Donavan. I think we should give an enormous tax break to the rich. Both Forbes Magazine and the Wall Street Journal say it will stimulate the economy, increase employment, raise wages, eliminate the deficit, reduce the federal debt and bring peace in the Middle East.
Clifford. That's ridiculous! Giving a tax break to the rich is like the government seizing a big stash of stolen money, and then giving some of it back to the bank robbers.
Donavan. 1. Forbes Magazine and the Wall Street Journal say an enormous tax break for the rich is a good idea.
C. Giving an enormous tax break to the rich is a good idea.
Clifford. 1. Refunding taxes to the rich is like returning stolen money to robbers.
(2. Giving recovered stolen money back to the people who stole it is not a good idea.)
Giving a tax break to the rich is not a good idea.
Donavan bears the burden of proof because, in the absence of an argument to the contrary, our most reasonable conclusion is that everyone is paying the right amount of taxes. If someone thinks that there is something wrong with the current distribution of taxes, it's up to him to prove it. Donavan is such a person, so he has the burden of proof.
Both are making direct arguments.
Donavan. Authority Argument.
Authorities: Forbes Magazine and Wall Street Journal.
Qualifications: popular publications.
Clifford. Analogy Argument
Conclusion Thingy: giving yet another tax break to the rich.
Premise Thingy: recovering stolen money and giving some of it back to the robbers.
Property: not a good idea.
Since Donavan bears the burden of proof, we would assume that his conclusion is wrong if just it turned out that neither argument here was any good. The playing field is tilted against someone who bears the burden of proof since he only wins if his argument is good and the other argument is bad. If both arguments are equally good, or equally bad, the arguer with the burden of proof loses. As an authority argument, Donavan's argument relies on his sources being competent and independent experts. Unfortunately, while they are successful publications, neither the Wall Street Journal nor Forbes Magazine are scientific journals, so they don't count as experts in economics. Furthermore they are owned by rich people, controlled by rich people, and depend on the patronage of rich people for their existence. That is a powerful incentive to say whatever they think will please rich people, so they cannot be assumed to be independent. Clifford's argument relies on the analogy between rich people and robbers. The strength or weakness of this analogy depends on how these rich people got their money. If the vast majority of rich people got their money under conditions of fair competition, then the analogy does not work. However, if the vast majority of rich people got their money from sweetheart deals, favors from government, monopolistic practices, price-fixing, deceptive advertising, corporate welfare and so on, then this analogy works very well. While there is considerable evidence that a large proportion of our rich people got rich through dishonest means, this conclusion is extremely controversial, so the analogy is likewise controversial. Clifford cannot just assume that rich people are like robbers, so his argument is weak also. Given that Donavan bears the burden of proof, the fact that both arguments fail means that the most reasonable conclusion is that the tax break is not a good idea.
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