The Economist’s “Word of the Year” for 2016 was “post-truth.” Fact-checkers at major media outlets are doing a land office business. Concern about “fake news” is all the rage. The answer seems pretty simple. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” So the solution to the whole post-truth/fake news problem is to force people to get the facts right.
Except it’s not that simple. Tim Harford, the author of The Undercover Economist and columnist for the Financial Times, wrote an article in FT Weekend last month on “The problem with facts.” The thing I found most interesting was this section, which is not on how our allegiances, or the “tribes” to which we belong, affect our opinions, but on how our allegiances affect our facts: