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A fallacy that we hear a lot here in undeveloped countries, and which is so deeply annoying, it's that something is true because the developed countries do it. It's particularly annoying because many times when developed countries make a mistake, undeveloped countries copy it and fall for the same reasoning, because our politicians convince people that's right because "developed countries do it". It would be great to be able to point the wrongness of their arguments, by quickly pointing they fall in certain type of known fallacy, perhaps exposing their ignorance.

Is there a name for this type or fallacy, or does this fallacy fall in some larger set of known fallacies?

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    It is difficult to think at it as a fallacy, because it seems not based on an argument... Maybe similar to Argument from authority. Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 14:08
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    If developed countries do something that undeveloped countries don't, that does amount to some significant evidence that it is beneficial to do; it's not fallacious. It's not perfectly reliable evidence, but one should not outright dismiss it.
    – causative
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 15:20
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    "not perfectly reliable evidence, but one should not outright dismiss it" -> @causative that is exactly the kind of problematic reasoning Pablo is pointing out. The initial conditions of the two countries are different, thus doing the same action, will lead to different endpoints. Example: my friend runs marathons and he wins. Thus if I run a marathon I will win. Result: I am dropped in the floor 5 kilometers in, and cannot finish the race. Just like I did not have the necessary pre-training nor experience to run the marathon; the same happens with countries trying to emulate policies.
    – rodrigob
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 16:09
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    @rodrigob It's not perfectly reliable, and that means you can think of counterexamples. But it is a good general heuristic. If all your healthy friends run a lot, and all your unhealthy friends don't run, then we might suppose that running is beneficial for health. Maybe not, maybe it's correlation without causation, but it's some evidence in favor. Even if you drop 5 km in, you've outpaced everyone on the couch.
    – causative
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 16:20
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    @causative then the reason why it's true, it's that there is evidence that it's benefitial, not that it comes from developed countries. If all developed countries are doing a mistake, and you copy it, you would be doing something wrong
    – Pablo
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 18:33

7 Answers 7

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The fallacy on this specific case is Argumentum Ad Populum (because others do it). For example, several countries, like Bolivia, decreed anachronistic lockdown endings during the Covid-19 pandemic, mainly because European countries started to get free, just because europeans were finishing locking down, while Covid-19 cases actually started to raise in South America. A presidential change helped enforcing the argument. Similar cases occur in case of gender politics decisions and investments (while there is no actual local data on the subject), budget for AIDS (while, debatably, the amount of cases would not justify its necessity), etc.

A comment suggests an Argument from Authority: wrong. There is no country that is an authority (e.g. a professional) on any matter. For the specific example, Germany is not "the expert", "the pulmomologist" or "the authority" on Covid-19, Bolivia being "an illiterate" or "the patient" on the matter, following the expert example, which would be the Ad Authoritatem case. The fallacy is just doing something because others do it.

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    The problem with thinking it as a Fallacy Ad Populum it's that there is a lot of countries, probably more, which arent doing it. Then, believing the argument is believed to be true due to popularity might be contradicted with the counter-argument being more popular in number of people than yours
    – Pablo
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 18:36
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    @Pablo ad populum does not imply majority. It just implies doing something because it is popular. Don't trust Wikipedia. You refer to appeal to majority, which is different, and I did not suggested. Anyway, the majority of countries DID adopted different forms of lockdown measures.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 20:16
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    It's not merely about popularity, it's about the assumption that the developed countries are doing something better than the undeveloped ones. The developed countries are considered an authority. This does not mean that any specific developed country is an authority, but that the group of developed countries together are considered authoritative.
    – causative
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 0:30
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    "There is no country that is an authority (e.g. a professional) on any matter." While correct, does the Argument from Authority not still hold if there is perceived and/or relative authority? As in, they may not be the experts but they probably know more about it than us so lets just follow their moves?
    – Mast
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 7:51
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    "There is no country that is an authority" - I think the point is that the leaders of the developing countries are holding the developed countries as an authority. They're not just doing something because it's popular or "because others do it", they're copying specific countries they regard as experts. Like a sort of Role Model fallacy.
    – komodosp
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 10:15
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Strictly speaking, a fallacy is a specious argument, so unless you have at a BARE minimum, one stated premise, one unstated premise, and a conclusion, you don't have enough to call something a fallacy. As presented, you simply have a claim. Let's look at two examples:

Example 1

Claim What works for economically and technically high-tech countries will work for economically and technically low-tech countries.

Example 2

Premise 1. What works for economically and technically high-tech countries will work for economically and technically low-tech countries.
Premise 2. The US is economically and technically high-tech and Afghanistan is an economically and technically low-tech country.
Conclusion Therefore, the economies and technologies of Afghanistan can and should emulate those of the US.

The first is a dubious claim, and the second is fallacious argument. This is an important distinction, because it raises a distinction about the truth and falsity of claims and specious inference. Specious inference is often easy to show, where as the truth and falsity of claims is a much more complex endeavor. There is a rough distinction between validity and soundness/strength and cogency which acknowledges the fundamental difference between evaluating claims versus argument.

Let's address which fallacy might be at play. I suggest three possibilities might be at play in such arguments roughly styled on Example 2:

  1. False equivalence
  2. Hasty generalization
  3. Appeal to authority or popularity

False Equivalence If one presupposes in the argument being forth that since the US and Afghanistan are both countries, one should apply the same logic to them, then one is mucking about with a presumption of false equivalence. While it is true both are countries, a quick look at the CIA World Factbook will demonstrate that they differ in radical ways. Therefore, the opposing position in the debate should have their eyes peeled for any claims, implicit or explicit that essentially assert "The US and Afghanistan are much alike". That sort of foundational presumption in a debate would be easy to contest.

Hasty Generalization Another way to demonstrate the dubious argument presented in Example 2 is related. That is, any claims of false equivalence are likely to be made by excluding from scope relevant evidence. A political scientist who argues Example 2 might believe that the US and Afghanistan have sufficient similarities to consider the two nations equal, or a propagandist may deliberately attempt to persuade people of the equivalence. But a teenager learning about the world is far more likely just to be ignorant of certain facts. Thus, the conclusions they draw may simply be an unintentional exclusion of relevant propositions that affect the calculus of the argument. This is just the nature of defeasible reasoning (SEP). The same student may just have concluded based on their trips to Cancun, Canada, and England, that Afghanistan is a lot like the US and the First World.

Appeal to Authority/Popularity Lastly, there may be presuppositions involved regarding the fact that the US has the world's largest GDP and military/intelligence apparatus as the lone superpower. Given the authority of the US in a number of matters (including making movies and incarcerating its own people), a claimant may presume that EVERYONE should emulate the US; highly related to that would be the idea that since the US was a major influence in the adoption of constitutional democracy to Western Europe and other nations, that given the wide-spread movement away from autocracies like monarchies, dictatorships, and theocracies, that Afghanistan is best off with a secular constitutional democracy. After all, look at how the kings and queens have disappeared, and free market capitalism and fractional lending have been successful. And yet, these are normative claims. Perhaps polygynous child brides, burqas, and maiming and executions for petty offenses is right for the Afghan people and such decisions should be left to the Taliban to decide. (Obviously I'm a chauvanist against such practices).

So, do people often presume that a major power like the US can simply rebuild other nations in its image? Absolutely. US foreign policy is a litany of attempts to destabilize regimes (including democratically elected ones). Is there bad reasoning involved. Doubtless. But the question of which fallacy might be at play requires both the provision of a specific argument and an analysis of the underlying language to give specific analyses.

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Argumentum ad Crumenam

Literally, appeal to wealth. You seem to be describing an argument where someone’s wealth is held to be proof of their good taste and judgment, or it is assumed that imitating them will make someone else wealthy. You seem to describe the application of this to a nation, rather than an individual.

Genetic Fallacy

This refers to accepting or rejecting an argument solely because of where it originated.

Halo Effect

This refers to regarding someone as better in all ways because they made a very positive impression in some way.

Argumentum ad Verecundiam

An argument from (spurious) authority. Treating foreigners as if they were right about everything could be treated as a form of this.

Xenophilia

This is not the name of a logical fallacy per se, but it’s the most specific term I could think of for intense admiration of foreign countries. The word itself has neutral connotations, but you’re describing an excessive degree of this leading to bias.

Self-Hatred

A very disparaging term for someone who devalues his or her own culture.

A Cargo Cult

This one is more insulting, so be careful with it. I have mostly heard this being applied to anyone, from any culture, who imitates something they’ve seen in non-functional ways, because of some basic misunderstanding. Examples include “cargo-cult science,” for scientific cranks who produce their own crackpot journals and conferences, schools, and so on, or “cargo-cult programming,” for a programmer copying lines from another program that worked, but which have no function in the program they are writing. However, given its origin, it might or might not be considered offensive as a term for imitating aspects of foreign cultures.

This referred to a group of people living on Pacific islands during World War II who saw American forces show up, build airbases, fly in huge amounts of expensive cargo, and then leave.

This group of people believed that, by building mock-ups of airbases out of local materials, such as wooden sculptures of airplanes, and imitating the behavior of American servicemen, they could lure the airplanes to return and bring them their cargo.

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  • Wouldn't "self-hatred" count as oikophobia here? Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 13:42
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    @MrVocabulary I think the original meaning of that was fear of returning to one’s own home or dwelling. I do see it used as a buzzword by some disreputable people in a non-standard sense, when I search, but I didn’t immediately understand it that way when you used it. I would therefore recommend avoiding it.
    – Davislor
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 14:38
  • I see. The only use I have ever seen was overly strong criticism or even hatred of one's own country — at least in my language. Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 9:02
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    @MrVocabulary I might just be unfamiliar with its current usage.
    – Davislor
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 10:11
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The argument is:

  • Nation Y should implement policy or social more X, because
  • More advanced nations implement policy or social more X
  • And the policies and social mores that more advanced nations implement, are the reason they are more advanced

Fallacies are logic errors that tend to lead people astray in their reasoning. I don't consider this argument to be a fallacy, as it is legitimate reasoning in SOME cases. If you wanted to label this error of over generalizing, hasty generalization is probably the most valid label.

So, the problem is that the argument involves an overgeneralization. SOME of the policies and social mores of more advanced nations, are why they are more advanced. Also, the mores are in many cases more important than specific policies, and are often a prerequisite for a policy to actually work, so starting with policies, can often be counterproductive. The argument does not account for these subtleties.

As you note, a wholesale embrace of "more advanced" policies and mores, will help a less advanced nation to advance, but will also bring with them all the ills that "advanced" nations suffer from as well.

Piecewise and selective implementation of more advanced nation's mores and policies, rather than wholesale, is no doubt the best course. However, one of the problems is that the field of predictive sociology is -- more an art than a science. WHICH mores and policies, when implemented, will help a less advanced nation to advance even better than a wholesale adoption -- is something lots of people express opinions on, but there is limited evidence on which to sort bad from good opinions. So -- lots of half-baked opinions on what selective mores and policies to implement, with few good ways to sort between these opinions. Therefore the "we should implement selective mores and policies, and THESE are the ones we should implement" counterclaims are in many cases even less well supported arguments.

If the above argument were modified slightly, it would close fully, and might actually be right:

  • Nation Y should implement policy or social more X, because
  • More advanced nations implement policy or social more X
  • And the advantages of the policies and social mores that more advanced nations implement, are the reason they are more advanced
  • Not all policies or mores of advanced nations are actually needed for a less advanced nation to advance
  • But as the ability to sort essential from detrimental mores and policies is limited, the best course is to implement the entire suite of advanced nation's mores and policies.
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  • My interpretation of the hidden argument is something like this. 1 - Developed nations are successful and have a desirable quality of life and standard of living 2- All the things developed nations do are the cause developed nations are successful, have a desirable quality of life and standard of living 3- Therefore, we should copy all the things developed nations do. The problem is premise 2 is false, because developed nations also do mistakes.
    – Pablo
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 19:38
  • As I noted, I agree with the point. But for it to be an effective counterargument, you need to be able to point to sociology details that show that policy or more X is not necessary for that advancement, and/or may even be detrimental. But the resolution in sociology that allows us to evaluate specific policies or mores in isolation, and predict which are needed to advance, and which are not -- does not yet exist.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 19:46
  • Imagine that this could have to do with anything, including things that have nothing to do with sociology. This example is unlikely to ever happen, but to illustrate the point. Imagine you are a genius physicist who knows as a fact that a certain type of nuclear reactor will eventually explode. But all developed nations are using that nuclear reactor so people in your country say your country should use it.
    – Pablo
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 19:52
  • A more realistic example. All developed countries are using eolic energy. Your country doesnt have winds at all, but hey! all developed countries are using eolic energy so we should spend a lot of money on it to use it.
    – Pablo
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 19:56
  • @Pablo -- Your examples are where you have data with sufficient resolution to counter the generalized argument. Nuclear safety, and the details of how to generate wind power energy, ARE known with detailed resolution.. The overall principle you are arguing for is valid, but without the data in sociology, it is a hard to justify any specific exclusion.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 20:38
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Is there a name for this type of fallacy?

On the question of whether these policy decisions are based on an appeal to authority, I disagree with RodolfoAP, and agree with the suggestion from Mauro Allegranza.

The appeal to authority does not require certain credentials. The fallacy appears whenever someone believes that someone else knows better and makes a decision based on that belief. The fallacy is part of a larger set of problems: “The irrelevant appeal to authority is a type of genetic fallacy, attempting to judge a belief by its origin rather than by the arguments for and against the belief.” Skeptic’s Dictionary, appeal to authority.

As suggested by the many answers and comments, the answer to your question lies near the boundary between several categories. In my opinion, the fallacy is best described as an appeal to authority.

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It depends what they're trying to argue.

  • "It will help us develop because it helped them"

    This could be a causal fallacy or the often-repeated "correlation does not imply causation".

    Just because a country is developed and they do X, doesn't mean that X causes development.

    And even if it did help their development, it may not help yours, because there could be other factors involved. Depending on the exact argument used, this could either still be a causal fallacy (i.e. X didn't cause development, but rather X+Y did), or it could be a false equivalence fallacy (i.e. we're not equivalent to them, so what worked for them won't necessarily work for us).

  • "It must be good because they are doing it"

    This could be an association fallacy, i.e.:

    • A country being developed is good (or desirable).
    • X is being done by a developed country.
    • Therefore X is good.
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A fallacy is an error in the construction or evaluation of a deductive argument. What you describe sounds more like a bias:

Bias is a disproportionate weight in favor of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is closed-minded, prejudicial, or unfair. Biases can be innate or learned. People may develop biases for or against an individual, a group, or a belief.

All fallacies are essentially non sequitur, which just means that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. That can mean that it doesn't follow at all, because idk the premise and the conclusion are completely independent of each other idk

water is wet.
there is a house.
therefore you should give me $5.

All of these can be true at the same time but none of them are connected to each other and so there is no logical implication that necessitates the conclusion because of the premises.

But it doesn't always have to be that obvious. A classical problem is "correlation does not mean causality". So just because something happens often or often at the same time as something else does NOT mean it MUST always do so. Like correlation implies a causal relation and a causal relation requires correlation, but it's not sufficient. Not to mention that the causal relation could also be the other way around. Like for example "it's not raining because the street is wet, but the street is wet because it's raining." Yes these things occur often together and a wet street can hint at rain, but there could be alternative explanations like idk the neighbor watering plants and not being good at aiming with a water hose.

So the idea is that it MUST be the named implication, so any kind of alternative solution would expose it as a fallacy, because that means it doesn't have to be like that it could also work differently.

The other kind of error called informal fallacy, is if you take a valid argument as premise and then make faulty claims that let the premises appear true even if they aren't or at least don't have to be true. Like idk you're told that if you get the dog in it's house you get a goodie. So idk you call a match "dog" and because it's in it's house (the matchbox) you expect a goodie.

However the problem with using fallacies to expose bullshit is that it requires the other person to make a definitive statement about something. If they just argue "it's a good idea", "it works most of the time" or something like that, then you're out of luck, because a fallacy does not mean that the conclusion is false it just means that it doesn't follow from the premise. Like you could very well owe me $5 from a transaction before, but that has nothing to do with water being wet and a house being next to us. It's just pointing out that the argument doesn't work, but the conclusion could still be correct by coincidence. So if you're using a fallacy to argue against a particular action you might commit a fallacy yourself.

Also as people in politics and economics often care more about the outcome than about the correct way of predicting or achieving it, I'm not sure you're going to be convincing when pointing out that the reasoning is wrong. So as said it's more of a bias and you'd have to previously establish that logic consistency and making valid arguments matter. Like identifying accurate cause and effect relations helps predicting outcomes and reduces the reliance on luck. And checking whether the premises actually apply and are correct helps in identifying accurate cause and effect relations.

So yes you could abuse the bias and use named fallacies to convince people, but in the long run you should better not do that as you just shift the problem, you wouldn't solve it.

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