Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
September 22, 2009
Many long years ago, when I was young and foolish (as opposed to my current condition: elderly and foolish), my life was largely dominated by cars.
Sure, you have to add sex and rock ‘n’ roll in there; but I listened to rock in my car – and sex was more a matter of fantasy than actual activity (despite the cool car I drove). So really it was cars all the way.
Back then, airbags were just beginning to be developed as a possible way to save lives in car crashes. (Not that I was interested in any of that. My concerns were all about going fast, faster and fastest. Worrying about crashes was for sissies.)
At any rate, I was impressed when one of the editors of my favorite car magazine published a scathing rant about the utter futility and stupidity of airbags.
This fellow was very clear – and rudely eloquent – that airbags were pointless and useless. They were bound to fail, he raged. They wouldn’t save any lives because they wouldn’t work the way they were supposed to. Worse, we would be plagued by millions of airbags going off when they weren’t supposed to, causing even more accidents and fatalities.
Finally, he got to the real heart of his argument: The government was without a doubt going to require airbags in all new cars sooner or later – and when they did, there was going to be carnage on the highways. All because of damned government stupidity.
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I admit, I was impressed by his arguments.
A decade or two later, as that raging editor had predicted, airbags were required.
But what happened to the carnage from those worthless contraptions? Studies show that airbags now save more than 2,000 lives every year. And, while some airbags undoubtedly go off when they’re not supposed to, the numbers don’t seem to be significant.
In short, that editor, though eloquent, was full of crap.
What I missed at the time, because I was young and foolish and more interested in compression ratios and high-lift cams than politics, was that this editor was a fierce right-wing ideologue. He just plain hated government.
Now that was fine, of course. He could hate government as much as he wanted – as any red-blooded American should.
But I objected to getting what seemed like practical information – about the benefits and drawbacks of airbags – wrapped in political ideology.
I was once (also many years ago) a shoe salesman in a menswear store. I never once refused to sell a customer a pair of black oxford shoes on the grounds that they were “the footwear of the capitalist oppressor class.” Even then, I knew better. They wanted shoes, not politics.
Which brings us to the flood of e-mails I have been getting lately from people who want to give me investment advice.
(Should I be depressed by the fact that I no longer get e-mails promising to make my penis larger? Now they all promise to make my retirement account larger. So sad.)
I’m thinking here of one would-be advisor, who headlines his e-mails with this: “Obama’s stimulus has FAILED! Here’s how you can make BIG MONEY from his failure!”
Well … no.
I mean, never mind that the Wall Street Journal (the Wall Street Journal!) has reported on the success of the stimulus (maybe not as successful as anyone would have wanted, but definitely a success. Which is to say, just to be clear, not a “failure”).
Never mind that.
My concern is that this clown is apparently basing his big, important, fool-proof investment advice on an ideological position. I mean, imagine if he’d headlined his e-mail with “Evolution is a LIE!” and then gone on to recommend investing your retirement fund in a company that is searching for the dinosaur saddles that Adam and Eve used to ride those big lizards in the Garden of Eden.
Actually, some of you would invest in that, wouldn’t you?
Anyway, my point is that I pretty much expect Republican politicians to insist that the stimulus has failed, because they figure they can get votes that way. But I don’t appreciate that from someone who wants to get his paws on my savings.
And then we have Investor’s Business Daily
Again, this is a publication offering investment insight. But earlier this summer, the paper ran an editorial attacking health insurance reform. The editorial touched on the much-maligned British National Health Service and then said, “People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”
Just in case you’re as ill-informed as the editorial writers at Investor’s Business Daily, I will simply note that Stephen Hawking, in fact, was born in the United Kingdom, has lived there his entire life and has been well cared for by the National Health Service.
Here’s Hawking commenting on that editorial, “I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. … I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”
Certainly, Investor’s Business Daily is entitled to their opinions. They’re even entitled, I suppose, to their grievous errors. And, certainly, editorials (and columns such as this) are vehicles for opinions.
And, certainly, opinions are more or less worthless.
But when they come around trying to persuade me how to invest my already pathetic savings, they really shouldn’t wrap that advice in blatant ideology.
My response? “Investment advisor FAILED!”
Can I interest you in a dinosaur saddle?