March 23, 2018 

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ZERO-BASE BUDGET: A method of budgeting expenditures in which each expenditure is justified on its overall merits rather than being based on the budget for the previous year. A zero-base budget is most often proposed (but seldom implemented) for governments. Governments generally establish budget expenditures based on expenditures for the previous year. If, for example, budget expenditures last year were $100 billion, the requested budget for this year might be set at $110 billion. The existing $100 billion is a "given" and only the extra $10 billion is justified. With a zero-base budget, the entire $110 billion is justified.

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The logical fallacy of arguing that what is true for the whole is also true for the parts. In the study of economics, this takes the form of assuming that what works for the aggregate, or macroeconomy, also works for parts of the economy, such as households or businesses. The contrasting fallacy is the fallacy of composition.
The fallacy of division, together with the fallacy of composition, highlights the difference between macroeconomics and microeconomics. Macroeconomics operates according one set of laws and principles, while microeconomics operates according to another set. Assuming what works for the aggregate economy also works for parts of the economy leads to the fallacy of division.

For example, during economic bad times (recession), the appropriate action for the Federal government (as "caretaker" of the aggregate economy) is to increase spending and reduce taxes. A recessionary period is not the time for government to act prudently, to save, to set aside extra funds for a rainy day.

However, should a family or business try to operate in a similar manner, then they are bound to encounter problems, and to commit the fallacy of division. Saving less and spending more during a recession can be disastrous at the microeconomic family level.

The aggregate economy is a complex system comprised of smaller microeconomic components. An analogy is the human body. Individuals and firms make up the aggregate economy like cells and molecules make up the human body. Rules that apply to entire body do not apply to the cells. Rules that apply to entire macroeconomy do not apply to the firms, households, markets, and industries.

What is true at the macroeconomic level is not necessarily true at the microeconomic level. What is true for the whole is not necessarily true for the parts.


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FALLACY OF DIVISION, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia,, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2018. [Accessed: March 23, 2018].

Check Out These Related Terms...

     | fallacies | fallacy of false cause | fallacy of personal attack | fallacy of mass appeal | fallacy of false authority | fallacy of composition |

Or For A Little Background...

     | scientific method | economic thinking | political views | government functions |

And For Further Study...

     | seven economic rules | four estates | macroeconomics | microeconomics | sixth rule of ignorance | seventh rule of complexity | normative economics | economic science |

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