There may be a universe in which the following ten propositions are true, or useful, or have some redeeming social value. But writers are advised constantly to write about what they know. The basis of this advice is that when you derive what you say, think, imagine or predict from the evidence of your eyes and ears, what you say, etc., will be authentic. Without that grounding, it will not be.
The following propositions are so big, so loudly proclaimed and widely held, that millions of Americans believe them and millions more who know better are forced to play defense against the believers and proclaimers. And yet I, personally, can find no shred of evidence in my personal experience to validate a single one of them. A coincidence? I think not.
1. Politicians support business because business creates jobs.
I have never seen a business set out to create jobs. Businesses that I have worked for, managed and started over the years have set out to make money. The goal, generally, is to eliminate as many jobs as you possibly can without crippling the company, so you can make money. Moreover, in my experience, politicians support businesses that support the politicians, with the only job in question the one the politician is after.
2. If you raise taxes, any taxes, businesses will move or downsize or close down and you, the taxing jurisdiction, will lose jobs.
I've been in a lot of business meetings, conducted many of them, about startups, moving, downsizing, expanding and shutting down. I cannot remember a single instance in which taxation even came up. I can imagine it happening, of course, but see paragraph 1 above: in terms of what I know, it has never happened. (Which is not to say that, once or twice a year, a meeting with an accountant will not center on tax-reducing strategies, that's straightforward management. But in life-or-death, go-or-no-go situations? Never a factor.)
3. Corporations don't pay taxes. They simply pass them on to consumers.
To believe that is to believe that if Coca-Cola's headquarters building gets hit with a property tax increase, and Pepsi-Cola's headquarters building does not, Coke's prices will increase relative to Pepsi's. It will never happen. To any business I have been associated with, taxation is a minor cost of doing business whose fluctuations are a very small part of the pricing decision.
4. America is fortunate to have a free-market-based health-care system, not "socialized" medicine.
The benefits of a free market are provided by competition. If there are two gas stations on the corner, the theory goes, one is forestalled from raising its prices for fear of losing business to the other. (The theory does not explain the reality -- that they both raise their prices by exactly the same amount, day after day.) But in my personal experience, when I have been injured or sick and in need of health care, I have never been in a position to take bids or even check prices. And if you can't do that, how does competition help you?
My parents lived out their lives in Canada's single-payer health-insurance system, and here's what I noticed that set them apart from every older person I know in the U.S. -- when they sufffered their allotment of surgeries and hospital stays, it was not under a stifling cloud of fear that they would lose their savings, their home and their remaining years to debt collectors.
5. Government should protect the wealthy because wealth trickles down to benefit everybody.
Personally, I have never seen a single trickle. What I have seen, to cite the most recent example, is that after the government of the United States almost broke its own bank bailing out the wealthiest of its citizens, the high rollers of investment banking, the money the high rollers immediately started making again did not trickle down to anybody; it was distributed as bonuses to themselves.
6. We should support politicians who protect the wealthy because when we get rich we will appreciate the protection.
The degree to which this scam has won the avid loyalty of blue-collar workers, retired people and others of limited means is truly awe-inspiring. It has thus far escaped the notice of the scammed that everything the wholly-owned politicians do to protect their owners ensures that ordinary people will never ever have the remotest chance of getting rich.
7. The American Dream is to be rich.
It's an odd national dream that measures everything in cash. My own life and associations have taught me that there are two ways to become wealthy: assemble a great many dollars, or reduce the number of things you need. I have never in my life known a dollar-assembler who was content, but I have known many people who don't need much who are happy. I have also noticed that of the things in my life that I value most, not a single one was obtained with money.
8. Making money is easy for anyone willing to work hard.
This proposition, advanced primarily by people who are already rich because of an inheritance or a successful talk show, makes sense to me when I think about how other people make their money. Oddly, whenever I have tried making money by one of these obviously simple methods, its difficulty suddenly increased by several orders of magnitude. Probably coincidence.
9. Some problems are so difficult that only violence can solve them
Another claim -- made by gun-rights people, endless novels and TV shows, and by the president of the United States while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize -- that I cannot validate. Every time that I have seen violence used to deal with a problem, the problem has not only got worse, it has spawned a myriad of other problems, each of them worse than the original. Maybe that's why the people most enthusiastic about war have never been in one.
10. Everything else is about sex, which has no consequences and will make you happy.
Our culture is drenched in sex. Movies, TV shows, popular songs, magazines, advertising, every where and all the time glorify sex as the thing to get because it's cheap, easy, thrilling and has no down side. Yet I have never known a person who puts sex at the center of his or her life and identity -- straight or gay -- to be happy.
So who am I, to put my puny experience up against the accumulated wisdom of an entire society? In the immortal words of Popeye (and, in a different context, the God of Abraham), "I yam who I yam."
Happy New Year. Don't get scammed.