Real-world effects of the fallacy of composition

I have just been reading Fred Kaplan’s Daydream Believers, in which he cites Natan Sharansky’s assertion that the natural state of people everywhere is to want to be free. According to Kaplan, the Bush administration accepted this principle and interpreted it to mean that all they had to do was topple tyrants, following which, democracy would naturally sprout up.

Kaplan spends his time talking about the consequences of this belief, but does not explain why the principle was and is wrong. Maybe he regarded it as a sidetrack; maybe he regarded the idea as prima facie nonsense. Based on reading just this one book, I observe that Kaplan tends toward reporting of biographies and events, without delving into fundamentals. But the fundamentals are worth explaining.

What Kaplan does not explain is that, even if we agree that individual people everywhere want to be free, and ignoring differences in what, exactly, that might mean to different people, it does not follow that an aggregate of people constituting a population or a culture somehow shares a common purpose of democracy. The logical problem is called the fallacy of composition.

From any viewpoint on American foreign policy of recent years, it is hard to argue that failure to recognize this logical fallacy has caused a great deal of harm.


About 86dave

World traveler, mostly first and second world Outdoors: hiker, cyclist, photographer Libertarian Author, Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks, Wiley, 2012
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