I received an interesting email the other day:
… Your writing is incomprehensibly objective and apolitical. I wondered if I could give some suggestions on how to think about things and reach more empirical conclusions ".
Well, this person is a bit overly generous. We send emails a lot, maybe you feel in debt with me and it has become partisan behavior!?! Still, it's something I think about a lot and I make a serious effort to be aware. I do not always succeed, but I think it is safe to say that most of my writing is an honest attempt to arrive at objective conclusions rather than emotional or political.
So here are some thoughts on this subject:
- Always try to get to the first principles of understanding. This is easier said than done, but you always want to establish an empirical and impartial basis for any analysis. This can be particularly difficult to do with finance and economics because it is an inherently emotional field, but there are some things that can be established empirically. Always look for the empirical answer and question any analysis that directly involves policy recommendations.
- Try to see both sides of the topic. I started doing this when I read something in which I will automatically try to consider the other side of the subject. I will often read something that I think is wrong and my inclination is to reject it. When I am surprised to do so, I will always try to consider the other side of the debate. It can take time and effort, but it is a useful way to better understand the fullness of an argument.
- Go out of your bubble. It's easy to get caught up in your personal bubble by living where you live, reading your local newspaper and watching your favorite news network. But make a concerted effort to diversify your news. Try to read news from sources that you might consider "on the other side" and try to understand the world better from a perspective that comes from other people's bubbles.
- Kindly engage the other side! There is no better way to learn about alternative opinions than to involve the experts and advocates of those opinions. These people want to tell you what they know about the world from their point of view and if you involve them gently they will reciprocate. And when you have digested their opinions you will have a better general understanding of the debate.
- Beware of pundits and politicians. When we hear something from an expert or a politician, we should always take it with a pinch of salt. These people almost always promote a certain narrative that benefits them. They are inherently conflictual. Be extremely skeptical about buying what they are selling.
- Be extremely cautious about any narrative based on fear. The most powerful and dangerous narratives are always the most exciting. Whenever you see a narrative based on fear, you should immediately question its validity. If it is extracted, recheck it. If a double check-out occurs, triple it.
Those are my general thoughts. I hope you find them useful.