The George Burns Syndrome

One time I was asked to explain how Israel, despite being a socialist country, was successful in light of the fact that I keep claiming that socialism is a recipe for disaster. My response was this.

Let me tell you about what I call the “George Burns Syndrome.” George Burns was an American actor who lived up to a ripe old age of 100 (1896 – 1996). He smoked cigars like a chimney and drank like a fish (although I doubt that fish drink all that much.) It would be incorrect to conclude that the secret to a long life is to smoke & drink like he did. The fact is that Burns worked out regularly — daily swimming, walks, sit ups and push ups. No doubt genes also had something to do with it.

The regularities that we observe in nature always admit exceptions. The exceptions prove (where the word ‘prove’ is meant in the sense ‘test’) the rule. The rule does not get invalidated but tested by exceptions.

Socialism fails to produce prosperity. That’s a regularity. Why socialism fails to produce prosperity can be analytically understood and empirically verified. The fact that Israel prospers despite being somewhat socialist (if that is indeed the case; I don’t know that for a fact) does not invalidate the analytical or the empirical fact that socialism is a bad way of organizing an economy.

Smoking and excessive drinking is bad for your health even if Uncle George lived a very long life. Perhaps if Uncle George had not smoked, he could have lived to 120, who knows. Israel is successful no doubt but could it have been even more so if it were not partially socialist?

Author: Atanu Dey


One thought on “The George Burns Syndrome”

  1. Saying the ‘Exception proves the rule’ is like saying:

    Heads I win, tails you lose!

    In the exact sciences, if a rule is found to have an exception, the rule is wrong, period. In the social sciences, forget about it, they simply do not deserve to be called as sciences.

    George Burns is not the only person who regularly smoked cigars and lived to 100+ years. Here’s another, and I’d bet plenty more who lived to 90+:

    109-Year-Old Veteran and His Secrets to Life

    These exceptions do not “prove the rule” (All tobacco smoking is deadly), but instead indicate that the rule was wrong to start with.

    Few people seem to know the difference between cigar smoking and cigarette smoking. Unlike cigarette smoke, cigar smoke is never inhaled into the lungs. In fact few people can inhale cigar smoke. The deep inhalation of cigarette smoke is made possible by using ‘blended’ tobacco, that is, tobacco that has been steeped in sugar syrup, which gives the ‘smooth’ feel, which make cigarettes extremely addictive unlike cigars.

    Since cigar smokers also have low incidences of mouth and throat cancers, it is very likely that the rule is:

    A combination of tobacco and SUGAR is deadly. (Ghutka, chewing tobacco come in this category).

    Of course, such a rule would never see the light of day. If the tobacco lobby is powerful, the combination of the tobacco + sugar lobbies is practically invincible.


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