Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Failure of Logic

This is old news, but I still wanted to write something.

I was taught the different Logical Fallacies when I was in high school and again almost immediately after I entered college. The determination whether a statement is logical or fallacious is a skill every one should possess. This skill can help us parse through arguments and determine if it holds up or whether it is full of baloney

In his August 11 column entitled "Foreign investors’ letter proves Monsod wrong", Mr Jarius Bondoc started out with baloney and goes downhill from there. He started out with this sentence:
"One Voice, an elitist front to demonize Charter changes of little folk, keeps screeching the claim of its head Christian Monsod:"
This is one of the oldest logical fallacies, argumentum ad hominem, He immediately attacks the personality of the organization whose position he is arguing against by calling them elitist without explaining why they are elitist and how the heck does being an elitist makes their argument less valid. He even characterizes their argument as screeching, they are not presenting their opinion, they are screeching.

And what is this "charter change of little folks"? Is this a dig at the stature of President GMA and speaker de Venecia? Certainly he is not saying that the principal proponent of charter change in the Philippines are the masa. Is he?

He then presented One Voice's or as he presents it Christian Monsod's position as
"Restrictive economic provisos in the 1987 Constitution do not bother foreign investors. What they do care about, surveys say, are infrastructure, human capital, consistency of policies and regulations, peace and order."
When I first read this paragraph, the first thought that came to mind was, 'is this even a direct quote?'. I have watched Christian Monsod on television since he was the chairperson of the COMELEC and I have never heard him say such a stupid thing. And even if he was so inclined to say such a stupid thing, I do not think Winnie Monsod will let him get away with it. So I tried to find out if this was an exact quote. Here is the quote I copied from their blog.
"Many other claims of the proponents of the Initiative are not borne out by the facts. For instance, the claim that the economic provisions of the Constitution on land ownership, public utilities, natural resources, media and advertising have closed the doors to beneficial foreign direct investment (FDI). Not only has the 1987 Constitution proven to be resilient to the demands of the times but surveys of foreign investors repeatedly show that the critical factors to FDI are infrastructure, human capital, quality of policies and stability of the regulatory framework, peace and order, among others. Nowhere is amending the economic provisions considered among the really critical."
As you see, the One Voice movement is not arguing that the economic provisions of the constitution do not bother foreign investors, they are arguing that the economic provisions is not a critical factor to foreign investors. Mr. Bondoc basically changed critical factor into bother and that made all the difference. For Mr. Bondoc, a writer to not know the difference between the word bother and the word critical is astonishing. One is a minor irritation while the other one is indispensable or essential.

This is a clear example of a straw man argument. Mr Bondoc mischaracterized One Voice's position so he could more easily poke holes in them by pointing out that
If his (Monsod's) claim were a person, it would slip on a piece of paper and fall flat on its face. That paper is a letter to Economic Planning Sec. Romy Neri, sent July 24, by the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines. In it, the umbrella of foreign firms urged the government to liberalize the entry of new investments – by executive, legislative and constitutional action.
Here, Mr. Bondoc is arguing that the JFC letter urging the Philippine government to liberalize the entry of new investments even through constitutional action proves that foreign investors are bothered by the economic provisions of the constitution. Which of course it does, what it does not prove is that the liberalization of new investments through constitutional action is a critical factor for these investors in their decisions to invest in the Philippines. It does not prove that these investors will decide to not invest in the Philippines because of the presence of the economic provisions.

To round up this display of logical fallacies, Mr. Bondoc also falls into an appeal to authority. In the third to the last paragraph, Mr. Bondoc states that
"one of Monsod's favorite provisions consigns Filipinos to cottage enterprises, never to genuine industry based on metal and machine. Written by Monsod himself, it confines industrialization to agriculture and agrarian reform, and effectively prohibits Filipinos from making railways, bullet trains, ships or cars like neighbor-states. "
and this provision is from
"Article XII (National Economy and Patrimony), Section 1, 2nd paragraph ? states: "The State shall promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform through industries that make full and efficient use of human and natural resources, and which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets."
Now, I am not an economist and but I can't see how this article consigns Filipino's to cottage enterprises. It states that our industrialization be based on sound agricultural development. and industrialization by its very nature would include technological innovation, I cannot find any provision here that tells the government or anyone that the industries should be limited to whatever. But Mr. Bondoc cites nationalist economist Alejandro Lichauco's book which states
"And what kind of industries can Filipinos engage in under the constitutional rider? 'Apparently, industries like furniture and carpentry, rice milling, making fertilizer out of animal waste, tree-planting, all forms of handicraft, food canning and the like,' Lichauco writes. 'No engineering or machine tool and metal industry because such industries have no connection whatsoever with agriculture and agrarian reform."
I respect Mr. Lichauco, he is one of our premier nationalists. But that does not make his opinion correct.

No comments: