January 13, 2014 by Devin
I want to share a story. An economics professor at a local college wanted to illustrate the problems with Republican capitalism. So he started out one class going, “All right everyone, because you are all such a fan of Romney’s capitalism, we’re going to treat your grades like money in a capitalist society. So I’m going to add extra rewards for doing better than your fellow students and extra punishments for doing worse than your fellow students.”
The students all agreed that this was a fair proposition. It encouraged students to study more and punished those who didn’t. At the end of the first test, some students studied hard and did really well, and some didn’t do so well. So the professor gave everyone who got good grades answers to many of the questions on the next test, and he did not tell the students who got bad grades what section he was going to test over next.
The students could have shared their information and help each other, but students were so afraid of being the worse scoring students that they wanted to make sure that there were at least some students doing worse than they were.
At the end of the class, some students were doing really well, their grades buoyed by easy tests, while most of the other students were doing really poorly. Their refusal to cooperate meant that many students had many disadvantages during the semester and could not compete with those who had it much easier, and their grades suffered as a result, thus showing how cut-throat libertarian policies result in greater economic divide and worse results for almost everyone involved.
This story is completely made up. There is no economics professor who did this study. It does not have any basis in reality except as a theoretical experiment. And ultimately it does not prove anything about any fiscal policy, liberal or conservative.
Meaning it is just as legitimate as this annoying story I keep seeing pop up in my newsfeed. Both of these create a fake story that lines up with the political beliefs of the authors, and both twist reality to make it abundantly clear that their authors are right.
So can we all please agree to stop using made up stories as evidence for our political beliefs? Can we stop basing our political beliefs on narratives that may or may not be completely false? Can we start using actual evidence?
That would be great.
P.S. If I start seeing this story forwarded around as a “This is a totally real story,” I’m going to punch a kitten.