Opinion: “When One Plus One Equals Eleven”

March 20, 2015

[Opinion column written by Larry Burchall]

Numbers don’t lie.

From April 2004, Debt began rising. Debt has continued rising. The rising bars show the consequences of Government’s fiscal management and policies since 2004.

Despite a change in political administrations, there has been no change whatsoever in Government’s pattern of borrowing and overspending.

Numbers don’t lie.

Which leads me to the statement: “One plus one equals eleven.”

That sentence is rhetorically, semantically, and grammatically correct. Every word is correctly spelled. There is nothing wrong with that sentence, except that it…?

You may think “makes no sense” is the appropriate answer. Not true. Those are just five properly assembled words.

The sentence might just as easily read: “One plus one equals seven”. Or: “One plus one equals ninety”. Or: “One plus one equals zero”.

One Plus One Equals Eleven

All four sentences are rhetorically, semantically, and grammatically correct. There is no language fault in any of those sentences. The last word is just a word.

But you know that when those sentences are related to arithmetic; then each sentence becomes a complete nonsense – even though each is rhetorically, semantically, and grammatically correct.

You know that 1 + 1 = 2. You know that 2 is the only answer. You know that because numbers obey universally true and eternally unchangeable and absolute laws.

Trying to resolve an arithmetic problem by using words is pointless and impossible. Not even someone with three PhD’s in three different disciplines can make 1 + 1 equal anything other than 2.

I am tormented when, on talk radio, on TV call-in shows, and in online media, I hear, see, and read so many of my fellow Bermudians – whom I love so dearly – tackle Bermuda’s national arithmetic problem with torrents of words and piles of passionate rhetoric.

Far too many of my fellow Bermudians take a simple number fact as set out by the numbers in that chart and turn those numbers into: “One plus one equals eleven … or “One plus one equals OBA.” or “One plus one equals PLP.”

When this national discussion is then set out in the style devised by those ancient Arabs, my fellow Bermudians should see: 1 + 1 = 11. Or 1 + 1 = OBA. Or 1 + 1 = PLP.

Set out like that, you can see how madly misinformed and crazily convoluted Bermuda’s national discussion has become.

Hearing, seeing, and reading it, Bermuda’s national discussion remains long on words, heavy on politics, but incredibly short on numbers. As long as this eccentric national wordplay happens, Bermuda and Bermudians cannot fix – or even begin to understand – their national arithmetic problem.

Back to that chart. Two [2] ways to deal with that. Rhetorically, arithmetically.

Did the chart’s numbers show you that the Government’s pattern of borrowing and overspending is unchanged? Or, instead, did you see rhetoric and words saying that there was change?

If you saw numbers, you could see, absolutely, why the Minister of Finance must break that unbroken trend, and not borrow before March 2016.

But if you didn’t see numbers and the number trend as shown by the rising bars, what did you see?

In 2015, in the real Bermuda, which is the real answer? “One plus one equals eleven”, or 1 + 1 = 2?

- Larry Burchall

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Comments (6)

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  1. LiarLiar says:

    Reality is a bitter pill for many too swallow in this island.

    Only a complete collapse of our financial independence (which isn’t too far fetched of as of now) will enlighten many as to the severity of the situation. But by that time it will be too late.

    No matter what political Party you put in power or remove, the basic math remains the same.

    People that are vehemently fighting against a reduction in Government expenditure are essentially fighting against the best interest of Bermuda and her people.

    Well articulated as usual Mr. Burchall.

  2. Sickofantz says:

    Solutions Larry? How would you have improved on the OBA Budget?

  3. Lois Frederick says:

    “Despite a change in political administrations there has been no change in borrowing and overspending”. Is that actually correct? The OBA has reduced spending by 7% last year and will cut at least 3.5% on top of that this coming year. The last PLP year in power the deficit was around $330m? whereas this coming year it is predicted to be $279m? Isn’t that a real change in overspending. If they weren’t actually cutting spending, why is everyone complaining about services being cut? The debt level continues to rise because to cut $300m off the annual budget instantly would really cause instability. It has to be a gradual process and even that is causing angst.

    The OBA are betting big time on inward investment specifically into Tourism to boost revenues and create jobs. I know Larry has expressed his doubts and we have all been let down over many years with false promises, but they seem to be pulling it off, despite the static that occurs daily. Although I really like Larry’s efforts and work and I agree with most he says. the realities dictate that the answers to our severe problems cannot be solved overnight. The OBA are working hard, though not perfectly, to turn the situation around without causing real strife.

    To say that there is no difference between the two administrations is a stretch. The intent is vastly different. The former PLP premier even went so far as to say that a balance budget wasn’t her objective! No wonder we are where we find ourselves. At least, thank God, Bob Richards doesn’t share that economic theory and to me that should make a big difference in the outcome.

  4. FrankTalk says:

    This statement: “the pattern of borrowing and overspending is unchanged” is incorrect.

    The rate of increase in in the national debt HAS SLOWED and we would expect this to reverse and start to decrease at some point.

    The current government, for what you might call “touchly feely” reasons as chosen not to pursues this reversal a quickly as some might like.

  5. San George says:

    This austerity administration is going to put this country in a world of hurt. Bob Richards thinks he is a “boot-strapper” – he is not. Those people being let go will fail to pay their rent and the rest of their bills at the end of April. We all exist due to Mercy and Grace.

    This country is in a depression Mr. Burchall – go research the characteristics of that i.e. 13% delinquency rate on debt, massive decline in real estate values, job losses and a political party leading the country in the absence of a vision.

    Quo Fata Ferunt

  6. Tree Hugger says:

    Premier Cox, a lawyer, was out of her depth with Minister of Finance portfolio. Understandably honouring her father was one reason to give her the portfolio. Our dillema got worse under her leading the purse strings

    At all levels of Bermuda we have to depart from the wait your turn and being polite for the sake of it just to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

    Minister Richards doesnt seem to have the sting or substance in his bite that he professess. So please OBA bring in a strong capable CFO from industry even on a secondment basis for 2 years to navigate us out of these choppy waters, bring them through the Senate and lets get this done – 3 names come to mind from OBA membership/prior Caucus.