the Fabulous White People competition

courtesy of bigstock.

Ann Coulter, writing in Takimag.com: “these ‘racism’ orgies never have anything to do with black people. It’s part of the Fabulous White People competition, where black people are the chips. If anything, the urge to call other people ‘racist’ has only gotten stronger since then, so I’ll quote myself: ‘Sad people with meaningless lives [are] suddenly empowered to condemn other people. I beat you in blacks yesterday; I’m going to beat you in women today. This is what makes them feel superior to other people, especially other white people. It’s not about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.; it’s just a self-actualization movement for people with emotional issues’.”

She takes no prisoners. The “racism orgies” she referred to are the proliferation of accusations of racism, and, I will add, often by people who don’t even try to define the word. Many can’t, but in a perfect simulation of totalitarianism, many race hustlers and grievance mongers levy the charge that asking for a definition of the accusation is itself racism. How handy, how convenient, and how intimidating it can be….except for people like me, who thrive on clarification, even at the cost of confrontation, conflict or unpopularity. Actually, perhaps I thrive on unpopularity itself…..with the right people. Who are the right people? Those who tell me, “don’t try to define racism, that proves you’re a racist.”

What’s really going on? I suggest you refer to my previous post, Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s….You see, racism isn’t the core issue, it’s just a big, sticky label over the mouth of those who question the orthodoxy of what I call radical equality, or it’s modern guise, equity. Proportional to their numbers, far more politically connected and wealthy white folks throw the racist label around at other white folk, than do black folk or people of color. I assert that they are coveting: the illusion of superior intellect; self congratulation for their sensitivity and wokeness; relief from their guilty feelings for having so much; approval from their peer group, which produces rewards both tangible (political office, tenure) and intangible (Ann Coulter’s self-actualization). When people of color accuse whites of racism, sometimes it’s true, but often it’s for prizes of the grievance sweepstakes. Equality used to mean equal opportunity to succeed; equity, equality of outcomes or proportion of body count (affirmative action), has become the new orthodoxy.

Most unquestioned orthodoxies, historically, have resulted in a different kind of body count—off to the gulag or lined up in front of the gun. Will the Fabulous White People Competition give us that here? Stay tuned, one hand on your wallet, the other on your gun.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s……

Covet? What the heck does that mean? Why does that admonition begin the 10th Commandment? Speaking of which, don’t you just hate that word, commandment? It implies that someone has the power to compel you. We can’t have that in the year of our overlord—the ego—2020. Coveting = envying = I want what you have and if I can’t achieve it then my satisfaction comes from you losing it. Coveting is not driven by the desire for equality, but rather by the spirit of to bring others down to your own level; it’s not so much a desire for more as a desire for no one else to have more. Here are some great examples of metaphors for coveting as well as the satirizing of coveting.

First, the satire, since I love it. Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan dealt with coveting by portraying the Space Wanderer, a guy who left earth in search of adventure. When the Space Wanderer returns to Earth he finds a society in which handicaps are used to make all people equal, eradicating the supposedly ruinous effects of luck on human society. The narrator claims that now “the weakest and the meekest were bound to admit, at last, that the race of life was fair”. The strong are burdened with “handicaps” (consisting of “bags of lead shot” hung from various parts of the body) and the beautiful hide their advantageous appearance through “frumpish clothes, bad posture, chewing gum and a ghoulish use of cosmetics”. The citizens in The Sirens of Titan choose to wear these handicaps voluntarily as an act of faith towards the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, although it is suggested that not to do so would invite social condemnation. Mr. Vonnegut also wrote a short story in 1961, Harrison Bergeron, on the same equality theme, but in that story the illusion of equality was compelled by the law, and any attempts to remove the artificial handicaps required by law were punished severely. I find it interesting that there are also lots of metaphors for envy, or coerced equality: crab mentality, dumbing down, the law of Jante, Procrustes’ bed and tall poppy syndrome.

Crab mentality, also known as crabs in a bucket mentality, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you”. The metaphor is derived from a pattern of behavior noted in crabs when they are trapped in a bucket. While any one crab could easily escape, its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group’s collective demise. Dumbing down is the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content. The term “dumbing down” originated in 1933, as movie-business slang used by screenplay writers, meaning: “to revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence”. Dumbing-down is the deliberate undermining of intellectual standards, thus trivializing meaningful information, culture, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture. The Law of Jante is a code of conduct known in Nordic countries that characterizes not conforming, doing things out of the ordinary, or being overtly personally ambitious as unworthy and inappropriate. Used generally in colloquial speech in the Nordic countries as a sociological term to denote a social attitude of disapproval towards expressions of individuality and personal success, it emphasizes adherence to the collective. Procrustes’ bed: In the Greek myth, Procrustes was a son of Poseidon with a stronghold on Mount Korydallos at Erineus. There he had a bed, in which he invited every passer-by to spend the night. If they were too short for the bed, he used his smith’s hammer to stretch them to fit. If the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; nobody ever fitted the bed exactly, and all the “guests” died as a result of Procrustes’ efforts. The tall poppy syndrome describes aspects of a culture where people of high status are resented, attacked, cut down, strung up or criticized because they have been classified as superior to their peers. This metaphor refers to a tale whereby a prince asked his father how he should rule his kingdom. The father did not reply, rather he took his son out to a field of poppies, and had a servant ride through the field cutting every poppy to the same height. That last one describes collectivist philosophies like communism and socialism. The “killing fields” of Cambodia under the despotism of Pol Pot was the perfect example.

Wikipedia describes Pol Pot as one of the most secretive of national leaders. His bland face and unthreatening manner, his self-effacement, his rare and turgid public statements and his life in hiding — even during his years of absolute power — were some of his chief tactics in keeping his rivals off balance and his hold over his followers. There was little evident in Pol Pot’s background to suggest any personal drama. Since his childhood, the phrases used to describe him were uninspiring: polite, mediocre, soft-spoken, patient, even shy. Still, people who knew him described him as warm and reassuring, especially in small groups. His smiling face and quiet manner belied his brutality. He and his inner circle of revolutionaries adopted a Communism based on Maoism and Stalinism, then carried it to extremes: They and their Khmer Rouge movement tore apart Cambodia in an attempt to ”purify” the country’s agrarian society and turn people into revolutionary worker-peasants. Pol Pot conducted a rule of terror that led to the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s seven million people, by the most widely accepted estimates, through execution, torture, starvation and disease. Beginning on the day in 1975 when his guerrilla army marched silently into the capital, Phnom Penh, Pol Pot emptied the cities, pulled families apart,abolished religion and closed schools. Everyone was ordered to work, even children. The Khmer Rouge outlawed money and closed all markets. Doctors were killed, as were most people with skills and education that threatened the regime.

That’s leveling folks, envy writ large in death and misery, the only means by which collectivism can be imposed on an otherwise free society. In 2020, it appears from surveys that most high school students and college undergrads in the United States, as well as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren think socialism is the way to go. I wonder if their indoctrination education has anything to do with their ignorance. Nah, can’t be……? Perhaps it’s time to teach the 10th Commandment in schools……except that commandment implies a superior being with the authority to compel. So the 10th, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s”, means nothing without the first Commandment, “I am the Lord thy God, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Least of all the god of equality (envy).

Economics as freedom.

Last night I watched 911-Lonestar, about a fire/rescue crew operating in Austin, Tx., led by a transplanted Fire Dept. of New York captain, suffering from lung cancer as a result of his heroics during the collapse of the Twin Towers. Every week, 911 calls are conveyed to this FD Austin house, and one of them provided a superb lesson in basic economics. A breeder of prize bulls had sold his most prized bull to a distributor, whose business was extracting, storing and selling the “issue” (sperm) of the bulls. The breeder wanted to raise another prize bull, so he went to the distributor with $10,000, expecting to buy a single “tube” (apparently enough to inseminate a brood cow), based on previous prices. However, the distributor had raised the price to $15,000 due to the demand for this particular issue. In their argument over price, the distributor asked, “if all my other buyers are willing to pay $15,000, why would I sell the same amount of the same substance for $10,000? There’s only so much of the stuff for all the buyers that want it. I run a business, not a charity.” This is the simplest example of the dynamics of supply and demand, since the substance in question has a known and limited supply (one canister only), and only one potential use, and more buyers than supply.

The breeder/buyer begged, then threatened, but still he was rebuffed, so he decided to steal the entire canister by setting a fire and sneaking in while the distributor and his employees were busy with the fire. Of course, the fire rapidly got out of control and the breeder/thief had to be rescued. I recently read an article on fee.org which explained how the free market mechanisms of price, supply and demand help allocate resources efficiently. My example above was perhaps too simple, mainly because of how limited the uses and supply were. Here is what the article says about it: “The key question when analyzing the efficacy of economic systems is how they deal with the issue of scarcity. All economic goods are, by definition, scarce. By this, economists mean that resources such as raw materials, capital goods, and labor have many alternative possible uses but can only fulfill a very finite number of ends. For instance, a single steel beam can be used in a skyscraper or a bridge, but not both. How scarce resources are arranged and for what purpose will largely determine the living standards of society. If producers utilize the resources in a manner that satisfies the most urgent needs of society, human flourishing will follow. If resources are instead squandered on less urgent needs, poverty and squalor will result. The values of inputs used to create finished products are derived from the demand for the finished product for which they are used. And because scarce economic goods have alternative uses, manufacturers of various finished products are in competition with each other for these inputs.

Take the example of wood—a nonspecific good that can be used for many different purposes—and just two potential finished products: housing and books. How are manufacturers to determine which combination of these two options will best satisfy society’s demand for shelter and reading? Only prices that emerge from the voluntary exchange of privately-owned resources can tell us where nonspecific, scarce goods are most urgently needed. Many different bidders for wood will cause price movements that convey vital information about the relative scarcity of wood and the relative value of the alternative final goods for which the wood could potentially be used. Without prices, scarce resources like wood could be employed in such a way as to leave more urgent needs unsatisfied. For instance, the market would be flooded with books, while many would-be home buyers remain without shelter.

Speaking of homes, when I bought my home in Spokane, Washington in December, 2015, I had to bid more than the asking price, because there were two other buyers who wanted it. I didn’t want to risk losing it, so I offered $3,000 over asking price; the other buyers made lower offers, so I got the house. During the three years I lived in the home, Seattle home prices shot way up, resulting in a significant migration of Seattle residents to Spokane. What do you guess happened to home prices in Spokane? I decided to sell in March of 2019, three years and three months after buying it. I wanted to list above the appraisal, but my realtor suggested that we list with a price slightly less than we thought we could get. My house was a 4 bedroom two bath house, with detached two car garage. The neighbor across the street listed at the same time, asking more than we were asking for one bedroom and one bath less, and no garage. We got 11 offers the same day we listed, and chose the second best rather than the first. Why? The second best was putting 50% down, the best 5% down. We ended up getting $51,000 over what we paid, a selling price of $227,000. Yes, Spokane is still a bargain housing market. Once again, this is a great lesson in how economics works. The definition of market price is: What a buyer is willing to pay a seller for a commodity in the absence of coercion.

Central planning by a government involves coercion at every level. The government has no profit/loss calculation. Its bidding power comes from its coercive advantage to collect taxes by force. Because government does not rely on selling products to willing consumers, there is no check on how high it will be willing to bid. Consequently, government’s arrangement of resources cannot reflect the most urgent needs of society. In a system run by the government, inputs do not derive their value from consumer demand on the finished product in which the input will be utilized, but rather, value is derived by political calculations. In such cases, the economy proceeds down a path chosen by the political class instead of one chosen by the voluntary choices of the individuals in society. The process of entrepreneurs taking risks to fulfill a future need that perhaps only they can envision becomes overwhelmed by the narrow, backward-looking resource allocation of a central planning board. With so much power focused in the hands of the small ruling elite that results from central planning, more will look to curry favor with government officials for economic advantage rather than create value for consumers.

Pay-to-play politics—and outright bribery—will become the norm. And even if the halls of Congress become filled with angels exempt from the temptation of corruption, the fact still remains central planners would be powerless to orchestrate a well-functioning economy. The problem is not that people will be insufficiently motivated to do the right things but, more fundamentally, that they will not know what the right things to do are, even if they passionately wanted to do them.

“Hate speech” laws brand differing opinions as haters.

Arguing in favor of Elizabeth Warren’s promised curbs on speech, congressional Punjabi (and affirmative-action asterisk law professor) Ro Khanna tweeted, “Falsity has never been part of our 1st Amendment tradition.” In fact, that’s 100% ass backwards; John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson* agreed that the “misuse” of speech is an inevitable and tolerable aspect of our First Amendment rights. Last week, Warren announced a “plan of action” to curb “digital disinformation.” The plan features “civil and criminal penalties” for “knowingly disseminating” content that “has the explicit purpose of undermining the basic right to vote.” Any speech that might “depress voter turnout” would be criminalized. Warren’s plan follows months of pontificating by mainstream journalists in the service of criminalizing political speech. “Why America Needs a Hate Speech Law” was the title of an October WaPo piece by Richard Stengel.

Richard Stengel, a former editor of Time, is the author of “Information Wars” and was the State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs from 2013 to 2016 (Obama years), writing in the Washington Post, October 29, 2019: Since World War II, many nations have passed laws to curb the incitement of racial and religious hatred. These laws started out as protections against the kinds of anti-Semitic bigotry that gave rise to the Holocaust. We call them hate speech laws, but there’s no agreed-upon definition of what hate speech actually is. In general, hate speech is speech that attacks and insults people on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin and sexual orientation. I think it’s time to consider these statutes. The modern standard of dangerous speech comes from Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) and holds that speech that directly incites “imminent lawless action” or is likely to do so can be restricted. (My note: That court case upheld Ohio’s Criminal Syndicalism Act, which punishes persons who “advocate or teach the duty, necessity, or propriety” of violence “as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform”; or who publish or circulate or display any book or paper containing such advocacy; or who “justify” the commission of violent acts “with intent to exemplify, spread or advocate the propriety of the doctrines of criminal syndicalism”; or who “voluntarily assemble” with a group formed “to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism.”) Khanna continues: All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting “thought that we hate,” but not speech that incites hate. It undermines the very values of a fair marketplace of ideas that the First Amendment is designed to protect.

All current attempts to stifle speech in the name of protecting feelings, and all current scare campaigns about how unregulated speech inevitably leads to bad and destructive outcomes, owe their existence to the acceptance by Western whites of a set of “special circumstances” whereby traditional notions of “fight speech with more speech” and “let truth and falsehood battle it out” and “sticks and stones may break my bones but words’ll never hurt me” don’t apply to really horrific tyranny, torture and murder, like Holocaust history and Holocaust survivors.

But the end result of speech criminalization is that Rational voices go silent, because rational people—capable as they are of weighing actions and consequences—do the math and realize that it’s more prudent to pull back and shut up, when speaking freely might cost them their livelihood or freedom. What happened with Holocaust history is already beginning to happen with topics like male/female biology and IQ inheritability. Anyone with anything to lose will think twice before challenging the left’s orthodoxy on those topics. That’s what speech penalties do; they scare away exactly the people with the intellectual capacity to best make the case that the penalizers don’t want made. And once a field is abandoned to crackpots who spout nonsense, the public becomes even more welcoming of speech proscriptions, due to the general loathsomeness of those being silenced. Right now in the West, we’re scared to death of speech. The fact that a presidential candidate for a major U.S. political party could run on a platform of curbing speech in order to “save democracy” shows just how bad things are.

Will there ever again be U.S. Presidents like J. Adams, Jefferson or Madison? I am not optimistic. *”If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” Thomas Jefferson. “Our First Amendment freedoms give us the right to think what we like and say what we please. And if we the people are to govern ourselves, we must have these rights, even if they are misused by a minority.” John Adams. “For the people to rule wisely, they must be free to think and speak without fear of reprisal.” James Madison.

YBQB: What it means.

Two of the best

Today is Sunday, February 9, 2020. I am watching TV, ESPN. The show is The Undefeated, a regular feature of that channel. It begins with clips of Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, DeShaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett and Dwayne Haskins. Can you guess the title of that segment of the show? What do those 10 names have in common? If you don’t know, you’re not a football fan. They are all black NFL quarterbacks, good ones. They are, for the most part, franchise quarterbacks. Teddy isn’t yet, technically, because he’s a backup, but I predict he will once again be a starter next season. Either Drew Brees will retire, or another team will trade for Bridgewater’s services. Cam Newton is the 11th black franchise quarterback, but he was injured the entire season. That’s 11 black quarterbacks out of 32 starters (I’m including Teddy as a starter since he was before injury and will be again). This is apparently the Year of the Black QB!

What is a franchise quarterback? He is the field leader of a multi-billion dollar NFL franchise, the person most identified with the brand, even more than the head coach or the owner, with perhaps the exception of Jerry Jones, the very high profile owner of the Dallas Cowboys. He is generally the highest paid player on the team, the least likely to get in legal or financial trouble, the most likely to embody a certain set of values. That set of values includes…..well, let’s tune in to Gita Gulati-Partee, a person of color-POC-who teaches and writes about “culture and privilege”, two of the wokest buzzwords, along with “diversity and inclusion”. Gee, to all you homeless folks out there who are having trouble finding jobs (assuming you are willing to tolerate schedules, expectations and performance reviews), the road to employment is simple! Just reinvent yourself as an expert in any or all of those words: culture, privilege, diversity, inclusion. But I digress.

What does Ms. Gita have to say? In her study, Paying Attention to White Culture and Privilege: A Missing Link to Advancing Racial Equity, by Gita Gulati-Partee and Maggie Potapchuk, she summarized what she and others of her ilk call “white culture”:
By “white culture,” we mean the dominant, unquestioned standards of behavior and ways of functioning embodied by the vast majority of institutions in the United States. Because it is so normalized it can be hard to see, which only adds to its powerful hold. In many ways, it is indistinguishable from what we might call U.S. culture or norms – a focus on individuals over groups, for example, or an emphasis on the written word as a form of professional communication. But it operates in even more subtle ways, by actually defining what “normal” is – and likewise, what “professional,” “effective,” or even “good” is. In turn, white culture also defines what is not good, “at risk,” or “unsustainable.” White culture values some ways – ways that are more familiar and come more naturally to those from a white, western tradition – of thinking, behaving, deciding, and knowing, while devaluing or rendering invisible other ways.

The real issue is “where does government start?” In Christianity, the initial unit of government is self-government. Our nation’s founders understood this: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.” James Madison.

The focus on individual government rather than group government is not “White culture”, it is a manifestation of Christianity rather than Collectivism—Communism, National Socialism (i.e. Nazism)—or those religions which emphasize the clan or group over individuals. Collectivism in both economic and religious pursuits has demonstrated a historical disregard for human rights—the lives of individuals—sacrificing countless lives for their collectivist ideal, their utopia. Those systems can’t even understand why we make such a big deal out of rescuing hostages and protecting our troops. Allow me one more digression before I return to the topic of the Year of the Black QB. In six wars between Israel and Arab/Islamic forces, Israel was victorious despite their comparatively paltry numbers of both troops and equipment, and despite their unwillingness to sacrifice lives to gain objectives. Why? The main reason was the “bottom up” leadership and initiative of their individual soldiers, compared to the ineffectiveness of the “top down”, authoritarian systems of the enemy. Collectivism always leads to waste of lives, lack of initiative, poor leadership, and inefficiency.

NFL franchise quarterbacks are leaders in a multi-billion dollar enterprise, leading multi-millionaires. The most successful share the following traits and values: precise communication skills, rapid information processing ability, personal initiative, care for other individuals, leadership by example, understanding of strategy and tactics, typically stellar character and being generally law abiding in their personal lives, U.S. cultural norms. My point is, those characteristics are not “white” culture, they are not “black”, rather they comprise a formula for success—at the highest level of sports, and in business.

Parasite Stress Theory of Values (PSTV)

I read an article by Randy Thornhill, via The Foundation for Economic Education, fee.org, that introduced the Parasite Stress Theory of Values. According to the PSTV, anti-pathogenic behaviors, a huge group of infectious disease avoidance or risk mitigation strategies, can lead to the development of “ancestrally adaptive feelings, attitudes, and values about and behaviors toward out-group” members, or those who potentially carry novel diseases. What does that mean? You might be reading some recent punditry that claims that the Wuhan “novel coronavirus” has caused nations and individuals to adopt behavior which stigmatizes the Chinese people and other cultures who eat wriggly, slimy, infection-prone creatures. Some of these particularly emotional, even sub rational, commentators have claimed that the prejudice is worse than the disease! Ahem, I guess that means “your attempts to avoid a lethal, infectious virus offend me, and my hurt feelings are worse than your death.” That’s the 2020 version of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Unless your words or actions can be interpreted as racist! Then you’re the worst person in the world, you racist!

Psychological adaptations to disease have played a significant role in the natural selection of cultural values in human evolutionary history. People living in regions with high levels of pathogenic stress have avoided social and economic interaction with out-group members to minimize exposure to contagious diseases. But that’s not the part of this article from FEE.ORG that really got me interested. This is the interesting part: “Public health concerns and the development of prejudices toward certain groups are not, however, the only potential negative consequences of the spread of infectious diseases. The PSTV suggests that the prejudices developed in response to high pathogenic stress have, in turn, lead to the emergence of more collectivistic cultural values across time. Meanwhile, people living in regions that historically faced lower levels of pathogenic stress have been more open to economic and social interactions with outsiders, leading to the emergence of individualistic cultural values such as tolerance, trust, and openness.

Indeed, there appears to be a very strong negative cross-country correlation between historical disease prevalence and contemporary individualism, as depicted in Figure 1 (above). Okay, but I intend to challenge the cause-effect paradigm they subscribe to. Here’s what the author writes: “While the development of collectivist (or individualist) cultural values is not an inherently bad thing a priori, a growing body of research utilizes the PSTV to link infectious disease prevalence to negative economic outcomes via the channel of cultural values development. One study, for instance, found that countries with higher historical disease prevalence are today less economically developed. Others suggest that countries with higher historical disease prevalence are less democratic and have less economic freedom. High disease prevalence has also been linked to higher levels of economic inequality and greater deforestation.

Thornhill and Boris Nikolaev found that countries with historically high levels of disease prevalence are today less innovative. Their theory and their interpretation of empirical evidence suggest that “countries with historically low levels of disease pathogens are more innovative today (in part) because they developed—as an evolutionary response to minimize pathogenic contagions—individualistic cultural values that better incentivized innovation than collectivistic cultural values.

Cause-Effect violations are one of the most common errors when interpreting modern trends via historical “empirical evidence”. Summarizing their argument, they seem to be postulating that pathogenic diseases, and the response to them, was a major, or the major, independent variable that determined the cultural values, and that the cultural values then influenced or determined the economic condition. In terms of cause-effect, the prevalence of pathogens was the cause, culture the effect. My challenge is this: Geography and climate are the true independent variables determining the prevalence of pathogens—the cause, so to speak—and the prevalence of pathogens is the effect of those independent variables. In addition, culture is downstream of religion, religion is somewhat influenced by living conditions (geography and climate), religion indirectly, and culture directly, determines response to pathogens.

The two major world religions by number of adherents—Christianity and Islam—both started in relatively warm regions. Christianity and Islam spread all over the world from tropical arid lands. Even though they were geographically, and therefore pathogenically, closely related, the nature of the God each worships, and the cultural manifestations of their teachings, could not be more different. All the nations with a Christian foundation are characterized by a relatively high: degree of personal freedom, respect for private property, individualism, political participation (voting), technological sophistication, standard of living, rule of law and quality of medicine, compared to the nations with an Islamic foundation. Most of those are characterized by a high degree of authoritarianism (top down rule), and a relatively low degree of everything on the previous list compared to Christianity-foundation nations.

I assert that response to pathogens is the effect of culture, not the cause. Authoritarian and collectivist cultures, derived from authoritarian religions (including Communism, which is a religion), are more concerned with maintaining control of the population and the power of the governing elites than they are with public health. Individualist and democratic cultures are more concerned with public health and wellbeing than maintaining power, therefore they have more freedom to take effective anti-pathogenic measures. Read about how communist China has handled the Coronavirus debacle, compared to the United States, the proxy for “freedom countries”.

The simple truth about the wealth and income gaps.

It appears that the top 1% continues to increase their ownership of wealth in this country, while the middle and lower class are losing ground.

The Widening Gap Between the 1% and the rest

Wealth Class198920072019
Top 1%24%29%32%
90-99%37%37%37%
50-90%35%31%29%
Bottom 50%4%2%2%
What do these figures prove?????

There are two predominant classes of theories on why this is: 1-The unfairness class of theories (systemic discrimination-corruption-cheating-theft); 2-The consequences of decisions class of theories. Which do YOU subscribe to? Let’s consider some bare facts.

One of the biggest differences between the wealthiest classes and everyone else is their ownership of financial assets–primarily stocks of publicly traded companies. The top 10% in terms of wealth own roughly 84% of the stock market in the United States. And that number is rising, up from 77% in 2001. Not only do the top 10% own more financial assets, they don’t have their entire equity ownership tied up in their home.

TO ALL OF THE ABOVE, I SAY “SO WHAT!”

It used to be “conventional wisdom” that buying a home is the best investment you’ll ever make. Perhaps that was true at one time, before the U.S. stock market grew to the point where even people with modest assets could buy stocks cheaply while diversifying their risk through mutual funds, and later Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). But owning a home is not only a liability that slowly turns into an asset, but also a form of consumption. You have to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance, both of which most people include in their mortgage payments. Maintenance and upkeep are required. Designs can go out of style which could require renovations over time. There are also considerable transaction costs involved with the purchase and sale of a home, far greater than the transaction costs of mutual funds, along with the interest being paid on the loan.

Then there’s the fact that you can’t spend your house as if it were a liquid asset, which is significant in times of financial risk, like losing your income, or having unexpected large medical bills. If you suddenly need a source of income beyond your job, your legal options are, in order of ease and availability: 1- liquidate—turn them into cash—some of your financial assets; 2- borrow against your home or other assets; 3-borrow “nakedly” (without assets as loan collateral); 4- try to sell your home. But a home is also the most emotional asset you can own. It’s literally the roof over your head, the neighborhood you reside in, and part of the community you live in. So while becoming a homeowner can provide a certain level of psychic income, it can also be your downfall when things go wrong because it offers little in the way of diversification if you lose your job or run into financial difficulty during a downturn.

I asked which classes of theories you subscribe to. Your answer to the following question will tell me: If you suddenly came into an unexpected, significant windfall of money, such as winning a lottery or an inheritance, what would you do with the money, in order of priority? The majority of the wealthy would probably: 1- pay off high interest debt (if they had any); 2- invest in their business or financial assets like stocks; 3- perhaps help family members with financial emergencies (but not the profligate), or give to charity (if they were Christians they would probably have tithed the first 10%); 4- buy stuff for cash.

What would many, perhaps most, of the bottom 50% do? Probably: 1- buy stuff they couldn’t have afforded before; 2- give money away to family members, some of whom were profligate; 3- pay off some debts; 4- save money, if any was left, typically in low interest, high liquidity bank products. Have you ever driven past a ramshackle looking house, with a satellite dish on the roof and a newer-looking, semi-luxury vehicle in the driveway? Of course you have. Do they own the car, or is it financed? Do you think they might be paying quite a lot for cable or satellite TV? If you got inside, what would likely be the most expensive items in the house? Could be the entertainment systems. It seems to me that if you did with the windfall what the wealthy are likely to do, you would subscribe to the consequences of decisions theory, and would probably be wealthy, or well on your way. If you spent the windfall the way the financially struggling would be likely to, you would also be financially struggling and probably subscribe to the unfairness theories.

If you were a Democrat politician, you would certainly flog the unfairness theories for all they were worth, because that’s what they do. I suppose we could also say “promoting the idea of unfairness (or prejudice or discrimination), = votes.” Let me be clear, in case you missed my point. “Regardless of your background or the system, your decisions produce your outcomes.” The best way to overcome your background is to emulate the decisions of those who are where you want to be. The best way to overcome the inherently unequal distribution of abilities, or the prejudices of those in power, is to apply what I call the “Booker T. Washington principle: Make yourself indispensable. Whatever your duties, do them impeccably, and you will get noticed.

The simplest truth about wealth/income gaps–or any kind of UNEQUAL outcome–is: Talent, abilities, initiative (ambition + drive + perseverance) and vision (TAIV) are unequally distributed, no matter what the politicians and grievance hustlers say. Don’t let them influence your decisions. Whom will you listen to?

Oh, about that “widening gap” between the 1% and everyone else: If most of your wealth is in the publicly-traded stock of the company you either started with or joined very early, and that company is successful (Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google), and therefore lots of people and institutions (mutual funds, pension plans, etc) buy that stock, the price of the stock goes up. Is there not a direct relationship between the increase in value of your stock and your net worth??? Any stock is still “riskier” than a bank CD or cash, and the extra “risk premium” is why an investor takes the risk. This hue and cry about wealth or income inequality is pure ignorance or demagouguery.