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"Ha ha, stupid America is just like Liberia and Myanmar!!"

I know this has to be a logical fallacy, but don't know which one.

Is that the fallacy of False Equivalency (an equivalence is drawn between two subjects based on flawed or false reasoning), or something else?

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    For there to be a fallacy there needs to be a conclusion. What it is here is hard to tell. Judging something "stupid" is just an opinion, not the conclusion of an inference, and "just like" is right, at least in this one respect. If the "just like" is meant to be broader based on a single point of similarity this would be a hasty generalization, one made without properly considering all the evidence. – Conifold Aug 27 '20 at 4:52
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    engineering.com/AdvancedManufacturing/ArticleID/15351/… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myanmar_units_of_measurement It seems Myanmar at least wants to adopt metric, though I dont know the current state. And parts are already metric, like speed limit. So I would call this a false equivalence, but the other way than originally implied. – Benjamin Aug 27 '20 at 8:03
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    There are two types of country in the world, those that use metric, and those that put men on the Moon. Which goes to show how ever much easier SI is to use, not having to mess around with wierd conversion factors, you can still achieve using an archaic system. The irony of that is that NASA uses SI, all the Apollo calculations were done in SI, and then converted to imperial for human interface. The Mars c*ckup was the result of two conversions being required, one to imperial and one back to SI, and only one being applied. – Neil_UK Aug 27 '20 at 8:32
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    @alephzero Actually, there are quite a few US companies that do in fact use the metric system internally instead of US customary units. It's relatively common in manufacturing companies that deal extensively with international customers and/or suppliers. – Austin Hemmelgarn Aug 27 '20 at 14:35
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    @AustinHemmelgarn For another example, pharmaceutical companies in the US also work extensively in metric units, at least internally. – probably_someone Aug 27 '20 at 14:57

10 Answers 10

1

Guilt by association

A guilt by association fallacy occurs when someone connects an opponent to a demonized group of people or to a bad person in order to discredit his or her argument. The idea is that the person is “guilty” by simply being similar to this “bad” group and, therefore, should not be listened to about anything.

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It looks like an argument by popularity to me: "look, most people do my way, therefore it must be the good one".

Here it is strengthened with ridicule by association with 2 poor countries that invites disrespect, as the laugh "haha!" suggests. This is not a fallacy proper, more a disingenuous debate tactic (no argument is made, but an attempt to shame the opposition).

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    Seriously though, just use the metric system (^_^) – armand Aug 26 '20 at 21:31
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    SI is superior, but the fact is not related to the question. – fraxinus Aug 27 '20 at 6:23
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    It also implies disrespect/disdain for Liberia and Myanmar. – gerrit Aug 27 '20 at 7:05
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    @fraxinus: that's why I put my opinion about the metric system in a comment. – armand Aug 27 '20 at 8:08
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    @gerrit: yeah, it just boils down to "I see, you wear last year fashion snickers like the poor kids..." which is junior high school level of argumentation. – armand Aug 27 '20 at 8:13
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"Ha ha, stupid America is just like Liberia and Myanmar!!"

  1. Country X has stupid policies about weights and measures.
  2. America has the same policies.
  3. Thus America is stupid.

Here, validity depends heavily on the statement’s underlying assumptions. If it argues that the policies are wrong because the people of Country X are themselves stupid, then this fallacious statement is just a big ad hominem argument.

If the statement argues rationally that there is something superior about the English system or defective in the metric system, then there is possibly a valid argument supporting an unnecessarily harsh conclusion. It does not appear that the premises are there to carry the argument from “wrong policy” to “stupid policy”.

Finally, it appears that the middle term of the syllogism (“policies”) is undistributed in both premises. The argument fails for that reason alone.

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    What are you referring to by “English system”? I am English myself. Here in England we use Metric: although road distances are still Imperial, and old people tend to use Imperial. We use both here. So “English system” means a messy mixture. – Chris Melville Aug 27 '20 at 8:36
  • Did you really mean superior => English (Imperial) vs inferior => metric? It seems to me to be the opposite – mcalex Aug 27 '20 at 8:46
  • @ChrisMelville I did a brief search. The system in use in the US is still labeled the “English” system. – Mark Andrews Aug 27 '20 at 16:41
  • @MarkAndrews while it is colloquially called both the "English System" and the "Imperial System" (which is particularly grating as there is an imperial system which is different to the US system), the closest to official name currently in use is the "U.S. customary system". But I doubt any of those names would confuse a US speaker in casual conversation. – Vality Aug 27 '20 at 19:06
  • @MarkAndrews - Really? Well it’s not called that in England. Best to avoid regional terms. – Chris Melville Aug 27 '20 at 22:36
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So I’m not sure this is really an argument without a little more context and motivation. Presumably the implication is that the US should switch to the metric system, and a more careful analysis with similar structure might well be a valid argument for it: that is, if only a few countries still use the old imperial units, it is potentially hindering scientific communication with the rest of the world, causing untold amounts of time wasted on conversion; one could even imagine real harm stemming from unit mistakes.

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    Don't have to imagine. "1999: A disaster investigation board reports that NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter burned up in the Martian atmosphere because engineers failed to convert units from English to metric." – Dijkgraaf Aug 27 '20 at 3:52
  • Yeah, there's a number of these incidents, see e.g. Six unit conversion disasters. In 1983 two passengers were injured after a plane ran out of fuel; it was Canada Air's first flight to use metric. – Joseph Weissman Aug 27 '20 at 21:54
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I think it's a faulty generalisation, I believe the implied argument here is:

Premise 1. A and B are X (Where 'x' is 'Countries which use the Imperial system)

Premise 2. A and B are Y (where Y is 'Stupid countries')

Conclusion 1 All X are Y (which is invalid)

Deduction: C is X therefore C is Y

A valid conclusion would be Some X are Y with this conclusion you cannot deduce anything about Country C.

You could still make an inductive argument that most X are Y so C, being X, is probably Y but would probably be hasty generalisation.

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"Ha ha, stupid America is just like Liberia and Myanmar!!"

First, as noted in other answers, this is not a logical argument. Properly understood, this is a statement, and one based on facts.

It simply means that "stupid America" is like Liberia and Myanmar in not using the metric system.

Well, is that true or is that false?

It is true, at least according to the context as asserted by the question itself (no question mark):

Only three countries don't use the metric system: the US, Liberia and Myanmar

So, it all seems good to me.

The use of the qualification "stupid" also needs to be explained. It doesn't say and cannot mean "stupid Americans", as America is not an unorganised collection of Americans.

A country is also not a person, and so cannot be properly said to be stupid.

"Stupid" here is probably meant to refer to the policy of not adopting the metric system when nearly all other countries in the world have. It means that every American legislator who supports the use of the Imperial measure system is called here "stupid".

Perhaps the qualification is also meant to suggest that it seems stupid to have fought for, and won, its independence from the British Empire only to keep using its archaic measure system.

It is also interesting to note that, as demonstrated by the question itself, human beings cannot stop themselves from interpreting what other people say as "arguments".

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12 and 16 support more even subdivisions. This may be helpful in some fields, where one might want to reduce a set of volumes or masses proprtionally, such as when a cook wants to cut a recipe to half- or third-size. One seldom wants a fifth of anything, except booze. Given the usefulness of 12 and 16 as bases, one might want to make everyone transition to the duodecimal or hexadecimal system. Or, like the Sumerians, go for a base of 60. Imagine learning a 60 by 60 multiplication table!

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I think it is more about

one thing in America is stupid => America is stupid, just like the other two countries we may know nothing about but we assume they are terribly stupid

i.e. we judge an entity by a single trait and for added credibility associate same entity to two others by the same single trait as if this makes them equal.

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The OP does not account that the US joined 1875 the metre convention, leading up to today's SI units, already permitted on US soil since 1866 by Congress (reference). Not only has NIST today kilogram standards (see here), the very first one actually was lost in shipping to the US in 1793 (see here, then cited here), too. Since detergent, toothpaste, or Dr Pepper equally are quantified metrically, the question should be: why would one use the metric system (at least for standardization), and then do the non-decimal conversion into inches, yards, miles, avoirdupois ounce (which is not the troy ounce) to go the additional mile ...

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It's out of date information. An inch is defined as 25.4mm since the 1950s

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inch

"Standards for the exact length of an inch have varied in the past, but since the adoption of the international yard during the 1950s and 1960s, it has been based on the metric system and defined as exactly 25.4 mm."

So the imperial system has been metric-based for the last 50+ years.

So its an Appeal to Tradition, or an Argument from False Premise

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