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posted on 31 July 2016

Commitment Denial: A Professional 'Disease'

by Rodger Malcolm Mitchell,

A story of cardiologists and economists

You may have noticed on this site, repeated examples of economists parroting the Big Lies in economics: Federal taxes fund federal spending, federal deficit spending is "unsustainable," Medicare and Social Security are running short of money.


We never have seen a precise explanation for "unsustainable," but we expect the economists want you to believe some combination of:

  • The U.S. federal government is running short of its own sovereign currency, the dollar

  • Taxpayers pay for federal spending

  • Deficit spending causes inflations

  • Deficit spending causes recessions and depressions

  • At some unknown future time, the federal government will not be able to pay off its debts

All of the above are false.

The facts are: The U.S. government cannot run short of dollars; taxpayers do not pay for federal spending; deficit spending doesn't cause inflations; deficit spending prevents and cures recessions and depressions; the federal government could pay off all its debt tomorrow.

Why do many economists, who of all people should know better, disseminate harmful myths about our economy?

In previous posts we have attributed the Big Lies to bribery by the rich -- specifically those people who want to widen the Income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest. (Without the Gap, no one would be rich -- we all would be the same -- and the wider the Gap, the richer they are.)

The rich bribe economists by employing them in "think tanks" and by making donations to their universities.

There may, however, be an additional factor: Commitment denial

Are Good Doctors Bad for Your Health?

New York Times, by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 11/15/15

"Get me the best cardiologist" is our natural response to any heart problem. Unfortunately, it is probably wrong.

One of the more surprising research papers published recently appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine. It examined 10 years of datainvolving tens of thousands of hospital admissions.

It found that patients with acute, life-threatening cardiac conditions did better when the senior cardiologists were out of town.

And this was at the best hospitals in the United States, our academic teaching hospitals.

As the article concludes, high-risk patients with heart failure and cardiac arrest, hospitalized in teaching hospitals, had lower 30-day mortality when cardiologists were away from the hospital attending national cardiology meetings.

And the differences were not trivial - mortality decreased by about a third for some patients when those top doctors were away.

The research began as an investigation of how much harm cardiology meetings did (by calling doctors away from their hospitals), and instead found that heart patients didbetter when the hospitals' best cardiologists were away!

There were several speculations about why this might be true:

One possible explanation is that while senior cardiologists are great researchers, the junior physicians - recently out of training - may actually be more adept clinically.

Another potential explanation is that senior cardiologists try more interventions.

When the cardiologists were around, patients in cardiac arrest, for example, were significantly more likely to get interventions, like stents, to open up their coronary blood vessels.

We usually think more treatment means better treatment.

We often forget that every test and treatment can go wrong, produce side effects or lead to additional interventions that themselves can go wrong.

The point of this post is not specifically to discuss medicine, for which I have very little background. Instead, the point is to discuss the medical establishment's response to this research: Commitment denial.

When the AMA and several doctors were questioned about the research results, the responses could be summarized as, "We're pleased that doctors made sure their staff was fully prepared."

Get it? Rather than worry about why such results occurred, they tried a "lemons into lemonade" approach, in effect claiming that greater mortality with top doctors was a good thing.

Also, they questioned the research itself, and seem less concerned about the possibility the research may have uncovered a real problem.

Doctors themselves intuitively believed the results were impossible. And why should they not?

They have devoted their entire lives to the "self-evident" postulate that better, more experienced doctors always create better patient outcomes.

They are committed to denying otherwise.

In the same vein, many economists have devoted their lives to the belief that federal taxpayers, (like state and local taxpayers) fund their governments' spending, and that deficits and debts are economically bad.

It's "self evident."

Economists have written papers and read papers on the subject, given speeches and heard speeches , attended meetings and had informal discussions with fellow economists, received awards for their hypotheses, taught classes and corrected students who said otherwise -- day after day after day -- all of which have solidified their beliefs.

In short, the economists, like the doctors, are not just financially committed, butemotionally committed to their versions of the Big Lie.

You probably have not heard much about the above-mentioned medical research. The doctors and media don't discuss it.

Nor have you heard much about the Big Lies in economics. The economists and media don't discuss it.

They believe what they believe, and anything that disagrees "obviously" is wrong.

Each group of doctors and economists fervently prays the data simply will disappear, though in each case, the data point to ways in which physical and financial lives may be saved.

In human psychology, a saved life sometimes is less valuable than a saved self-image.

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