I feel compelled to dispel ten myths that I see as pervasively present in American society. These are beliefs that are repeated so often, and with so little opposition, that they are taken as fact. However, they fail to stand up to mathematical analysis, logical reasoning, or both. These combined myths have cost the US economy trillions of dollars in direct and indirect losses. In no particular order, let me evoke John Stossel and proceed to puncture these oft-unchallenged myths.
1) School Teachers are Underpaid in America : In any free-market setting, no major profession will be perpetually underpaid, relative to output produced, or the profession simply will not attract any new entrants. Another clue is that private school teachers actually earn less than public school teachers. As a private school is a business that has to pay market wages to teachers, something is seriously amiss with public school teacher salaries.
An average public school teacher earns about $54,000 a year, but this is for 9 months of work. Thus, they earn about $6000 per month. Most teachers have a BA degree in education, and some have an MA degree. A wage of $6000/month compares favorably to what people with similar education will earn in a corporate job. Furthermore, a public school teacher is shielded from economic conditions, and thus has higher job security than, say, engineers have during recessions.
So no, teachers are not underpaid, on a monthly or hourly basis, relative to professions that require a similar level of education. To compare teacher salaries to the wages of doctors and lawyers is false, as the educational qualifications, hours worked, and stress levels are entirely different.
2) Women Earn Less than Men in America : It is true that women, on average, earn less per year than men do. It is also true that 22-year-olds earn less, on average, than 40-year-olds. Why is the latter not an example of age discrimination, while the former is seized upon as an example of gender discrimination? Because men are too afraid to challenge the false statement.
If women truly did earn 20% less for doing exactly the same job as a man, any non-sexist CEO could thrash his competition by hiring only women, thus saving 20% on employee salaries relative to his competitors. Are we to believe that every major CEO and Board of Directors is so sexist as to forego billions of dollars of profit? Women entrepreneurs could hire other women and out-compete any male-dominated business, but we don't see this happening. Individual cases of discrimination may exist, but it cannot possibly be a universal norm in a profit-driven economy. Market forces would correct such mispricings, if they actually existed.
This myth is closely tied to Myth #1, with the same people propagating both. It is sad that the feminists reciting this myth are devaluing one of the most important roles in any society, that of a mother with the responsibility of cultivating the next generation of citizens, who chooses to work part-time. The backlash of this will punish feminists greatly, as immigrants from countries quite unsympathetic to feminist notions move to the US and reproduce prolifically.
3) Whites Prevent 'Minorities' from Achieving Economic Parity : Many of the points from Myth # 2 also can apply here. But let me also add that the leftists who spread this myth go to great lengths to avoid revealing that Asians actually earn more than Whites in America today. This inconvenient reality will become harder to conceal as Asians grow in number and visibility.
Furthermore, if Whites are the reason that Blacks still earn less than Whites in 2008, is it not fair to point out that Whites created a system where immigrants from poor countries like India, China, and VietNam can come to America and do so well that they surpass their White hosts, economically? Fair is fair. If Black poverty is due to Whites, then Asian success is also due to Whites. If this is not acceptable, then the only other explanation is that each group's outcome is primarily due to their own actions, rather than the invisible hand of the white majority.
Lastly, people have always migrated away from places where they are discriminated against, and into places that are relatively better for them. We see Mexicans coming to the US by the millions, even at great personal risk. Blacks from the West Indies, Africa, etc. also immigrate into the US in large numbers. At the same time, we never see African Americans voting with their feet by going to some country where they might be able to earn more. Where is the evidence of an African American exodus to Canada, Sweden, Britain, Jamaica, South Africa, etc.? In fact, Liberia was a country created specifically for this purpose, but Liberia clearly is not able to entice any African Americans to relocate or even vacation there.
Reverend Jeremiah Wright has become wealthy by pretending to be a man from a race he does not belong to, who is oppressed by people from the race he does belong to. Amazing. I am both infuriated and envious at the same time.
4) Healthy Foods are Expensive, and Unhealthy Foods are Cheap : While I think America is the best country in the world in most ways, in dietary terms, America is sadly one of the worst. What North Korea and Zimbabwe are to economics, America is to dietary health. Most Americans are so alien to the concept of regularly consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, that I wonder if they even know what people ate before the 20th century. That the 'poor' people in America have much greater rates of obesity than higher-income people is shocking to most of the world, and also leads Americans to assume that fast food is the cheapest available choice.
On the contrary, if one goes to any no-frills grocery store, several bags of fruits and vegetables can be purchased for under $20. Tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, carrots, cauliflower, onions, cabbage, green beans, apples, broccoli, zucchini, garlic, celery, beets, kidney beans, lentils, and dozens of other plant foods all cost less than $2/pound, and sometimes under $1/pound. If all one eats are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (which in fact is normal in many cultures), one can easily eat their fill for under $4/person/day. Compare that to $15/day for someone who eats all three meals at McDonald's. The tens of thousands of dollars of lifetime healthcare costs that a person can save with a fruit/vegetable diet are additional.
The best kept secret in America is that the cheapest food is actually the healthiest food. The barrier to eating healthy meals is not cost, but rather knowledge, habit, and culinary skills. Do you dispute the $4/person/day figure? Then you haven't actually seen how many pounds of tomatoes, bananas, carrots, apples, cabbage, etc. can be bought with $4 from a modest store. Try this for 30 days, and the rate at which you fatten your bank account will be surpassed only by the rate at which you shed bodily tonnage.
5) America's Foreign Policy is the Reason for the 9/11 Attacks : This clearly does not explain why the same group conducted attacks in Bali (twice), London, Madrid, Bombay, Jordan, Turkey, Morocco, and dozens of attacks in Iraq and Israel. They also have massacred schoolchildren in Russia, Indonesia, and Thailand. How are each of these attacks against unrelated victims due to America, rather than the logical conclusion that this group seems to have a problem with anyone who does not subscribe to their ideology? Whatever America's flaws, America does not make a terrorist behead his hostages. It is odd when an anti-American worldview itself is tainted by the US-Centric thought that anti-Americans love to condemn.
6) Leftists are 'Liberal' and 'Progressive' : You will notice that on The Futurist, I never refer to leftists as 'liberals'. Those who were truly liberal at one time became the 'neoconservatives' of today, while the fascists of yesteryear became the leftists of today. They are illiberal, intolerant, opposed to free speech, and incapable of defending their claimed beliefs in the face of incisive questions. In the modern era, the Left can best be described as a vehicle through which people can fancy themselves as intelligent without having to put in the effort previously required to become intelligent, simply by believing a set of agreed-upon dogma. The cost-benefit analysis of this approach is attractive, but this strategy falls apart spectacularly when a leftist is confronted by an informed non-leftist in a debate, hence the efforts to silence informed non-leftists through extremely illiberal means. Ace of Spades has a superb article about what attracts people to Leftism.
7) Republicans are Less Intelligent than Democrats : This is the natural extension of Myth # 5, reinforced by George W. Bush's subpar oratory skills. I simply have to point you to the voting trends by income bracket as reported by the CNN website. Let me repost the table here :
Income certainly does not corelate exactly to intelligence, work ethic, and determination, as someone in college may have all of these things but still not yet be earning a high income. But to believe the 'leftist' view that Bush supporters are stupid is to believe that intelligence is inversely corelated to an ability to earn a high income. This is vastly more difficult to logically accept.
This, more than anything else, explains why the Democrats have failed to get 50% of the vote in the last seven Presidential elections since 1976, while the GOP has achieved this feat 4 times (1980, 84, 88, 2004). The median-income voter does not like being told that he/she is stupid.
8) Democrats Have a Better Record on Racism than Republicans : It is an utter failure of the GOP's branding efforts that this myth has gained traction, despite :
Abraham Lincoln being a Republican
FDR's interning of Japanese Americans
George Wallace running for President as a Democrat as recently as 1976
Robert Byrd, a former leader in the KKK, still acting as the seniormost Democrat in the Senate, even to this day.
Strom Thurmond running for President on a segregationist platform as a Democrat, becoming a Republican only 16 years later.
The first two black Secretaries of State being appointed by George W. Bush
Clearly, a foreign visitor with no prior exposure would not possibly conclude that the Republican Party is somehow more racist than the Democrats. That the GOP has gotten stuck with this label despite the facts above, is remarkable. The GOP also has some unfortunate racial incidents in the recent past, but they certainly have not done more than Democrats have. I guess that Democrats say this partly because the GOP lets them.
9) Houses Always Rise in Value : Here on The Futurist, we identified the Real Estate bubble back in April of 2006, when it was heresy to suggest that home prices could not detach from incomes. Real estate is an investment class, just like stocks, bonds, art, wine, gold, and Internet domains are. Yet, you never see people nagging you about how you 'must own stocks', or 'must invest in art'. Residential real estate is the only investment category where emotion dominates quantitative analysis. Remarkably, such a belief does not exist for commercial property, but somehow the existence of a kitchen and shower bestows a structure with magical immunity to price declines. Emotions about residential real estate reveal the following two major errors that many proponents consistently make :
a) The failure to distinguish between high prices and rising prices : A good school district or California weather can certainly justify high prices, but as these factors are the same from one year to the next, there is no reason for them to result in home prices rising faster than the salaries of workers in that area. Is the school getting dramatically better each year? Is California weather improving each year?
b) The failure to account for cost of capital when calculating a home price gain : Otherwise intelligent people who fully grasp the concept of inflation still manage to think that if their home price is flat for 5 years, that they 'at least didn't lose money'. If one's cost of capital (a mortgage rate can suffice) is 6%, then 5 years of flat prices are effectively (1.06)^5, or a 34% real loss. On a $1 million home, 5 years of flat valuation is a $340,000 effective loss to one's net worth.
It will take a decade for home owners to fully accept that homes are not guaranteed to rise in price any more than stocks, art, wine, or antiques are.
10) High Oil Prices Will Create Permanent Long-Term Poverty : This belief is thoroughly debunked here. One must have very little faith in market-driven technological change or human adaptability to believe that the world of 2020, 2030, or 2040 will be so poor that car ownership will be rare.
Notice a common theme in these 10 myths. Myths 1, 2, 3, 9, and 10 betray an ignorance of free-market economics or even an active attempt to suppress evidence of it. Myths 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 are propagated by the same ideology, indicating a total inability of that ideology to actually generate compelling ideas. Myths 1, 2, 3, and 9 are derived from a sense of entitlement and unwillingness to accept personal responsibility. Believing myths 2, 3, 4, and 5 require having never ventured outside of the hotel in any non-Western country.
Clearly, a couple of unsavory philosophies have managed to disguise themselves and dupe a majority of mainstream Americans (and the foreigners who watch our television news) into believing things that are simply illogical. As citizens, we must fight to overturn these myths, lest they give rise to even more absurdities that cost trillions of additional dollars.