–Religious zealotry, homeopathic medicine, creationism and debt fear: The debt hawks and the vaccine deniers

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology. Those, who do not understand monetary sovereignty, do not understand economics. Cutting the federal deficit is the most ignorant and damaging step the federal government could take. It ranks ahead of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.

The existence, for instance, of religious zealotry, homeopathic medicine and creationism, have inoculated me against amazement at the human ability to believe strongly in ideas for which there is no supporting evidence. So rather than being surprised, I was strangely fascinated by an article appearing in the January 2011 NewScientist magazine, titled “The irrationality vaccine.”

The article described three books, The Panic Virus: A true story of medicine, science and fear, by Seth Mnookin, Deadly Choices: How the anti-vaccine movement threatens us all, by Paul Offit, and Tabloid Medicine: How the internet is being used to hijack medical science for fear and profit, by Robert Goldberg. Here are excerpts from the article:

As he tells it, Mnookin was annoyed by the clueless intellectuals he encountered at New York dinner parties, who boasted about withholding necessary vaccines from their children. To these elites, these thinkers, giving children so many shots “just felt wrong.”

Hmmm. Clueless intellectuals. Science trumped by intuition. Medicine withheld. Sounds familiar.

. . . one cannot grasp how we became so dangerously irrational in our outlook on vaccines without first understanding the role of the mass media – now almost entirely shorn of its science journalists and increasingly driven by sensationalism and crass financial considerations.

Hmmm. Media dominated by sensationalism. Sounds familiar.

Anti-vaccine activists and a few sympathetic scientists raise concerns that, although implausible, draw uncritical media attention.

Hmmm, Uncritical media attention. Sounds familiar.

. . . the activists continue to draw followers and, if anything, only grow more extreme in their convictions. They continue to garner media attention, and so the irrationality the media let out of the bag is never put back in.

Hmmm. More extreme convictions garner even more media attention. Sounds familiar.

Sustained encounters with a small group of like-minded people almost inevitably leads to the conclusion that everyone thinks the way you do. . . Children are dying out there because of anti-vaccine misinformation and those who act on it. . . Offit hopes the press will tell the other side of the story – about the harms caused by anti-vaccine advocates.

Hmmm. Children sick and dying because of misinformation. Sounds familiar.

. . . these three books . . . are a call to arms against the broader phenomenon of tilting against reality, or making up ones’ own version of it, and clinging to it fiercely despite all evidence and consequences . . . Irrationality can be a very dangerous and communicable disease – and we still don’t know how to adequately inoculate against it.

Hmmm. Clinging to ideas fiercely, despite all evidence and consequences. Sounds familiar.

I found the article about vaccine deniers eerily reminiscent of what has happened to the science of economics, where intuition overrules fact, media (especially TV) are shorn of real economists and dominated by sensationalism and extremism, uncritical media attention for factually unsupported ideas, children sick and dying as a result, and vain hopes the media some day will tell the other side of the story – about the harms caused by the anti-deficit advocates.

In essence, the debt hawks are religious zealot, creationist, vaccine deniers. They encourage the media to print wrong-headed, “sky-is-falling” sensationalism. They rely not on facts, of which they have none, but on personal intuition. They withhold from the economy, the one medicine necessary to cure it: Money.

As a result, we have an epidemic of debt-fear, sentencing millions of American men, women and children to a future of mean and miserable lives, then to die prematurely.

Who is at fault? The debt hawks? The media? The politicians? The voting public?

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity, nor grow without money.

15 thoughts on “–Religious zealotry, homeopathic medicine, creationism and debt fear: The debt hawks and the vaccine deniers

  1. “intuition overrules fact”

    It’s worse than it appears. Professional economists seem to worship not evidence or intuition, but rather their models. If the data doesn’t fit their models, then they don’t change their models, but try to make excuses for the data or, worse, ignore it. The money multiplier is a great example of this. The data doesn’t fit at all, but professional economists continue to cling to this model.

    I believe Keynes responded, when asked what would happen to his models if the data proved otherwise, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Professional economists would be wise to follow suit. Until then, they will keep their place among the zealots and deniers of the world.


  2. Dear Rodger,
    I really enjoyed chatting with you on my radio show and look forward to having you back–hopefully in February before the debt ceiling vote. I am anxiously awaiting your response to the republican rebuttal to the State of the Union Address. Paul Ryan tapped into the “think of the children!” argument that we discussed in an email exchange. Ryan even uses the imagery of his own adorable young children. As an anthropologist, I am intrigued that this argument has societal salience when it pertains to the national deficit but not when it is invoked in the discussion of healthcare, education, housing, etc. As you say, where are the children in these discussions? Ryan essentially asserts that President Obama has sold the nation some swamp land in Florida, the payment of which will have to be serviced by our children and our children’s children. It is obvious that Ryan does not comprehend that ours is a monetarily sovereign nation when he states that we will end up like Greece and Ireland unless we reign in the spending. He also appears to suffer deeply from an insideous social disease that I call “Selective Socialism.” The two common symptoms are “political amnesia” and “tunnel vision.” Ryan’s speech was symptomatic of tunnel vision since he says the purpose of government is to be limited. He then continues with an extensive list of governmental responsibilities including “providing a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.” According to Ryan, entitlement programs are fine as long as the Republicans are implementing them, as they advocate for socialistic governmental hand-outs for the rich and hardline, gritty, unforgiving captialism for everyone else. When Democrats implement entitlement programs, they are part and parcel of a reviled communist agenda.
    You can hear more about this social disease and who has been infected by clicking on http://files.wnzf.com/center_uncensored_010811.mp3
    I look foward to your response.
    Abby C. Romaine, “Center:Uncensored” http://www.wnzf.com


  3. Larry,

    I read an article today, titled “Patent backlog gums up innovation, critics say.” (John Schmid, McClatchy/Tribune News)

    It said,

    More than 1.2 million patent applications . . . are awaiting final decisions. . . a bureaucracy that publishes patent applications online 18 months after they are filed, regardless of whether they have been acted upon . . .In China there are thousands of engineers (whose sole job it is to) sit in computer rooms reading U.S. patent applications . . . and they can use the technology for free.

    So patents aren’t being approved in a timely manner, which stifles progress, and the world is able to steal our ideas. Why? The article explains:

    . . . budget issues make it almost impossible for the agency to keep up with its workload. . .beginning in the 1990s, Congress got into a nearly two-decade habit of draining money from the agency . . . the patent office found itself underfunded and understaffed

    There seems no end to the harm to America caused by the ignorance of the debt hawks.

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


  4. Frankly, Abby,

    I paid attention neither to President Obama’s speech nor to the Republican response. Their words are meaningless. Obama’s goal was to sound positive, while saying nothing inflamatory. The Republicans’ goal was to be negative about Obama, while sounding prudent.

    As for “socialism,” there is at least a dozen kinds of socialism, perhaps more. There even is Islamic socialism! Any time the government spends money on something people don’t like, they call it “socialism.” If someone uses “socialism” as an epithet, you know he is a liar. Period.

    The devil always is in the details. Exactly what will the debt hawks do to reduce the federal deficit, much less the debt? Examples are at: Deficit cuts

    And what has been the economic record of deficit cuts? You can read the facts at: Summary

    Just finished listening to your most recent show. Great job. Lots of good facts, for the few people left who prefer facts to intuition.

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


  5. While it is difficult to assign blame to one party, I would vote for assigning it to the media, which has become increasingly a business driven by “consumer satisfaction” instead of reporting the news and critiquing it professionally. If I had to narrow the blame, I would lay the bulk of it on Rupert Murdoch, who pioneered this business model of pandering for profit, and using media as a propaganda tool as well.


    1. One of the lines from my media training.

      The media is not there to report the news, it is there to sell papers and advertising.

      The mass media has always been a propaganda tool. It’s just that the use of it for that purpose has become more industrialised over the years.


    1. Yes, homo sapiens did not evolve from chimpanzees, gorillas, or Neanderthals. The common ancestor is farther back in time. But if you do not accept evolution, please exit this blog immediately, as there is nothing here for you to learn. Learning is not your forte.

      Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


  6. My biggest pet peeve is the mutual fund industry. Study after study shows that active management of an equity portfolio for a fee will lead to sub par results in most cases. Yet somehow we continue to pay people millions of dollars a year to do what a trained monkey could likely do equally as well over a 20 year timespan. Bill Miller is the latest superstar manager to prove this point. Either his skill absolutely vanished or he was lucky. Methinks the latter.


      1. Linus Pauling said vitamin C could cure cancer, and just think of the economists who’ve won Nobels. Need I say more?

        But hey, who am I to argue against a “medicine” that can (as the article claims) cure: respiratory allergies, influenza, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, childhood diarrhea, post-surgical abdominal surgery recovery, attention deficit disorder, the side effects of conventional cancer treatments, cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, scarlet fever, influenza and bad hair days. (O.K., I just threw in that last one.)

        I claim no expertise homeopathy, so maybe it does all those things. What do you think?

        Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


  7. Never underestimate the power of the spirit over the body. Everything works, as long as you believe it will.


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