LSAT Fallacy Watch: Mitt Romney and His Taxes

As we’ve discussed before, fallacies aren’t just related to the LSAT. They’re all around us. Every day you can see bad reasoning, whether it be in advertising, in politics, or on the news. Many of these arguments look like they could be right at home in an LSAT Logical Reasoning section. So today we’ll be looking at some of the attacks on Mitt Romney relating to his tax returns, and examining them to determine whether or not they hold any water. Arguments such as…

Romney won’t disclose all of his tax information. He must therefore have something to hide.

INVALID. This is something of an absence-of-evidence fallacy. We know that Romney won’t release his full tax information. Could it be because he has some nefarious tax secrets that he’s hiding? Definitely. He may have used numerous loopholes that would make him look bad, and he doesn’t want the American voters to know about this. But is that definitely true? No. Even if you hate Romney, you have to admit that it’s at least possible that he has nothing to hide, and is just sticking to principle here. Just because there’s a lack of evidence that he had nothing to hide, this doesn’t mean that he does have something to hide. It just means that maybe he has something to hide. If someone were to make the argument that Romney not disclosing his taxes could possibly indicate that he might have something to hide, that would be a much weaker, though more valid argument.

If Romney can’t be trusted to disclose his taxes, then he can’t be trusted with the presidency.

INVALID. Here we have a fallacious comparison. Can we trust Romney to disclose all of his taxes before the election? Perhaps not. If he sticks to his guns, he may never release them. But does that mean we can’t trust him with the presidency? Certainly not. Those are two completely different things. You might think that Romney not releasing his tax returns means he isn’t open and honest, but you could just as easily make the argument that it shows that he sticks to his principles, and knows when to keep private information private.

Swiss bank accounts are often used to illegally hide money. Romney has a Swiss bank account, therefore he must be illegally hiding money.

INVALID. This time we’ve got a modality flaw. Just because it’s possible that Romney could be using a Swiss bank account illegally, it doesn’t mean he definitely is. This is a flaw that often shows up on the LSAT, where they make a jump from something “often” being the case to something “always” being the case. Is it possible that Romney is one of those who uses offshore accounts to illegally hide his finances? Yes, it’s definitely possible. But is it definite true? Not at all.

There are plenty of reasons why you could believe that Romney isn’t fit to be president (and many of us at Blueprint LSAT Prep would agree with you on them). But when you have arguments like these, based on simple and flawed logic, you’ve got a fallacy on your hands.

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