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Discussing ideology, moderation and empiricism

Ideology and policy

The other day I found myself in one of those superb conversations about the economy in general, and how ideological beliefs impact not only policy, but the inevitable results generated. It was instructive for both of us on a few levels, but for me, it brought the subject of ideology front and center. Whether filed under hyperbole, spin, or good old fashioned propaganda, the concept of ideology has been hijacked, and not for any good end.

For instance, when one politician is losing an argument or not getting something passed they strongly support, they’ll often call their opponents unthinking ideologues. Sorry, but count me a proud member of that group. I’m a lifetime member of those ruled by deeply rooted ideology in pretty much every facet of life.

Today’s definition of ideology, as used in the vernacular has evolved into — deeply held, possibly core beliefs about a particular subject.

Empirical evidence anecdotes

Let’s take a topic on which we’ll agree — physics. I realize we don’t usually think of physics in terms of ideology, but go with the analogy, as I make the point.

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Empirical evidence demonstrates gravity to us daily. We use it beneficially, or avoid it when it endangers us, right? Is there an argument for jumping out of an airplane without a parachute? Not a sane one, right? Yet if I posited there’s a way for me to do just that, and you vehemently told me I was gonna die and why, I might resort to calling you a close minded ideologue. Damn empirical evidence. And you would indeed be an ideologue when it came to gravity, right? Of course.

What comes next is worshiping at the altar of The Moderate.

So called moderate position

Again, let’s use a topic for which none of us holds a so-called moderate position — rape.

Core beliefs, often the foundation for our political and/or economic convictions, are not subject to moderation. For instance, all the moderates out there, please, enlighten us with your moderate view of rape. See what I mean about ideology? It’s like a gun — it can feed your family or be used for evil. The gun itself ain’t good or bad.

Back to the economy and what’s worked — as in empirically documented — in the past.

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Roundtable discussion

Found myself laughing out loud a few Sundays ago while watching the roundtable discussion on Fox News Sunday. Juan Williams, a very nice guy, and a true gentleman, was being administered his almost weekly spanking by Brit Hume — an empiricist if ever there was one. I think it’s fair to say Mr. Williams is the poster guy for liberal ideologue. I respect him for it, regardless of my vehement opposition.

Anywho, Williams was lamenting the ‘Right’s’ insistence on tax cuts, which he characterized as ‘for the rich’. Having teed it up like a pro for Mr. Hume, Brit, on cue, proceeded to undress Williams.

I paraphrase:

Hume: Juan, would it be fair to say your agenda is to generate more revenue in terms of dollars collected by the Treasury? And that you would use both personal and business income tax as the vehicle?

Williams: That’s correct.

Hume: In the last century there hasn’t been a personal/business income tax cut that hasn’t resulted in an empirically measurable increase in revenue to the Treasury. Isn’t that what you want?

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Williams: Yes, that’s why we must raise taxes on both groups.

Hume: (A look of incredulousness on his face.) Juan, have you gone deaf?

See, Williams is so entrenched in his belief, i.e., that the ‘rich’ don’t pay their fair share, that when confronted with a proven solution, one that results in ‘the rich’  and business literally paying more tax dollars, he chooses to remain blind. Why? Who knows? But my guess is that he’d much rather increase the tax rate, even if it harms the economy and doesn’t generate the attainment of his original goal.

In other words, it’s more important for him to tax big earners than it is to actually, you know, achieve his goal of increasing tax revenues.

Bottom line

Bottom line? Even with a century offering multiple examples of tax cuts generating ever increasing revenue to the Treasury, he opts for his long held theory over undeniable empirical — for Heaven’s sake, historical evidence to the contrary.

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NOTE: The ‘before ‘n after’ data of tax cuts on personal/business income can be found on the Office of Management and Budget’s website.

Way back in the days of analogue TV, no cells, and no computers, when I was learning serious (real estate investment) analysis, it became crystal clear to me that when data is reliably vetted, then tested over time, analysis can and often does root out false or incomplete belief systems. My belief in certain investments, even whole regions, was often entrenched, founded upon false premises. How much so? Sometimes even when I’d finished a five year before/after tax cash flow analysis, including IRR and (OldSchool) FMRR returns, I’d tear it up and start over cuz it didn’t jibe with my erroneous preconception. That’s how much.

Unlike Juan Williams, I wiped the egg off my face and adjusted to reality. It’s OK to be an ideologue — it doesn’t work though when your premises are false. What about that is so hard to understand?

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Written By

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.



  1. Joe Loomer

    May 26, 2011 at 6:01 am

    So what I'm hearing, Jeff, is that it's ok to change your mind in the face of the truth. The way you write sometimes gives me "ah ha" moments I can use in my own business. This is why I come to AG, thank you.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. BawldGuy

    May 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Hey Joe — Funny how human nature sometimes won't let us see what we see, and hear what we hear. Thanks so much.

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