Excluded Middles

Aristotle’s third law of thought, the law of the excluded middle, has enjoyed a long and to some degree controversial history. Briefly, it posits that a statement must be either true or false, excluding any middle ground, which on the face of it makes perfectly good sense. Extrapolating from the domain of logic to the social world, however, the excluded middle takes on a different and indeed opposite connotation, for its absence spells not propositional rigor but cultural disaster.

Consider, for example, the operation of the law in the realm of everyday economic activity. Much has been written about the withering of the middle class in our over-regulated, tax-unfriendly times. See, for example, Vahab Aghai’s America’s Shrinking Middle Class, where we learn that “between 2000 and 2012, the United States lost 10 percent of its middle class jobs.” Meanwhile, low income jobs have grown commensurably.

The fiscal policy of holding interest rates below the rate of inflation wipes out the value of middle class savings. The glut of government regulations garrotes economic initiative while indirect taxes eat up a substantial chunk of the scraps direct taxation has left. Modest businesses cannot compete with large corporations, state-controlled industries and intrusive government bodies, sending many small entrepreneurs onto the welfare rolls. Craftsmen and trades people depend on the black market to avoid the department of revenue and its crushing value-added cash grab. Start-up innovators find themselves snagged in the Byzantine warrens of the patent office. Ranchers and cattle breeders have been targeted by the EPA and BLM (and similar agencies in other countries), whose bureaucrats have run amok in invasive and confiscatory practices with tacit administrative approval. And the rot is spreading. The old adage that the rich and the poor will always be with us skips over the fact that the middle may not.