Appeal to Poverty / Appeal to Money - Fallacy of Appealing to Money or Wealth

Appeals to Emotion and Desire

Fallacy Name:
Appeal to Poverty, Appeal to Money

Alternative Names:
argumentum ad lazarum, argumentum ad crumenam

Category:
Appeals to Emotion and Desire

 

Explanation of the Appeal to Poverty / Appeal to Money

These two fallacies are opposites, but they are so closely related that they are presented together. The Latin term for Appeal to Poverty is argumentum ad lazarum and the Latin term for Appeal to Money is argumentum ad crumenam.

These two fallacies take the following forms:

1. X is rich or expensive, therefore X is correct or better.
2. X is poor or cheap, therefore X is correct or better.

In both cases, an appeal is being made to accept or reject a conclusion based upon literal or metaphorical wealth - either the wealth possessed by someone or the cost of something. This is a fallacy when that wealth (or lack thereof) is irrelevant to the proposition being defended (and it's rare that wealth or cost is relevant).

 

Appeal to Poverty

The fallacy of an appeal to poverty occurs whenever someone attempts to base a conclusion on how poor a person or thing is. Some easy examples of this include:

3. Priests and nuns are more likely to possess insight into the meaning of life because they have given up the distractions of wealth.

4. Our church is a non-profit organization, and no one is getting rich from it. Isn't that what God wants? Doesn't that show that we are doing the Lord's work?

In both of these cases, the argument is only relying upon the apparent poverty of those involved and tries to conclude that this poverty someone increases the likelihood that those people are correct or moral. In neither case is such poverty relevant to the question.

This fallacy is not restricted to people:

5. The accident had to have been the fault of the driver of the Corvette, because the other driver's car is such a piece of junk it can barely reach a speed of 70 km/h.

The argument here is that the poor quality of a particular car must exhonerate the driver of any wrong doing. What is ignored is the fact that high speeds are not the only causes of accidents.

A common form of this argument appears in some Christian apologetics:

6. If the authors of the gospels were going to invent a religion, then surely they would have not had the people behaving in such a negative manner (Thomas doubting, Peter denying, Judas betraying...and even Jesus lost his temper). Why should anyone want to mix with such a bunch of weak-willed wallies, let alone follow their fictitious religion. If on the other hand, they were merely relating what actually happened, then it makes sense. Real people DO behave like that. Made-up saints don't.

Aside from the fact that this argument also begs the question as to whether or not any real saints do exist (and, hence, that we can claim to know how they would act), it also appears to be an appeal to poverty. It's not an appeal to literal, financial poverty, though. Instead, it argues that the "poor" behavior of characters in a story somehow makes it more likely that those actions really did happen and, therefore, that the characters were real people.

 

Appeal to Money

The Appeal to Money fallacy goes in the opposite direction, arguing that when someone is rich or when an item is expensive, then this somehow impacts the value or truth of the proposition in question. The most common form of this is:

6. It costs more, it must be better.

There are quite a few people out there who are under the mistaken impression that the cost of an item, and that alone, is indicative of its value and usefulness. Entire marketing campaigns are designed around the goal of getting potential customers to believe that the product is expensive and therefore worth having.

Somewhat less often we find this fallacy being applied to people as well:

7. Bill Gates favors this new technology bill. He has gotten wealthy in the software industry, and he couldn't have done that if he didn't know what he is doing. Therefore, this proposed bill must be a good idea.

Here, the proposition that this proposed law dealing with technology is a good idea is defended on the grounds that a person who got rich from technology supports it. The assumption is that this success and wealth is somehow relevant to the question when it really isn't.

The above example can also be labeled as an appeal to authority and would count as an appeal to an unqualified authority because it is not established that Bill Gates is authority on the area of technology in question, much less its wider social implications. It is, however, being included here because one reason why he is being used as an authority is his great wealth.