Saturday, July 20, 2013

Facts vs opinions

I really shouldn't need to write this but have seen so much confusion over this for a while I will do my best to clear it up. An opinion is how someone likes the world to be, while a fact is how things are already. You can have opinions over preferences, a judgement on quality or performance, but although some facts can be included as a basis, such as whether someone played all the right notes, how they played them is more a matter of opinion.

But in politics it's slightly easier to separate out. The facts are the givens, such as the economic figures and prices, while the opinions are war, two sides constantly in competition over freedom vs regulation. Both believe equally the same ends can only be satisfied by their view, but that is not what I am writing about here, but the way they confuse facts as opinions when they cannot change and if you begin treating them as such then you have shifted real politics to fantasy, and arguing a set of policies which become physically impossible as you have got your foundations wrong.

I will start with a list of some examples of facts. I will add once you have such facts it is then the opinion of the politicians what they do about it, ie whether they favour one set of people over another, but if you bring in utilitarianism, ie what benefits the most people mathematically (ie facts) it ought to trump most opinions automatically if the majority suffer for the minority with no good reason.

Low interest rates benefit 1/3-1/4 of people who borrow over savers.
Wind turbines cannot produce usable power once costs are taken into account.
We cannot predict future climate.
Certain ethnic/cultural groups commit more specific crimes than the general population.

Now some of these are a lot easier to prove than others, the low interest rates is a gimme, as economists can measure the natural rate, which is around 5% here but 0.5% in reality. The £7 billion/£14-20 billion balance between winners and losers is written in stone as the figures are absolutely certain, so we can safely say as a fact the British government are paying borrowers by sacrificing 2-3 times as many savers, mainly retired.

Wind turbines are fairly easy to work out once you have the entire accounts and produce a simple bottom line which anyone equipped can work out for themselves, and it is physically impossible to arrange the figures in any other way to show otherwise.

The future climate is a lot harder to dismiss as it's a partial experiment (how they get away with it), but 20-30 years on there is still snow, arctic ice and the temperature is below all estimates solely based on a model adding in CO2. If they can be seen to have got that wrong after a short run then most sensible people who understand chaos theory will realise the longer a non-linear prediction runs the greater the error.

The crime figures are pretty hard to dispute as long as it's possible to find them. Black on black and Muslim on Muslim violence is fairly widely available worldwide, while Romanian and Italian organised crime is familiar to any of its victims. The British sex predator gangs can be called up on various searches and most of the names are pretty hard to interpret as anything besides Muslim, as they only take Muslim names including converts.

Those are contemporary examples which unanimously become accused of being only opinions by people whose personal philosophy disagrees with it. So the scientists who believe CO2 has a high effect on the temperature do not dismiss their models when it doesn't, but look for it in other places as the missing heat must be somewhere. It's in their effing computers, that's it. Those wonderful dreamers who genuinely believe if we had taken suicide bombers out of the Middle East and families from Pakistan who kill their wives for leaving them or their daughters for choosing their own partners, schooled them in Camden and Islington from a young age they would have become peaceful, loving and productive individuals. There is of course some truth in it, but then if you take the actual situation, that with (and I'm not picking on Muslims at all here, but as a sociologist you may as well take the largest bars on the current chart as examples) well over 2 million Muslims in Britain the second generation who is now growing up is in fact diverging into either picking up western values or fighting against them. So yes, you can certainly moderate extremes by removing them from an extreme culture, but you can also import and export them and the hard core will not only never die, but may even try and take your liberal peaceful country over.

It should be virtually impossible not to be able to separate facts and opinions, but all the time I see educated people (who had the same training as most) mix them up, and when they have an opinion dear to their hearts it's a fact, and when you counter it with a fact it's your opinion. Why everyone can't just accept the world around them for exactly what it is, do the research, and either come to some sort of factual conclusion or accept we don't have enough data to know yet (if we ever will) on some areas, and use the facts as a foundation of givens, and then apply their opinion if they want to change things. I watched a video yesterday when people were described as such having been treated badly by their parents in the name of religion and saying this was loving behaviour as it was God's word. His point was God is love, so any behaviour which is not loving is not religious, but decades of programming by their culture has made them lost in their opinion and they see it as a fact. Otherwise there would be no psychotherapy as people would never know they had problems, let alone want to change them. The entire field of cognitive therapy is based on facts and the therapist is entitled to teach the clients which is which as that is how they are trained.

A final point is this is not confrontational. Teaching is educational, the only confrontation is when you do not wait for willing students but take the teaching to all as I do. Then you attract nothing but attacks as it's the same as injecting a mental patient and dragging them to a counsellor. Their doctor and therapist can see exactly what's wrong but normally you only have counselling when you decide you need it, often long after everyone else can see it. That is because people want to change when it hurts them, not other people. So the violent husband or bossy wife will keep doing it until they lose more and more people and become so lonely they may wonder why and then they are ready to change. To me, when politicians (who represent the majority of people's opinions) are voted in to destroy rather than create, it's my problem. I can see why they do it and how it happens, as facts are always slanted and misrepresented to gain what ends they want, and before the internet it was only intuition and bad smell radar which alerted people to dodgy claims, now we can check nearly all of it instantly. There is a phenomenon where most people know a little about a major political issue and no more, as it's not important. Low interest rates must be good as we don't have to pay so much for our mortgages for example. Oops. Big major 'trod in massive soft dog mess' oops.

Property prices are dictated by the usual economic parameters, plus one special one. The usual ones are supply/demand and availability of cash. The special one is unlike most assets they are appreciating, ie they always go up in value long term. Of course there have been exceptions, such as the Irish and Spanish building houses for no one as they were lent billions by the EU, who now want it back but most of the houses are empty. That's greed over economics and a separate lesson, but generally they go up and even those probably will eventually as they are based on land and a building which should last hundreds of years. The price itself is based mainly on the land (the reason for local variations) and a small percent on the building (a typical insurance policy is £60,000 rebuild costs for a £300,000 property in London). The purpose of a house is to live in (no, that's not stating the obvious, most people will tell you it's an investment), and the only way it will also be an investment is if someone else lives in it than its owner, as every single person (unlike car or TV owners) needs to live somewhere so even the top property magnates own their own as well as other people's.

Now imagine the number of people who own more than one property compared with the others. Whatever the actual figure not many people are in the property business, even a second buy to let. So it's pretty safe to say they are the minority who make money selling extra houses. Their house will lose by going up as firstly they pay more for it initially, and far more importantly as most people trade up unless in dire straits, the percentage inflation their 'asset' has suffered means the more one goes up the more the other does. So 10% on their £300,000 house will be £30,000 while if they want one for £500,000 and both rise by 10% they'll need to find an extra £20,000 from somewhere as the more expensive house will usually cost proportionally more. So as the majority of people only own the property they live in then the majority suffer rising house prices the same way they do for food or energy. Of course the selling minority businessmen will always do well from inflation but if it's economy wide rather in their own area it all gets lost when they have to buy from others, so always toxic. Another aspect is the price-income ratio. Houses have traditionally cost around 3X annual income, which meant virtually everyone working could afford one. That's the same price-income ratio used to assess the wealth of every country, dividing the average income by a basket of commodities to see how much each can afford, plus a weighting for how the income is distributed across the population, ie how many people are at the top and bottom relatively.

If you strip this equation bare, and simply present it 'Do you want to pay 3X your income for your house or 10X', being fact based very few (no one if sane) should say 10X, but when you simply present it as 'Are you glad your house is worth more' nearly everyone (bear in mind I have just asked the identical question in a different way) would say the opposite.

I have just demonstrated how ignorance can drive opinion, as people do not either know the facts or realise they are not opinions. I will just complete the equations, if you buy a house you must always buy at a price where you can afford the maximum possible repayments, as interest rates do not usually (till now) stay the same. If not you are reckless, and once banks weren't even allowed to lend unless you satisfied this and took the choice away from people altogether. Now it's grab as much as you can get, and suffer the consequences later. House prices are actually the same for the borrower, as the estate agents set their prices as a monthly outgoing the customer can afford. If they are paying £500  a month then whether some is interest and the rest is principle, they are paying their limit. By dropping interest rates all that happens is the £500 a month is fixed by economic reality, but when less is represented by mortgage interest the rest is balanced by an equal price rise, which will totally knacker anyone less cautious if interest rates then go up and they hadn't been allowed for. But you'll be knackered when you want to move, as when you have two kids and need a couple more rooms you'll find you need way more to do so than you would had your house prices not all gone up so much (as it's a national problem).

The interest rates and house prices are one of the simplest and most direct examples of facts driving politics and bad beliefs create bad policies, such as low interest rates where over two thirds of the population subsidise a third or so, and in the end as it also drives up prices everyone in the majority loses when they want to move. All other facts are equally solid, but much harder to fathom out, but no less genuine. So when people want to legislate and spend trillions trying to stop global warming, it's almost impossible to prove as their completion dates are set from 2050-2100 before they'd know for sure. We can't actually wait that long as we all need to be alive when the results come in to run such a costly experiment, so rather than work on moonbeams and fairy dust we have had three very clear elements known since measures began over 20 years ago. CO2 has risen inexorably. Taxes have risen phenomenally but the CO2 has risen regardless. The temperature has barely risen. Those are facts. The rest are not even opinions, they are 'what ifs' and 'maybes'. Who would vote or spend money on either of those, as they are below opinions and only empty waste.

Muslim claims- where's the evidence? Here More Some more From the BBC Not cherry picking BBC sex gangs reportLong detailed blog entry Nice summary of Islam NB I had to resort to a few blogs here as the original reports were long gone but they had copied and pasted them for posterity with full references.

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