Wednesday, October 11, 2017

MLM and Affirming a Disjunct Fallacy

Today's blog post is about a fallacy, which is very similar to the "Us vs. Them" mentality, called affirming a disjunct. The fallacy is predicated on the idea that there are two options to determine an outcome and as long as one of the options is true, then the other option must be false. The idea that an outcome can be determined by only two options, and that those options can't both be true or false, makes this logic inherently flawed for any complex situation. It would be similar to approaching every decision in life as a true or false examination.

Description: Making the false assumption that when presented with an either/or possibility, that if one of the options is true that the other one must be false.  This is when the “or” is not explicitly defined as being exclusive.

Here is a basic example of this fallacy:

Is it going to be sunny or rainy today? It rained between 7-9 am. Therefore it must not be sunny today.

This example illustrates the inability to determine the answer based on the two options given. The day could be rainy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon, or if you are in Hawaii, it could be sunny while it rains. These two options cannot clearly and concisely determine the outcome. While the example listed above is very basic, there are many complex situations in which we use this fallacy regularly to determine an outcome, and often it goes unnoticed, or worse, creates anger and violence.

A more prominent example would be, is abortion right or wrong?

The idea that abortion could be labeled as "right" or "wrong" is inherently flawed because the question involves subjectivity, where as "right" and "wrong" would involve objectivity. People commonly make this mistake when trying to define a moral argument, and often have difficulty accepting the outside influences which determine the answer. Abortion can be both "right" and "wrong", and usually is determined by a long list of variables such as, a person's religious beliefs, a particular society's beliefs, or a person's moral beliefs. This is why topics, such as abortion, are continuously discussed, and often mishandled, because people want to arbitrarily label them as "right" or "wrong" and pretend they aren't complex.

MLMs utilize this fallacy for their self-gain as well. They create false dichotomies to evoke an emotional, non-critical response, in their targets. These false dichotomies are designed to lead a prospective MLMer in a desired direction, and are also designed to shut down their cognitive faculties.

An example of MLMs using this fallacy is: There are only two ways to get through life, "Work a 9-5 J-O-B", or be an "entrepreneur" (this isn't really entrepreneurial) and join "MLM".

They will take it a step further and load the desired answer by suggesting working the "9-5 J-O-B" is going to take many years before retiring, will make someone else fabulously rich while you work for less, will require you to take minimum amounts of vacation, and many other fear mongering lines. After hearing all of this, they will basically make a prospect choose between MLM or doom.

The logic in this example is inherently flawed as there are many ways to make money aside from "MLM" and a "9-5 J-O-B", such as investing, or actually owning a business, or buying and renting real-estate. The idea that you have only these two options in life, and that MLM is going to be better than a "9-5 J-O-B" is false, and according to the MLM income disclosure statements 99% of people working "9-5 J-O-B's" actually make more money.

Another example of MLM using this fallacy is: If you want to be happy and make your dreams come true, then you must either join MLM or become a "traditional" entrepreneur.

They will then load the desired answer again by talking about all of the risks involved in the "traditional" method, as well as the barriers to entry. A MLMer will suggest "traditional" entrepreneurs must invest large sums of money, potentially be unprofitable for years, and have a huge risk of failure, and all of this is accurate. However, they leave out the part where MLM can also require large amounts of money, will be potentially unprofitable for years (and for over 95% never profitable), and has a huge risk of failure. They also leave out the fact that most of the people living the "happy" lives and have the "dreams" that came true are business owners, not MLMers.

The example leaves out the many options in which someone can be happy and make their dreams come true outside of MLM and entrepreneurship. Many skilled laborers such as, physicians, lawyers, engineers, software developers, and many others, make large sums of money and live very successful lives. Far more of these people with advanced degrees make large sums of money than MLMers and many of them make more money than entrepreneurs. Again, the idea that you have to be a MLMer or a "traditional" entrepreneur to live a happy life is far too general.

Always be wary of people suggesting there are only two options for any given choice, especially if one of the options is clearly flawed. Human beings are complex individuals and it is extremely rare that any decisions can only have two options. This is one of the best parts of being a person, we don't have to limit ourselves to a particular set of standards, and often what works for one person will not work for the next.


  1. If you follow the system you will succeed and if you fail it's because you didn't work it right (or hard enough).

    If you work a job you are doomed to be broke but if you join Amway you will get rich.

    1. Joe --

      That's almost right, except the setup basically goes.

      X or Y = A

      X = A

      Y can't = A.

      In your examples it would be, you can follow a "system" or not. If you follow the "system" you will be successful, therefore if you don't follow the "system" you won't be successful. That is inherently flawed as there are many successful people that do not follow the "system". Of course evidence suggests if you follow the "system", you probably won't succeed.

      In the second example it would be, you can either be rich or broke. If you join Amway you will be rich, therefore if you don't join Amway you will be broke. Again, this is inherently flawed as there are plenty of people that do not choose to do Amway and are not broke. Of course evidence suggests otherwise about doing Amway and getting rich as well.

  2. Amway appeals to a certain kind of simple-minded but energetic personality. He's usually in the lower middle class, but from a previously working-class background. He is fixated on "making it," but his education and training generally are insufficient for a very lucrative position. He is what Paul Fussell called "a high proletarian."

    He prides himself on being shrewd, and a sharp dealer, when in fact he is merely mercenary. And he thinks he can "size up" everyone and everything on the basis of his provincial know-it-all attitudes. There is an insufferable kind of small-town smugness about him.

    Such a man might make an excellent plumber or landscaper or electrician or storekeeper. His expertise in a small area and his shrewdness will earn him a respectable living in those jobs. And there's nothing wrong with that. Most people have humble but useful occupations of that type.

    But then something like Amway comes along, with its crackpot promises and its bizarre "Plan," and this guy falls for it like a schoolgirl with a crush on a football hero. Amway presents itself in the simplistic way in which he is used to thinking: "You can be rich in Amway, or you can be a broke loser!"

    And this man just doesn't have the logical skills to see through that sort of disjunctive fallacy. To him, the statement is tough-minded and shrewd and snappy. It comports with his small-town mentality. He instinctively feels that he's been given "the straight dope" (i.e. the inside facts that only shrewd persons have access to). In this way, the Amway racket appeals both to his vanity and to his mercenary impulses. It's like catnip to him.

    I'm certain that the people who run Amway and all other MLMs are well aware of this personality profile, and use it to good effect in their recruiting.

    1. Anonymous --

      Wow! That profile you wrote is incredible. I do have a question about the people that deviate from this profile. There are claims that people with higher education fall prey to this sort of thing, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and others from the STEM fields. Do you believe this has something to do with their limited exposure to the humanities and critical thought, or are the people that go into these fields impaired in some way from making this logical distinction between "straight dope", and illusion?

  3. Well, that's difficult to answer. The profile I gave was of the Amway types that I knew when I was being prospected and groomed to join. They were all small-town types of limited perceptions.

    I have heard of doctors and lawyers and other well-educated types falling for the scheme, but frankly I don't see how a person of sharp intelligence could be bamboozled by the kind of simplistic hype that Amway peddles. But apparently it happens -- at Joe Cool's blog, he often mentions a doctor of his acquaintance who has become a "core" Amway fanatic, even though it has brought him no profit after many years, and in fact has harmed his medical practice.

    You mention "limited exposure to the humanities and critical thought." I think you are on to something here. In the American educational system, the teaching of these two subjects has basically collapsed over the last three decades. So even persons with excellent technical training in their professions have no real experience with great literature, world history, foreign languages, or elementary logic. Naturally this might make them vulnerable to con-games like Amway.

    But I think the biggest weakness for joining Amway is being a typical American -- one who has been raised on the standard American pipedream that says wealth and fame and celebrity are within everyone's grasp if they have the gumption and energy to go after those things. Unfortunately, as the entire world becomes Americanized this pipedream spreads everywhere, as David Brear can attest for Great Britain.

    1. Anonymous --

      I am also confused about these higher-education folks and their ability to be conned. At the FED I attended, back in 2015, there were folks present with degrees, including a doctor that helped a person after they fainted. I also had the unfortunate dealings with an Amway Emerald that was previously a lawyer, or so he claimed. It seems to be more of a character trait issue than educational from my experience.

      I think the humanities and critical thought are also important because they teach moral fiber. The STEM fields are great for making a dollar and being productive in society, but they can't help teach someone how to be a good person, which is fundamental for keeping society afloat. I have repeatedly seen people with very advanced degrees make crucial social errors due to a lack of fundamental teachings about the way in which society works. Some of these errors include, treating employees poorly, cutting corners, and generally lacking empathy for those that have less than them. They fail to see their wealth is built on the backs of many, and they fail to see that they have entered a social contract with the rest of the people in their society to treat each other fairly and equitably.

      I don't know if you have heard of Jordan Peterson, but he made an excellent point about the way in which the American dream is limited in scope due to the Matthew principle.

      Here is the Matthew quote: "For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

      It's a cruel natural law, and something no civilization has ever been able to conquer. This means the American dream becomes more and more difficult to attain after each generation because the people that achieved the American dream first have an inherent advantage over those that don't have it yet. This idea is especially brutal to people that have nothing as it becomes exponentially more difficult to achieve something with no resources. Unfortunately, you need to start with something, and starting with nothing almost guarantees you will stay at nothing.

      As we continue to try and find ways to redistribute wealth, there are people in our governments preventing that redistribution from happening effectively and in most cases strengthen the Matthew principle. The only way to break out of it is through revolution and starting everyone at square one, but that also comes at a very large cost.