Excerpt: The “Perfect-Voting-Record” Fallacy

Since the perfect-voting-record (or “PVR”) fallacy is becoming almost ubiquitous, the following excerpt from an article that first appeared on Cruelty-Free.org is being provided here.  For the full article, please visit “Part 1: Catalog of Logical Fallacies Used to Justify Inhumanity.”


The “Perfect-Voting-Record” Fallacy

The perfect-voting-record fallacy is a flawed method of reasoning in which it is assumed that a small set of issues that were expressly considered represent all possible issues that could have been considered. An example of the PVR fallacy would be:

The terrorist regime of Q commits thousands of acts of terrorism every year, but only once has the Q leadership considered a limitation on terrorism.  This limitation—which provided that suicide-bombers should not eat garlic—passed unanimously.  Therefore, the terrorists of Q have a perfect voting record on terrorism.

While most people would not be duped by the above argument, many well-meaning activists go for the following argument and even use it themselves:

The meat-eaters of political party J kill and eat several thousand animals each year, but only a few limitations on animal-killing have been considered.  These limitations—which provide that animals to be killed must not be caged in veal crates—have been unanimously supported by the meat-eaters in political party J. Therefore, the meat-eaters in party J have a perfect voting record for animals.

In technical terms, this fallacy consists of reliance on an unrepresentative sample.  Specifically, the argument ignores the potentially thousands of issues that could have been addressed but were not.  The argument is accordingly invalid.

A way to undermine a perfect-voting-record argument is to point out that one cannot be said to have a “perfect voting record” on a subject when one has simply failed to vote at all on the major issues pertaining to that subject. For instance, the ancient Sumerians probably never held a vote on the militarization of space, but to conclude that they therefore had a “perfect voting record” on the militarization of space would be bizarre.