Killing Assumptions: Billionaires Create Jobs

A friend wants me to read his favorite book, part of a series that has to do with “Killing” the character of both people and countries.  This one is entitled Killing England.

I’m not looking forward to reading it, because the supposed writer (probably a true background writer) isn’t known for rigor.  I’ll review it here, soon enough.  But it got me to thinking.  We should focus on killing other things besides someone’s character.

For instance, we should reveal “economics” for what it truly is, economombo.  Mumbo jumbo.  Statements and constructs that are invalid, irrelevant, and counter-productive to society and science.

Let’s start with something very simple.  It’s a statement I’ve heard many times, even repeated by my Aunt as a fundamental truth.  And she’s as far from being an academic as you can imagine.  Here it is:

Billionaires create jobs.

Her logic follows this path.  A billionaire buys a business or industry.  The value goes up.  Everyone gets richer.  Therefore all the employees and shareholders are better off.  Profits go up.  So there’s more investment, and this creates new businesses, new industries, and therefore … MORE JOBS.

First off, why would my aunt say something like this to begin with?  I may have observed that some billionaire was trying to consolidate an industry (there are many examples, here’s one), and she retorted with her statement, essentially justifying why government shouldn’t stand in the way.

Of course, she’s forgetting why anti-trust laws were put into place way back when.  She’s also very enamored of wealth in general, even though she doesn’t personally benefit.  But let’s focus on her stated assumption.

First of all, the “value” of a company is usually given in terms of the market value.  In theory, the people trading stocks do so perfectly, only looking at the long term profitability of the company.  In reality, there are a lot of people trying to make money on stocks, willing to sell them if they need the money.  So the stock market value is a good measure of people’s willingness to bet on something.

Secondly, just because the value goes up doesn’t mean there are more jobs.  In fact, one of the reasons a company’s stock price goes up is because they eliminated jobs.  This is particularly easy when you consolidate an industry.  If you buy four companies, each of which has a president, an accounting department, R&D, and a factory floor, how can you save money?  Eliminate 3 presidents, 3 accounting departments, all four R&D departments, and think about consolidating those 4 factories into less space.

Third, what about that billionaire’s willingness to take on new investment?  Certainly that creates jobs.  Except for one small thing.  Billionaires are famously averse to risk.  They like betting their billions on sure things.  That’s why they buy companies, and don’t invest in R&D.  That’s one of the reasons they stay billionaires.

Next time you meet an economist, see what she says.  And have fun.

 

The “Other” Other Woman

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The other day my super politically reactionary cousin was defending Herr Drumpf as being a good example of a leader and gentleman.

You are.

 

I do my best to stay calm and level headed, so I asked what she thought about all the women who have come out and made statements about things that he has done to them?  Most of the things he’s alleged to have done were unwanted harrassment.

But there were also quite a few women who attested that they were quite happy “Doing the Dude” for any number of reasons.

My cousin’s reaction?

“They are all lying.  Women will do or say anything to get attention, especially at the expense of a famous man.”

This caught me by surprise.  There have been, and still are, quite a few famous men that don’t have a dozen women chasing them around with sexual allegations.

There also have been, and still are, quite a few women who generally tell the truth.

There also have been, and still are, quite a few men who are well known to make a habit of preying on women.

Finally, there is absolute evidence that Der Drumpf has cheated on his previous wives, evidence that was presented in divorce court.

So what’s the deal with my cousin?

I figured it out the other day, and here’s an article that helps lead us in the right direction.

It must have happened to her.

The only way my cousin would discount ALL women as liars, is if she has to believe that ONE women in particular, is also a liar.

Who is that woman?

Someone who threatened to come between her and her husband.

In order to save her own peace of mind, my cousin had to consider that “other” woman as a liar.  That means her husband was still faithful to herself, and that means that her marriage is sound.

It also means that my cousin has become the other other woman.  For it is she who is fooling herself about a relationship that no longer exists.

It also means that, of all the other women out there who stand by His Hole-ness for all his alleged sexual exploits, there’s a chance they are reacting like my cousin for similar reasons.

Is it possible that there is such a large population of “other” other women?

What do you think?

 

Pornography on the Brain

Sorry guys, it’s not that kind of post.

A few porn stories caught my eye recently.

There’s a recent-ish movie about how young women are consumed by the porn industry.  The average 18 year old lasts about 3 months and only make a few thousand dollars in profit.  Meanwhile the producers make millions.

There was a story about a young Australian women, very religious, who discovered pornography on her fiance’s phone.  She was so appalled that she called off the wedding a week before the ceremony.  She had many things to say against the pornography.  She didn’t say anything about her lack of respect for his privacy.

Finally, an Australian report on how licensed brothels are being run out of business by illegal massage parlors that have “extra” items on the menu.  It seems that the illegal parlors charge about $160 (Aussie I’m guessing) an hour.  But the illegal parlors don’t have as much overhead.  The women only make a fraction of that anyway.  Most of it goes to the pimps.

As you can imagine, the pimps, the producers, and the vast majority of consumers are all men.  When society tries to contain any of these “evils,” the typical prisoner is going to be the prostitute or the actress.  Yes, sometimes a producer gets arrested, but it’s more likely they are major contributors to the local judges’s campaign coffers.  As for the pimp, they can afford lawyers.

Here’s a thought.

Make it all legal.  Pornography.  Prostitution.  Let men consume it.  Perhaps it will make them a bit less “handy” on real dates.  Of course, that is a another subject.

Here’s the other half of the twist.  Also make it totally illegal for men to have any part of the production or distribution of the material.  Women only, from start to stop, in only public corporations.  Even male actors, if they can’t be replaced by “man”-iquens or robot actors, must work for minimum wage.

Women actors get paid, fairly.  Women directors, stage hands, sound stage, stunt doubles, medical support, producers, marketing, communications, distribution, makeup, wardrobe, and even accounting and janitorial, all possible functions must be women.

Will you know it when you see it?

Now the “policing” function becomes easy.  The customers go free, they are paying.  The women go free, they are working.  Based on what I’ve read, they are mostly performing as psychologists anyway.  As for the pimps and every other male, arrest them.  Even if it’s a guy who owns the cameras that the women are using, it’s illegal.  His wife can own the cameras, so that when she gets paid it’s all her money.  But not him, not one little bit.

So, that’s the idea.  Play with it.  See if it has legs, or sticks to the wall, or whatever you want to do with it.  And the next time you see some porn, consider where that money is going.

If that doesn’t turn you off porn, nothing will.

Questions versus Answers

Some years ago…  alright, many years ago, I was in public school taking chemistry.  The star quarterback was in my class, and he wasn’t liking chemistry as much as I did.  But he had one of those new calculators, and I didn’t.  The teacher was a nice guy and let us share.

Guess what?  Yup.It's not what you know, it's how you know it.

I would do the problem and leave the answer on the calculator.  The quarterback would have the answer, and then hand the calculator back to me.  He passed the class.

Except one of us learned chemistry.

So, which would you rather have?

A) Answers, or …

B) Questions teaching you how to get your own answers?

That’s right, the correct answer is “B.”

And here’s the reason why.

If someone gives you an answer, how do you know it’s right?

If something changes later on, and you need a new answer, can you get it for yourself?

Best yet, if you understand the process of getting that answer, maybe you can apply it to another problem.  Right?

Right.

So, if someone offers you an answer, try saying “no thank you.”  Instead, ask them to show you how to get the answer yourself.  You’ll thank them someday.

 

Sex Assault Drill

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Fire drill?  Line up and file out!

Or turning the other cheek?

Nuclear war drill?  Duck and cover!

Sexual harassment drill?  Huh?

That’s right.  What happens next?  I don’t know.  So I looked it up.

I got these links, and read all of them.  Guess what?  There’s no right answer.

I was sitting by Alice, a charming young woman.  Bob sat on the other side, a large older married man.  She was scheduling a meeting with Bob at a local pub after work.  It was certainly innocent enough until he started making jokes about making sure they didn’t drink too much on a weekday.  Then he made a “joke” about her sitting in his lap.  And finally there was the “joke” about not staying out too late.

Nothing is clear cut in the real world.  First off, Bob was making bad jokes throughout the meeting.  Alice had been encouraging those jokes by laughing, or at least chuckling.  Trust me, the jokes weren’t that good.  Bob has no work authority over Alice, but as an older man she may have some respect for him.

Here’s my problem, and I’m asking you for help.

What is with Bob?  Why is he effectively hitting on Alice?  Hasn’t he heard of the #MeToo movement?  Hasn’t he ever been introduced to good taste?  At the very least, can’t he learn to tell better jokes?

Alice has a boyfriend, I heard her telling Bob that at least once.  But I can’t be sure she was offended by his “moves.”

I would have liked to confront Bob and ask him if he’d like me to sit in his lap for a change.  (I’m a big enough guy, by the way, I wouldn’t care.)  I have to be careful, he might say yes.

Or maybe I should act all coy and ask him to help me with a hypothetical situation, and then describe him in detail.  With my luck he probably wouldn’t get it.

Maybe I should just file a police report.  Ha.  Good luck with that.  They’re busy enough chasing overdoses and crooked politicians.  Well, overdoses.

Perhaps the best place to start is to ask Alice what she thinks.  I don’t mind telling her how I felt (UNcomfortable!) but if it’s some kind of game she plays with Bob, then who am I to judge?

Why can’t people make it simple?  Perhaps everyone really wishes we lived back in tribal times, where those with the biggest sticks got their way.  Everyone else simply got out of their way.

Oh well.  If you have any advice I’d love to hear it.  The only other suggestion I can think of is that we change society so that we are all far more respectful of each other.

Talk about dreaming!

Goodbye Soft Science

Makes as much sense as most soft science.What’s in a word?

Quite a bit, in fact.

There’s this “news” organization that calls itself “X News.”  Because it says “news” everyone gives it the same credibility as other organizations that deliver true news.

What is news?  We’ll talk about that some other day.

The fact of the matter is that when you are trying to sell something, and that something is not worth much, it’s to your benefit to disguise it.  Ask any fast-talking salesman.

So if your program is a bunch of talking heads talking nonsense, call it “news” so it has more credibility.

What about if your academic discipline is rather “funny” in itself?  What if your discipline has failed to advance our knowledge of its purported subject by any measurable amount during its entire existence?

Simple.  Call it a science.

If you’re a “real” scientist, like in chemistry, or physics, you’re not going to enjoy eating at the same table as an sociologist, or economist.

So you call yourself a “hard” scientist.  Your facts are hard.  Your experiments are hard.  Your conclusions stand the test of time and replication.  They are also hard.

What are the other guys?

So far we’ve been calling them “soft” scientists.

I suggest an improvement.

It’s time to give them a label that gives us a better idea as to what they truly are in the great scheme of things.

Squishy.

They are quite squishy.

You push them, and they move out of the way.

You can pinch, pull, stretch and fold them as much as you want, and they come back exactly the same.

That’s what economics, sociology, and a whole host of other such “sciences” can do.

So it’s time we call an ultra conservative talk show what it is.

And it’s time we call squishy sciences exactly what they are.

Squishy.

Now we need to drop the whole “science” bit from them.  But one step at a time.

 

Happy Birthday Dr. Frankenstein

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The novel Frankenstein was published 200 years ago this year, on January First.  I don’t think google did a doodle on it, but they should have.  Today (30 August) is the anniversary of the birth of the author, Mary Shelley.

Science magazine devoted a whole special section on the impact Frankenstein has had upon popular culture. [1] There’s more Franken-things than you can shake a stick at!  Each of which denotes something scary that has been created by humankind.

Try it out.  Pick any noun, say, tomato.  Stick a “franken” on it – and voila – you have a:

Franken-tomato.  Sounds like something that was genetically modified.  Could be tasty.  But our first reaction is, ugh.  Get it away from me.

That’s the whole point of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein.

It’s not the monster that is the bad guy.  It’s us.

We create things with our knowledge, our technology, our science.  And then we abuse it, we deny it, we argue that it doesn’t exist.  Yet it does exist.

And in our active ignorance, it ends up causing harm.  In the end we may think we have won because we defeat it, but perhaps we are no better off than we were before.

This theme has been used so many times since she rediscovered it that it’s hard to pick the best examples.  Try Colossus, the Forbin Project.  Or Skynet of Terminator, or Adromeda Strain, or; do I need to continue?

The Ancient Greeks created the first rendition of this story.  They talked of Prometheus, who brought forbidden fires to humans.  Without fire we would still be running from the lions, instead of looking at them in the zoo.

What does this have to do with behavior?  Are you kidding?  What doesn’t it have to do with behavior?  This is exactly the kind of stuff we should be talking about, for every new technology: Nuclear power, DNA editing, CO2 sequestration, and more.

Even more importantly, as students of behavior, we should have a framework that allows us to understand and discuss ANY new technology regardless of what that technology may be or how it impacts us.  How’s THAT for a challenge?

Enough for today.  I wanted to make sure SOMEONE said Happy Birthday to Mary.  After all, she did something many activists have been dreaming of doing for years.  I only wish people would read her book and discuss it, intelligently.

Instead of just going, UGH.

 

[1] Science magazine, 12 January 2018, Volume 359, Issue 6372.

 

Archaeological Sexism

This is one of my favorite sculptures in the whole world.  It’s elegant, minimalist, hopeful, and ancient.

If this sculpture says fertility to you, then you've been in the field too long!

This museum calls it “Stargazer.”  It’s a perfect name, because it’s a figure looking straight up.

It might be a woman because there’s a triangle where the “legs” meet, instead of junk hanging out.  But it could also be sexless.

Other museums call these sculptures a “fertility” figure.

What the heck?

This is yet another case of MALE archaeologists ascribing a name to something that means absolutely nothing related to the figure.

Sure, you can make up a great story about how hordes of men would dance around dying embers late at night, lustfully shouting up at the “pregnant moon,” drinking to excess.  Once their adrenaline and testosterone reached their summit, they would run into the night pouncing on every available female they could find in order to spread their seed.

Maybe not.

Maybe it was simply a wonderful testament to the wonders of the universe, appreciated by people who had discovered farming, rudimentary laws, and had several good harvests in a row.  Maybe it was their way of saying “thanks” to the universe.

Is this getting a bit too extreme for the #MeToo movement?

Personally, I don’t think so.  After all, we are projecting our biases onto objects that should be neutral at best.  By calling this a fertility figure, the young people who see this in the museum are going to get a little bit of that macho bias implanted into their brain.  And that’s a bad thing.

So, the next time you look up at the stars, think about your brothers and sisters who were doing the same thing 5,000 years ago.  Then invite an archaeologist over for some tea.  I have a feeling those are some very lonely guys.

 

FUN Science, Art Gallery Time Machine

Did you know science could be fun?  Yes, science.

Seems a bit spotty, doesn't it?

Archimedes did it.  Einstein did it.  Now it’s our turn.  Lets do a thought experiment.

In this experiment, we’re going to transport one of the best paintings from the impressionist era back a hundred years (give or take) so that it lands smack dab in the middle of one of the best art galleries of the romantic era.

 

See what we’re doing there?  We’re sticking a little bit of the future into the past, and then figuring out what would happen.

What do YOU think will happen?  Go ahead, write down your answer.  I’ll wait.

(Insert girl from Ipanema here.)

Finished?  Great.  Now, here’s my take.

It won’t sell.  No one’s going to buy it.  Everyone will think a deranged teenager did it, and will tell the dealer to throw it away.  Since it appeared mysteriously from the future, he won’t know who to give it to.  Being a profit-minded guy, he’ll probably paint it over with gesso and sell the canvas to some poor artist who will put a proper painting over it.

Crazy?  Not really.  Consider going to an art gallery today.  What do you see?  Are there crazy pieces in there that drive you bonkers?  Could it be that one of those will sell for millions of dollars in a hundred years?

How can we know?

Right now, we can’t.  There’s this whole thing about fads and fashions that seems to be beyond anything reason will fathom, ever.  Why do women prefer certain hairstyles through the ages.  What about men and their beards, or hats?  What about architecture, writing styles, music, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Until the day comes when we can at least start to describe a fashion and do it in an organized, scientific manner, there will be no hope of understanding, let alone predicting.

Until the day comes when we have a theory of behavior that contains fads and fashions within it, then even with the best descriptions in the world, we still aren’t going to make any progress.

Until then, hang onto that ridiculous object of art your Aunt Sally got you from that yard sale.  It could be worth something.  Someday.

 

Fat and Happy Artwork

There’s a new finding about some cave paintings in Spain.  Turns out that they were painted by Neanderthals.  Those are the hillbilly cousins of homo erectus that we don’t like to talk about.  We’re better than them.

Or so we thought.  Turns out they were just like us.  Mostly.

Done by the fat and happy.

 

We wonder why we don’t find more art of all types from early humans.  There’s a bunch of reasons of course.

Stuff gets lost.  Gets covered over.  Washes away.

But a lot of things don’t.

There’s a big reason in particular I want to harp on about.

Ancient people only made ancient art when they had the time and the inclination.

In other words, they were rich.  Relatively speaking.

If you are an ancient person, but young at heart, and you’re hungry or cold or tired or about to be eaten by a tiger, the last thing you’re going to think about is making some art.

But if you have some time, you’re full, you’re not worried about your next meal, and you’ve got some deep thoughts you’ve been thinking over for a while, then guess what?

Grab that torch, get some rocks and charcoal, and head for the caves.

Reminds me a bit of the guys who do all that graffiti along the roads in the cities.

So the reason we don’t see a whole lot of art from back then is because people weren’t fat or happy that often.  And that’s good to know.

So the next time you see some cave art, think about those fat and happy people.  And then try to figure out what they were thinking about.  After all, aren’t you also happy?