|The overwhelming exception fallacy is a generalization that has such significant exceptions as to become much less general than the initial impression that it creates. It is therefore similar to hasty generalization (discussed in the previous episode) but with the difference that such an argument explicitly exempts the cases that don’t conform to the generalization, rather than ignoring them. The argument may therefore be strictly valid but the fallacy is in the creation of such a false impression.
A common way of committing the overhelming exception fallacy is to first make a hasty generalization and then, when confronted by the exceptions, to state that the generalization is “except for” those cases. Alternatively, the person making such an argument will anticipate the exceptions and exempt them before an opponent can point them out.
Our foreign policy has always helped other countries, except of course when it is against our National Interest.
All Americans are useless at foreign languages. Ok, I’ll make an exception for those who live in multi-ethnic neighborhoods, have parents who speak a foreign language, are naturally gifted in languages, have lived abroad or who went to a school with a good foreign language program, but the rest are absolutely useless at foreign languages.
Tom says: We are the freest country in the world!
Dick replies: What about the fact that we have the highest number of prisoners both as a proportion of the population and in absolute terms? Our total taxation as a proportion of GDP is greater than about two-thirds of the countries in the world. Self-medication is prohibited for many substances that can be bought over the counter in most countries. Getting in and out of the country and even flying from one part to another has turned into an invasive ordeal. There is a multitude of rules regarding starting a business and hiring and firing of employees; and street vending is banned. The national elections are a contest between stooges that end up implementing almost identical platforms. The government and the courts have subverted every last paragraph of the constitution, which is intended to protect our rights. The mass media present a conformity of lies. The primary and secondary education system consists largely of regimentation and indoctrination, and higher education is a usurous fraud of credentials that the typical young person will take decades to pay for and which will never gain him an appropriate job. Each of those things represents a significant limitation on our freedom, and on each score, many other countries do better.
Tom replies: Well, apart from those things, we are the freest country in the world!