The Just-World Fallacy

With the recent openness from Mitt Romney discussing the 47% of US citizens who do not pay taxes, I decided it might be a good time to review the Just-World Fallacy. I think it is important to an understanding of what Romney and the Republicans believe.

According to David McRaney in You Are Not So Smart, the fallacy is abstracted like this:

The Misconception:  People who are losing at the game of life must have done something to deserve it.

The Truth:  The beneficiaries of good fortune often do nothing to earn it, and bad people often get away with their actions without consequences.

Most commonly this fallacy involves a simple belief that the good guys win and the bad guys lose. We should be intimately aware of this situation since inevitably in any conflict, America is the good guys and everybody else is the bad-guys. America, being an exceptional country under god (as if the enemy countries have no god) always deserves to come out ahead. But it is all a fallacy:  the German’s were defeated on the Eastern Front, not because they were the bad guys but rather because they ran low on fuel and were caught in the Russian winter, not to mention the overconfidence inherent in fighting a major war on two fronts).

You might first question (assuming critical thinking is involved) by what authority one side is declared good and the other side declared evil? It’s a good question and it can be answered from either side since each side considers themselves to good-guys.

But the Just-World Fallacy should tell you that it doesn’t matter who is good and who is bad since either may come out on top in the end. Here is a short observation from McRaney:

Lerner also taught a class on society and medicine, and he noticed many students thought the poor were just lazy people who wanted a handout.

Does that seem in line with Romney and the Republican Party? But if you’ve really got your critical thinking in gear you will also realize that this fallacy is strong on the progressive side as well. I myself have said something like, “How can so many people fall for the lies and deceptions of the Republican Party?” Is that not also an example of the just-world fallacy?

It is not impossible that the worst candidate for office, even for President of the United States, may win the election. It’s also possible that this country will move further and further toward control by the oligarchy and fascism. If we are not constantly and actively protecting our freedom and democracy, there are many in this country that will gladly take it away.

(If you have a sense of dejá vu all over again, you are right … I have discussed this fallacy in a couple of earlier notes (see this and this other), but not specifically referencing at the current election.)

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