Firmitas

Argument from Money

Revision 1
© 2011-2019 by Zack Smith. All rights reserved.

Argument from Money

Also known as Argumentum ad crumenam.

A claim is argued to be true because the speaker is rich, or false because the speaker is poor.

The positive form
  • A claim is made by a speaker who is rich.
  • Therefore her claim is true.

The negative form
  • A claim is made by a speaker who is poor.
  • Therefore her claim is false.

Examples

The corporations are wealthy, therefore when they say that more pollution controls are not necessary, it must be true.

The Vanderbilts come from the good side of town, so we can trust them.

The Wilkinsons come from the bad side of town, so they're surely bent on stealing everything.

If the wealthy bankers say they need more tax breaks and bailouts and bonuses, they must know what they're talking about.

The golden rule, that those who have the gold ought to rule.

Weaknesses

It is obvious that a person's having wealth is no guarantee that they have a true argument in every particular case. Then the question is, why would people think otherwise? Often people admire superior wealth but you can erode the admiration with a dose of reality. Ask how the wealth was gained, because much wealth is gained through underhanded dealing, corruption, cheating, rigging of markets, cartel activity, fraud, manipulation, not to mention elimination of more talented or ethical rivals, and even through violent crimes. Does a person with superior arguments do such things?

Often there is a presumption of competence just because a person has money. There are a number of problems with this however:

  • Dumb luck and chance also lead to wealth and no competence is needed for those.
  • The competence that led to wealth could have been of a sinister type e.g. crime or military conquests.
  • People who are competent in one area are often found to be incompetent in others.
  • Having money can correlate with foolishness as when the rich flaunt their wealth and spend unwisely.
  • Money that is inherited is not the product of competent conduct and reasoning.

Some people may embrace this fallacy because they embrace long ago debunked ideas of Social Darwinism. People who want to believe that the today's rich are the best bred and superior people probably don't want you to inquire about their unfair advantages, e.g. due to family connections or ethnic affiliations.

The notion that a poor person's claims are automatically false may be based on stereotypes about the poor.