Beware of self-proclaimed experts (except for me!)

September 30, 2010

It’s useful to remember, when you hear Republicans talking about their concern for a balanced budget, the party of the last president to balance a budget, and how much they avoid the policies that actually led to that balanced budget.

It’s useful to remember, when you hear someone talking about how high tax rates discourage productivity, that we have years of data on economic growth and upper-income tax rates. We can plot that information on a graph, and check this particular economic theory. The data says (in a very wimpy and uncertain way, that a scientist would never rely on, but a politician surely would, because politicians are mendacious that way) that raising taxes increases productivity. There may be theories that claim otherwise, but we have actual data on actual tax rates and actual economic growth, and they (weakly) contradict the beautiful conservative theory. We can raise high-end marginal tax rates with little fear that it will harm economic growth — it didn’t in the past, and may have actually helped.

It’s useful to remember, whenever you hear someone whining about scofflaw bicyclists (usually commenting on a newspaper story about a bicyclist who “collided with” a car), that we collect mortality statistics, and we know roughly how many pedestrians are killed by automobiles, and roughly how many pedestrians are killed by bicycles. (It is presumed that scofflaw cyclists primarily endanger pedestrians.) In the US, that ratio is roughly 3000 to 1. Admittedly, there is only about one bicyclist for every 100 cars, maybe fewer, so the bikes are only about 20-30 times safer than automobiles. But 20x safer is a lot safer. And consider, also, how cars travel many miles on highways from which pedestrians are carefully excluded, and consider that a pedestrian is much more able to see and hear cars, and much more motivated to avoid them. Yet nonetheless, bicyclists are an order of magnitude better at not killing pedestrians. So, if a driver offers “advice” on safety to a bicyclist, why would you think that they have any special expertise at all? The mere act of offering the advice, is itself evidence of ignorance.

It’s useful to remember, when you hear someone ranting about the evils of socialized medicine that (1) we have it here already, it’s called Medicare, it is effective, and people love it, and (2) everywhere else it has been tried (all over the world) it is cheaper than our system (the whole thing, not just the Medicare part) and in all the “modern” countries, people live longer, healthier lives under “socialized medical care”. We have a world of data, once again, the bee-you-tee-ful conservative theory is contradicted by the data. Would you really want to elect someone who either did not know this, or who would lie about it? Of course not.

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