Firmitas

Argument from Payment

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

Argument from Payment

This form of argument consists of saying that because a payment was made for some product or service, it follows that a secondary claim is true.

Its form
  • I paid for this product or service.
  • Therefore some Proposition A is true.

Its reverse is the Argument from Nonpayment, where a person tries to argue that a secondary claim is true because something was not paid for.

  • I did not have to pay for this product or service.
  • Therefore some Proposition B is true.

Examples

He paid for his gun, therefore he should be allowed to shoot it toward a residential area.

I paid to rent this urban house in a densely packed area, but which has a fireplace, therefore I should be allowed to use the fireplace, which sends smoke into neighbors's windows.

If we paid for this software, it must be good quality.

You didn't pay for that software, therefore it must be low quality.

Weaknesses

This type of argument is often dealt with in courtrooms, where some selfish person thinks that her payment for something means she can use it however she likes, but her doing so has harmed someone else. You can ask: Why aren't you more considerate?

A person making an argument based on pure selfishness will often invent ridiculous and dishonest justifications for their selfish behavior, which should be attacked. For example, a polluter who is polluting on his property (e.g. burning plastic materials) will say I have never encountered a single person who has a problem with the smoke. The response to this is easy: Plastic smoke is extremely dangerous, so your feigned lack of such encounters is utterly immaterial.

More generally, paying (or not paying) is a distraction that is often irrelevant to the assessment of the truthfulness of the second proposition. Just because a person paid some money, that doesn't conclusively mean they're right about any claim.

Non-payment similarly does not guarantee the truth of the second claim. Consider free and open source software (FOSS). It may be good quality or bad quality. It may be safe to use or unsafe. Its qualities mostly depend on factors other than whether you paid money for it, because the motives of the writers of the such software tends to be altruistic.