the Fallacy of Relative Privation

Just because someone else has it worse than you doesn’t mean you don’t have problems.

The Fallacy of Relative Privation is a faulty way of thinking where someone dismisses a problem because there are worse problems in the world. For example “Oh you think you have a bad headache? Well some people live with migraines for days at a time.” The idea of this kind of statement is that you should feel better, comforted by the knowledge that the situation could be worse. Unfortunately, knowing that someone has a worse headache won’t improve the condition of your headache. A more severe problem doesn’t negate a less severe problem.

This fallacy also goes the other direction. When judging people who are more affluent someone might say “What do they have to complain about? They’re rich & famous.” Just because someone is better-off than you doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. The idea of “First World problems” touches on this. While the day-to-day problems of a wealthier society are not as significant as the problems of a poorer country, wealthy people / societies still have problems.

If we follow the fallacy of relative privation to its logical conclusion, only the person with the absolute worst problem(s) could ever have any right to complain about anything. Obviously this is wrong. Therefore when considering problems, your own or the problems of others, remember that all problems are problems regardless of severity or whose they are.