Extended video with more examples of False Equivalence
The day is finally upon us.
Upon us? Should we really care about who the citizens of the United States choose to be their Commander in Chef?
You bet we should care and perhaps not the reason you’d expect.
I am going to attempt to navigate around political, geo-political and economic arguments that inevitably polarise, and provide a very simple, pragmatic reason why business leaders should care which of the two competing narratives wins the day.
Both narratives are the instruments of political parties whose primary intent is to win power in a democratic contest. Both narratives have been forged in a cauldron of bias and ideology, motivated reasoning and hyperbole. But to say that both narratives are equal in their resemblance to reality is clearly wrong.
That’s it’s a choice between two people who are pretty much the same.
This is an example of one of the key logical fallacies that cost businesses and nations, here are abroad, dearly; the false equivalence.
A false equivalence is when you suggest that two opposing arguments have equal validity or relevance when they do not.
A. Cats are important companion animals and people should be allowed to own them.
B. Cats eat native birds, therefore all cats should be exterminated.
Despite both containing truths, the arguments are not equivalent. The second argument is hysterical.
A more serious false equivalence exists in the vaccination “debate”.
A. The collective experience/evidence is that vaccines saves countless lives.
B. My personal experience/belief is that vaccines cause harmful side-effects.
That an individual’s experience, or the experience of a small group, is equivalent to the scientifically documented experience of generations or millions of people is unsound thinking. In 2019, a three percent of Samoa’s population contracted measles. 83 people died.
When steering a company or business unit through challenging times, business leaders want to make the best possible decisions given the time and resources available to them. False equivalence leads to poor decision making. Executive teams spend time debating arguments, some of which do not belong in the agenda.
A. We should adopt quotas to help address generations of biased recruitment and promotion.
B. If we include quotas, then we won’t be able to hire the best candidate.
If it isn’t obvious this is an example of false equivalence, all the more reason for you to learn to be able to identify them and appreciate the danger.
Statement B is a poor argument and does not deserve to be on the agenda of an executive team meeting. Yet, I have heard this argument expressed to me on many occasions as a statement of authentic pragmatism; “I believe that we should always hire the best candidate.” Yes, argue for hiring the best candidate, but extend your thinking to consider what is “best”. Best by what measures? Best for the hiring manager or for your clients? Best for the current sales period or best for the long-term relevance and viability of the company?
Without detail, “best” is subjective, lacking in definition and specificity.
Hiring for fit, for culture, for longevity, is a complex equation. Some hiring decisions are improved by genuine dialogue and even debate. But not when the two propositions are not equal.
One of the red flags for a false equivalence is a simplistic description posing as simplicity.
There is a link between simplicity and the believability of a notion; if you think you understand a proposition, you are more likely to believe it.
A bold lie, that sounds like the truth, has immense short-term power. People who are quite intelligent and sensible will believe it, or at least, believe it is worth consideration.
In the lead up to the 2016 US elections, I heard many times, “I don’t like Trump. I don’t trust him. But I don’t like or trust Hillary Clinton either.” Was that really comparing apples with apples?
In recent weeks, I’ve heard “I don’t like Trump, but I don’t like Biden either.”
On one count, Trump’s performance exceeds Biden hand down. Biden doesn’t have it in him to do what Trump can do. Trump is unequalled. He’s the master. His capacity to lie, and lie big, is unmatched. His propensity to describe reality in ways that work for him, at the expense of others, is unquestionable. Is that a political statement? He’s not concerned about the truth, if it is not convenient. I will leave it to family members, people who work with him and experts in mental processes to explain what enables this and why he is such an effective and successful liar.
There is no debate that he stands as one of two men who will win an election in which millions have or will vote; a candidate whom very few are willing to write off.
This is an extraordinary situation.
Now why should Australia business leaders care?
It is that we’ve starting to really feel the pain of our own deteriorating relationship with China, impacted in several ways by the US reputation and regard in our region?
Well geo-political experts have different views on that.
It is because we feel that a Trump defeat is the right response to systemic objectification of women and the marginalisation of people of colour – something Australian business leaders should have an opinion on.
That might be regarded as virtue signalling and the economy is more important.
Is it because we want the American Republic to work and subscribe to the French philosopher, Montesquieu’s perspective that for a republic to work, it must be animated by virtue; that fear is the animus of despotism?
That’s sounding like some nasty, liberal, socialist, elitist soapboxing.
The reason you should care who wins this election, is that it will define what passes for effective leadership in the 21st century; at least in that part of the English-speaking world.
If winning power in the United States is not impeded by bare-faced lying, then that helps define the world in which you are leading.
Will other world leaders be encouraged to apply similar tactics to win influence at home and abroad?
Before conclude that should Donald Trump win a second term, then for you, honesty is no longer the best policy, do not forget that your capacity to lie may not be equal to his.