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We can only spend what we earn, politics, the bifurcation fallacy


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"To win a crowd is no art; for that only untruth is needed, nonsense, and a little knowledge of human passions." - Kierkegaard

 

Murray is clearly a master politician. Like most politicians, and men of his intelligence, he is no stranger to logic and rhetoric, and certainly is not ignorant in the art of manipulation of human passions. What he says, he says convincingly, and eloquently - saying all the right things, it would seem, at all the right times. You are left with the impression that to disagree with him is to have a petty minded grudge, or to have ill thought out your position.

 

This isn't even a criticism - without these attributes Murray would not be the immensely succesful businessman that he is. Without these attributes I would suggest that we would have not enjoyed a great deal of the success we've had in years gone by. But these attributes immediately shift the burden on us to analytically consider what he says, so that we may be sure that we are not being hoodwinked. I've spoken to many fans who "have this feeling" that we're being done over, or think Murray is clearly at it, but who can't state clearly what the problem is.

 

So, in the next few paragraphs I'm going to consider Murray's statements, and argument, on what I consider to be the main issue surrounding our team: the lack of quality players in the side. I just don't think a great deal of the players playing are good enough, and that no amount of formation tinkering is going to change that. This sentiment has been expressed by fans and the media in asking "is there going to be significant investment?". The rest of the post considers this in a little more detail.

 

Murray, in response to questions of investment, answers along the lines:

 

"Would you rather see us in millions of debt like last time, or would you prefer, as I suggest, we only spend what we earn?"

 

This is intricate rhetorical craftmanship, and to properly unwrap it, it is helpful to be able to clearly, clearly state what is wrong here. To be able to say precisely where the misdirection lies. To this we turn to logical fallacies, formal and informal.

 

1. The bifurcation fallacy

 

Now, I've crafted his response in the form of a question in order to highlight this point. I think I have fairly represented his argument, so can't really be said to be setting it up in a certain way to knock it down.

 

Basically, the bifurcation fallacy asks you to accept one or two options, when there are more options available. They are often emotionally loaded, and are used by politicians quite a lot.

 

For example, Tony Blair might say "Would you rather let Saddam kill innocent children than go to war with him?". Basically, it says that if we don't want to go to war, we want innocent children to die. But the question is crafted in such a way as to rule out other options that may equally stop Saddam killing inoccent children: assasinating him covertly, applying international diplomatic pressure, or a whole host of things. The point being, that the only two options the question presents are not the only two possible options.

 

Bringing this back to Murray, he forces us into two options: either spending what we earn, or spiralling back into uncontrolable debts. He sets it up so that those who oppose his vision (spending only a percentage of our profits) wish to see the club in hopeless debt. But these are not the only two options - the economics of business must account for being able to reasonably speculate to accumulate. Even if it turns out that this is not feasible in our current condition, we should be shown how and why it isn't possible without having to accept on faith that some decent investment in the team is going to bankrupt us, by being forced under faulty logic.

 

2. The non-sequitur

 

This is another way of stating the above, but Murray basically asks us to believe the following:

 

1. Spending causes debt

2. We should not be in debt

3. Therefore we should not spend

 

The non-sequitur fallacy means, in latin, "doesn't follow". That is, we can believe 1 and 2 without neccesarily believing 3.

 

A quick example of a valid argument would be:

 

1. If I'm human, I'm a mammal

2. I'm not a mammal

3. Therefore, I'm not a human

 

This is valid, because 3 clearly follows from 1 and 2. There is no room for ambiguity.

 

However, this is not so with (my outline of) David Murray's argument. Spending does indeed cause debt (well, overspending), and we, indeed, shouldn't want to be in debt. But these things do not necessarily combine to mean we shouldn't spend. Why? Because you can agree that spending causes debt and that it would be ideal not to be in debt, while still thinking that the best way forward is to spend. As above, this is common in business, and may best suit us (or may not).

 

Conclusion

 

I'm not saying that spending some hard cash to improve the team is the best way forward. I'm only saying that the rhetoric that comes from Murray is not air tight. He could very well be right on both accounts - perhaps only spending what we earn IS the only option other than steamrolling back in to debt, and perhaps in practice we SHOULDN'T spend. But the talk, the arguments themselves, the words that come out Murray's mouth are not enough to prove this. Without the supporting evidence and adaquate explanation of the facts and figures we are left with nothing but rhetoric that is persuasive to the passions (no rangers fan wants to see us so badly in debt), but logically unsound.

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What about the �£14m we earned from the JJB deal that is sitting in the bank?

 

Surely we will spend some of this in January!!

 

This seems to have been another slight of hand. You, like most of us, got the impression that the JJB deal "that was to rock scottish football" was to be invested in the team and turn our fortunes around. However, it turns out that we get the largest part of 14 million in dribs and drabs over as many years, and the rest went to paying off the debt.

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Pretty good formal treatment of Murray's and many fans false logic.

 

I've been saying for ages that just because we got up to 80M in debt by borrowing to spend doesn't mean we'll do it again. If we borrow a reasonable amount and manage it properly there is no problem.

 

I think Murray his followers believe the following:

 

Debt == bad

No debt == good

 

whereas I believe

 

No debt == good

Some manageable debt == ok

Big debt == bad

 

however I also think

 

Low spending => bad results == bad

Reasonable spending => better results == good

High spending => better results => big debt => low spending => bad results == bad

 

(Now there is a correlation between spending a results however it is very inconsistent, but I think we can all see that not spending doesn't work)

 

Now other assumptions:

Bad results => lower income == bad

good results => higher income == good

 

So putting it together

 

No debt => lower spending => poor results => lower income => lower spending => poorer results == bad

 

Some debt => reasonable spending => good results => reasonable income => pay off some debt => reasonable spending => good results == good

 

High debt => high spending => good results => higher income still lower than spending => low spending => poor results => bad

 

A bit simplistic but glaringly obvious at the moment.

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calscot, think you pretty much summed it up in the other thread hwen you said (like frankie, alanmidd and others before you)

 

Instead of spending 30 million a year or 3 million a year, we need the middle ground of around 6-10 million a year depending on our earnings from Europe.

 

all formal treating of the subject aside, this is the simple common sense of the matter.

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