Business Day column: Let us bust the myths and not believe the nonsense in 2017

Since this is my last 2016 column, I was asked by the government to wish readers a joyless festive season and unhappy new year. There will be no Santa this year. He was refused overflying rights because of his poor BBBEE scorecard — none of his elves is black and he pays below the minimum wage.

Food will be tasteless because the health department hates satisfaction, salivation and taste buds, especially ones that like sweet food, salty food, fast food, refined food, fatty food, dairy food, tasty food, cheap food, preserved food, alcohol, tobacco, beverages and sex. They believe that miserable people have healthy bodies to which end you will endure a raft of draconian proposals in 2017.

No one will be getting festive greetings this year because we have the world’s highest mobile data charges.

There will be racial conflict caused by poverty, inequality and a slow pace of change. Our wealth will be destroyed because Julius Malema will destroy white monopoly capital which, he says, is all our wealth.

We have to endure another year under a president who had a "corrupt relationship" with Schabir Shaik.

Santa’s obesity sets a bad example. Instead of exercising, he drinks sugared beverages and KWV brandy, eats Christmas cake and koeksisters, smokes a pipe and watches reality TV, while his underpaid working class elves make Christmas presents in subzero factories suffering from the slow pace of climate change.

The only good news is that Eskom will produce enough electricity, the minimum wage will enrich the poor, alcohol restrictions will reduce drunk driving, government spending will create jobs, SAA will become profitable, and rivers will run uphill.

A serious question lurks beneath this satire. Why is such nonsense believed? Why do countless lies become axioms of truth?

The Zuma-Shaik corruption misquote was repeated unquestioningly until Justice Squires told people quoting his judgment to read it.

Unquestioned acceptance of implausible claims about mobile phone data charges is equally scary. Virtually no one checked the existence, relevance or accuracy of sources. Examination of the facts reveals nothing excessive about our data charges.

Many absurd health claims and lies are presumed true. "Experts" parade graphs supposedly showing beneficial effects elsewhere of what they propose for us. Their deceptions include concealing the fact that favourable trends preceded supposed causes, that correlations are not causes, and that imported ideology had no benefits in countries they overlook.

Eskom successfully created the belief that it increased electricity production, never inflicted reduced consumption, and never caused insane delays and cost overruns in the power stations it has been building since the Permian extinction.

Disastrous myths and memes, lies and fabrications, falsehoods and fallacies are part of everyday life.

Despite mythical memes to the contrary, there has been a spectacular "rate of change" racially with declining poverty and inequality. Far from a "health crisis", our rapidly rising life expectancy suggests that we are healthier than ever.

People who challenge myths with facts are usually vilified. If you point out, for instance, that men and women, and people of different races, have virtually identical incomes when comparing equally qualified people doing the same job for the same period, you will be called a misogynist, racist, bigot, apologist, denialist and worse.

Propagandists create inequality myths by referring to group differences. If Afrikaners prefer farming and Jews banking, Jews as a group may earn more. If teachers earn more than miners, and more white women teach while more black men mine, the group difference is not due to employment discrimination.

The person I regard as the world’s greatest living intellectual, Thomas Sowell, specialises in myth-busting. My festive gift to readers for whom facts matter is a link to some of his most delightful examples:

Louw is executive director of the Free Market Foundation.

This article was first published in Business Day on 14 December 2016. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Free Market Foundation.


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