Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Just the facts, ma'am...

Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." He was probably correct, although it seems in today's increasingly intolerant society, a large number of people aren't too crazy about other people being entitled to opinions that are different from their own.

And maybe when Mr. Moynihan made that statement, facts were facts, and opinions were opinions, but the lines are kind of blurred today. Nowadays the difference between the two can be decided by a number of factors, often by which side of an issue a person is on. We are getting ready for an election this fall, and we are hearing a lot of claims, usually presented as facts, from all sides of the political spectrum.

In the past couple of weeks, I've read and heard stories claiming that our economy is getting better, and stories that our economy is getting worse. I've also heard that we have more jobs now than we had 3 years ago, along with a few stories claiming that we fewer jobs than we had 3 years ago. Often those stories involve explanations and qualifiers about the differences between then and now, and comparisons between private and public sector jobs.

It's not very often that one of those stories starts or ends with the phrase, "In our opinion".

Over in Indianapolis, our legislators have been spending a lot of time debating the so called "Right to Work" law. There certainly are a lot of different opinions on the law, with Republicans generally holding the opinion that it's a good law, Democrats holding the opinion that it's a bad law, and Libertarians holding the opinion that it's none of the governments business. I think that might be an example of the "opinions" Mr. Moynihan was speaking about.

But the Indiana Chamber of Commerce claimed personal income increased in Right to Work States, and the Economic Policy Institute claimed personal income decreased in Right to Work states. I'm pretty sure both of them considered their claim to be a fact. I'm also pretty sure one of them is mistaken.

I make my best effort not to be offended by other peoples' opinions, even though there are some real crazy ones out there. Admittedly, I would prefer that a lot of people keep some of the crazier ones to themselves, but as long as they don't try to force their opinions on me, I've always figured that we could work out a way to at least be civil to each other.

Unfortunately, mixing opinions and government doesn't usually work out that way. If a group of politicians and bureaucrats are of the opinion that businesses need to be subsidized with your tax dollars in order to improve the economy, you can pretty well bet that their opinion is going to become a law.

Over the years, our government has developed the opinion that it needs to be in control of every aspect of our lives. From how we distribute our income, to how we save for our retirement, to what we eat and drink. Who we marry, how big the windows are in our homes, even who cuts our hair.

Just to make a point, I've asked several people in the last few years to name 3 things that the government doesn't tax or regulate. Most people can't.

And that's a fact.

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