“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.” You may have learned this lesson in grade school when someone wanted a different story to be read than the one you wanted. Or maybe at home when a sibling got to choose a different television show than you wanted to watch that evening. Their opinion ruled the day and you had to live with it.
However, the problem is that not all opinions are equal. Moreover, some opinions are downright dangerous.
When someone chose a different story or television show than the ones you preferred, there was adult supervision. They weren't allowed to choose anything, but only certain things within a safe range. The opinion of some that “green is the best color”, while others claim that “orange is the best color” is certainly up for debate. But when it comes to matters of public policy the stakes are considerably higher, and something else must come into play — truth.
Truth is essentially a statement that matches reality. If I look at a pencil and claim it is yellow, my statement of yellowness corresponds to reality — the way things really are. Now let's say I have the opinion that yellow pencils are better than brown ones. My opinon is based on the belief that yellow pencils are easier to find than any other colors, especially brown ones. Brown pencils blend in with so many things, while yellow ones stand out. The question now becomes is my opinion about yellow pencils being better than brown ones true?
This thinking may seem pointless — unless you are a pencil manufacturer. As a pencil manufacturer if you learn that being able to find pencils is the #1 reason people choose a particular pencil over another, my opinion is very important. It's important not because it's my opinion, but because my opinion is true. You may like brown pencils better, because brown is your favorite color. Fine. But if you choose to manufacture brown instead of yellow pencils, your opinion will likely get you in trouble with your sales manager at the end of the month.
Former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." Basically he was saying that you can have your own opinion, but the opinion that really matters is the one that is true — the opinion that matches reality, what really is.
So next time you hear that government can stimulate the economy by spending our way out of a recession or that taxing the rich more will solve our economic problems — stop and think. Is that an opinion or is that a fact? If it's a fact (aka the statement is true) — a statement that matches reaility — then you should be able to find several examples where these things have happened before. If you can't, then it's just an opinion. However, it's not only an opinion — it's an opinion that's not true. And in this case an opinion that could have serious consquences.
And in the end, it's truth that matters.