The McDonalds Fallacy

A stock standard argument of that those that are happy to allow McDonalds to infiltrate the hills is  “Don’t like Maccas? Don’t eat it.” This same style of an argument is commonly seen on the internet and on FB pages.

  • Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one.
  • Don’t like cigarettes? Don’t smoke one.
  • Don’t like abortions? Don’t have one.
  • Don’t like sex. Don’t do it.
  • Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them.
  • Don’t like porn? Don’t watch it.
  • Don’t like alcohol? Don’t drink it.
  • Don’t like guns? Don’t buy one.
  • Don’t like your rights taken away? Then don’t take away someone else’s.

Don’t like child molestation? Don’t molest a child… oh hold on. The fallacy is that there is a gap between the subjective and the objective and so we cannot decide for ourselves what our rights are. You believe you have the right to a cigarette, to an abortion? Who said so? Where did the right come from? What, this is to ask, is the objective basis of the right you subjectively believe yourself to have. There is a difference this is to say between a legal or a social right and a moral right. The law can’t give you a moral right, only a legal right, and legal rights can easily involve the sanction of immorality. The fact for example that a political regime provides for the legal right to persecute Jews doesn’t mean that someone living in such a regime has the moral right to persecute Jews. There is no such right, and by the same token it can be argued there is no such right as the right to perpetrate the kinds of mischief perpetrated by McDonalds.

There is an intimate connection between facts and values, between science and ethics, in that facts are valuable. The truth is what we are morally obliged to believe, and the false is what we are morally obliged to disbelieve. Few -if any- are so contemptuous of value that they do not take themselves to be pursuing truth rather than falsity. And truth is objective. It cannot be that truth is subjective, i.e. tied to a limited number of particular points of view- because if the claim that the truth is tied to a limited number of points of view is itself tied to a limited number of points of view then it fails to characterise truth. Questions such as ‘What are these objective truths of which you speak?’ and ‘How can we know whether some proposed set of truths is the objective set ?’ can be circumvented in this way: the existence of a set of objective truths is a precondition of rational enquiry. The existence of a set of natural laws it can be argued in a corresponding manner is a precondition of legal enquiry. Questions such a “What are these natural laws of which you speak?” and “How can do we know that some proposed set of natural laws is the natural set?” can be thus circumvented. In mathematics there is a form of proof known as a proof of existence. There is for example a number known as Graham’s number, a number so large that there is not enough surface area in the universe to write it down. But we know that there is such a number -and that its last twelve digits are …262464195387. Correspondingly, we may not know which truths are the objective ones, or which laws are the natural ones -no doubt they are unknowable in their totality- but we know on a basis of the possibilities of rational and judicial enquiry that they exist.

Everyone can get together and decide that the earth is flat, but we know that this leaves open the question of whether it is round. And everyone can get to together and decide that they have the legal right to an abortion or to look at pornography but this leaves open the question of whether they have the moral right to do so… VCAT can rule -and they have so ruled- that McDonalds have the legal right to establish themselves in Tecoma but this ruling leaves open the question of whether they have the moral right to establish themselves in Tecoma. One thing that holds fast -and must hold fast- throughout the process of questioning the relationship between legal and moral rights is the objectivity of morality. Interestingly the statement “Don’t like your rights taken away? Then don’t take away someone else’s.” is an instance of the general statement “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Cigarettes, abortions, drugs, pornography, alcohol, guns, and McDonald’s burgers are all products used -when we consider them in balance- to inflict harm on people, to destroy lives rather than to enhance them. “Don”t like to be harmed? Then don’t support the industries that produce these harmful things.”