Crowdsourcing the wrongest American: some (more) bad news for Alan Greenspan
Here's a fun game for wrongologists: try typing "Alan Greenspan" into Google and waiting for the results from Google Suggest. (That's the automated feature that shows the top ten searches based on whatever terms you've typed so far, as calculated by some highly proprietary algorithm.) Here's what currently pops up:
Alan Greenspan biography
Alan Greenspan quotes
Alan Greenspan mistakes
Alan Greenspan wife
Alan Greenspan dermatology
Alan Greenspan book
Alan Greenspan gold standard
Alan Greenspan irrational exuberance
Alan Greenspan housing bubble
Alan Greenspan I was wrong
"Mistakes" and "I was wrong," both in the top ten: impressive. I just spent longer than I care to confess typing other names into Google to see if I could get so much as one top-ten reference to wrongness. No luck -- not with George Bush ("jokes," "airport," hot dog game"), Bill Clinton ("affair," "scandal," "foundation"), or Dick Cheney ("shooting," "Halliburton," "go f*** yourself"). Not with Tiger Woods or Robert McNamara. Not with anyone. (Readers, if you can do better, please let me know.)
Based on Google Suggest's admittedly imperfect window into our national psyche, it looks like Alan Greenspan might currently be the American cultural figure most closely associated with wrongness. One wonders whether this is because he was wrong so sweepingly and consequentially (a situation I cover at some length in the book), or because, in a move that is rare enough in finance and politics to gain you a whole heck of a lot of Google hits, he actually admitted it.
The dermatologist, by the way, is a different guy.
Okay, maybe you don’t have strong beliefs about the “right” way to load a dishwasher, or about your sweetheart’s propensity to do it “wrong.” In that case, either you are unusually saintly or (like me) you don’t own a dishwasher. But you almost certainly get involved in domestic disputes about who’s right and who’s wrong all the time; we all do. Although interpersonal arguments can have a number of causes – from serious and painful breaches in trust to the fact that we haven’t had our coffee yet – an impressive number of them amount to a tug-of-war over who possesses the truth. We fight over the right to be right.