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February 02, 2020


Ralph Musgrave

Good article above, but with a view to giving credit where due, I doubt Robert Frank is the first to realize the search for status symbols is self defeating. That is, there will be hundreds of philosophers and religious people over the last few thousand years who have tumbled to that one.

Jesus's point about "lay not up for yourself treasures on Earth" is just one example.


Is subsidising things we need (decent housing, healthy food) or things with positive externalities (reading, sport, hobbies, social things etc) the otherwise of the same coin?


Apparently Princeton released another book on exactly the same day as Frank’s book, arguing pretty much the opposite position. It’s “Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe” by Hugo Mercier.

From the blurb:

“Mercier demolishes one of our cherished beliefs, the idea that (other) humans are naturally gullible, an illusion that is entrenched in popular opinion and has been a mainstay of academic psychology for decades.” - Pascal Boyer

Dr Zoltan Jorovic

What should be surprising is that economics has largely ignored the insights of anthropology, sociology and psychology for so long, persisting in its stubborn insistence on the existence of rational economic man using instant and accurate micro-judgements of what provides the optimum utility for all decisions. Was there ever anyone, outside the blind tower of economic academia, who took that seriously? Economics lost touch with reality as most people experience it long ago, and drifted off into a world of complex mathematical models based on farcical and nonsensical assumptions, that in an orgy of circularity served only to "prove" their deluded theories.


“He cites rising support for gay marriage or the legalisation of cannabis as examples: the more that others hold such positions, we more we are likely to see them as mainstream and so give them credence.”

When Irish voters were asked to decide about gay marriage, most concluded that such marriages did no harm to any third party, so there was no legitimate reason for the law to prohibit them. I really think reason and the logic of the argument was decisive, not just the increased visibility of gay people causing some kind of crowd pressure to endorse it regardless.

The modern movement for gay marriage grew out of the sexual rights underground of the 1970s. But while gay equality has mostly triumphed politically, one other cause from that era has conspicuously failed to follow suit: the pro-pedophilia movement of groups like PIE and NAMBLA. Back then PIE even received support from the NCCL. The crucial difference is, while gay sex between consenting adults harms no-one, pedophile sex is child abuse. Anyone who thinks about the issue seriously for more than 30 seconds realises that vital distinction.

In Ireland it was discovered that hundreds of Catholic priests had had sex with thousands of children. This didn’t make Irish people think, oh well, different strokes for different folks, let’s have things out in the open and legalise sex with children. If anything it made them both more horrified by pedophile sex and more relaxed about gay sex between consenting adults.

I haven’t yet read Frank’s book, so don’t want to pre-judge it. But I want to push back against the idea that we’re no better than B.F. Skinner’s rats, with reason and evidence playing no part in our deliberations.


Person 1 buys a large car because they have a partner and three kids, plus prams etc. to transport.

Person 2 buys a large car because it matches their Rolex.

I understand the case for taxing Person 2 more, but I struggle to see how one could discriminate in practice.

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