The “Golden Age” Fallacy

This is an easy fallacy to find oneself falling into: looking at the evils or wrongs of the day and thinking to yourself, “things are getting worse! It used to be better!” I think it’s especially easy to fall into if you’re a parent, or if you follow politics, or you follow the news in general, or, well, if you’re human. RationalWiki has a good explanation of it in their Good old days entry. Remember the good ol’ days? Then there’s a good chance you could be making this mistake.

“Good old days” is a term that is often used in when engaging in nostalgia, remembering only the positive aspects of times past while sweeping concomitant negatives under the rug. It has also been called the Golden Age Fallacy.

It is important to note a distinction between this fallacy and legitimate comparisons: not every positive appraisal of the past is wrongheaded, because the world really has changed. It’s just that it’s also always been complex and uneven, and no period or people have ever had a monopoly on virtue.

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