Excerpted from David De Ugarte in Five argumentative fallacies and one methodological fallacy without which degrowth cannot stand:
“The degrowth arguments form a unique fabric of classic, yet socially widespread, fallacies. Together, they form an argumentative fabric as false as it is seductive, which is able to generate the illusion of rationality, propped up on our own vices and intellectual laziness. However, it’s worth making the effort and coming back around to the perspective of abundance: while capitalism is driving us towards a cliff, degrowth leads us to think like lemmings.
In our debates with catastrophists and degrowthers, five argumentative fallacies and one methodological fallacy appear which are self-reinforcing and form a fabric that is difficult to unravel. In an arena like this, getting into the numbers debate is playing with marked cards in a game whose result is predetermined.
The methodological fallacy is obviously the Ricardian fallacy: accepting that there is predictive value in the results of a forecast made by projecting a single variable and “freezing” all other social factors that influence the studied process.
“If technology remains as it is and the rate of discoveries stays the same, petroleum reserves will run out at such-and-such a time and a sudden lack shortage of energy resources will produce an unprecedented crisis of civilization,” peak-oilers tell us… and they’ve had to correct the date on a half-dozen occasions in 10 years. The last announced date was 2010… and that was corrected, too. Technology evolves at an accelerated rate, and reserves are an economic variable, not a natural one. Economic variables are the result of other variables, and cannot be “frozen” without putting any prediction in doubt.
A similar thing happened to the famous demographer Paul Elrich, updater of Malthusianism. In his book Population Bomb (1970), he predicted a global demographic crisis by the end of the Seventies and the beginning ofthe Eighties with mass starvation in South America, Asia, and Africa. The result, despite the increase in population, was very different.
The Ricardian fallacy “works,” which is to say, we tend to let it slide, because it responds to the need for control and simplification in the 19th-century scientific narrative we were taught. But the fact is, it dramatically reduces the applicability of its own conclusions: it only shows “what would happen if.” And we shouldn’t forget that from the very moment we asked the question, we knew the conditions we put on it wouldn’t be met.”
Continue reading the full essay here.