From The Project to Restore America:
Is there a difference between government and society? Rachel Maddow seems to think not.
Pay close attention to these words from the MSNBC host's promo as she attempts to defend "America" against those who (in her view) believe its best days are in the past:
"No, no, no. We're not going to build it. No, No, No. America doesn't have any greatness in its future. America has small things in its future. Other countries have great things in their future. China can afford it. We can't"—you're wrong! And it doesn't feel right and it doesn't sound right to us because that's not what America is.
The first question that arises is: Who is it that says "America [unlike China] doesn't have any greatness in its future"? Who is Maddow arguing against? The last time I heard something like that, it came from the "limits to growth" crowd, which is probably part of Maddow's fan base.
This question continues to be a puzzle until you realize that when Maddow says "America," she means not individual Americans or society but government. And now her fallacy is clear. Frédéric Bastiat identified it in 1850.
In his classic, The Law, Bastiat wrote that the "socialist" confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education... We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
I can see Maddow saying that. One need not be a state socialist, however, to commit this fallacy. It's done all the time all along the political spectrum. But Maddow offers us a particularly good example.
Note Maddow's unspoken premise...
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