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The Specious Appeal to Fairness

There are many kinds of fallacious arguments and logical fallacies. There’s one I see from time to time that doesn’t appear to have a name. At least I haven’t found it in any list of fallacious arguments. I call it the Specious Appeal to Fairness or SAF for short. I want to spotlight it for a moment so you can recognize it.

Note that there is an argument called an Appeal to Fairness but it’s not specious. An example of an appeal to fairness would be, “It’s not fair that a man is paid $15 an hour and a woman is paid $10 an hour for the same job.”

The Specious Appeal to Fairness has been around for a long time. It seems to crop up whenever there’s talk of loosening rules or requirements, forgiving debts or crimes, granting amnesties, or increasing inclusivity.

Below are some examples. Some examples appear more specious than others, but they are all specious.

Amnesty to Immigrants

Granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants isn’t fair to those who came here the right way.

(Ignoring that many who are here legally now were granted amnesty under President Reagan or who came illegally and gained residence later.)

Student Debt

Forgiving student loan debt isn’t fair to those who worked hard and paid theirs.

Code Requirement

In my hobby of ham radio, the ability to receive Morse Code used to be a stringent requirement. It took long hard practice, months for some, years for others, to build this skill to pass the higher tests. In the 1980s and 90s, the arguments raged red hot. One of the arguments was that dropping the code requirement isn’t fair to those who got their licenses the hard way. Well, code was dropped and the hobby not only survived but is thriving. Not only that, voluntary learning and use of Morse Code is growing rapidly. No one ever imagined that would happen.

Freeing the Slaves

During the U.S. Civil War, there was talk of freeing the slaves. An opinion piece was published in a newspaper arguing against it saying that freeing the slaves wasn’t fair to those who had escaped on their own.

Jesus and The Five-Thousand

Jesus feeding the five-thousand from five loaves and two fishes wasn’t fair to those who brought their own food.

SAF Trolley Problem

You’re probably familiar with the Trolley Problem, a thought experiment in morality / ethics. Here you see a trolley car heading for a track where it will kill five people. You can pull a lever and route the trolley to another track where only one person will be killed. Should you pull the lever?

The SAF version goes like this. You see a trolley car has just killed five people. It’s heading for a track where it will kill another five people. You can pull a lever to reroute the trolley to a track where no more people will be killed. Is it fair to those already killed to reroute the trolley?


All of the above arguments strike me as ridiculous. But they don’t seem ridiculous to everyone.

Depending on which poll one believes, somewhere between 30 and 50 percent feel that forgiving student loans isn’t fair to those who paid theirs. That’s a lot of people who feel this way so a lot of people subscribe to this way of thinking.


I think that agreement or support of these SAF style arguments implies an elitist worldview. It implies a person that wants to be a gatekeeper with an exclusive rather than inclusive mindset.

What do you think?

Waterproof Lipstick is Forever

Ever more frequently one sees “forever chemicals” mentioned in the news. They’ve become so pervasive they’re found in most water supplies, in the rainfall over Antarctica, and in the bloodstream of every person.

The forever chemicals being talked about are members of a large family of manmade chemicals called PFAS, PFOS, and PFOAS. The archtype of this family is perfluorooctanoic acid. These have been manufactured since the 1940s and do not occur in nature. More members of this family are developed each year.

Perfluoro- and polyfluoro- chemicals have become so widespread because they are so useful. Most of them repel both water and oils. They’re used to make Teflon and other non-stick coatings, stain resistant carpet, water-repellent clothes, fire-fighting foam, ski wax, waterproof cosmetics, and many other products.

These molecules are very stable so they don’t break down in the environment. As a result, they’ve found their way into almost everything — air, water, and soil all over the planet, and inside our bodies.

They are not harmless. In recent years, studies have shown possible causal connections with testicular and kidney cancer, fetal problems like low birth weight, early puberty, immune system problems, liver damage, thyroid disease, blood pressure problems during pregnancy, and colitis.

Study results thus far have been inconclusive but it’s a major concern because these chemicals are everywhere and we can’t effectively get rid of them. They become more abundant each year.

Waterproof Lipstick

Published in The Journal of Environmental Science & Technology on June 15, 2021 is a peer-reviewed study conducted by researchers at Notre Dame University. The study shows that roughly half of the 231 cosmetics tested contained PFAS. Most of these products did not show PFAS on their list of ingredients. About 60 percent of eyeliners, foundations, and liquid lipsticks, and 80 percent of waterproof mascaras contained PFAS. How much are you ingesting? There’s no solid data on this question but the answer is clearly not zero.

Another problem with waterproof lipstick is that it works really well. Too well. Lipstick prints on water and wine glasses are durable. Unlike conventional lipstick, waterproof lipstick is unaffected by the high pressure, heat, and chemicals used in commercial dishwashers. Nobody wants to receive a glass with somebody else’s lipstick print on it. This means that each glass must be inspected and lipstick scrubbed off by hand. A mini-industry has sprung up around this problem that offers special tools, rim scrubbers, and harsh chemicals to help restaurants and bars deal with the problem. This results in more labor and higher costs which will be passed on to the customer.

Please keep the above in mind when making a purchasing decision. You must decide for yourself if it’s worth it.

The IRS Expansion

IRS Logo

The organizations paying for ads opposing the IRS expansion and the hiring of more IRS agents are telling on themselves. They’re calling it a “shakedown”.

Let’s think about this for a minute. The IRS doesn’t take any more than they are legally allowed to, which in the U.S. these days is very little. This is the amount legally owed. Anyone who would call expansion of the IRS a shakedown is admitting that they are a tax cheat. They’re admitting to breaking the law and not paying their fair share. All such people are in the top ten percent of wealth in this country.

So who is paying for these ads? The ones I’ve seen are paid for by an organization called “Americans for Prosperity”. Great sounding name but who are they? Americans for Prosperity is the Koch Brothers’ propaganda outlet, funded by them. Are you a billionaire? A millionaire? No? Then this expansion doesn’t apply to you.

Americans for Prosperity produces ads that try to get normal middle-class people and the poor angry about issues that have nothing to do with them but do concern the Koch Brothers and their billions. Unless you’re a billionaire or expecting to become one soon, you’re being played. Keep this in mind the next time you see an ad from Americans for Prosperity.

The ads imply that the IRS engages in theft, when it’s the reverse. All the IRS does is enforce the tax code as set forth by Congress, nothing more. Those who cheat are the thieves, robbing the government of funds that would come to the middle-class and poor in the form of roads, highways, education, assistance, medical care, and security.

Ironically, it’s the richest people who can easily afford to pay their taxes that complain. The poor pay little tax, as it should be, but the Koch Brothers still want you to vote for things that benefit them, not you. Don’t be fooled by the name Americans for Prosperity. Whose prosperity? Yours? No.

Will the IRS be targeting the billionaires? Of course they will. Why would they come and audit you if you’re an ordinary wage earner, who pays their taxes with every paycheck? It would be a waste of time. It’s the ones who owe tens of millions of dollars on a hundred million in income that is worth the effort. These cases also require more manpower and smart auditors to untangle complex tax-dodging arrangements. That’s what those agents will be doing — exactly what the Koch Brothers and hundreds of others don’t want.

Tax rates in the U.S.A. are very low when compared to the rest of the developed world. They are very, very low when compared to the 1950s and 1960s when the U.S.A. was at it’s most prosperous. Republicans have been gutting the IRS for 30 years by reducing IRS funding and staff. Why? The intent is to hobble the IRS so their wealthy donors can cheat with impunity.

What’s more, it’s not even an expansion of the IRS if you look back 30 years. It’s the intent of Congress to restore funding and restore the IRS to an appropriate level. Again, unless you’re a billionaire or millionaire, none of this concerns you.

Fossil Fuel Companies Hold Planet Hostage

Sounds sensational, doesn’t it? Click bait. Well, after reading this, you tell me.

It’s not widely known but over the past 100 years, investors have demanded agreements and treaties from the governments of countries they invest in. There are thousands of these treaties, including with the United States. Investors understandably don’t like risk and do everything possible to eliminate risk. Countries, especially poor countries, will jump through hoops, bend over backwards, go to any length to attract foreign investment. They’ll give everything up and sign such agreements in order to attract foreign money.

Petroleum Jack Pump

In the case of fossil fuel companies, such treaties enable them to demand hefty compensation if the government interferes with the business in any way, revokes permits to drill, delays or refuses permits to lay pipelines, restricts extraction, and so forth. We’re talking payouts that can amount to hundreds of billions of dollars if/when these treaties are invoked, far beyond the means of many countries.

And, it’s starting already. The U.S.A. is being sued to the tune of a billion dollars for cancelling the Keystone Pipeline. The governments of Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and others are being sued for four billion dollars over their phasing out of coal power plants, requiring environmental impact assessments, and blocking of extraction projects. Anything that interferes with the business is grounds to sue for damages.

These treaties enable fossil fuel companies to hold us hostage and prevent the implementation of measures to mitigate climate change. Oil companies can make it too expensive to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, hamstringing the ability of countries to deal with climate change.

It’s an insane situation where the urgent need to act on climate change will be derailed by old treaties from the middle of the last century. But here we are. They have us over a barrel (of oil).

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