• The box you think I’m in

    Aaron’s post caused me to reflect on similar experiences I’ve had since blogging. I can tell from some comments and emails that some people really, desperately, reflexively, want to put me in a box. They think they can tell from one post (or several) that I’m a single-payer advocate or a free-market enthusiast or anti-Medicare or pro-making-people-uproot-their-families-and-move-to-where-the-jobs-are or, very recently, anti-anti-fraud-control-officials.

    Thing is, every time someone comes at me with a clear implication of where they think I’m coming from they’re wrong, totally wrong. That’s because I’m really not coming from anywhere except from research. Don’t misunderstand, research implies things. Some things are consistent with the evidence. Some are not. Some things are in a grey area. But, for me, the evidence drives my opinions. And, my opinions are more flexible than most because evidence rarely paints things in black and white.

    I’m very comfortable with ambiguity, perhaps more so than most people. I don’t need to have all the answers. I don’t need to decide how the world should be and then find evidence to support it. I don’t do that, not consciously anyway. And when I find I have done it subconsciously I adjust my thinking.

    As annoying as it is to be put in a box, I actually think it’s not a completely irrational thing for people to do. It’s probably a reasonable model of the world that most people do lead with ideology. On the other hand, maybe we all believe everyone else is ideological while simultaneously believing — perhaps even correctly — that we are not. Wouldn’t that be sad?

    So, should I put you in a box? If not, should you put me in one? Go on if you must. But, trust me, you’re wrong. I just know it, yet I can’t prove it. How’s that for irony and hubris?

    Seriously though, if I hated puppies I’d say so. Same goes for everything else. I don’t beat around the bush.

    • We categorize people in myriad ways because it’s helpful. Though categorizations are no substitution for critical analysis, they do provide useful shortcuts to understanding perspectives (potential biases) of individuals.

      In the instant case, I would substitute the word beliefs for ideology, as the latter has more of a political meaning (especially on a blog that talks about public policy). Surely your research agenda is, in at least some form, shaped by what you believe to be true about health care finance and economics. The questions we seek to answer are inexorably linked to our beliefs.

      With that said, I can sympathize with the frustration of being placed into a box to which you do not feel that you belong. (Of course, this also reminds me of the Monty Python “we’re all individuals” moment.)

    • Do these comments seem to be written by people with opinions reading blogs, or by astroturfers? You said they’re on both sides of the political spectrum, so maybe they are real comments, but you also cover a topic that lots of people are profiting from, so maybe they are not always real.