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.

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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.

P.S.

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
2013-gladwell-photo--credit-bill-wadmanjpg
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.

Action-Advertising-Behavioural-Framework

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.

P.S.

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.

P.S.

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.

Bill C-16 Passes in Canada; Liberty falls to populism.

Dr. Jordan Peterson won the debate, but the score at the end was 248-40.

“Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it[C-16] would add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.”  For months now Dr. Peterson has suggested that Bill C-16 was a legitimate threat to free-speech while advocates of the bill contend it is necessary for equality for LGBT people. The bills seems to force people to address others as others prefer. Some self-professed LGBT people take this very seriously.

I can’t pretend I know much about Canada’s government, fortunately, YouTube provides the only part of this conversation that matters. This is the exchange:

Marc Gold: …but there is nothing in this bill that stands in the way of you taking a principled position against all aspects of this, including your criticisms of the activists. Um, the issue is the pronoun. And unless I’m reading it wrong, Senator Pratt pointed out the Ontario Human Rights Commission policy does not say that refusing to use a person’s self-identified name, or personal pronoun does constitute gender based harassment. I may be wrong, but I believe it said it could. That’s a real difference. If I turn to you and say, “Look, please call me they, because that’s how I see myself. Because it’s hurtful for you to call me sir -or um, miss or whatever it would be, uh- but you refuse. I say, well ok, you’re uncomfortable with that because you’re not comfortable with that, call me Marc. And you refuse, were you to continue to call me by the name that I’m telling you is hurtful to me, is that not in fact something that [pause] is that not something that the law can properly address? This is-you are knowingly hurting me. Uh, and-and in that respect um our courts ultimately, I think, are capable of striking a proper balance between people that slip-up and people, that for whatever reasons just can’t get the words out of their mouths, and those that persist in intentionally causing harm. Would you agree with my characterization of free-speech as it applies to this issue?

Mr. Brown then interjects mis-gendering will “likely” be considered harassment, before giving Dr. Peterson the floor.

Dr. Peterson: I would say the very idea that calling someone a term that they didn’t choose causes them such irreparable harm that legal remedy should be sought, um, rather than regarding it as a form of impoliteness, that legal remedy should be sought, including potential violation of the hate speech codes is an indication of just how deeply the culture of victimization as sunk into our society.

Never mind that this will rarely happen. Never mind that the accused will be given multiple opportunities to clarify what was meant. Never mind that several penalties will be issued before the accused could be found in contempt of court and jailed for not addressing someone as that someone sees fit-a point that Marc Gold seemed to acknowledge is a possibility.

What gives government, any government, the right or ability to determine what one’s intention was in any action, let alone speech? Even if said government had the right and ability to read minds, what difference would that make? Would a crime be legal if the criminal didn’t intend to commit a crime? This is only first glaring problem with Mr. Gold’s line of thought, as Dr. Peterson addressed by stating that if a person didn’t mean to murder someone, they are still charged with manslaughter.

The second problem is that proponents of the bill seem to have the belief that other people are in control of proponents’ feelings. Dr. Peterson must be going crazy, because his opposition does not understand the most basic belief that all of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy(REBT) is grounded on: you are in control of your thoughts, emotions, and actions-no one else. Our thoughts control our emotions; our emotions urge us to act; our actions and their consequences change our thoughts. When someone calls you a name, you have the choice on how to interpret (think) about what that name means to you and how much significance that person’s opinion has.

The example that has stayed with me for years is that of Dr. Viktor Frankl. He was a neurologist and prisoner at Auschwitz. During his time in a concentration camp he was walking along a fence, in winter, wearing rags of rags for clothes, literally starving. He was in Auschwitz! Despite being in the worst circumstance most of us could image, Dr. Frankl comes to the realization that despite all of this, he can have joy, thinking of his wife. He goes on, as recorded in his amazing book A Man’s Search for Meaning

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

Choosing your own thoughts is the first and the last of freedoms and no other freedoms come without this one. No one can control how you feel by calling you names.

However, what you say has a tremendous power of how you think. Jane Elliot’s Blue Eyes Brown Eyes and familiarity principle/mere exposure effect suggest that if one says something enough, even if it is a lie and/or one doesn’t believe it, eventually one will believe it. Bill C-16 seeks to change the way people speak, and intentionally or not, could change the way those people think and behave.

No one can change your mind with their actions or their words.

You can change your thoughts with your actions and words.

C-16 is a compromise, in which, government forces you to change your words, possibly resulting in you changing your own thoughts to what the government approves of.

Again, this may be unintentional, it may not happen at all. However, you have the right to say or think what you want. How is even the smallest incursion on this most basic right by government acceptable? This seems to be Dr. Peterson’s position on C-16 while Mr. Gold and proponents respond it is acceptable to tell others what to say and think otherwise our feelings get hurt.

Marc Gold never argued C-16 does not infringe on rights, but that the bill was necessary for people to feel good about themselves. It is okay to take your rights away as long as he and other people he agrees with feel good about it. He cares more about hedonism and people feelings good about themselves than liberty and truth. He cares more about populism than individual freedom.

Nothing allows more people to feel good about themselves than liberty and truth.

Nothing is better for everyone than individual freedom – to choose one’s own way.

I wonder, at times, what would cause me to actively rebel against my government at the cost of my own life. If the US passed a bill like C-16, I would have the answer.

Future Updates

There’s what I’ve got planned for the blog in the coming weeks:

Behavioral Economics and The Advertising Effect

REBT and CBT 101

Athlean X

It Came From Facebook: Easily Debunked Statistics and Narritives from Social Media

N.B. Economics: If It Doesn’t Work in Sports It Won’t Work in the Free Market

Where Am I Wearing: The Ultimate Argument for the Free Market

Black History Month: Mandela, King, Garvey, and el Shabazz

The Social Psychology of Safe Spaces

Frankl>Freud

I started this blog yesterday, literally. As I learn about blogs, design and remember English and grammar lessons, updates and improvements will be made. I may even get twitter, which, I hate.

Thank you for reading!

The Locust Effect: The Ultimate Argument for the Most Basic Function of Government, Rule of Law, and American Privilege.

In keeping with the promise of this blog, it only makes sense to start with Gary Haugen’s and Victor Boutros’ book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. It is brutal, heartbreaking, and absolutely demoralizing. It is true.

The Locust Effect is named for 1875 swam of locusts devoured crops, destroying the savings, work and hope of poor US farmers to make it out of poverty. Huegen and Boutros concede that there are many factors that lead to poverty, but any attempt alleviating those other factors without first providing credible law enforcement will fail. Fortunately, that swam died out shortly after, the developing world is not so lucky. The book opens with Huegen in Rwanda counting piles of human corpses in a church.

“I didn’t even realize as I was loading into a van outside the airport that I had entered Rwanda without passing through customs and immigration because there was no customs or immigration.” – The Locust Effect Chapter 1, p 1.

The bodies that Huegen counts are from the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It was only 1 on the list of 100 mass graves Huegen was given as part of the United Nations Special Investigations Unit. The thought occurs to him, the people whose corpses Huegen counts in that church did not need food, water, money, cell phones, free college tuition, nor affordable health insurance while men made their way through the crowd by machete. The kind of healthcare they needed was someone to stop the machete, basic protection from violence.

Rwanda is not the most heart breaking story in The Locust Effect. Huegen and Boutros impart stories of the rape and murder of 10-year-old girls, debt slavery, and sex trafficking in which no one is convicted, charged, or even investigated. All due to justice systems left over from colonization designed to protect the monarch and/or completely corrupt systems in which the police get paid more money from sex traffickers than people the police are supposed to protect.

Imagine going to court in the United States, and the only language used in court was Mandarin Chinese or the police being involved meant criminals will always get away. Are you making sarcastic jokes about the US justice system? Allow another example from chapter 6.

A lawyer in Southeast Asia describes getting stonewalled at the local police station despite having photos of three teenage girls being raped by operators of a bar, photos of the bar, it’s operators, and a map with a diagram of the rooms where the girls are being held. The police agree to raid the bar… in a few days. When the police go the bar with the lawyer, the bar is closed and empty. The bar was one of five owned by a man who paid the police to protect this sex trafficking operation.

Huegen and Boutros do not make the claim the US criminal justice system is perfect, in fact, they make a point to state it isn’t several times. They also acknowledge; however, the US system is far better than those of the developing world. Is there a station anywhere in the US that would act like the one in Southeast Asia?

More from the book:

  • In 2013 there were est. 27 million slaves, more than all that were extracted from Africa in the 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (11 million). India had the most slaves of any country.
  • In the developing world 1 in 3 (1 billion) live in a slum.
  • In the 1980s, 50% of the world population was living in extreme poverty ($1.50/day). In 2013, it was 15%
  • A smaller proportion of the world’s population is in slavery and a smaller proportion of the world’s economy is generated by slavery.
  • The average length of pre-trail detention in Nigeria is 3.7 years. In the developing world, it is not uncommon for people to spend more time in prison waiting for trial than if they had plead guilty and served their sentence.

All of this lends to the title of this piece.

The US government, for all its faults, has provided the foundation for the most prosperous nation ever. Government’s most basic function is to protect the people from people. Without rule of law the government is vulnerable to corruption based on the whims of lawmakers. American Exceptionalism (or privilege) is found in the checks and balances along with the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights that grant the people the ability to fight corruption in their own government. The rule of law and divided powers create a form of government that is difficult to completely corrupt and overtime has become less corrupt. As impossible as that is to believe given the current political climate, a look back at the police corruption in New York in the early 2oth century, Jim Crow South, and US slavery proves that. Jessica Disu’s idea that the police should be abolished is non-sense. US cities need more police and less corruption.

Furthermore, the monopolization of force by government advocated by Huegen, Boutros, and Hobbes (Leviathan) is checked by due process, free speech and a favorite of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcom X) the 2nd amendment.

The prosperity of the United States is due to the democratic republic system. It is no coincidence that poverty and slavery are highly correlated in the developing world. As Milton Freidman asserted, the US may have been built in part by slavery, however, it only flourished after slavery ended. Slavery keeps nations poor because it reduces the size of the talent pool and incentive for innovation. The same can be said of any system that prevents people from participating in the market based on solely on merit; be it racism, sexism, or socialism.

The fact that no amount of charity will save people in the developing world from violence inspired Gary Huegen to start the International Justice Mission(IJM). Huegen’s Christian organization works to bring criminals to justice in the developing world, provide legal and social work services for victims of violence. It isn’t sexy helping, shooting an ad for PETA or flying to a climate change summit in a private jet. It is a dirty, dangerous labor of love that will not make the evening news.

Last year the bodies Willie Kimani of IJM, Josephat Mwenda (Kimani’s client), and taxi driver Joseph Muirfield were found in a river in Kenya. Eight days before their bodies were found, Kimani and Mwenda were leaving a trial on police brutality when they got in Muirfield’s taxi and were kidnapped.

As some of the statics in The Locust Effect via the World Bank’s Voices of the Poor point out, slavery is on the decline, poverty is as well. That is not a reason to let up, but to keep going. To find more about my favorite charity, visit IJM.

P.S.

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