The American Way

Why the American Way?

Logos was taken.

That’s not a joke.

This blog is a product of a world view that truth is the only thing that matters. There is not a problem that can be solved, joy nor justice nor liberty had, nor happiness sustained without truth. The pursuit of these things requires the pursuit of truth.

With that, there is a promise: truth will be pursued even if it is unpleasant, messy contradicts common beliefs, requires sacrifice, or the answers ultimately undesirable. The American Way is the story of the unpleasant, imperfect pursuit of perfect-of truth and persisting despite our imperfection.

So, forgive the mistakes, but only if we learn from them.

Featured post

Christians, Is Jordan Peterson Your Buddy?

Psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto Dr. Jordan Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, has taken off like a rocket. Dr. Peterson first came into the public eye during his opposition to Bill C-16, which makes misgendering someone in Canada a crime.

In my experience as a church going Christian, I’ve rarely heard a preacher cover the problem of evil and the more difficult questions of Christianity. The zeitgeist is filled with college educated millennial and internet access; the masses have better access to great thinkers: Plato, Aristotle, Frankl, Freud, Jung, and Nietzsche; are asking better questions, and challenging religion.

For whatever reason, preachers don’t seem to be answering these questions. Dr. Peterson’s lectures and messages have captured a largely male audience by discussing Biblical stories, lessons, values and often advocating for those values by supporting them with evolutionary psychology and neuroscience.

In “12 Rules” Dr. Peterson declares the “miracles” of Christianity: rule of law, sexual equality, “implicit worth” of every individual, ending slavery, state recognition of  individual rights, declaration that doing evil hurts the person who does it just as much if not more than the their victims, and more. Despite declaring these “miracles”, Dr. Peterson isn’t a Christian or a Jew. He doesn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus or in God as a being.

Jordan discloses what seems to be his life philosophy in “12 Rules”. When he was younger Peterson says he studied concentration camps and gulags, then decided it was evil to cause unnecessary pain and suffering and what is “diametrically opposed” to unnecessary pain and suffering must be good. “Consider that the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering is a good. To the best of my ability I will act in a manner that leads to the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering.” Unfortunately for Peterson, his axiom doesn’t hold up to criticism.


The axiom presupposes that “unnecessary pain and suffering” is evil without grounding it. “Unnecessary” toward what end? Who determines what “pain” is? “Suffering” by what standard? Peterson’s axiom relies on necessity, pain and suffering to be objective truths, which, they are far from. In the end this is another attempt to reverse engineer morality by starting at what one thinks to be evil, but it’s only an opinion.

This is the spirit of the Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma & divine command theory: if God determines what is good, then God can make good, evil; there is no difference, therefore God can’t be good. If there is no difference between good and evil, they have equal worth. This is the philosophy of moral relativism and nihilism.

If Peterson can’t solve the Euthyphro Dilemma, what is Christianity’s answer?


Matthew 4:1-11 American Standard Version (ASV)

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he afterward hungered. And the tempter came and said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become [a]bread. But he answered and said, It is written, [b]Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5

Peterson from the middle of “12 Rules” Chapter 7

“Christ responds to the first temptation saying ‘one does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ What does that mean? It means even under conditions of extreme privation there are more important things than food.”

Peterson uses the story to illustrate sacrifice should be used to “pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)”, but he misses Christ’s answer, which, undermine’s Peterson’s axiom. Christ endures suffering unnecessarily because God is the grounding for existence and standards are set according to that grounding, including suffering.

Christ’s answer evokes the first chapter of Genesis when God speaks the universe into existence, the word of God is literally the grounding for life. Jesus’ answer also evokes the ten commandments, laws and covenants which were God’s words. He reiterates this position later in Matthew 6:33 “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ” Jesus’ response to Satan is that God is the bases for all life, to follow God is to be alive, what good is bread to the dead.

Jesus in one sentence rebukes Plato and all atheist challenges, submits that God is the answer to Aristotle’s hypothesis that there is a being that is existence itself and inspired MLK to say:

“This universe hinges on moral foundations. (Yeah) There is something in this universe that justifies Carlyle in saying,

No lie can live forever.3

There is something in this universe that justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying,

Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again.4 (My Lord, Amen)

There is something in this universe that justifies James Russell Lowell in saying,

Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne.
With that scaffold sways the future. (Lord help him)
Behind the dim unknown stands God,
Within the shadow keeping watch above his own.5 (Amen)

There is something in this universe that justifies the biblical writer in saying,

You shall reap what you sow.6 (Amen)

This is a law-abiding universe. (Amen) This is a moral universe. It hinges on moral foundations. (Lord help him) If we are to make of this a better world, we’ve got to go back and rediscover that precious value that we’ve left behind. (Yes)

And then there is a second thing, a second principle that we’ve got to go back and rediscover. (Help him) And that is that all reality has spiritual control. In other words, we’ve got to go back and rediscover the principle that there is a God behind the process. “

Without God as a being as real as the screen you read this on, there is no objective truth or grounding for morality and ultimately all philosophies devolve to nihilism.

Just as the APA’s DSM V claims to be full of examples of mental disorders but has no definition for mental disorder, so Peterson claims evil is unnecessary pain and suffering but never defines “unnecessary”, “pain”, or “suffering”. His axiom falls to the same charge he levied against Sam Harris and the “neo-marxist postmodernists” Peterson opposes, “good” and “evil” are subject to whomever is defining the terms. Without God there are no objective definitions, the neo-marxist postmodernists are not only correct,  but justified. 

Who is Jordan Peterson then? He is the atheist Apostle Paul. Where Paul named the Unknown God, Logos, of the Stoics, who believed in the alleviation of suffering, as Peterson does; Peterson is un-naming Paul’s God and secularized Him as Logos.

There’s a lot to like about and learn from Dr. Peterson, but his philosophy falls short.

Opinion: The Individual Mandate Was a Tax On the Healthy Poor & Epitomizes Everything Wrong with Obamacare

With the recent signing of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, the “Individual Shared Responsibility Provision”“Individual Shared Responsibility Provision” (individual mandate) was repealed. For those who don’t know, the individual mandate was the penalty in the PPACA (Obamacare) for not having health insurance.

According to the penalty was calculated one of two ways:

“Percentage of income

  • 2.5% of household income
  • Maximum: Total yearly premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan sold through the Marketplace (“2016, …$2,676 per year ($223 per month) for an individual and $13,380 per year ($1,115 per month) for a family with five or more members.”)

Per person

  • $695 per adult
  • $347.50 per child under 18
  • Maximum: $2,085″

“You’ll pay whichever is higher.” The fee also increased with inflation. To understand how bad of a deal the individual mandate was for some and why it was put into the plan, you need to know how insurance works, which, is remarkably confusing and boring. Feel free to skip down to “Costs“.

Insurance is an agreement between an insurance company and the customer that the company will pay medical costs of the customer in the event they have any medical expenses. In exchange, the customer plays a monthly fee.

Of course, companies have to make money or they go out of business. To hedge their bets they’ve created a few tricks (terms and definitions from

  • deductibles: the amount you have to pay before the company pays anything
  • Co-payments: the dollar amount you pay after you’ve met your deductible.
  • Coinsurance: the percentage of cost your pay after you’ve met your deductible.
  • Out-of-pocket Maximum: the most you’ll have to pay in a year, no matter how much care you need. Once you spend this amount, the company pays 100%


For a customer to get his money’s worth from an insurance company the customer’s medical bills must exceed the cost of the customer’s monthly payments and out-of-pocket maximum on covered services. If this happens, the insurance company pays out more than it takes in.

How can an insurance company pay more in medical bills than they charge in payments? Simple, they tip the scales again by raising the customer’s payments or by bringing in more customers who they make a profit on, healthy customers who make payments but have few or no medical expenses. They take the profits made from those healthy customers and use it to pay the insurance company itself and the medical bills of it’s customers it didn’t make a profit on.

This brings us to the PPACA. In 2010, the passage of the PPACA (Obamacare) mandated that insurance companies must take customers with preexisting conditions, people who were going to have medical bills. This means the insurance companies were going to have to take customers that would likely cost more than they paid in.

To compensate, insurance companies raised monthly payments (premiums) by 46% from 2010-2014 after the passage of the PPACA, compared to a 4.6% increase from 2006-2010. With premiums that, people with few or no medical costs may have saved money by paying everything themselves instead of paying the insurance company. If true, it would be in those people’s best interest to cancel their health insurance. The result would be a disaster as insurance companies couldn’t move the profits from healthy customers to the costs of unhealthy customers.

Obamacare thought about that too, though. Enter the individual mandate. By taxing people who dropped their insurance, Obamacare was able to provide insurance companies more money without having to promise to pay medical expenses. It also incentivized people to get health insurance by raising the cost of not having it. If you’re going to pay for healthcare if you have it or not, you might as well have it, right? So who in the world wouldn’t sign up for healthcare?

Not the rich, they can afford healthcare, even if it’s expensive. In fact, it’s a great deal for the rich, they can pay premiums and deductibles then the insurance company will have to pay for the incredibly expensive medical costs that would hurt the rich. People with preexisting conditions wouldn’t drop insurance, their medical bills are so high, insurance is a bargain for them.

That leaves people with few medical expenses who don’t make a lot of money, the healthy poor. People who make so little, that saving $1-2,000 by not having insurance and paying a penalty is worth the risk of getting sick. That risk by the way, is hedged by Obamacare because if the person gets sick, insurance companies have to cover preexisting conditions.

The healthy poor had no incentive to get insurance. They saved money by not having it, and if they got sick insurance companies would have to cover them anyway. Under the PPACA people get more value from being sick than being healthy and the expenses will always be greater than the income.

Obamacare was always doomed to fail. Repeal of the indivdial mandate will just speed up the process.


Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi’s Sick Game with Sexual Assault Victims

Roy Moore has been accused of sexual assault by Beverly Young Nelson when she was 16 years old, in 1977. Several more accusers have come out since, including women who were minors when Moore allegedly assaulted them. Moore is currently running for Senate in Alabama, an important seat as any as the Republicans have a 54 seat majority in the Senate.

For those unfamiliar with the US law making process, a proposed law (bill) must pass through House of Representatives with at least a “simple majority (218 of 435)” then must pass the Senate with a simple majority (51 of 100). If a bill passes all of that, the President may sign the bill into law if he chooses.

The game started with the allegations against Moore on Nov. 13th.

  • Pelosi and Schumer hit Moore, seeing the opening to end the GOP agenda.
  • Mitch McConnell counters by cutting off funding to Moore’s campaign. Moore seemed doomed and the GOP happy to do damage control as McConnell tells Moore to step aside.

November 16th & 17th

  • Democrat Senator of Minnesota, Al Franken, is accused of sexual assault.
  • By the 17th Democrats start distancing themselves from Franken

November 20th & 21st

  • Buzzfeed runs a piece with sexual assault allegations about Democrat Michigan Representative John Conyers
  • Nancy Pelosi states Conyers should be investigated by an ethics committee

November 27th 28th, and 30th

December 1st the game changes in a big way. The Republicans pass their tax bill 51-49, the bare minimum require to pass a bill in the Senate. The bill attacks Obamacare. Both parties realize Obamacare and the rest of Trump’s agenda may rest on one vote.

The same day, Rep. Ruben Kihuen, Democrat Representative from Nevada, is accused of making unwanted sexual advances. If democrats want to take down Moore and the Trump agenda over sexual assault allegations they’ll have to lose a vote in the Senate (Franken) and two in the House (Kihuen and Conyers).

This brings leadership of both sides to the table in a strange, sick game over sex crimes where one really cares about the victims. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats want to use the sexual allegations to put an early stop to the GOP agenda by attacking Moore. McConnell and the Republicans use victims to call Democrats hypocrites and keep their majority without losing future votes by supporting the alleged pedophile.

The recent Virginia elections, where Democrats wiped the floor with Republicans, seems to be an indication democrat voters are going to come out in 2018 in large numbers. The Republicans should believe Trump’s agenda is now or never. No doubt Democrats feel the same way.

Before the Republican tax bill vote in the Senate, Pelosi calls Kihuen to resign.

Another bombshell drops on December 8th, as Roy Moore accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, admits she added the date to the Roy Moore signature in her yearbook, undermining her claims against Moore.

In the days since, Democrats have called for Moore to resign and stated the resignations of Franken and Conyers set a standard for Congressmen. Kihuen has not resigned as of this writing.

Meanwhile, McConnell changes his tune on Moore while stating he hasn’t changed his tune on Moore. McConnell states he hoped Moore would step out, but feels he must support and seat Moore if he wins the election on Tuesday.

Conflicting polls leave everyone in the dark, and no one knows if Moore will win or not. All anyone knows for sure is that neither party is taking the victims of sex crimes by politicians seriously.

Some of these Congressmen may be leaving, but the backlash is false it will not last and America is losing.

The Behavioural Economics of Soft Targets.

Yesterday at a Walmart in Thorton, CO a gunman opened fire and killed three people. As of this writing the motive is unknown. Of course, the first thing leftists do is call for “common sense gun control”. The position often lacks specifics and completely ignores the behavioral economics of soft targets.

I wrote about Adam Ferrier’s book on Consumer Psychology and Behavioral Economics awhile back. According to Ferrier, three things are “necessary and sufficient for adopting a behavior”:

  1. One’s motivation.
  2. One’s “ability to perform the behaviour”.
  3. If one has the opportunity to perform the behaviour

Ferrier offers up the “Behaviour Framing Grid” to help us understand the likelihood of a person adopting a behavior based on motivation, ability and opportunity.


The more motivation and the easier it is to adopt a behavior, the more likely it is a person will do so. The opposite is also true: the less motivated and harder it is to adopt a behavior, the less likely it is a person will do so. Let’s apply these to “mass shooters”.

  1. Motivation: kill as many people as possible.
  2. Ability to use a gun with a some degree of competence.
  3. Opportunity: a place with a large amount of people

Anything that makes it less likely the shooter will kill a lot of people undermines the motivation. Anything that hinders the shooter’s gun use undermines the shooter’s ability. Anything that prevents the shooter from targeting a large mount of people undermines his opportunity. One thing challenges every factor necessary and sufficient for adopting a behavior, someone shooting back.

  1. Someone shooting back makes it harder for the murder to aim and reload. If the mass shooter gets shot, injury or death present physical barriers to the mass shooter’s ability to use a gun.
  2. The possibility of being shot reduces the amount of time the mass shooter has to fire on a crowd, reducing opportunity. Again, the mass shooter has to be alive to have an opportunity, being shot can end that.
  3. Being shot and/or killed undermines the mass shooter’s motivation to kill as many people as possible because it is possible he will not meet his goal.

Don’t believe it? Think it’s speculation? Let’s ask the shooters. Thanks to CNN for providing “mass shootings” since 1949.

  • October 1, 2017 – Las Vegas shooter fires on an unarmed crowd from far above, where no one could immediately stop him. Police with guns kill him.
  • June 12, 2016 – Orlando shooter picks on another crowd at a nightclub. Killed by police with guns.
  •  April 16, 2007 – Virginia Tech shooter targets unarmed students, kills himself before gun toting police show up.
  • December 14, 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter targets children at a school then shoots himself as police arrive.

You know, you can read the list for yourself. You’ll find the people with guns (cops) shoot/kill or arrest the mass shooter or the mass shooter kills himself right before police arrive in almost every instance. Shooters typically target schools, community centers, shopping centers, etc. They don’t go to the NRA headquarters, military bases, or police stations.

Time for some math. Total number of deaths since 1946 in the US caused by mass shooters according to CNN: 489.

Number of people killed in one day by guys with box cutters who high-jacked two planes: 2,977… and counting.

Why hasn’t the US had a successful 9/11 style attack since? Strict airport security, including secret US Marshals on planes who carry guns.


Ultimate Arguments: The Free Market

Sitting in Social Problems as a Junior I was extremely lucky to an extent I was not yet aware. According to my professor, the minimum wage should be around $16/hour to keep up with inflation and CEO pay. However, I was also taking Economics at the time and understood if pay went up, those employees would buy up goods and services, an increase in demand. The increase in demand would cause scarcity of those goods and services. In turn, the prices would go up as those employees in the market bid on the remaining products. I’d never heard of Milton Friedman, Fredrick Hayek or Thomas Sowell.

I didn’t object, I thought my professor was much smarter than me. She was and is. We agreed on many things that my other professors with higher positions and degrees did not. She also assigned Where Am I Wearing by Kelsey Timmerman.

Where Am I Wearing is the true story of his journey to find the factories and the people who made his clothes. He traveled to some of the poorest countries in the world with the lowest wages for workers. Timmerman found how wealthy he was by comparison when he went to an amusement parks and bought passes for 20 people, including an old man who never thought he would be able to afford to go, for $67. Kelsey also reached other conclusions about wages.

  • Bangladesh workers made $24/month, which was normal.
  • When Bangladesh wages jumped from $24/month to $43/month after protests for the raise, the cost of living went up and their standard of living decreased.
  • A $10,000 investment Timmerman could’ve made $70,000 if he started a t-shirt business and outsourced the labor.
  • Workers do not like it when we boycott their employers because they can lose their jobs.
  • Poor families are not necessarily unhappy families.

The book is an amazing look at the world not seen behind the walls of and far from retail stores in first world countries.

Of everything in the book there is one story that perfectly articulates the fact of capitalism, how it works and why regulation does not help. It’s a story about something you’re probably wearing right now, blue jeans.

This is the kind of story that epitomizes The American Way. Levi Strauss was born in 1829, in Bavaria. His father died of tuberculosis in 1846. After he and his family moved to New York, Levi learned about dry goods under his bothers’ teaching. It wasn’t long before Levi broke out on his own by moving to San Francisco. There he sold goods to everyone who came out to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush. After pairing with Jacob Davis, the two started making jeans, the ones we know today. Levi branched out into other businesses and held philanthropy close to his heart.

Ethics at Levi’s didn’t end with the founder’s death. According to Timmerman, Levi Strauss Co. has done business the right way. They paid higher wages, ended segregation before the Civil Rights Acts, and found other jobs for employees when business dove during the Great Depression. They became the world’s largest apparel brand, and a model for capitalism with a conscious.

The rules changed when GAP outsourced it’s labor, produced a similar product at a lower price. Levi Strauss Co. refused to outsource even though it’s competition was and there were more competitors than ever before. Levi’s changed it’s marketing strategy, got smarter, but it wasn’t enough.

Levi’s took great pride in producing jeans in the United States. In San Antonio, TX workers made $11/hour. At that time Timmerman visited the factory in Cambodia that made Levi’s jeans around 2007, workers made barely $12/week. That’s an almost 4,000% less spent on labor in Cambodia vs San Antonio, not including benefits paid to workers in the US or employee tax paid by the business. As you can tell, Levi’s finally outsourced.

The free market is not an option, it is the natural selection of businesses, goods and services. Even the Chinese manufacturers have to compete with manufacturers in other countries; communist countries to do escape globalization. Consumers will go to whoever provides the highest quality product at the lowest price. If a business, like Levi’s, refuses to make a more affordable product their competition will make higher value product and put Levi’s out of business. The loser has no incentive to play by the rules the business in first established.

Thankfully, the conscious of capitalism didn’t die when GAP changed the rules by outsourcing. Even though those jobs in clothing manufacturing were moved, new jobs came long. Retail jobs boomed and replaced clothing factory jobs. Today the tech industry and warehouse positions are quickly taking over the US, replacing retail jobs. The back-breaking, hard labor is being replaced by desk jobs. Meanwhile, the prices of goods and services drop for everyone, including the former factory employees. Innovations by the free-market have made life more affordable.

The workers in Cambodia, Mexico, and other places that have the factory jobs formerly located in the US have formed unions. The sweat shops are dying at the hands of the people they paid. According to Timmerman, the Levi’s factory had dance breaks to get workers to move around and avoid injury from using repeated motions to make clothing. The realization that retraining workers is more expensive than taking care of the ones a business already has, has brought change to the industry. Self-interest is often met by being nice, as it turns out.

While Timmerman does not seem to be a conservative, it was not lost on him that while conditions in the countries he visited were not up to US standards, the US of the past wasn’t a paradise. It was decades of those low paying, hard jobs that have been outsourced before the US became what it is. As discussed in The Locust Effect, the US had an even more corrupt justice system than it has today.  As the factory jobs paid employees, they had more to invest in themselves and government. As government became less corrupt, conditions got better, business’ raised their standards, education increased and innovations followed.

As Milton Friedman said, “So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear. That there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”

Timmerman conceded that progress is not what he would hope is was, but it was progress. He stated that China did not, at the time, give the freedom to foreign organizations to educate the Chinese people about their rights. South Africa, which grantees healthcare as a right, has leading causes of tuberculosis and the flu. In the US, TB is a 3rd grade test question and the flu is something you get soup for.

The next time someone tells you that isolationism will lead to a better way of life, or Marx was ahead of his time ask them where they’re wearing.


NBEconomics: Draft Whitey! Affirmative Action Failure in the NCAA and Ivy League.

The NBA is 80.9% “people of color” and 19.1% “white” , which, is almost the exact opposite of the United States demographics where 79.96% of the population is “white”. “In the NCAA In Division I men’s basketball, African-Americans accounted for 57.2 percent of the student-athletes and whites accounted for 29.4 percent.”

Sally Kohn seems to think overreprsentation is proof of unjust discrimination. What would happen if the NCAA forced schools to get more white players? Say NCAA recruiters gave high school “white” kids a bump in ratings because the rating system seems to benefit “black” players and the NCAA gave scholarships for being “white”. Let’s just say they succeeded, more “white” players received scholarships due to adjusted ratings and “white scholarships”.

What would happen on the court? Would “white” players get more playing time than before?

Would “white” players make the NBA?

If so, for how long?

If the previous rating system was accurate, raising player ratings based on anything other than ability means putting lower ability players in a league with accurately rated, high-level players. Maybe the higher-level players would take it easy on the inferior “white” players.

Remember the Behaviour Framing Grid and if a person is motivated (social norm+ individual incentive), able and has opportunity that person is likely to act.  If a player is better, the player is able to win. If the player is in the game, the opportunity is obvious. If the player wants to win, clearly the player is motivated. The score board does not care about the aesthetics, thus there is no incentive for the player to care either.

Maybe the player would be looked down on by breaking social norms, but would the negative social consequences of dunking on low rated players be greater than the individual incentive of winning and positive social consequences of winning? Would negative social consequences of beating “white” players be worse than the negative consequences of losing to someone everyone knows doesn’t deserve to be there?

It is a safe bet on average, “white” affirmative action players would get crushed in Division I. Putting “white” players on the court because they’re “white” and not necessarily good, is a receipe for disaster. No doubt, there would be some “white” players that preformed well, they would be a extrodinarily small percentage. At the NBA level, that minority of “white” affirmative action players would be even less likely to succeed. In fact, I would wager that the best players would have a greater advantage than before “white” benefits implementation  because their competition would be weaker. The better players would stand out more, making it less likely “white” affirmative action players would be drafted at all.

There is an easy answer for how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, the NBA’s was shattered in 1950, the NFL in 1946 before the civil rights acts of the 1960’s. The coach at a small school has ability, opportunity, and motivation to put black players on his Texas Western team. He has no reason not to, after all, he’s already suffering from the negative consequences of losing. The score board does not care about “race”. Politicains and do-gooders do.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-North Carolina vs Notre Dame
Mar 27, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams celebrates with his team defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the championship game in the East regional of the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Center. North Carolina won 88-74. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Malcom Gladwell via Business Insider


If you read the title you know where this is going. I’ve read a lot from Malcolm Gladwell. He rarely dips his toe clearly in politics, but he could not help himself in the 4th chapter of David and Goliath.

Gladwell argues that the students may be much better off selecting a second-choice school instead of attending the Ivy League due to the level of competition and pressure to perform. Gladwell interviews Ivy League drop-outs who believe that they would have stayed in their field of study and graduated if they went to a less-competitive university.

They became “canon fonder” for the kids that went to private school their entire lives, just like the “white” affirmative action players would get crushed by players that grew up in AAU, intense basketball culture.

Gladwell makes the same argument against affirmative action, getting in doesn’t mean success. He contends that lowering admission standards for people because they are a minority puts them “in a school one higher tier than they would otherwise be able to attend.” Gladwell cites a study by Richard Sanders, which found “more than half of all African-American law students in the United States (51.6%) are in the bottom 10% of their class and almost three-quarters fall in the bottom 20%.”

Gladwell concluded, “We take promising students… who happen to be black and offer to bump them up a notch. And why do we do that? Because we think we’re helping them! Sure enough, by every conceivable measure (likelihood of graduating from law school, likelihood of passing the Bar Exam, likelihood of actually practicing law) black students who chose the big pond offered by affirmative action do markedly worse than those of equal academic credentials who attended their natural school.”

Affirmative Action is another program that means well, but ultimately gets in the way.


The Advertising Effect: Adam Ferrier’s Masterpiece on Behavioural Economics

A quick glance at Adam Ferrier’s twitter leaves little doubt that he would be considered a US conservative. That doesn’t mean his work is not accurate. His book, The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour, contains almost everything I learned in 1000-2000 Psychology and Sociology classes for $27. That’s about $20,000 of college classes for $27. It covers several classic studies, is well cited and entertaining. It’s a great read and a better listen on audio book.

Previously, I covered human nature according to Judaism, Christianity and Evolutionary Psychology(EP). We’re all motivated by self-interest. Ferrier provides the Behaviour Framing Grid to help understand where self-interest falls in decision making. The image below is from a great summary at Digital Intelligence Today.


Ferrier cites Fishbein in stating three conditions that are “necessary and sufficient for adopting a behavior”:

  1. One’s motivation.
  2. One’s “ability to perform the behaviour”.
  3. If one has the opportunity to perform the behaviour.

As the Behaviour Framing Grid shows, the more motivated (individual incentives +social norms) and the easier (ability+opportunity) it is for one to act, the more likely one is to act. Ferrier sums up individual incentives as asking, “What’s in it for me?” He also understands that humans are social, so social norms play into motivation. However, pro-social behavior is just another way of sustaining one’s self, thus selfish. The desire to have approval of others is an individual incentive. Ferrier’s point is that the if others’ approve of a behaviour, the more likely one is do that behaviour.

Ease is of ability + opportunity and at times better understood as ability – obstacles. There are countless kids that are motivated to be NBA players and every few NBA players. Having athletic ability to perform at an NBA level is obviously a requirement to play in the NBA as is the NBA existing in the first place for anyone to have the opportunity to play in it.

All of it makes perfect sense. Bill Gates was more likely to go into computing than pro-basketball because he had more computing ability. He also had opportunity to use computers, his parents bought computers for their son’s school, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. What would you find more motivating, something you have ability to do and access, or something you’re not as good at and have little access? Gates was likely more motivated toward computing. He had acceptance from his parents and a social group to code with. He was later offered a job coding in high school, another individual incentive.

What motivates people go back to alcohol? It seems many ask why people do something; the more accurate question is why not? Alcohol use can feel good and comes with a social group that, in many cases, is stronger than the stigma of alcohol abuse. Ease can also be high. Alcohol is readily available, and easy to use. Sometimes Ease is better described as ability – obstacles.

Let’s use the framing grid on PPACA (Obamacare). What are the individual incentives for using government healthcare? What is the public opinion of using government healthcare? How much ability does one have to have to use government healthcare? How much opportunity does one have to use government healthcare?

What’s in it for the one?

Why not use it?

It seems Ferrier’s Behaviour Framing Grid and Milton Friedman’s perspective on government programs are congruent. Government programs are likely to expand.

Ferrier’s book is fun, provides great information critical for understand our zeitgeist,  examines questions we all should and makes:

  • Can behaviour change professionals really change behavior?
  • If they can how ethical is the practice?
  • If not, how can Psychologists charge for the service?
  • “Today’s consumer is marketing saturated, not marketing savvy.”
  • Action changes attitude faster than attitude changes action.

Much of the coming pieces on this little blog will use the Behaviour Framing Grid as part of the lens to view politics, philosophy and economics(duh). I haven’t even touched the action spurs and Cognitive Behavior Therapy(CBT). Here’s what’s coming this year based on this idea:

  • Collectivism: The Great Evil of Our Time
  • NBEconomics: Micheal, Magic, Bird and Nash’s Equilibrium
  • Love, Agape, and Altruism

We’ll cover the action spurs as well. More on the way.


The Smokey the Bear Effect: What Forests, Housing, and Healthcare have in common.

According to Thomas Swetnam at the University of Arizona, every time there is a forest fire, it leaves a scar in the rings of surviving trees. Across thousands of tress these fire scars appeared every 5-10 years from the 1600s until about 1900. What changed?

The US Forest Service was formed in 1905 to stop all forest fires. They did a great job stopping small fires that burnt up scrubs, small trees and only damaged large trees. Since these small fires never started there was more fuel for bigger fires. According to Stephen Pyne via NPR, “Over the past several years, even as fewer fires have struck the Southwest, they’ve burned more land. The U.S. Forest Service now spends about half its budget on firefighting.”

The Forest Service sought to end all forest fires, but they ended up creating bigger, more damaging fires. Trees that would have survived the smaller fires and returned to regular growing burned in the larger, hotter fires fueled by the Forest Service’s policy. It’s called “The Smokey the Bear Effect.”

If you believe in evolution, the forests had become so large through the process of natural selection. Those forests existed because they were stable, despite the small fires. In fact, the small fires were part of the reason the forests had grown so large. There was a natural equilibrium between the forests and fires that allowed the forest to become it’s size. When the US Forest service stepped in, the balance changed, but natural selection still applied. A new equilibrium had to be reached.

Capitalism is a the natural selection of businesses. Businesses constantly compete with each other in the environment of the marketplace to provide customers with a product for the most value while still making a profit for the business. Afterall, the business that doesn’t cover expenses, dies. Even non-profits have to cover their expenses.

An equalibrium in which the business makes more than it spends must be reached to survive. Businesses that can survive, do; the ones that can’t, don’t.

Home loans were of the safest bets for investment. Banks had reached an equilibrium: they did not loan to people who were credit risks or could not afford the payments which allowed them to profit. Then, in their desire for everyone to own a home, the government stepped in and forced banks to provide “affordable housing” loans, which, lowered the standards to get a home loan. Banks gave loans to people who would not merit a loan in the past; those people didn’t pay on the loan, banks took huge losses and the market collapsed.

Not only did those people the government sought to get homes lose their homes, other home owners lost value on their homes when foreclosed homes flooded the market, raised supply of homes, thus lowered home prices. Retirement accounts that relied on the banks and mutual funds took a hit as well.

It’s another form of the Smokey the Bear Effect. Government got involved then made the problem they tried to solve even worse by tampering with the natural equilibrium.

Barack Obama wanted everyone to be have health insurance. Just like the banks and home loans, health insurance companies did not cover people who were high risks because insurers would spend more than they made if they did so. Then government stepped in with the PPACA(Obamacare) forcing insurers to cover everyone including high-risk clients and 100% financial liability pre-existing conditions. The results again: 4.7 million lost coverage because their plans did not meet the new PPACA standards, “one-third of counties are projected to have just one insurer on their Obamacare exchanges this year”, premiums cost 99% more than before the PPACA.

In my exchange with Consumer’s Union on Twitter, once I questioned them directly on premiums they decided not to respond.

Why does government interference lead to the compounding of the problems they seek to solve in healthcare, affirmative action, and housing? See Milton Friedman, Adam Smith, and Thomas Sowell. The free market allows the real experts to do their jobs, and competition between businesses creates the highest value product. Just like natural selection, in free-market capitalism the best businesses survive and thrive. Their policies and practices are not arbitrary; they exist to allow the business to survive. If those policies are changed, the business will die. If the business inflates their prices, their competitors will make a equal quality product at a lower price and drive the former out of business. The constant competition keeps even the largest companies from taking advantage of consumers.

When government steps in to save bad businesses, like George W. Bush did to save the banks or Barack Obama to save the auto industry, businesses have no incentive to change their policies that caused failure. After all, they’ll just get bailed out when they fail, with each failure successfully growing, hurting more people.

If government got out of the market, bad businesses would fail, allowing the rest of the market prosper; just like small fires would burn vulnerable trees allowing the rest of forest to grow.

Government can’t prevent forest fires or market bubbles. It can only make them bigger.


Ultimate Arguments: The Nature of Humans and the Need for Government.

One might ask why we need government at all, why can’t we all just get along? There seems to be a great myth that religion and scientists disagree about everything. Fortunately, evolutionist and atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins and Abrahamic religions have the same answer: humans are selfish jerks.

In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins describes how natural selection works at the genetic level. Natural selection, of course, is the process by whatever is best able to survive, does and reproduces; while whatever can’t survive, dies. According to Dawkins “The earliest form of natural selection was simply a selection of stable forms and a rejection of unstable forms.” This happened at the genetic level, genes that could survive, did and the ones that didn’t, died. Easy.

Dawkins also describes “Replicators”, genes that copied themselves sometimes perfectly and sometimes a bit differently. Those differences allowed some genes to be more stable thus survive and pass on stable differences to its copies. Overtime, the genes’ differences accumulated and gene became more complex “machines”, as Dawkins calls them, geared toward survival not because they want to, so much as the ones that didn’t want to died off. Feeling are an adaption that motivates survivak. Dawkins continues, “They [replicators] are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rational for our existence… we are their survival machines.” Humans are the descendants of these genes, they evolved to feel good to survive not necessarily be moral.

It seems to me some believe that evolution is “survival of the fittest”, a constant competition. They aren’t wrong, but according to Dawkins cooperation gives a competitive advantage. “It is easy to think of them [genes] joining up to form a stable chain…” Some replicators joined together, making them more stable. Cooperation became an advantage to the survival of the individual gene in natural selection.

More theories based on this idea have come forward. To summarize works by Batson, Cialdini, Sober, and Wilson animals’ and humans’ behaviors are also subject to natural selection. This makes perfect sense, if one has evolved to think eating poison is a good idea, that person will die. Likewise, cooperation makes life easier for individuals, as it did for genes binding together. Helping someone else, being nice (pros-social behavior) is an advantage to survival, but survival is the motivation.   If pro-social behavior does not aid survival, pro-social behavior is unlikely.

All of this means pro-social behavior is grounded in selfishness. One only acts kindly to aid one’s own survival and evolved to feel good when one does. Even if one’s intention is to help someone else, one’s motivation to help is to feel good about one’s self.

We are selfish beings.

The lessons from WWII gave way to several experiments, including Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, which found that given no accountability (possibility of undesirable consequences) people will do whatever they want, even if it’s terrible. Bleak, right?

Well, let’s look at what the Judeo-Christian religions have to offer. According to The Bible, God is perfect. Keep in mind there is only one “perfect”, thus God is the only one that can be perfect. As such, even His creation cannot be perfect because they are not God.

Being that God is perfectly moral and we are not God, it would stand to reason that we are not perfectly moral. Furthermore, because what feels good isn’t always moral (Galatians 5:7), we have a constant temptation to do what feels good, not necessarily what is moral or helpful to others.

Since the nature of humans is either survival or imperfection people have banned together for their own self-intersts. What is to stop one from acting immorally toward another? As discussed in The Locust Effect, government is to apply the law to everyone, protecting people from each other. Rule of Law is The Social Contract by which individuals agree they will be governed by and the governement will be the judge of which indivdidual is maintianing the contract.

Individuals have two reasons grounded in selfishness to follow the contract.

1An individual who breaks the contract will face both his victim and the government.

2 By following the contract the individual receives protection by the government.

Receiving payment from both individuals, government should not have an interest in ruling in favor of one over the other, ruling only according to the contract the individuals agreed to. Understanding that, as Zimbardo found, lack of accountability (via absolute power) tends to corrupt the founders split the US government into three parts, gave states rights, and-the final safeguard of the individual’s rights-the 2nd Amendment. These factors make it in government’s interest to follow the contract as well.

Government is to be the arbiter between the selfishness of individuals.

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