Monday, April 3, 2017

The Psychological Impact of Identity

Who do you think you are? Know it or not, you have an internal picture of yourself, and you regard this personalized picture as your identity. You feel good (and validated) when you live out your identity. In short, if you have the identity of “host” you maximize your utility (to put it economically) by serving drinks and pretzels. And if you have the identity of “life of the party,” you maximize your utility by entertaining the crowd.

You act according to your identity or you pay a cost in utility. The life of the party doesn't feel good about just serving drinks and pretzels to party-goers.

The stronger the identity, the higher the cost of acting contrary to it. For example, once the Army builds into recruits the identity of combat soldier, any soldier refusing to charge a machine gun nest would pay a dear price in identity –- in fact, a cost dear enough to outweigh the physical danger of charging.

The Psychological impact of Identity may provide a window to understanding why high school graduates make decisions. If we try to use the identity concept like a mathematical tool, solving for n variables, there's a chance a solution might pop up. Here are some identities high schoolers might be aspiring to:
  • Sports hero
  • Knight in shining armor character
  • Academic dean's list ace
  • Be like dad (or role model)
  • Robin Hood character
  • Man of power and glory
  • Miss America
  • Wealthy beyond belief
  • Mother Teresa character
There may be some high schoolers who believe their identities are of limited fame or fortune, like:
  • Worker
  • Team member
  • Home maker
  • Park ranger
  • Truck driver
And, others may think their identities are stuck with descriptions of victim, unworthy, failure, etc.

Act according to your identity or pay a cost in utility. It might become psychologically or economically rational to act according to this identity rather than paying an identity cost for abstaining. Consider how you can change your picture of yourself or adapt to fit an identity you'd like to aspire to.

Inspiration from Garth Sundem
Image Elinor Joseph (pinterest)
Edited by Ed Slater

Friday, February 17, 2017

Open Immigration

Does open immigration have a negative effect on a country’s standard of living?

If you seek to forbid open immigration on the grounds that it lowers your standard of living, remember, it's only true if immigrants harm you through theft or injury. That's a matter for law enforcement. Otherwise, you can't make the standard of living claim unless your taxes are redistributed to the immigrants, diluting services due you.

If you believe legal immigrants increase the pool of competition, thereby disadvantaging America, you're wrong. Open competition in a free market culture is necessary and fair. If you don't want open competition or a free market, find your way to Havana for a wake-up.

Inspired by Ayn Rand's comments on open immigration

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Culture Blindness

Are we Americans one culture or many? Are we objectively seeking to consolidate or to maintain a segregated social-scape? Let's look at neighborhoods. We'll define a “non-American” culture as one that chooses not to adapt (but simply to cherry pick) American language and law.

We'll have to make a distinction between citizens whose civic behaviors fit within the boundaries of the Federal Regulations, State laws, and Municipal ordinances, and those who don't.

Is it possible for a subset of immigrants from Italy to create “Little Italy” on one side of an American city and install the culture of Sorrento? Of course, if the behaviors of those Italian-Americans don't break American laws. What about language? How will the immigrants understand American law? That's the answer to the requirement for all to understand the English language.

Can 1500 immigrants from the Middle East, followers of Hezbollah, define a local cultural zone in Detroit, Michigan and adapt as American newcomers? Can they qualify for citizenship and carry on lives honoring their Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S.? Can 20,000 Vietnamese immigrants settle in a locality and adapt? Can Somalians? Of course. The test has to be based on law abiding behaviors.

Cuisine and religion don't matter unless they are in conflict with American law. Homesteads and other dwelling places don't matter so long as they conform to local codes of health and safety. In all of these caveats, though, language matters, because an understanding of American law matters.

Sharia Law conflicts with state and local laws in every jurisdiction in America. Common law in some other cultures (punishment, child abuse, women's rights, confiscation of property, etc) is at odds with American law. Immigrants must understand American law, and they must understand that enforcement is a societal imperative. Dual systems of law cannot exist in America.

Some regulations extend certain privileges to citizens while they are in their own homes or on their own property, but these privileges are not sweeping, they are specific (like the castle doctrine). The certain privileges do not include abuse or honor killing. They do not include injury, theft, or sedition.

We send people to represent us because we believe we can be accurately and effectively represented. We put enforcement strategies to work so our rules can be monitored and honored, and so lawlessness can be prevented or confronted. We agree that enforcement of the rule of law is a good way to maintain our peace loving existence.

So our laws must be laws of the people, and they must be enforced. We live in a country where there is one culture that applies to every man, woman, and child. It is the American law and order culture. It must sweep through every town and it must be absorbed by every person within our borders. It must be practiced as accurately and precisely as each person can do. In little Italy and in Detroit and in every geographic place in America, the American law and order culture must be upheld and honored by every person, every family, and every community.

How will we help every recent arrival to the United States learn and understand his or her responsibility to live within the American law and order culture from day one? How will we create the understanding essential to meet this cultural imperative from the first second spent and the first step taken by a guest on American soil?

E. Slater


Monday, August 22, 2016

Human Worth, Economic Value, Poverty, and Education

I'm offering my opinion to David H. Freedman's The War on Stupid, where he makes the case that education and poverty are related and in his view, poverty seems to be winning. He finds what and who we should blame for this situation, and he suggests some solutions. I believe he has set up a straw man scenario that he says can only be solved with huge transfers of money. I'm in general disagreement with his socialist-leaning advocacy essay.

I want to clarify my point of view about human worth and personal value.

In our Western culture, we want to maintain that human life has worth equal to every other human life and every life is sacred.

We believe every human deserves to be treated as though he/she has equal worth.

Human worth applies to every human as an intrinsic characteristic, not as a value assigned by judgmental people.

Every human has an economic value as a producer and as a consumer.

Human economic value is set through interactions by the person (or his/her broker) and the marketplace.

Human economic value is necessarily a judgment made by people being judgmental.

Human worth and human economic value are completely unrelated concepts.

As a person who has been accused, tried, convicted, and sentenced for being the most judgmental man in the world, I'm particularly sensitive to writers who confuse human worth with economic value. So, The War on Stupid People struck me as being an essay confusing these two concepts. Mr. Freedman starts by borrowing phraseology lifted from concepts in The Myth of Neurosis by Garth Wood, 1986.

*  Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so.
*  ...we maintain open season on the nonsmart.
*  ...degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.
*  ...this gleeful derision seems especially cruel...(to)...the less intellectually gifted.
*  Rather than looking for ways to give the less intelligent a break, the successful and influential seem more determined than ever to freeze them out.

Mr. Freedman goes on to document reasons why human economic values matter in society and in the workplace, but his conclusion that an IQ gap diminishes a person's worth is illogical. He leaves no doubt that an IQ gap impacts a person's economic value, and I believe everyone would agree. After arguing correctly that low intelligence results in lower wage earning power for a majority of people, the author then tries to convince us that the strength of the link between poverty and struggling in school is as close to ironclad as social science gets. This is also correct for a large segment of the population. So what do we have? Education is less successful when students live in poverty. I agree this is often and needlessly true, but I contend that living in poverty and less successful educations are both effects of the same cause: individuals failing to take personal responsibility.

...our government and society are not seriously considering any initiatives capable of making a significant dent in the numbers or conditions of the poor. I agree, and that's why I'm interested in making a dent.

Mr. Freedman offers answers:
We must stop glorifying intelligence... This answer is illogical. I say we must continue to be ambassadors in pursuit of intelligence through superb education processes. We should strive for excellence, efficiency, and a spirit of continuous improvement in this pursuit.

...provide incentives to companies that resist automation, thereby preserving jobs for the less brainy. ...discourage hiring practices that arbitrarily and counterproductively weed out the less-well-IQ'ed. ...the less brainy are... more aware of their own biases, less anxiety-ridden, and less arrogant, and this is why the less-well-IQ'ed should be given special privileges in hiring).

Where would the incentive dollars come from? Obviously, from additional corporate and personal taxes. These answers are the ideologies of totalitarian control of an unfree population, where individual responsibility is usurped and suffocated by a Central Committee of the State. people should not be permitted to reshape society so as to instate giftedness as a universal yardstick of human worth. The author again confuses worth with economic value. I say the way free people should influence society is by being the best, most honest, smartest, and productive they can possibly be. The way to ensure freedom is for every individual to accept personal responsibility for improving and adapting their own lifestyles. Every adult should take personal responsibility for himself/herself, family, and for incapacitated citizens. Other people who can reasonably care for themselves are not your responsibility, and you skew the concepts of personal responsibility and economic value when you interfere in their reasonably capable lives.

There is a descriptive way to characterize Mr. Freedman's appeal to energize people whose feelings have been hurt, desperate to clutch for more esteem by opting for more free education money. He seems to advocate robbing the money from others who got theirs by following the rules of decency and fairness and who took personal responsibility to make the most of their educational opportunities despite their financial conditions.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why do American Jews vote Democrat?

For American Jews, being called racists would be their biggest shame. Only 41% of American Jews are practicing Jews. That leaves the 59% group identifying more with secularism than Judaism. Secular Jews don't regard the conservative teachings of the Torah to have influence over their un-Jewish lives. Over half of American Jews see their European roots as “the people who suffered the Holocaust,” and a great majority of Jews have very strong fears of being called “racist.” I'd say they've taken their Holocaust revulsion and made a solemn promise to “never act like a racist.”

Unfortunately, the Liberal machine has succeeded in convincing lots of voters that Republicans are gun nuts and racists. Of course, this is nonsense except for an uncountable small number of conservatives and Republicans. That's why lots of Jews vote against the Republicans who have been falsely characterized as Nazi-like racists.

Jews tend to harbor sympathy for the little guy. There's been overwhelming victimhood rampant in
American media stories. Jews cannot let go of the idea that big guys take advantage of little guys, and
Republicans have been painted as big guys (Wall Streeters, CEOs, wealthy, rich, successful). I think it's uncomplicated as to why Jews huddle with the little guy, since Jews have always been treated like little worthless people. American Jews have been repeatedly convinced that American racism disadvantages American Muslims, too. How can Jews vote against their sympathetic alliance with anti-racist Democrats?
Why can't Republicans shake the labels of “racist” and “bully?” It's because of a coordinated effective media message that comes from at least eleven seemingly solid news streams.
• WaPo
• Yahoo
• Obama administration news conferences
• Hollywood elite using a public spotlight to illuminate their scripted fights against the evil
Republican straw man.

Conservative points of view and honest unbiased reporting are routinely attacked. Outlets that dare to
expose the Lib 11 are assassinated (virtually) and demagogued by the 11. By the way, the shame of “being thought of as a racist” is also one of the biggest factors causing lots of non-Jewish Americans to vote anti-Republican, and I think this one factor was the most influential in electing Obama twice. Even Bernie's “free stuff” policy can't out attract the Democrat mainstream candidate, Hillary. Hillary is assumed by many to be anti-racist. I think she also has unadvertised assets that cannot be beaten in an otherwise fair election.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On Hillaryism

Reference: From June 28, 2016 Elkhart Truth Opinion page: “Hillaryism is more of the status quo” by Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer, in his “Hillaryism is more of the status quo” essay contends that the 8 year development of an Obama legacy is one of tired cliches and vacuous, meaningless political teleprompter rhetoric. It's a caution that the gold star that's missing from Hillary's candidacy package is not there because of those missing things that would matter most: honesty, heart, and compassion. Krauthammer leads you and me to conclude Hillary's character, though implied by other Pulitzer class purveyors to exist, is actually imaginary. Non-existent. What's there behind the curtain is a collection of sand and gravel salted with fool's gold.
Hillary, he says, is trapped by circumstance, and she doesn't have any ideas for a way out that would also propel America forward. Faced with the prospect of crumbling infrastructure, she has neither the means nor the inventive gravitas to conceive of real repair plans, only useless 4th grade Arbor Day-ish posters designed to lampoon the crumble.
Krauthammer seems to have witnessed and reported accurately what I'd call the whore's rouge and faux beauty marks masking the foot fungus of real Liberalism. He refers to underlying sclerosis, dysfunction, and the source of present day miseries in his description. He uses sufficient clarity mixed with thesaurus enriched metaphors to attract the attention of the Conservative audience to his point. His “say it like it is” reputation probably limits readership to the untainted and the unastray, unfortunately.

The reality of Krauthammer's 700 word “Hillaryism” essay is that only a small crowd around Elkhart County paid attention. My guess is that only a few percent of Elkhart Truth readers tried to absorb Charles' opinion. I wish it were more. How many readers just browsed the headline and moved on? Eventually, we'll try to analyze why the other 90-some percent of readers gave up and skipped over to read Dilbert.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Real Gun Crime Solution Would Require a Year of Real Chaos

I'd say a push toward logical comprehensive background checks and earnest enforcement by dedicated federal, state, and local police working together to enforce existing gun permitting laws would be a great step. It's a move that would not prevent many gun crimes, though. Neither would confiscation. If we tried heartily to take guns away, there would be a period of angst, complaints, and near revolution. It would be hell in a concealed carry handbasket, and there would certainly be a period of extraordinary chaos. Do it yourself machinists would start uber-gun manufacturing plants in their garages. Guns and ammunition would go away into hiding places, but they would never disappear. Enforcement would probably result in extreme right to privacy debates, and searches would become intrusive. Politicians would fall into a crevasse of chaos, relinquishing their legacies to a list of “Twenty-First Century Dictators”.

Or, we could use up our chaos and privacy dividends by engineering a way to study, inquire, examine, and profile every person on American soil over the age of ten about their liklihood of going crazy with a weapon. I know there's a cadre of psychologists and social workers who could take on this job and do it well. There are hundreds of college and university sociology and psychology departments itching to develop a robust process. Their outcomes could probably defuse potential knife attacks, car felonies, bullying, bombings, abuse, and suicides, too. I'm high on the idea of investing the dividend in the kind of crime prevention that would have a chance of working to solve the root of the gun crime problem (which I'm sure lies in the mental health arena).

I'll voluntarily be first in line to be tested. If I'm a nut job, then take my pistol away from me. I promise I won't start any media chaos or whine about my right to privacy. And, if people in my sphere are outed as gun sociopaths, strip them of their weapons and help me keep my family safe.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Are the Super Rich Devouring My Modest Wealth?

From ‘The Age of Acquiescence,’ by Steve Fraser
Book Review by NAOMI KLEINMARCH 16, 2015 New York Times
“Could the superrich kindly cease devouring the world’s wealth? And while they’re at it, could they quit using their financial might to influence public policies that favor the rich at the expense of everyone else?”
My response:

Lets see. Are the superrich dovouring my modest wealth? There's my modest home equity. Are the superrich eating up my home equity? How would I know? Maybe I won't realize it until I try to sell my house. The superrich might be there at the closing demanding a percentage. Will they demand a processing fee or a recording fee? Certainly it won't be a broad daylight mugging (I hope not). Oh, wait, that sounds like the government and the realtors, not the superrich. The biggest hit on the value of my home came in 2009 as a result of Freddie and Fannie's yielding to Administration demands and the incompetent acquiescing of mortgage lenders. That debacle has left me about 20% low. I doubt if I'll get a rebound soon and I'm not blaming the superrich for that.

Are the superrich devouring my 401k? I want to know the details so I can fend them off. Are they siphoning a percentage every month? Maybe they take it at tax time as a percentage or a fee. Do they have my account number? Oh, I get it. It's the IRS. They're not the superrich, are they?

Could this theft of my wealth by the superrich be in the form of inflation, where they make everything else more expensive, reducing the buying power of my assets? Are those superrich people causing inflation so my wealth will be devalued? Are rich people raising the price of cars? I'll probably need another one in about 6 or 8 years. Car prices might be a lot higher and my income might not keep pace. Gotta think this through.

Are the superrich devouring my priceless art collection? Haha, just kidding. But there are some priceless assets I have here in my memento trunk. They'll still be just as valuable ten years from now, so I don't think I'm losing the priceless value of my family mementos.

How are the superrich influencing public policies that favor the superrich? Are they using lobbyists? What policies are being influenced? How are the policies impacting my home value or my 401k? How are those policies driving up the cost of my next Subaru? If public policies are pumping up inflation, don't my Representatives and Senators have the brains to figure it out?

Something I do trust is supply and demand as a fair and equitable driver for consumer prices. I understand that when materials or services are impacted by shortages or surpluses, shifting prices and availability of substitutes drive the market back to equilibrium. But in a free market where innovation is free to work, prices would be expected to go down, not up. In markets with prices and quotas frozen by law, all bets are off because prices and inflation both rise to a new (artificial) equilibrium. How about the effect of the law? Industries operating as monopolies are watched by our FTC, and to suspect there's a restraint of trade through an evil monopoly seems unlikely without government complicity. Hush my mouth about government complicity and explain the role of the superrich here.

What if we authorized a fixed amount of money and a tight credit limit? Would it be predictable that the superrich would corner the money supply? Could we have a situation where only the rich could buy goods? Who would produce the goods? Who would fix the washing machine? Who would grow the potatoes and the corn? Who would milk the cows? My questions are useless, because other factors would be born to adapt to a fixed money supply. Barter would be the currency of the less rich, and commerce would flourish despite the lack of dollar bills.

I'm not getting the buzz about domination by the superrich. In fact, I'm not convinced that there's anything except envy driving this opinionated book and its review.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Succinctification of Citizenship

I like simple things. My requirement for assimilation into American culture (as a requirement for prospective citizens who qualify through the naturalization process) is this:

Demonstrate proficiency in English, both written and spoken, so an examination specifically on Federal, State, and Local law can be passed decisively.

Here's my reason: There is only one requirement for other cultures to mix into the American melting pot. It's not religion, politics, ethics, IQ, etc. It's understanding U.S. Federal, State, and Local laws and FOLLOWING THEM. Yes, those other characteristics would be nice, but for me it's understanding our laws.

For me, it's simple enough.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Let's look at one extreme end of the immigration possibilities: Let's say every disenchanted citizen of every foreign country is free to immigrate into the US. Imagine for a minute that the first step in this unlimited immigration is that half the people in the non English speaking world possessing at least $2,000 per person travel to the United States. In this case, 10% of the world's population comes to America (600 million people), tripling the US population to a total of 900 million.

How would 600 million new immigrants travel to America? Airline travel would amount to this: With an average commercial airliner capacity of 300 people, 2 million airline round trips would be required (but only inbound flights would have passengers). One hundred jumbo airliners would be busy for 20,000 days, or 60 years. Smaller aircraft could be pressed into service, theoretically cutting the required time in half. 30 years. Wow!

Where would the new (60,000 per day) immigrants sleep? At hotels? In the US, there are about 4 million hotel rooms, but only about one million could be accessed by arriving travelers. That boils down to a few weeks' stay before permanent housing would have to be arranged. Can we build 30,000 homes or apartments for couples or for 60,000 singles every day? In recent years, production of towable RVs (an established industry) has been about 20,000 units per year. Manufactured home production has been approximately 70,000 units per year, and new housing starts average 1.2 million each year. The current housing construction rate would have to increase by about 1300% in order to meet the influx, because the present capacity to provide that many new homes is woefully insufficient.

What would the immigrants eat? Could the US increase food production tenfold within a 30 year period? Sounds like a big task for the agricultural and dairy industry.

Fortunately, tripling the population would also dramatically and quickly ratchet up the job market. More builders, more farmers, and more of every skill and trade would be necessary. Demand for raw materials and factories would increase. Commerce would flourish. New cities would spring up. America would need more of everything.

What about the other five billion people who wish they could live in America? We're not going there, because lots of other circumstances would have to be addressed.

So, would America be better off with triple the population? Here's the answer: Maybe. Everything depends on whether or not individuals fulfill their responsibilities to assimilate into the US culture of useful hard work, competition, and rule of law. Would current US citizens object to increased commerce and competition? Some would. Some would welcome new workers and entrepreneurs and new ideas. Some Americans would resent green card holders who “take away jobs,” but others would work smarter and make lemonade out of the circumstances.