At first glance, campaign finance reform looks like a good idea. McCain-Feingold, for instance, regulates campaigns by prohibiting national political parties from accepting soft money contributions from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals. But are such measures, or any of the numerous and similarly restrictive proposals that have circulated through Washington in recent years, really good for our democracy?
John Samples says no, and here he takes a penetrating look into the premises and consequences of the long crusade against big money in politics. How many Americans, he asks, know that there is little to no evidence that campaign contributions really influence members of Congress? Or that so-called negative political advertising actually improves the democratic process by increasing voter turnout and knowledge? Or that limits on campaign contributions make it harder to run for office, thereby protecting incumbent representatives from losing their seats of power?
Posing tough questions such as these, Samples uncovers numerous fallacies beneath proposals for campaign finance reform. He argues that our most common concerns about money in politics are misplaced because the ideals implicit in our notion of corruption are incoherent or indefensible. The chance to regulate money in politics allows representatives to serve their own interests at a cost to their constituents. And, ironically, this long crusade against the corruption caused by campaign contributions allows public officials to reduce their vulnerability by suppressing electoral competition.
Defying long-held ssumptions and conventional political wisdom, The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform is a provocative and decidedly nonpartisan work that will be essential for anyone concerned about the future of American government.
Although fallacies have been common since Aristotle,
until recently little attention has been devoted to identifying and defining
them. Furthermore, the concept of fallacy itself has lacked a sufficiently
clear meaning to make it a useful tool for evaluating arguments. Douglas
Walton takes a new analytical look at the concept of fallacy and presents
an up-to-date analysis of its usefulness for argumentation studies. Walton
uses case studies illustrating familiar arguments and tricky deceptions
in everyday conversation where the charge of fallaciousness is at issue.
The numerous case studies show in concrete terms many practical aspects
of how to use textual evidence to identify and analyze fallacies and to
evaluate arguments as fallacious. Walton looks at how an argument is used
in the context of conversation. He defines a fallacy as a conversational
move, or sequence of moves, that is supposed to be an argument that contributes
to the purpose of the conversation but in reality interferes with it. The
view is a pragmatic one, based on the assumption that when people argue,
they do so in a context of dialogue, a conventionalized normative framework
that is goal-directed. Such a contextual framework is shown to be crucial
in determining whether an argument has been used correctly. Walton also
shows how examples of fallacies given in the logic textbooks characteristically
turn out to be variants of reasonable, even if defeasible or questionable
arguments, based on presumptive reasoning. This is the essence of the evaluation
problem. A key thesis of the book, which must not be taken for granted
as previous textbooks have so often done, is that you can spot a fallacy
from how it was used in a context of dialogue. This is an innovative and
even, as Walton notes, "a radical and controversial" theory
European and American scholars from the eighteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries thought that all societies passed through the same developmental stages, from primitive to advanced. Implicit in this developmental paradigm—one that has affected generations of thought on societal development—was the assumption that one could "read history sideways." That is, one could see what the earlier stages of a modern Western society looked like by examining contemporaneous so-called primitive societies in other parts of the world.
In Reading History Sideways, leading family scholar Arland Thornton demonstrates how this approach, though long since discredited, has permeated Western ideas and values about the family. Further, its domination of social science for centuries caused the misinterpretation of Western trends in family structure, marriage, fertility, and parent-child relations. Revisiting the "developmental fallacy," Thornton here traces its central role in changes in the Western world, from marriage to gender roles to adolescent sexuality. Through public policies, aid programs, and colonialism, it continues to reshape families in non-Western societies as well.