the suppression of valid scientific information that runs counter to the prescribed narrative. We should be allowed to ask questions about the vaccines, for example, as there is ample evidence for concern. One does not have to be an “anti-vaxxer” in order to want answers about vaccines that are still considered experimental and that have a track record in a short period of time of having side-effects, including death. One of our stories about the Johnson & Johnson “vaccine” causing blood clots was “fact-checked” and removed one day before the government hit the brakes on it. These questions and news items are not allowed on Big Tech which is just another reason we are getting canceled.
There are more topics that they refuse to allow. In turn, we refuse to stop discussing them. This is why we desperately need your help. The best way NOQ, CP, and ACM readers can help is to donate. Our Giving Fuel page makes it easy to donate one-time or monthly. Alternatively, you can donate through PayPal as well. We are pacing to be short by about $3700 per month in order to maintain operations.
The second way to help is to become a partner. We’ve strongly considered seeking angel investors in the past but because we were paying the bills, it didn’t seem necessary. Now, we’re struggling to pay the bills. We had 5,657,724 sessions on our website from November, 2020, through February, 2021. Our intention is to elevate that to higher levels this year by focusing on a strategy that relies on free speech rather than being beholden to progressive Big Tech companies.
During that four-month stretch, Twitter and Facebook accounted for about 20% of our traffic. We are actively working on operating as if that traffic is zero, replacing it with platforms that operate more freely such as Gab, Parler, and others. While we were never as dependent on Big Tech as most conservative sites, we’d like to be completely free from them. That doesn’t mean we will block them, but we refuse to be beholden to companies that absolutely despise us simply because of our political ideology.
We’re heading in the right direction and we believe we’re ready talk to patriotic investors who want to not only “get in on the action” but more importantly who want to help America hear the truth. Interested investors should contact me directly with the contact button above.
As the world spirals towards radical progressivism, the need for truthful journalism has never been greater. But in these times, we need as many conservative media voices as possible. Please help keep NOQ Report going.
Will America-First News Outlets Make it to 2023?
Things are looking grim for conservative and populist news sites.
There’s something happening behind the scenes at several popular conservative news outlets. 2021 was bad, but 2022 is proving to be disastrous for news sites that aren’t “playing ball” with the corporate media narrative. It’s being said that advertisers are cracking down, forcing some of the biggest ad networks like Google and Yahoo to pull their inventory from conservative outlets. This has had two major effects. First, it has cooled most conservative outlets from discussing “taboo” topics like Pandemic Panic Theater, voter fraud, or The Great Reset. Second, it has isolated those ad networks that aren’t playing ball.
Certain topics are anathema for most ad networks. Speaking out against vaccines or vaccine mandates is a certain path to being demonetized. Highlighting voter fraud in the 2020 and future elections is another instant advertising death penalty. Throw in truthful stories about climate change hysteria, Critical Race Theory, and the border crisis and it’s easy to understand how difficult it is for America-First news outlets to spread the facts, share conservative opinions, and still pay the bills.
Without naming names, I have been told of several news outlets who have been forced to either consolidate with larger organizations or who have backed down on covering certain topics out of fear of being “canceled” by the ad networks. I get it. This is a business for many of us and it’s not very profitable. Those of us who do this for a living are often barely squeaking by, so loss of additional revenue can often mean being forced to make cuts. That means not being able to cover the topics properly. Its a Catch-22: Tell the truth and lose the money necessary to keep telling the truth, or avoid the truth and make enough money to survive. Those who have chosen survival simply aren’t able to spread the truth properly.
We will never avoid the truth. The Lord will provide if it is His will. Our job is simply to share the facts, spread the Gospel, and educate as many Americans as possible while exposing the forces of evil.
To those who have the means, we ask that you please donate. We have options available now, but there is no telling when those options will cancel us. We just launched a new GiveSendGo page. We also have our GivingFuel page. There have been many who have been canceled by PayPal, but for now it’s still an option. Your generosity is what keeps these sites running and allows us to get the truth to the masses. We’ve had great success in growing but we know we can do more with your assistance.
Thank you, and God Bless!