Friday’s jobs numbers were big, and the revisions below the surface were huge. Yet even before the release, the birther/vaxxer/flat-earther crowd had warned us about phony numbers. As public policy, this kind conspiracy thinking can cause the deaths of infants and the elderly. At least in markets, it merely loses you money.
In December, I wrote:
Today’s column is about stupidity. Perhaps that’s overstating it; to be more precise, it is about the conspiracy-theorist combination of bias, innumeracy and laziness, with a pinch of arrogance thrown in for good measure.
I am talking about the manifold ways various economic reports get misinterpreted, sometimes in a willful and ignorant manner.
That column discussed some of the sillier theories from within the darker corners of the Internet. Admittedly, these weren’t from influential people or important media outlets; it was the usual collection of oddballs in tinfoil hats.
So I am somewhat amazed that in recent days we are seeing similar idiocy from prominent people with powerful jobs who should know better. Whether it is the moon landing being faked, the dangers of vaccines, or the current economic recovery, these folks have discovered that the official story is nonsense. What makes these grand conspiracy theories so amusing — whether it is the moon landing, the dangers of vaccines, or the current economic recovery — is these people’s naïve belief that they have discovered some great truth. (Actually, that it is news to anyone that the government lies to us about war or NSA invasions of privacy or so many other things about is the true surprise.)
Today, I want to discuss not the unwashed masses but chief executive officers and other business leaders. (I give former General Electric CEO Jack Welch a pass because his nonsensical ramblings are so familiar as to be background noise.)
Perhaps the most-discussed recent conspiracy theory comes fromGallup CEO Jim Clifton . . .