‘You can rationalise anything’, example I

From the Fin Review of Saturday December 29, in an article titled ‘NSW fines 72 drivers as pressure mounts on UberX’:

Frustrated with the inaction of law enforcers and policy makers to take action against the group, rogue hire car driver Russell Howarth enacted eight citizens arrests against UberX drivers during the past week.

Police attended all eight arrests, but no fines were issued. One driver who was arrested in a sting covered by Fairfax Media returned to work for UberX the next day. “[The Police] never gave me a fine, they never gave me a warning, so obviously I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” he said.

Yes, obviously! Because, as Nixon advisor H.R. Haldeman once observed, an action is only a crime if you get caught.

This man’s logic, presented as a syllogism, appears to be:

If the police don’t fine you, or warn you, or arrest you, then you aren’t breaking or haven’t broken the law.

The police never gave me a fine nor warned me, nor arrested me.

Therefore, I wasn’t breaking the law.

with the first line giving the assumed general premise.

The logic seems to be fine. The problem lies in that initial premise, which I think is wrong.

Of course, if it’s not, then excuse me, I have a few things to do right now – out of sight of the police  😉

[I apologise, I can’t find the exact quotation on the internet. Going by memory, I remember, from many years ago when I was in my late teens, watching a documentary about Watergate which quoted a man who attended a talk by H.R. Haldeman at his university in the few years prior to Nixon’s victory in the 1968 election. The man noted that he had asked a question of Haldeman regarding something Haldeman had said, with the thrust of his question being ‘Wouldn’t this be illegal?’ Haldeman’s response was ‘Only if you get caught, sonny, only if you get caught’. I really wish I could find this quotation!]


About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
This entry was posted in Formal fallacies in reasoning, Reasoning and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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