Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Once again, I saw an article extolling the “record” of national safety after 9/11 under W. “There hasn’t been another attack since he initiated programs like the Patriot act and Gitmo…” Of course I could also point out that I haven’t been mauled by a tiger in that time frame either. Is that a coincidence?

While it is possible that those policies have prevented another 9/11, the identification of cause and effect is far from clear. When you are trying to judge the effectiveness of any given policy, it is important to look at not only if any objective is met, but how likely it is that that particular policy had anything to do with it. You also need to look at the costs involved. That’s not just dollars and cents BTW. You have to factor in the loss of civil liberties, the expansion of executive power, and the damage our reputation has suffered world-wide due to these policies.

“But surely the important thing is that he did something!” Remember, just because government is doing something, it doesn’t mean that it is the cause of any given nicety. The fallacy of “this came before that, therefore this caused that” is alive and well in the political rhetoric, I hope people can remember to look at claims logically…

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