Beware of Truthiness!

Don’t we all have that special someone; a friend, uncle or mother- in-law, that has an answer to everything, and that are totally convinced about their own beliefs. You know it’s hard to argue against these kind of individuals and their beliefs, because not seldom are they not based on intellectual arguments or facts but rather on emotions and feelings. Then, what happens when these kind of arguments and beliefs are expressed by popular, influential and powerful individuals, convincing the public opinion with false statements and questionable statistics?

The 2006 ‘word of the year’; truthiness, has ten years later become more relevant than ever. Popularized by the satirical TV show host, Stephen Colbert, the term truthiness has established itself as an efficient explanation of gut-feeling statements that are declared as truths or facts. More formally, truthiness is described as ‘the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true’.

From a philosophical point of view, truthiness could be considered to be more common among those with less insight into the state of things; because claiming to state truths about certain things will reveal your lack of knowledge about the truth. Socrates claimed that, ‘the more I learn, the less I know’, and that ‘the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing’. According to these sayings, the truth-tellers and truthiness advocates fail by default. Far from everyone are familiar or agree with Socrates though, on the contrary truthiness and confidence boosted statements about the “true” state of the world seem to be as rewarding as ever. In the political field, populistic parties with anti-immigration programmes are enjoying success in Europe and Mr. Truthiness himself; Donald Trump seem to win a landslide victory in the republican presidential candidate nomination. Donald Trump is the best and worst example of truthiness. The best because he is truthiness personalised, and the worst because he shows that truthiness can be efficient. Most of his statements are nowhere near factual and he repeatedly refuses to admit that he is claiming false facts even when confronted with disproof. The Washington post recently examined Donald Trumps’ statements and found that 68% of all statements were rated four Pinocchio’s, the highest level of false statements, compared to an average rate of 10% among presidential candidates. Further, Politico Magazine also counted Trump statements over 4,6 hours of speech and found that Trump delivered one misstatement every five minutes(!).

Let’s look further at some of the best lies and examples portraying Donald Trump’s truthiness:

– He claimed that the “real” unemployment rate in the US were 42% rather than the official rate of 5,3%. Counting the whole non-working part of the population as ”unemployed” is a mistake you know you can’t do if you’ve studied at high school level or above. Most of those who are not working are retired and simply do not want to work and is therefore not a part of the labor force.

– He claims to be truthful. This statement speaks for itself…

– He claims that he has made a fortune out of a small loan. The “small” loan of a million dollars from his father is not enough; he has inherited about $40 million and he has also borrowed an additional $9million against his future inheritance. From an objective perspective, the claim that “it has not been easy for me” is a straight up lie.

These statements are ridiculous and would for many be easily discarded, but in times where “truth-tellers” are successful nothing can be taken for granted. The relevance of economics and research in general gets eroded as policy makers and influential individual, base policies and rhetoric on gut-feelings rather than thought out, fact based strategies. So, until Donald Trump reveals himself as a gigantic prank allow me to yet again recite Socrates:

The only thing I know is that I know nothing… … and that Donald Trump is a straight up bullshi**er.

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