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Dept. Of Guilt By Association

I was wondering when someone would point out that it takes a ruthless dictator to privatize a social insurance scheme. Of course there was Sweden....

UPDATE: Will Wilkinson notes a favorite argument of this form that I actually have employed from time to time -- "Oh yeah, well guess who else was a vegetarian. Adolf Hitler!"

December 13, 2004 | Permalink


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» Hitler Was a Vegetarian, Pinochet Privatized Social Security, Satan Rides a Bicycle, and Other Irrelevancies from The Fly Bottle
This little piece by Chris Restrepo should be headed straight for the "examples of egregious logical fallacies" files of introduction to critical reasoning instructors everywhere. His "argument" appears to be this. Pinochet was evil. People with some a... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 13, 2004 4:59:36 PM


Not just a ruthless dictator, but now an indicted criminal against humanity.

Posted by: Randy Paul | Dec 13, 2004 4:16:42 PM

Well, there's sophistry and there's sophistry.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis | Dec 13, 2004 4:17:16 PM

I understand that Pinochet also was in favor of children's drinking milk.

Posted by: ostap | Dec 13, 2004 4:18:31 PM

If you spend just a moment reviewing the Social Security Program you would realize that it is about 70 years old and not one of the original beneficiaries had paid any money into it. Don't you think it is reasonable to revisit how future benefits will be funded, after all, the FICA portion of the payroll tax is the most regressive tax we have -- even more so that most state's sales tax.

Posted by: tomas | Dec 13, 2004 4:24:12 PM

FICA is only regressive if you assume the payors won't receive Soc Sec in the future.

Posted by: Ugh | Dec 13, 2004 4:41:43 PM

FICA is regressive because high income earners pay no more than moderate income earners. And, in any case, as long as we have inflation, which will likely be forever, you cannot say that someone who paid $500 a year in FICA vs. $10,000 today didn't pay his share. Inflation is why Social Security is an absolute necessity.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Dec 13, 2004 4:57:45 PM

I'm sick of all these crypto-Nazis supporting the Interstate system.... or should I say Autobahn.

Posted by: digamma | Dec 13, 2004 4:58:46 PM

I thought the post was about all of the Amtrack supporters who are like Mussolini. Oh well.

Posted by: Al | Dec 13, 2004 5:15:16 PM

Digamma: That was very funny.

Posted by: Walt Pohl | Dec 13, 2004 5:34:18 PM

Not that it's so important, but just wanted to say that Hitler actually wasn't a vegetarian, though he avoided most meat for last decade of his life b/c of digestive issues.
Al, it's Amtrak with no C

Posted by: b | Dec 13, 2004 6:15:25 PM

Al, it's Amtrak with no C

Oh, well my point is moot then.

Posted by: Al | Dec 13, 2004 6:21:47 PM

We can only hope that Bush will co-opt Pinochet's entire agenda, but disappearing and torturing opponents of American imperial hegemony, and waging war against working people and the middle class is a good start.

Posted by: Al | Dec 13, 2004 6:23:43 PM

We can only hope that Bush will co-opt Pinochet's entire agenda, but disappearing and torturing opponents of American imperial hegemony, and waging war against working people and the middle class is a good start.

Hey, Zizka. What's happening?

Posted by: Al | Dec 13, 2004 6:30:03 PM

Pinochet's government wasn't actually one of the worst in the history of the Western Hemisphere, but as long as we are playing this game let me point out that Castro supports nationalized health care.

A more reasonable criticism of the Chilean system is that it has had excessive expenses.

Posted by: James B. Shearer | Dec 13, 2004 6:30:06 PM

It's interesting that Wilkinson and others are accusing Matt of a fallacy that he was explicitly poking fun at (while admittedly using it to land a smear). How much more of a disclaimer do you want than the subject heading "Dept. Of Guilt By Association"?

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 13, 2004 6:31:55 PM

Paul: Did you read Will's post? At the end he says "Hat tip to Ygelsias, who categorizes the piece correctly." No one is attacking Matt's position here. They're attacking American Progress.

Posted by: Xavier | Dec 13, 2004 6:50:32 PM

Hey Paul, I didn't accuse Matt of anything. I said he categorized the piece correctly, by which I was referring to the "Dept. of Guilt by Association" title.... Matt's way too smart and honest for this kind of crap.

Posted by: Will Wilkinson | Dec 13, 2004 6:52:21 PM

Oh, hey, thanks Xavier. Right!

Posted by: Will Wilkinson | Dec 13, 2004 6:53:02 PM

Hey Paul, I didn't accuse Matt of anything.

OK. I should have read your post more carefully. Several of the comments do point out the fallacy, though, which is redundant considering the subject heading.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 13, 2004 6:57:08 PM

Actually, I misread Matt's point too, which was explicitly to criticize Restrepo. So I probably shouldn't accuse anyone of being irony impaired when I am too. Time to crawl back under my rock.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 13, 2004 7:04:39 PM

Well, Xavier was cited as an authority by David Brooks, who also cited eugenicist Steve Sailer as an authority, so clearly, Xavier's not worth listening to, and since Will Wilkinson's view of his own post matches Xavier's, clearly Will is a mere apologist for the supremacy of the white race.

How's THAT for a chain of guilt-by-association?

Posted by: Julian Elson | Dec 14, 2004 9:46:02 AM

Not just vegetarianism! According to R.Proctor, The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton University Press) the Nazi's had a really effective anti-cancer program and were among the first to link smoking and asbetos to cancer. Apparently, anti smoking programs saved a lot of German women from lung cancer in the rest of the 20th Century. (

(Not men, because soldiers in battle smoke a lot and Nazi policies put a lot of men in this situation. Not to mention, of course, putting people in the way of bombs and bullets, concentration camps, etc.)

Posted by: Martin | Dec 14, 2004 12:08:46 PM

Julian: I was a little confused by your post, so I did a Google search on "David Brooks" and Xavier. I found an article called "Good News About Poverty" where cites an economist named Xavier Sala-i-Martin. I'm not him. I'm just a semi-anonymous law student. As far as I know, I have never been cited by David Brooks.

Posted by: Xavier | Dec 14, 2004 12:32:25 PM

Oops... I think Xavier Sala-i-Martin usta post on Brad DeLong's blog... and... I got confused. Sorry.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Dec 14, 2004 12:44:49 PM

I take your point about overdoing the guilt by association thing, and we certainly hear way too many "reductio ad Hitlerum" arguments these days.

However, I think the main point of the "American Progress" piece was this: if the Bush adminstration is going to hold Chile up as a shining example of success in privatization of its retirement system, it shouldn't be allowed to skirt over the nature of the Pinochet regime.

As an analogy, I doubt that anyone on the left would be able to get away with arguing that, say, there are admirable features of the medical care or educational systems in Cuba. If we did, the right would be all over us for associating ourselves with Castro.

Posted by: wvmcl | Dec 14, 2004 2:19:55 PM

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