I knew I was stepping into heavily political ground when I wrote my impressions piece about Australian semi-socialised medicine. Most responses (including emails) were reasonable – but some were so ideologically blinkered as to be perverse.
On the right there was much selective looking at data to argue that America does not produce (in aggregate) relatively poor health outcomes for the dollars spent. You can pick individual conditions and show America is better-than or worse-than average. But any reasonable overview of the American system will come to what I think is a non-exceptional conclusion.
On the left there were several people who argued that pharmaceutical research done by capitalist drug companies was simply not important – citing the development of cosmetic and “me too” drugs and ignoring substantial research. They argued real medicine is done by governments and universities – in other words good research is a socialist or semi-socialist activity. That is simply blinkered. One of my close friends – who has spent his adult lifetime doing cutting edge genetics research for profit (and who grew up under Chinese communism) simply responded that there are plenty of people who still believe communism is a good idea.
Anyway one of the things that is patently obvious about America and its stock market (at least looking from Australia) is that it produces fantastically innovative companies. American Capitalism gave us semi-conductor capital equipment producers, Google, the planes that enabled cheap commercial jet travel and mass marketed chewing gum. More than a few of these involve some research. Even the most cursory look at the product set of Amgen – a major drug company – would suggest that American capitalism funds some impressive drug research.
Strange views like these exist in all countries – but the extent to which irrational right wing views are not controversial in the right and irrational left wing views are not controversial in the left is hardly a recommendation for America’s democracy. (Americans call it polarization.) The question is what are you going to believe: the prima-facie thing that is consistent with your ideology or your own lying eyes?
At the moment ideological belief that is inconsistent with reality is (far) more pervasive on the right as seemingly serious right wing politicians pander to Rush Limbaugh’s lack of nuance or to anti-scientific creeds such as creationism. But it is not always going to be that way – and some of the responses to my post suggest that there is a latent left wing Limbaughism too.
But this is just tearing wings off butterflies. There are plenty of stupid and/or ideologically blinkered people out there. Pointing them out has about the same level of charm (and general interest) as making fun of “creation scientists”.
I write an investment blog – and I have no reason to be interested in where commentators in the blogosphere are demonstrably wrong because they argue from their ideology rather than observable facts. I have a really big interest – a money making interest – in where people are wrong in markets because they rationalize from ideology rather than observable facts. These things happen – for many years market driven ideologues thought that the securitised mortgage market was fine because it was done by private sector participants (and it mostly dealt in mortgages that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were prohibited from dealing in). They were wrong. Anyone who hung out with a half dozen mortgage brokers and saw the trash they were underwriting could have (and should have) worked out that this was a disaster. Ideology trumped facts on the ground. And it gave some stupendous money making ideas. People made hundreds of percent returns on their money shorting the AAA strips of CDO squared securitisations and other high-finance dross. I know someone that made billions (yes billions) of dollars betting that subprime lending would end in a crisis – and they only had to risk tens of millions of dollars to make that money. Stupid ideology gave huge profit potential. That stupid ideology came from the right because at the moment there is (much) more stupid ideology on the right – but again it was not always that way and will not always remain that way.
So – here I am begging my readers. Much as I like reading about creationist astronomy and postmodernism and the Sokal Hoax and other people made stupid by their ideological blinkers - I would prefer find market sensitive stupidity. If people can reply with ideas and the easily observable facts that prove them wrong I would be thrilled. Emails acceptable. But please no argument based on your ideology versus their ideology. I am only interested in argument which is “their ideology versus readily testable fact” and then I am only interested if we can make money out of it.