a fallacious and selfish comparison

“Congratulating a politician for doing works with public money is like celebrating an ATM for giving you your money.”

In times of disappointment, disbelief, annoyance and criticism of everything political, this phrase has come to try to summarize the sentiment of many who see how every day those who exercise power benefit from it without much concern for the welfare of the greatest number. While it is true that this unfortunate phenomenon is increasingly common, the Politician-Cashier comparison, in addition to being fallacious, represents an ode to the prevailing egoism in a society increasingly interested in its benefit and less and less concerned about its neighbor (¡¡ Like the politician who is criticized! Ironic, no?). Here are the reasons:

The fallacies

In the first place, the comparison presents a fallacy of the “false analogy” type in that an erroneous comparison is made between a politician and a cashier based on their apparent functions. However, the premises that build it have misconceptions:

“Congratulate a politician for doing works with public money”: politics is, broadly speaking, the exercise of power. That is why the function of the politician, more than “doing works”, consists in properly managing power to achieve the benefit of the citizens who elected him at the same time that he obtains his personal fulfillment. The error of the phrase, therefore, is evidenced by making believe that the politician “does works” when in reality he only manages and orders the various political elements so that the works are executed. In addition to this, it is evident that no person involved in politics has sufficient personal financial resources to finance, by themselves, any need of the inhabitants, which is why he needs public money (to which he also contributes through your taxes) to be able to execute every political decision adopted.

“It’s like celebrating an ATM for giving you your money”: ATMs were designed with a single intention: to facilitate cash withdrawal processes by users of the banking system. It is a machine, which is why “celebrating” that it does the task for which it was designed is nonsense. However, those who decide to dedicate themselves to the exercise of politics (“politicians”) do so voluntarily (no one is forced to do so); They were not “designed” as a machine to dispense money, nor is this their only resource to exercise their political function. So the comparison between the politician and the ATM is absurd. This leads us to the second fallacy.

The “Fallacy of False Equivalence” describes a situation of logical and apparent equivalence, when in reality it is non-existent. Indeed, as described above, a politician and a cashier are not the same: they do not have the same functions, behavior or inputs; but mainly, the politician, as a human being, has the ability to reason and decide while a machine cannot. This, therefore, totally differentiates it from an ATM and breaks with the proposed equivalence.

One last fallacy is the recognized “Ad hominem fallacy”, since in this case there is a direct attack on the individual due to his status as a “politician” by means of which he is shown as a discredited being who has a “duty” to perform a task and therefore cannot be recognized any. In this case, it is sought to place the politician as the executor of a task for which he receives a payment from public resources and, for this reason, gratitude is represented by an economic reward.


The phrase in question contains a high dose of selfishness on the part of whoever created it and those who have shared it in agreement with it. This is because gratitude is downplayed as a way of expressing approval towards what an individual has done, in this case a “politician”, and degrades such an attitude to the similarity of thanking a machine for its work. However, the act of gratitude as such is inherent to the human being. Every day people are grateful for what they receive, be it a divine act or a specific person. The worker is thanked for his service, the friend for his greeting, the family member for his concern, the spouse for his affection and the Divinity for the favors granted. What prevents, then, to be grateful for a good management of public resources?


Despite the fact that in many cases those who exercise politics mistaken their reason for being and seek their own benefit before the common, this should not be a reason to qualify in a general way all those who dedicate themselves to Making Politics. This is an increasingly growing phenomenon within society and it must be eradicated; not all foreigners are criminals, not all taxi drivers are dishonest, not all politicians steal …

I believe it is necessary to encourage and practice critical thinking before giving an opinion. Our country is going through a disinformation crisis that deserves to be treated with a sense of urgency, objectivity and seriousness. We must think and reason before giving our opinion on issues that may be unknown, otherwise we expose ourselves to contribute to the lack of interest and citizen apathy to build a better society and country for all.

“The world changes with your example, not with your opinion.”

Opinion articles published here do not necessarily reflect EL MUNDO’s editorial position. Anyone interested in publishing an opinion article in this medium can do so, sending the text with full name, photo in PDF of the identity card on both sides and telephone number to the email [email protected], or [email protected].



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