How sad it is that logic and rhetoric aren’t taught in the schools anymore! They would have helped Ezra Klein avoid the more obvious errors in this post of his which responds to an email on a post of Greg Mankiw’s.
I would respond by saying that there’s a weird tendency among people to think that very banal comments are very important insights when they come from Greg Mankiw. And this is worse than a very banal comment: It’s disengaged with the debate.
This is an example of the ad hominem fallacy, attacking the person rather than the argument. It’s always handy for softening things up at the opening.
Mankiw’s basic argument is that health-care reform should be better than deficit-neutral. It should be deficit-improving. That is to say, it should bend the curve in the long term. And it should! But what evidence does Mankiw have that it won’t?
This is the fallacy known as “burden shifting”. It’s up to the advocate to make his case rather than the counter-advocate to disprove the advocate’s case. Dr. Mankiw is under no obligation to disprove anything. There’s plenty of evidence disproving the case for the House and Senate’s healthcare reform bills, by the way, most notably from Doug Elmendorf, head of the CBO.
Mr. Klein proceeds by making his case, giving four red herrings, which he acknowledges as such:
All of these are speculative.
If his proposals don’t address the problem identified by Mankiw (the failure of the bills under consideration to reduce spending), they’re red herrings. But they might? Thats wishful thinking. Prove they won’t! That’s burden shifting.
In dismissing possible objections to his putative benefits Klein notes:
All of these are speculative. But that’s true for any cost-saving measures that aren’t either single-payer or some radical turn toward the free market that rips away subsidies for the poor and benefits for the elderly.
This is a fallacy known as tertium non datur or false dilemma. There is at least one other alternative which is neither single-payer nor a “radical turn toward the free market” and it doesn’t rip “away subsidies for the poor and benefits for the elderly”: Wyden-Bennett. Ezra knows about Wyden-Bennett and has praised it, so his statement is also a lie.
I favor healthcare reform. I’ve even supported a system more like France’s or a single payer system. However, IMO any reform that is adopted must reduce costs and their rate of increase. For me that’s the minimum acceptable bill. The bills before the House and Senate don’t do that.
However, I also favor honest, logical discourse.