Recent Times I’ve Been Wrong

I’m always a bit annoyed when I see opinion pieces about how difficult it is to realize you’re wrong, even when they’re based on psych studies. I’ve participated in psych studies. That’s a weird environment. You’re in an uncomfortable room with people you’ve never met before, who are judging you, and you’re pretty sure they’re trying to trick you into thinking they’re testing one thing when they’re testing another thing.

If you’re me, you’re trying to guess what that is. You’re also kind of trying to give them the result they want so you don’t mess up their project, the same way you try be a good audience member at a live performance, and simultaneously trying to not do that, which would falsify their data.

It’s not the best frame of mind for reconsidering your beliefs.

Here are two instances this week where I realized I may have been wrong for a long time.

(1) I thought Haribo was a Japanese company. The candy is so cute! Listen to the name! Nope, it’s German. And it’s not even mostly imported in the U.S.; they have major manufacturing and distribution operations stateside. You may think “well, that’s not central to your identity.” On the contrary: Liking cute Japanese confectionery is central to my identity, and you should know that about me. (Haribo’s elaborate marshmallows are still delightful.)

(2) I’ve always been really against state lotteries. I don’t play them, not even the occasional “for your birthday” scratch-off. I vote against them when there’s a vote. I have generally regarded gambling as a social ill that destroys lives, and have condemned state lotteries as a cynical regressive tax (one which takes money from poor and desperate people to avoid raising taxes on rich people).

But I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve been framing it wrong. Maybe playing the lottery is a lot more like a charity raffle. It’s money you’re giving away to help schools, a dollar a time, when you can spare it, with the chance that you get a prize too. And yeah, poorer people might do more of it, but poorer people generally give a higher percentage of their income to charity AND are less likely to have the opportunity to get a hospital wing named after them (which is a kind of charity prize, when you think about it).

I still don’t like lotteries as a way to fill state budget gaps.

But even then, I’d rather the money fill state budget gaps than go to organized crime, which is who runs lotteries when they’re illegal. That’s one of the main theories for why the mob in New Jersey collapsed: New Jersey got a lottery. That free mob money flew away.

Anyway, I think I’ve been wrong. What have you been wrong about lately?