We humans are always trying to understand our world by asking why, why, and why? And sometimes people look at the same set of facts and come up with exactly opposite answers as to what is going on.
For example, probably the fundamental difference between my own world view and that of progressives is found in our respective views of what drives economic growth and wealth creation. Are economic growth and wealth creation driven principally by the the striving of millions of individuals working in their own self-interest under conditions of private property and free exchange? Of are economic growth and wealth creation driven principally by government spending and programs that “create” the jobs and the wealth? Supporters of the Green New Deal, for example, clearly subscribe to the latter view.
The progressive confusion of cause and effect reached a true high water mark with a famous series of New York Times articles about crime and incarceration rates, written by then reporter Fox Butterfield between about 1997 and 2004. The November 8, 2004 iteration had the headline “Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates.” Butterfield noted that, “[t]he number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday,” a phenomenon Butterfield labeled “the paradox of a falling crime rate but a rising prison population.” James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal proceeded to get a lot of mileage by identifying and calling out one example after another of what he called the “Butterfield fallacy.” Here is a January 2013 WSJ piece by Taranto containing a history of the subject. As to the seeming “paradox” of the crime and incarceration rates, Taranto writes: “The Butterfield Fallacy consists in misidentifying as a paradox what is in fact a simple cause-and-effect relationship: [As Butterfield himself recognized at one point,] ‘Of course, the huge increase in the number of inmates has helped lower the crime rate by incapacitating more criminals behind bars.’” . . .Read More