Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Theory of Limited Good

Prior to about 1650 in England, the concept of economic development (increasing per capita incomes) did not exist. People over the past several hundred thousand years hoped to survive and reproduce, but there could have been no thought that they or their progeny would somehow achieve or inherit a more productive lifestyle. The change from hunter-gatherer to slash & burn and later intensive farming took place over dozens of generations so that people were totally unaware of the changes taking place. Furthermore, it can be argued that those changes led to an initial deterioration in the human condition, such that people made those changes reluctantly when forced to do so when populations expanded beyond the support capacity of the previous system (see the Boserup Model to be posted later). In hunter-gatherer societies men do not work; they hunt and fish, which they enjoy as much as I do. In early slash & burn farming societies men will cut the trees but they will not plant or harvest. Gathering fruits and plants, as well as planting and harvesting, was women’s work. Intensive farming requires men to plow and cultivate their farms. Farming promotes the evolution of weeds—mostly annuals that evolve to take advantage of human-made clearings, so that intensive farming requires both men and women to spend much of their time working in their fields. Sedentary lifestyles promotes the animal equivalent of weeds—rats and mice, lice, flees, cockroaches, etc., that evolve to take advantage of permanent human dwellings—that promote the spread of disease. Domestication of animals leads to new diseases that flash from animals to humans. When the natural ecoloby is replaced with pure stands of cultivated crops, pests and diseases will periodically destroy those crops, leaving farmers to starve. The natural ecology almost never fails so that hunter-gatherer peoples rarely face starvation. Those hunter-gatherer societies that still exist know about farming but they are not about to give up the good life and spent their time working unless forced to do so by absence of the hunting/fishing alternative.

The amount of goods on this earth appeared to be strictly limited. One tribe could garner a larger amount of goods only by taking it away from some other tribe; one group or family in a community could improve their position only by appropriating resources from, or enslaving, other groups or families. Feudal societies existed in Europe and Asia for centuries with no perceptible long-term change in the per capita level of living from generation to generation. The share of the population that was relatively well-off—mostly the nobility, military, priesthood, and a small cadre of artisans and tradesmen—was always limited to about ten percent of the total because it was not possible to extract a larger share of the food supply from the majority peasant farmer population through tribute or taxation. Peasant farmers in feudal societies, and people in hunter-gatherer societies, had little incentive to produce more food than they could consume when there was very little of value that could be obtained for that food through trade. In feudal and tribal societies, the vast majority of people had no reason to even consider increasing production above that required to maintain life. The amount of goods on this earth appeared to be strictly limited. One tribe could garner a larger amount of goods only by taking it away from some other tribe; one group or family in a community could improve their position only by appropriating resources from, or enslaving, other groups or families.

The absence of the possibility of increasing per capita production leads to the conclusion that one can consume more only when others consume less. To have more, you must take from people who will necessarily have less. This view, or rather this reality, gave rise to the theory of limited good, that was the prevailing paradigm in feudal and primitive societies. If there is a limited amount of goods in this world it must follow that either all people will be poor, or a small share of the population can have relative wealth by further impoverishing the others.

Shared poverty was typical in tribal societies where resources were generally held in communal tenure and all members of the group were more or less economic equals (although, murder, rape, plunder and enslavement of persons outside the group was the norm in tribal societies). People in tribal societies held most of their productive resources in communal tenure because those resources were not scarce, and there was no motive for personal ownership.

Feudalism evolved when higher population densities gave rise to sedentary farm communities, and productive resources became scarce. The fact that feudalism of Europe and Asia was so similar, in spite of having evolved independently, should tell us that the evolution of that system was mostly independent of culture. Under feudalism a small elite garnered a significant share of total resources for themselves by claiming ownership of all land resources and extracting a tribute or tax, in the form of food or labor, from the majority peasant population that was allowed to procure subsistence using that land. The nobility was able to consume more and higher quality food, clothing, and shelter, but the relative absence of goods, other than the necessities of life, meant that the prime luxury consumed by the nobility was leisure and power over the majority population.

The rural economy in some areas of Andean South America was largely feudal through the mid-20th Century. Landless peasants were forced to engancharse (become hitched or attached) to a hacienda in order to obtain a small plot of land for subsistence production. In exchange, the peasant was required to provide a mandated levy of labor on the owner’s land, and the peasant’s children were often required to work as maids or servants in the big house (personal observation as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Indian village of Zurite, Peru in 1963 & 1964). Only a small share of the land on most haciendas was used for other than rudimentary grazing, but hacienda owners were eager to obtain control of communal and peasant lands. Litigation by hacienda owners aimed at securing rights to land held by peasant farmers was an expected norm. Hacienda owners rarely wished to make use of the land they were so desperate to control; indeed, they usually made use of only a small share of the land they already owned. When haciendas won control over peasant lands they would generally allow the peasants to continue using the land as before, but on the condition that each family provide two days of labor each week for the hacienda. Indeed, the hacienda labor supply was primarily determined by the number of landless peasants who could be forced to engancharse on the hacienda. Hacienda owners referred to their task of increasing production as hacer los indios trabajar (make the Indians work). Even though haciendas controlled the vast majority of land resources, the total production and monetary incomes of most hacienda owners were very low. Those hacienda owners able to have a vehicle, electricity, indoor plumbing, and modern consumer goods, usually owned a business in the city or were employed as a doctor or engineer. For most hacienda owners, wealth was measured in leisure and power over the Indian population.

Why was it impossible to increase per capita production in feudal societies? The very simple answer is there were very few goods known to exist other than the necessities of life—food, shelter, clothing, horses and other livestock, and a few household items. These items could mostly be obtained by subsistence and household production, but once the family needs were satisfied there would be no reason to continue to work to produce more, unless forced to do so by the requirement to pay tribute or tax to a noble lord. The population in towns or castles produced very little of value to peasant farmers. Peasants would not willingly produce a surplus that would be confiscated by the nobility.

To be sure, some town people did provide goods and services that were of value to peasants and other people. Towns and villages have always been trade centers; even peasant farmers need salt, and a few other items, that could usually be obtained only by trade or barter. Towns also have a blacksmith who makes metal tools and weapons, a wheelwright who made wheels and axels for wagons, and a few other specialists. It is an exaggeration to say the non-peasant population produced nothing of value—but, only a rather small exaggeration. The nobility consumed most of the products and services produced in towns. For the most part, the surplus food and fiber needed by the non-farm population was extracted from the peasants by force. The size of the non-farm population—rarely more than ten percent of the total—was therefore set by the limits of the small legitimate trade and mostly on the ability of the nobility to extract tribute or tax from peasant farmers. In the case of Andean countries in the mid-20th Century, towns produced (or imported and sold) a wide range of goods and services that were of value to peasant farmers—notably beer, rum, cigarettes, soft drinks, bread, a few canned foods, etc., and for better off peasants, clothing, radios, some other factory-made articles. Many peasant farmers were able, and eager, to obtain those things by selling agricultural products in towns; thus, the percentage of the population that could life in towns, or be engaged in other than subsistence production, greatly exceeded ten percent norm in early feudal societies (personal observation).

The Theory of Limited Good helps us understand the cultural, as well as economic, life of pre-industrial peoples of the world. If the supply of economic goods is limited, then the supply of pleasure, beauty, and happiness may also be limited. When one family has too much of those things, they must be taking them away from other people. Your home and possessions should not be too pleasant, nor your daughters too beautiful, nor should you be too happy. Even salvation and eternal life in heaven is made that much more precious by the fact that most people (those who have beliefs that differ from yours) will spend eternity in hell. On the one hand, some persons might see impoverishment of the community as the only way to increase their own level of well-being. On the other hand, other members of a community might want to avoid accumulation of wealth because the resulting impoverishment of other families places community solidarity at risk. The Potlatch ritual, in which a family that has accumulated a conspicuous amount of wealth must divest itself of that wealth by lavish gift giving, was common among many Indian tribes in North America and elsewhere. I witnessed a form of “potlatch” in Peru in the early 1960’s. In this case a family that had accumulated conspicuous wealth would feel obligated to throw a party for the village, providing chicha beer and rum, as well as food, to everyone in the village until the wealth was used up. Some of those parties would continue for two or three days, ending only when the drunken party thrower had spent all his money and all money he could borrow against future earnings.

Persistence of the Theory of Limited Good

Redistribution of accumulated wealth may be necessary to keep the peace in tribal and feudal villages. However, the social stigma against accumulation of wealth can be detrimental to economic development when a society is capable of increasing the level of per capita production. Unfortunately, the Theory of Limited Good continues to be a very powerful myth in modernizing societies, and is often the prevailing paradigm in countries just beginning the development process.

In poor countries around the world, commodities that are for sale in the marketplace generally do not have fixed prices. Buyers and sellers expect to haggle and bargain over the price—a time-consuming and inefficient process that greatly reduces productivity. Unwillingness to accept the concept of a fair and equitable price, in which both the seller and buyer are benefited, flows directly from the theory of limited good. That theory holds that in any transaction there must be a winner and a loser. The seller holds out for a price sufficiently high to assure the buyer will pay more than the item is really worth; at the same time, the buyer bargains hard for a price below the seller’s cost. Both feel the need to best the other in the bargaining contest, well beyond the desire of the seller for a reasonable profit and that of the buyer for a fair price. A seller may be willing to delay, or even forego, a sale to avoid accepting a smaller profit, if that means the buyer feels he got a good deal. Likewise, buyers may postpone purchase for weeks or months in order to obtain a price that will not provide a profit to the seller.

That situation contrasts sharply with countries where economic development has become an expected norm. For the most part, commodities have a set price that provides ample incentive to both producers and consumers to sell and buy—both parties expect to get a fair deal! In rich countries, price bargaining is relatively limited and usually suggests deviousness or dishonesty—would you trust a car salesman? In traditional societies almost all exchange, including buying and selling, wages and rent, and services, will often involve haggling until one or both parties can feel they are walking away a winner. The custom of haggling and bargaining for every potato and taxi ride is one of those cultural traits that is incompatible with economic development. The modern economy depends upon mutual cooperation and reciprocity—trust must be accorded to strangers to a degree that was formerly reserved to members of one’s family.

While living in Peru in the early 1960’s, I would cut the haggling short as follows: Determine in advance what the starting, and final price of the item is likely to be—say a poncho for which the seller will ask 120 soles and ultimately sell for 50 soles when the haggling is over. Initiate your offer at 100 soles (with no fear that the seller will take you up on it). No; the price is 120 soles! Drop your offer to 80 soles. Hey, you just offered 100 soles; I will sell you the poncho for 100 soles. I will give you 60 soles for the poncho. Wait, you just said 80 soles. I will pay 50 soles for the poncho; if you do not accept that price I will drop it to 40 soles. OK, OK, OK, 50 soles! (Some of these damn foreigners won’t play by the rules.) It must be noted that profit may not be the primary purpose of buying and selling on market day. On one occasion I attempted to purchase all the one-day old chickens a young woman had at the price she asked (being desperate for one-day old chickens). No; I will sell you only 3. Why not sell all of them? Because then I would have nothing left to sell! Hey folks, this not a market economy!

In poor countries (and among some groups in rich countries) there is often resentment against successful individuals and enterprises, and a prevailing belief that wealth is a direct result of exploitation of other people. This belief is so strong that many people would prefer to forego economic development if it must entail some persons benefiting more than others, or conspicuous wealth amid mass poverty. It is important to be clear on this point: Thus far in the history of economic development, some people have always benefited more than others, and in the early stages it has produced conspicuous wealth amid mass poverty. If there is another way to do it, someone should point that out (and provide some historical examples).

That view is often taught in universities in poor countries, and incredibly, sometimes taught in technologically advanced countries. In poor countries it is often a mainstream or establishment viewpoint that is widely shared among the population. In technologically advanced countries that viewpoint has been defined as non-establishment alternative or dependency theory view. I have often wondered whether those ‘social scientists’ who present this view do it simply as a liberal protest statement or to gain the good-will of a certain class of students, or whether they actually subscribe to the theory. I also find it ironic that some students from poor countries travel to the U.S. to study the theory of limited good view of development, when that view is often held to be common knowledge in their own countries, but rejected by most scholars in the U.S.

But, objection to accumulation of wealth is not just pandering to persons who oppose the social and economic establishment. Even among people who should know better, there is a nagging feeling that Bill Gates’ billions may be the reason hundreds of thousands of people live in poverty. Likewise, the large and successful businesses such as McDonalds and Wall Mart must be guilty of something—else they would not be so rich and successful. Economic development—an increase in the per capita production and consumption of goods and services—is, for most of us, a mysterious process. How does new wealth come into existence? Where does it come from? How can it be true that we will all be better off if we rush out and spend our money on the silliness that Madison Avenue is pushing in TV commercials? How can inadequate demand cause recession and poverty? Don’t recession and poverty prove that demand is already too high in comparison to the supply of goods and services? Doesn’t it make more sense to believe recession and poverty are caused by low productivity? And, doesn’t it make more sense to believe that if Bill Gates didn’t have so many billions of dollars, there would be more for the rest of us?

When John Maynard Keynes expounded his Demand Theory of economic growth, most people, including some economists, were puzzled. How could we cure the problem of low consumption in the private sector by having the government consume more? Wouldn’t that just reduce the amount left over for private consumption? How could government purchase and destruction (or permanent storage) of large amounts of food cause people to have more food?

Clearly, the Demand Theory of economic growth did work. The U.S. Government’s New Deal programs aimed at stimulating demand during the 1930’s were probably too modest to have pulled the country out of the World Depression. However, government stimulus of the economy did reduce unemployment and reverse the skid toward economic collapse. Later, the enormous demand created by WW II did cause the world depression to end and sparked a rapid increase in per capita incomes around the world. But, “What about the long run?” demanded many economists and others. Keynes answered: “In the long run we will all be dead.” Keynes’ response was not just sarcasm; indeed, economists, like the rest of us, continue having a tough time answering that question.

Several years ago I spoke at the Ministry of Agriculture in Quito, Ecuador, on the subject of agricultural development. During the question and answer period, one agricultural expert suggested: “We (Ecuadorians) would have plenty of bananas to eat if we didn’t export most of our crop to the United States.” I responded: “If Ecuador stopped the export of bananas there would just be more people in Ecuador who would be unable to afford to consume bananas;” (and that what Ecuador needed to do was find new export markets for their almost inexhaustible ability to produce bananas, and that the only new potential market not already saturated with bananas was Eastern Europe). They all knew their colleague was wrong and I was right; the problem of the banana economy in Ecuador was the constant tendency to overproduce for a market already saturated with bananas. Indeed, the people of the Guayas Basin, where most bananas are produced, were lobbying the Ministry of Agriculture to prohibit banana production for export in the Esmeraldas valley, where there was growing interest in that enterprise. Everyone knew the problem was insufficient demand. But, they keep asking themselves: How can this be possible?

It should also be obvious that Ecuador will never grow rich by selling bananas, regardless of the size of the market. It is a simple fact that as world incomes go up, the share spent on bananas will go down, and people selling bananas will earn an ever decreasing share of the aggregate world income [see my statement on Engel’s Law in “Why Doesn’t Great Wealth Produce Great Happiness].

How can it be true that exporting even more bananas will cause the amount of bananas consumed locally to increase? Exactly the same way exporting more cars from the U.S. will cause more people in the U.S. to be able to afford to purchase cars! Ecuadorians could easily double their production of bananas if they had a market; likewise, U.S. automakers would love to double the production of cars if someone would buy them. How can it be true that foreign investment will promote economic development in a poor country when the investors will take more money out of the country than they bring in? Exactly the same way investment in our community by a firm from Chicago will produce jobs and higher incomes for us, in spite of the fact that a Chicago investor will, unless the investment is a total failure, certainly take more money out of our community than was invested in that enterprise. The view that investment will have a negative effect on development, because the amount of money taken out of the business in interest and profit will exceed the amount of invested, flies in the face of logic and common sense. What sort of fool would invest 10 million dollars in Ecuador and wind up 20 years later with less than 10 million? Would you put 500 dollars in the bank and be satisfied with getting 400 dollars back 20 years later? If you received your $500 plus another $1,100 in interest payment (at 6% annually) would you be exploiting the bank? According to the theory of limited good, the answer is YES! Surely, no one could believe that theory holds in the modern economy. Oh, but they do (or at least say they do); and they teach that theory in university classrooms around the world, including a few classrooms here in the United States!

A ten million dollar investment in the U.S. would probably generate a return in interest and profit for an investor of at least $16 million dollars every 10 years (a return on investment of 10%). (After all, the investor could get $8 million from a bank at 6% interest with no risk at all!) That same investment made in the more risky economic environment of Ecuador would need to produce at least $50 million in interest and profit every 10 years (a 20% return) because the investor would assume the added risk only if higher returns were expected. That investment would also produce a gross income of $250 million dollars or more over that period, of which all but interest and profit would go for rent, raw materials, and labor. How can someone argue that the people of our community, or the people of Ecuador, would be better off without the $250 million dollars in economic activity, because the business owner removed $16 or $50 million in interest and profit on the investment? But, people do make those arguments—incredibly, you can hear those arguments in university classrooms here in the United States!

The Demand Theory of Productivity

In technologically advanced countries we know (or think we know) recession is caused by faltering demand. When demand falters we attempt to stimulate it by reducing taxes and increasing the money supply (reducing interest rates), and by increasing government spending. Likewise, when the economy is overheated it would be appropriate to increase taxes and the interest rate, and reduce government spending.

Tax increases and reductions in government spending are politically unpopular, so politicians are hesitant to use these tools. Politicians probably would not raise interest rates to prevent inflation either, for the same reasons. Fortunately, in the U.S. interest rates are set by Federal Reserve (the FED), which is mostly independent of the White House and Congress. In many less developed countries political leaders do control the interest rate so that it is virtually impossible to stop inflationary pressure, given that politicians will usually prefer to destroy the economy rather than their own political career!

When Ronald Reagan brought in very unorthodox supply side economists, his own Vice President (Bush Senior) referred to it as voodoo economics. In practice, the Reagan administration did reduce taxes and did increase government spending (mostly on military hardware), and the economy did recover.

Is low productivity in poor countries also caused by problems on the demand side? Or, is low productivity in Kenya, Peru, and Pakistan caused by the inability of farms and factories to increase production? Most development projects appear to accept the second position; that is, they focus on increasing production. It is assumed, that farms, factories, and other businesses in poor countries are unable to produce enough food, manufactured goods, and services to meet the demand. It is assumed, apparently, that low levels of consumption prove demand exceeds the supply of goods and services. Is that true? Or, are low levels of consumption the result of low demand in the marketplace—that is, a result of the fact that a large share of the population does not have money to spend on those goods and services they would like to purchase?

Over the past 40 years that I have interviewed a very large number of farmers in various countries of Latin America. One question at the top of my list is why the farmer does not increase production: Why not clear a bit more land and plant an additional quarter-hectare of corn? Why not apply a bit more fertilizer to that field so you can use it every year, instead of leaving it fallow every other year? Why not plant alfalfa in that field rather than making use of it for natural pasture? I have never met one farmer who responded that he did not know how, or was not able, to increase production. Rather, they have all responded: There is no market for the additional production; or, there is no way to get the additional production to the market; or, the owner of the truck going to the market town will charge me more than I will get for the product; or, most commonly, the government has set the market price below my production cost. Most factories in poor countries operate far below capacity, and would be more than happy to increase production. The capital goods used in factories are mostly produced in technologically advanced countries where the size of the market is very large. Because most poor countries have much smaller markets (lower incomes and often smaller populations) many machines in factories operate well below capacity. Even in those cases in which a factory is operating at capacity, owners would love to expand their operations with new buildings, capital goods, and workers, if they had a market for the products. They do not increase production because there is no market demand for the products they are willing and able to produce.

I have never met a shoe-shine boy who was unable or unwilling to shine more shoes; never met a street vendor who was unable or unwilling to sell more goods; never met a taxi driver who was unable or unwilling to haul more passengers; and so on for every sector in the economies of Latin American countries. The problem is not inability to produce; rather, the problem is the absence of someone to buy the product. How can development be promoted by policies that aim at doing what people are already willing and able to do—increase production—rather than doing what people cannot do—increase real demand?

Hungry people with no money do not create demand for food. Likewise, people with no money do not stimulate demand for the goods and services produced in the non-farm sector. Hungry people with no money is NOT a food problem; that is a money problem. Likewise, when people with no money lack housing, clothing, and most other goods and services, the problem is NOT scarcity of housing, clothing, etc. Increasing the supply of food and other goods and services will not cause people with no money to purchase those commodities. Lack of money is caused by low salaries and wages, unemployment and under-employment, or by disability resulting from age or physical/mental conditions. Those problems can only be solved by increasing salaries and wages, providing employment for able-bodied persons and providing charity for those who cannot work because they are destitute children, elderly, or physically or mentally disabled.

Over the longer term, and especially in the later stages of development, increasing salaries and wages will depend upon increasing productivity with improved technology and labor-saving capital. In addition, improved technology may result in lower cost production and thus lower prices that can have a stimulating effect on demand. But, the first step toward increasing demand is being sure all able-bodied persons have access to employment. Modern technology is mostly labor-saving, and will tend to reduce the number of jobs in traditional sectors. Often the capital goods available to poor countries are already overly focused on labor-saving technology. Until poor countries are able to fully employ those people who want jobs, labor-saving technology is not likely to be appropriate technology.

We must also remember that there is no demand for a commodity until the existence of that commodity becomes known to potential consumers. In rich countries, advertising is an essential ingredient in stimulating demand; advertising causes people to want things that they would otherwise have been content to live without. In poor countries, the demonstration effect (becoming aware of a desirable item by seeing it used by another person) as well as advertising plays that role. It does not matter (for economic growth) whether the things people are convinced to want are actually worthwhile (in the judgment of outside observers). It only matters that people want them enough to increase their production sufficiently to get money to pay for them.

It is often suggested that sale of goods and services that are judged to be of trivial value should be curtailed, so that consumers would spend their money on goods and services that are ‘worthwhile.’ This view is very questionable. Unless the consumer who spends money on things judged to be of trivial value can be induced to start “wanting” those goods judged to be ‘useful’ (even though their actions suggest otherwise) total market demand will tend to decrease in direct proportion to curtailed demand for “trivial” items, causing the economy to shrink. (Restrictions on the consumption of harmful and addictive substances and services are justifiable for health and safety, rather than economic reasons.)

The Origin of Economic Development

Beginning about 1650 something very strange began to happen in England. People in towns began to manufacture goods that peasant farmers found desirable, and cheap enough to purchase. These goods, mostly textiles, were cheap because more efficient spinning and weaving machines were invented and water power and later steam power (by burning coal) was substituted for labor. It turned out that when urban people produced things peasant farmers wanted, the farmers were more than willing to increase production of food and transport that surplus to the market for sale.

The limits on urban growth were broken. Indeed, there seemed no limit on the number of people who could make a better living producing manufactured goods. And, there seemed to no limit on the amount of surplus food the farm population could produce, in spite of the fact that urbanization was reducing the share (and sometimes the absolute number) of the population in the farm sector. As the share of the population in the farm sector declined, the primary market for goods and services produced by urban people became the urban people themselves. People cannot grow rich by producing and exchanging agricultural products. Engel’s Law tells us that if incomes increase the share of total income spent on farm products will decline. But, people can grow rich by producing and exchanging manufactured goods because the demand for those products appears to be inexhaustible. As development continues, the production of services—that is, goods that are intangible—became the major component of increased demand and production.

It is even more difficult for us to understand how it is possible for people to grow rich by producing and exchanging services—or as some would say, doing each other’s laundry. We continue to believe there must be some outside source of new wealth coming into the system. Accordingly, economic geographers classify production as ‘basic’ versus ‘non-basic’ goods and services, where basic goods are those sold outside the community (or city, or state, or country). It is presumed that economic growth is dependent upon production of basic goods—you must bring new wealth into the community if it is to develop economically. However, studies have shown that the share of all goods that are basic (sold outside the community) is mostly a function of the size of that community. A single farm or factory exports almost all of the goods produced; a town exports most of the goods and services produced; a very large city exports an smaller fraction of production; the State of Ohio exports proportionally less; large countries only a few percent of total GDP to other countries; and the world as a whole exports nothing at all. If it were true that development is dependent upon bringing wealth in from somewhere else, how could it be possible for the entire world to experience economic development?

Even though we know the basic/non-basic concept of development is flawed, we continue to cling to the notion that wealth must be generated from outside the system. The city fathers are willing to encourage and subsidize industries that produce products (especially tangible goods), that will be sold outside the city, because that brings money into the city. They are much less enthusiastic in their support of a bowling alley or a restaurant—and other industries that just move money around inside the city—because it is presumed that those industries do not promote economic growth. Oh, but they do! Indeed we have no evidence that production of intangible services to be consumed within the city contributes less to economic growth, dollar for dollar, than production of tangible goods, or goods to be sold elsewhere.

Obviously, some industries have greater spread effect by producing backward and forward linkages to other sectors of the economy. A car factory may encourage lateral developments in other related industries that produce raw materials, and stimulate transport and wholesale activities that are needed to move the finished product to customers. In this sense, the car factory does promote more economic development per dollar of production than does a bowling alley.

The theory of limited good is a logical and rational viewpoint that seems to hold in much of human experience. If there is one teaching position available in the Geography Department and Jane gets that job, then John and Martha will not get the job. If the salary increase pool for the department is a fixed amount of dollars (as it often is), then every dollar Tom gets is a dollar less for Bob and Charles (which explains why they fight like cats and dogs over the salary increase pool). If Joe gets the prettiest girl in the class, then Don and Mike certainly won’t. If Paul purchases the lot with the best view in the development, then Dorothy and Jim will have to make do with something less. And, in a society where economic development is absent—where the per capita income remains constant—one family can have a higher income only when one or more other families have a lower income. It is not easy to explain how and why the theory of limited good does not hold in societies that are experiencing economic development (experiencing income growth on a per capita basis). But, it is easy to explain why economic development is not possible as long as people behave as if the theory of limited good is at work in their community.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Winter Lake Circles

I noticed these circles in the snow on a small lake (Canvasback Lake) in our community in Idaho in December of 2005. Since that time I seem to find these circles on lakes and ponds just about everywhere I look (after freezing and snowfall). What caused them, and why did I not see them previously? My theory is in 2005 the space aliens that make crop circles in England decided to confound Americans during the winter when there were no crops to circle in England. Not finding crops in the U.S. during that time of year, they decided to do their thing on lakes. Recently I spotted “crop circles” on a pond on the Ohio University campus and asked a physicist friend to explain that phenomenon. He had a look at the circles and responded that physics does not deal with the paranormal. Have an alternative theory? I sure would like to hear it!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

European Population Decline

The Demographic Transition

The transition from high birth and death rates in pre-industrial societies to low birth and death rates in industrial societies is well known to demographers and we think we understand why that transition occurred. In pre-industrial societies infant death rates are very high because of lack of basic sanitation and primary health care. People adjusted to these very high death rates by maintaining very high birth rates. Knowledge of the germ theory of disease and relatively simple public health measures resulted in a rapid and sharp decline in infant mortality; later, antibiotics and other modern medicines further reduced infant and maternal mortality. People adjusted to these lower infant and maternal mortality rates—usually after a ‘new rich’ one or two generation population boom—by reducing their birth rates.

The birth rate reduction occurred in all societies undergoing modernization, including those where birth control and access to abortion was readily available and those without those easy options. It occurred in both Catholic and Protestant communities, and in most communities with other religions. Demographers could not conclude that either government promoted access or restrictions on birth control/abortion or religious values substantially caused or hindered that transition.

It is possible that public policies favoring lower fertility shortened ‘baby boom’ periods in some countries. Draconian measures taken in China to enforce the ‘one-child policy’ did result in a significant acceleration in the already underway fertility decline. In most countries birth rates declined with or without government encouragement. Likewise, government efforts to increase fertility in pre-WWII Germany and in Europe generally after about 1980 appear to have been in vain, and there is no evidence that current efforts in that regard will be any more successful.

The most plausible theory explaining the demographic transition comes from the biological sciences. Very high infant mortality among animals (such as smaller mammals) is associated with very large numbers of offspring and relatively little investment on the part of the parents in each. Animals that produce offspring with a good chance of survival, such as larger mammals, produce fewer young and make a much larger investment in each one. In pre-industrial human communities, very little investment is required to produce and raise an additional child. There is no doctor bill because there is no doctor; there is no cost for shoes, store-bought clothing, education, etc., because there are no shoes, store-bought clothing, education, etc. An additional handful of beans in the pot is disregarded; a handful of beans has almost no value even to very poor people, and in hard times everyone starves. Moreover, a child in a poor family becomes productive very quickly; at age 10 youngsters can tend the sheep or shine shoes in the city, earning many times more than their cost. Obviously, a family with many children is better off than one with few children.

In industrial and post-industrial societies the cost of an additional infant is very substantial. There will be doctor bills, shoes and clothing, and education, and the economic return on a child is essentially zero. The rational response to a very substantial investment cost for offspring is obvious—have fewer children so that you can increase the investment in each one. It really doesn’t matter what the government or church says; rational people tend to act rationally.

The demographic transition does not violate evolutionary theory. The most fundamental law of evolution is reproduction. If you fail to pass your genes and culture to a new generation you will cease to exist. But, having two children who are well cared for and educated is not failure to reproduce. Indeed, two or three well cared for and educated children are the best way to assure the survival of your genes and culture. The demographic transition is a rational response to a changed circumstance in the human condition.

Current European Population Decline

The birthrate in many countries in both Western and Eastern Europe have now declined to levels well below—approaching one-half of—replacement level fertility. The failure to produce a new generation to provide continuity for ones genes and culture violates the most fundamental principle of evolution. Indeed, it may mark the first time in the history of life on earth a substantial number of a species has voluntarily declined to transmit its genes to a new generation. Children are the life of life; without children there is only death! What could possess a society to willingly commit mass suicide?

Current birthrates among native-born Spanish, French, Italian, and English are about half the number required for the survival of their genes and culture. These same societies have promoted the immigration of persons who do not share their genes and culture in order to fill the jobs required to sustain their economy, their pensions, and their health care system. The native-born in those societies are well aware of the fact that their immigrant workers are having children who will very soon outnumber their own offspring. They are also well aware of the consequences, but appear to be in denial. Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury stated the obvious fact that Sharia Law in Britain is inevitable; his statement was greeted with public and media outrage, but no one challenged that fact. Sharia Law is already in place in many communities in England, and those communities, in contrast to other British communities, are growing rapidly. Could they think that by not saying it, it will not be true? Politically correct speech may sound nice, but who would believe that will alter the truth? Currently one-third of grammar school children in Germany were born to immigrants, mostly Turkish Islamic immigrants. Does someone suppose it will not be fifty percent in a decade or so, and seventy-five percent a couple of decades later?

One might suppose that cradle-to-the-grave socialism and the 35-hour workweek have lulled Europeans into a self-centered sleep. Just give me mine, and when I’m gone it doesn’t matter. But no! Younger Europeans know they are not likely to get ‘theirs’! The young European people of Britain, France, and Spain must be aware of the fact that when Islamic population emerges as a majority of the youth and working age, they will not be tolerant or kind to the older European generation that, having no children to support them, hopes to continue to collect their government pensions and free medical care. Indeed, one would have to be a complete fool to believe an Islamic population would provide welfare and medical care to an elderly generation that imported them as cheap labor. The proposal by a Bishop of the Church of England that they should substitute the name Allah for God, would be comical if it were not so obviously desperate. Those with resources will certainly hope to emigrate to the US, or Canada, or Australia. But, what country would allow immigration of tens of millions of destitute elderly persons? How can people face certain catastrophe and ignore it?

What could possibly explain why a population of living beings does not wish to transmit its genes and culture into the next generation, knowing full well the dire consequences even for themselves? To rephrase the question: What could explain mass suicide?

I have a theory. It is only a theory, but to my knowledge it will be the first attempt to explain the extraordinary events taking place in Europe, and explain similar events transpiring in the U.S. I propose this theory knowing that I cannot prove it, and knowing that it will be considered politically incorrect—indeed disgusting and perhaps offensive—to most of my colleagues and many other readers. Yet, I believe it must be stated out loud, even though the vast majority of my fellows would prefer it to be unsaid. If for no other reason, stating this theory clearly may prompt adherents to examine their motives for what must otherwise be considered mass irrational behavior.

The Green Religion

Mass suicide is deviant behavior, but there is precedent. Mass suicide has occurred occasionally throughout history. In all cases that I know about that sort of behavior has been associated with religious faith. Remember the poison cool-aid in Jonestown, Guyana? What prompted women to poison their own children and kill themselves? Remember Waco Texas? How about Massada; what prompted those Jews surrounded by the Roman Army to commit mass suicide? What prompts Islamic people to celebrate the suicide (and murderous acts) of their own children today in the Middle East? There must be some faith-based belief to justify those acts; irrational behavior is okay if it is faith based. People are prepared and sometimes eager to do all manner of things for their God—including wrapping an explosive vest about themselves and committing unspeakable murder of innocent persons, including children.
Yes it must be religious faith! But what is this faith all those post-Christian Europeans (and many American followers) believe with such fervor? I suggest that the Green Revolution has been transformed into a faith-based religion—a religion that justifies, indeed encourages, human suicide!

Let’s examine the extreme environmental movement or Green Religion. Are adherents environmental scientists? Some do indeed have advanced degrees and teach at Universities. But, what they teach is not science. The rules of science are quite explicit; a scientist must accept the result of an unbiased evaluation of the facts. Consider the recent ‘endangered polar bears’ issue. People of science know that prior to the Little Ice Age (1450 to 1850) the earth, or at least the northern hemisphere, was much warmer than it is today, and warmer than global warming enthusiasts project over the coming century. After all, Vikings were growing wheat in areas in Greenland that are currently covered with iron-hard permafrost six feet deep. Does someone suppose the polar bears evolved after 1450? If not, how did they survive 10,000 years from the end of the Main Wisconsin Glacial to the Little Ice Age? But the Green Religion people have no interest in facts. Their beliefs are based on faith; they don’t need facts. The Green Religion adherents also know their enemy: It is human beings, and especially those humans who live in industrial societies!

According to the Green Religion, all lifeforms on this earth except one are ‘natural’. Humans are the unnatural exception. All elements and compounds are ‘natural’ except those compounds that are man-made. Man-made compounds are not ‘natural’ (including those which are chemically identical to ‘natural’ compounds). We must have special rules for man-made compounds. For example, the EPA is allowed (by congress) to use massive dosage experiments on lab animals to determine whether a compound is carcinogenic—but only in the case of man-made compounds. Thus far more than 800 man-made compounds have been tested and all but about a half-dozen did indeed produce tumors in lab animals.

Apparently man-made compounds are not only unnatural (ever met a chemist that would agree with that?), but are also carcinogenic. The author of the ‘massive dosage’ testing method has disavowed it on grounds that everything appears to be toxic and carcinogenic in massive dosages. Indeed, if we used the massive dosage test for ‘natural’ compounds they would also prove to be toxic or carcinogenic. But, never mind, those compounds are ‘natural’, so it is okay to consume them!

How does it come to pass that humans are unnatural? Are we not a part of the evolutionary process? Perhaps God placed humans on this earth as evil creatures, quite apart from the evolutionary processes that produced other liveforms. You don’t ‘believe in’ God? Well perhaps humans developed an evil desire to destroy all living organisms (including themselves) and destroy the natural beauty of the world as well.

When the oil crisis produced by the Oil Cartel struck in the 1970’s I recall the jubilation of an environmentalist colleague. He was so happy that his dire predictions were at last coming true. But John, you know the oil crisis is caused by the OPEC cartel. No, we are running out of oil; even the Shah of Iran says so. But John, you know the Shah of Iran has good reasons to cover his butt on this issue. No, we are running out of fossil fuels just as I have been telling you; now humans will pay the price for destroying nature. But John, you are a human too; why are you so happy to announce the demise of humanity? Humans destroy nature! It must stop!

The oil crisis produced by the Oil Cartel was rather short-lived; among other things it put Mexico and the UK, among others, in the oil business. But we now have another oil crisis, and I’m sure John is happy again. Hurricane Katrina was another bright spot in his life, proving as it did that global warming (caused by unnatural humans) was increasing the temperature of the Gulf, which would produce an increasing number of class-five hurricanes from now on. How disappointing that in the following years there have been fewer than normal hurricanes. But never mind, there will be other disasters John can celebrate.

If humans are the enemy of the environment (of Creation or God for that few who allow for God) then having children is a terrible sin! Saint Paul Ehrlich (of Population Bomb fame) announced early on that he had a vasectomy so that he would not contribute to the overpopulation curse. Paul Ehrlich was wrong in every prediction he made in his book—any demographer, economists, or indeed any person with a modicum of common sense would have dismissed Ehrlich’s ideas with a wave of their hand—but that does not diminish his status as a Saint in the Green Religion.

Notice that the Green Religious faith is held primarily by individuals who are financially well endowed and/or beneficiaries of cradle-to-the-grave socialism. The desire to have children that will provide support in old age is seemingly eliminated. The connection between sexual pleasure and children is broken by contraception and legal abortion (which Green Religion adherents champion). The Darwinian drive to pass one genes into the next generation and the holy command to ‘go forth and multiply’ is trumped by the belief that humans are the curse that defiles the otherwise beautiful natural world.

But you say, the Green Religion folks are good people; how can altruistic acts by good people produce bad consequences? Yes, most religious persons are ‘good people’ by definition and their motives are admirable; after all, they are dedicated to, and willing to sacrifice for, a cause they believe is greater than themselves. But, actions taken in the name of religion are often irrational and produce terrible consequences. Let’s state it clearly: Religion is perhaps the highest calling in human endeavor and because that is true, it also has the greatest potential for evil when it is misused! No! I don’t believe the environmentalists are evil people. I know many of them well and consider them to be among the finest people I have ever known. I simply think they are dead wrong and their actions will produce terrible consequences!

The Incredible Mistake of Non-Reproduction

For me to be living on this earth, some 10,000 human couples had to get together over the past 250,000 years, have sex, and raise a child that survived. That was no easy task. The vast majority of humans (and all other individual plants and animals) succeeded in transmitting their genes to no more that a few generations into the future at best. The great enigma of life is that each of us can trace our ancestry back for several generations, and if we had the data could trace it back to Stone Age times, and indeed to our pre-human ancestors. Yet, we are by definition the survivors. The vast majority of the people who lived on this earth did not succeed in passing their genes through to future generations. Ever notice that no one seems to be able to include George Washington or Napoleon in his or her own ancestry? The odds are stacked heavily against passing your genes more than a few generations into the future. It is sort of like the lottery; the odds that you will win is essentially zero, but the odds that someone will win (assuming a large number of us play the game) is one hundred percent! Let’s state this clearly: In order for one person to win the lottery a very large number of people must play the game; Europeans are no longer playing the game of life so there will be no winners among their genes and culture.

For every generation there is a sieve at work allowing only select genes to pass through to the next generation. When people crossed the Sahara desert on the way north, those who could not tolerate the heat and lack of water did not arrive at the Mediterranean Sea. During the Pleistocene Ice Age persons who could not tolerate the cold did not pass their genes through that sieve. When the Black Death, and hundreds of other plagues struck, many and sometimes most people died taking their genes to the grave. When Europeans and Africans migrated to America many succumbed to disease and hardship; we Americans carry only the genes of those who passed that test. When the pioneers trekked west by covered wagon there were lots of men and women who could not stand the test; their genes are no longer with us.

It is quite amazing when you think about it. We are the survivors! In my ancestry there was not a single woman so ugly that no man would have sex with her (which explains the Darwinian drive toward female beauty). There was not a single man so homosexual that he could not have sex with a woman (which should prove extreme homosexualism is produced by behavior rather than inherited genes). There was not a single woman who could not endure the pain of childbirth and sacrifice twelve to fifteen years of her life insuring that her child reached adulthood—and not one who thought her career was too important to have children. Indeed, there have been 10,000 men and 10,000 women who have come together and given much of themselves to make it possible for me to be alive. And, my story is repeated in each of the six billion human beings on this earth.

Our genes survived the Sahara Desert and the Ice Age, survived the plagues and the crossing of the Atlantic on a flimsy square-rigger, the trek west by covered wagon, and thousands of trials and tribulations we cannot even conceive. Will they now succumb to ‘women’s lib’, the ‘stress of modern life’, and the Green Religion? One day I will face those 10,000 men and women who suffered and sacrificed so that I could live on this earth. If I break the chain of reproduction and carry my genes to my grave, how will I explain that to the 10,000 couples who made it possible for me to live on this earth? There was a great deal of stress in my life. What do you know about stress? I was concerned about my career. Your career meant nothing! I felt it was my duty to not have children that would contribute to the destruction of the earth. You stupid fool! Were you unable to look around and see that reproduction is the most fundamental rule of life for all plants and animals?

So Who Cares?

I DO! Europeans have been the most innovative, productive, and creative people to live on this earth for the past five hundred years. Where would the Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans be without them? Without Europeans there would be no industrial development, no science, no democracy, and no world with the vast majority of humans living a long and comfortable life.

It is worth noting that Europeans have been far better stewards of the environment than any other group of people over the past 500 years. Name one environmental initiative that has come from Africa, Asia, or Latin America! When we Europeans voluntarily check out (to save the environment) who will be left to concern themselves with pollution, the rain forests, the Great Barrier Reef, etc? Perhaps the Africans will stop murdering each other and begin to concern themselves with the environment. Perhaps the Islamic people will become more concerned with preservation of nature than with ridding the world of infidels. Perhaps the Latin Americans will take up the notion that saving a rainforest is more important then providing for their own survival and well-being. How could a rational person hold this view as other than a faith-based belief?

So You Don't 'Believe In' God?

(a Creator, intelligent design of the universe, a universe fine-tuned to allow for intelligent life with free-will, etc.), or believe religion is evil or cause for increased human misery.

Answer the following questions.

1. With regard to the relationship between religion and culture (behavior):
a) Religion is a cultural attribute;
b) Culture is (at least for religious people) a religious attribute.
and; a) People generally modify their religion when it conflicts strongly with what they perceive to be their best social and economic interests;
b) People generally accept a reduced social and economic situation if their religion so requires.
and: a) People generally interpret their religion according to their socio-economic position in society (for example, a rich man and a poor man can read the same scripture or other religious edict and come to opposite conclusions about what it means);
b) People generally interpret their religion according to scripture or the head priest irrespective of their socio-economic position in society, so that a rich man and a poor man get precisely the same message if they “believe in” the same religion.
and: a) People often use their religion to justify war, slavery, discriminatory treatment of women or minority groups, and all manner of evil deeds, but it matters little what religion they use for that purpose, or indeed whether or not they actually do subscribe to that religion;
b) Religious beliefs are a primary cause for war, slavery, discriminatory treatment of women and minority groups, and all manner of evil deeds, so that if religion did not exist much or most of that sort of evil would not exist in the world.
and: a) Religion is a “cultural universal,” which attests to the power of that idea so that adherents are best considered normal;
b) Religion is a silly idea subscribed to by morons and those who use morons to further their personal, political or economic agenda.

for example:
a1) The fundamental cause for the Crusades was Arab control of “silk road” which cut off the supply of luxuries from the East; had that economic motive not existed, Europeans would likely have known little and cared less about who controlled the “Holy Land” (which is not to say that individual Crusaders were not sincere in their beliefs that they were fighting for their “God”);
a2) The Catholic/Protestant conflict in Ireland was in fact a conflict between a relatively wealthy group that controlled most economic resources and a much poorer group that felt economic exploitation, such that religion was a convenient marker for which side one was on, but had virtually nothing to do with the conflict (which is not to say that individual combatants do not sincerely believe God is on their side) ;
a3) The Israel/Palestine conflict is between a relatively wealthy group of outsiders (mostly Europeans) who dominate the economy of the region and a relatively poor group of local people who were made second-class citizens by the invaders, so that had the Israelis been Muslims rather than Jewish it would have mattered little (except to the extent that differing religions make an excellent marker for knowing which side one is on);
a4) The current conflict between Islam and Western (secular) society was caused, and is sustained, by temporary oil wealth that encourages Muslims to believe (incorrectly) they can recreate the glory of their past without pursuing the Western urban-industrial development model (which is completely incompatible with fundamentalist Islam); absent oil wealth, Islamic nations would be scrambling to adopt the Western model of urban-industrial development regardless of the consequences to traditional Islamic values and culture;
a5) When adversaries share the same religion they find some other “marker” to identify their enemies, and both sides assume God is on their side;
a6) etc.

b) Religion is a fundamental cause for the conflicts listed above, and most other wars, so that had religion not existed those conflicts would not have occurred.

If you picked (b) on any of the above, go directly to #6
If you wisely picked (a) on all the above continue:

2. With regard to people with and without strong religious faith:
a) Those with strong religious faith have, on average, longer life expectancies;
b) Those with strong religious faith have life expectancies equal to or shorter than non-believers.
and: a) Those with strong religious faith are less likely to be criminals, antisocial, freeloaders, etc.;
b) Those with strong religious faith are equally or more likely to be criminals, etc.
and: a) Those with strong religious faith are less likely to suffer from depression, and are more likely to recover quickly from depression when it does occur;
b) Those with strong religious faith are equally or more likely to suffer from depression, and are equally or less likely to recover quickly from depression when it does occur;
Note: Studies are available (at least for the U.S.) on these issues, and they are able to statistically remove variations accounted for by a lower probability that religious persons smoke, etc., by comparing smokers who are religious to smokers who are not, etc.; however, without reading those studies you can probably guess the correct answer simply on the basis of common sense.
and: a) Societies where most people believe in God are more likely to be more civil, peaceful, and respectful of the rights of others;
b) Societies where most people believe in God are more likely to be more unruly, criminal, and disrespectful of the rights of others.
and: a) Those with strong religious faith are less vulnerable to charismatic individuals preaching odd-ball political, religious, or social lifestyles (for example, whackos who lead the morons out into the woods to have sex or whatever with them);
b) Those with strong religious faith are equally or more vulnerable than those without such faith to charismatic individuals preaching odd-ball political, religious, or social lifestyles.
and: a) Those with strong religious faith are more likely to be able to face tragic events in their life, and face death, with dignity and grace;
b) Those with strong religious faith are no more, or less, likely to be able to face tragedy and death with dignity and grace, than those without such faith.
and: a) There is great power in religion, sufficient to cause intelligent persons to believe in the “power of prayer,” and cause people to perform great acts of courage even in the face of certain death;
b) Religion is a farce that an intelligent person can recognize to be completely powerless and empty, and persons without religious faith are equally or more likely to be able to perform great acts of courage in the face of certain death.

If you picked (b) on any of the above, go directly to #6
If you wisely picked (a) on all the above continue:

3. With regard to belief and disbelief in God (a Creator, a purposeful universe, intelligent design, etc.):
a) Persons with belief have nothing more (or less) than faith to support their beliefs—there being no objective, definitive evidence of the existence of God;
b) Persons with belief base their beliefs on (what they believe is) objective evidence.
and: a) Persons who reject belief in God have nothing more (or less) than faith to support their disbelief—there being no objective, definitive evidence of the non-existence of God.
b) Persons who reject belief in God base their non-belief on objective evidence.
and: a) IF a Creator designed a world in which some beings were to have free-will, the free-will beings had to be denied definitive evidence of the Creator because such evidence would automatically negate free-will—[If you can see the mountain standing before you, you could not possibly deny its existence!].
b) Lack of definitive evidence of the existence/non-existence of a Creator does not suggest purposeful design because, there IS definitive evidence of the non-existence of God, or because there are other issues, concepts, and ideas that no human has ever been, or ever will be, able to grasp, such as _______ (fill in the blank).
and: a) Many of the greatest intellects (Einstein, Franklin & Jefferson, among others) often rejected formal religious faiths, but did “believe in God” and had great respect for formal religions, holding that “free thinking” was best left to intellectuals, and that most “normal” people need religion;
b) Intellects of the past mostly had nothing but contempt for religion and belief in God, or they greatly underestimated the wisdom of “most normal people.”
and: a) People with strong religious values sincerely believe sharing their belief will benefit non-believers with greater happiness in this life and salvation in the afterlife;
b) People with strong religious values who want to share their beliefs with non-believers do so for power or profit, or because they want other people to share their own misery.
and: a) Atheists who attempt to convince believers that we live in a mechanical universe do so because they are completely ignorant of the consequences for that person, or because they want to share their own misery;
b) Atheists who are motivated to share their disbelief with believers sincerely believe that if believers abandon their religion they will benefit with greater happiness in this life, and/or greater satisfaction in knowing the truth.

If you picked (b) on any of the above, go directly to #6
If you wisely picked (a) on all the above continue:

4. The fact that evil exists in the world, and that bad things happen to good people, proves:
a) The Creator understood that there could not be good without evil, any more than up without down, and wanted people to have a choice between good and evil so that we could choose good over evil, right over wrong, and thereby have heroes as well as villains (in other words, have free-will), and understood that there could be no joy and fulfillment without disappointment, no true love without the possibility of loss, no good health and contentment without sickness and sadness, etc.
b) The Creator (if He exists) is an evil guy, who needs to have someone jerk on his long white beard.
and: a) In the absence of “evil” human society would be akin to the society of ants all working together to eat and reproduce, with little or no individuality or concept of free-will and human happiness;
b) In the absence of “evil” we would all be just happy as hell.
and: a) People who think God is “bad” because He created a world where evil exists (is precisely equal to the amount of good) just haven’t thought about it very much;
b) People who think God is “bad” (or does not exist) because evil exists, are correct.
and: a) Our goal in life must be pursuit of truth and justice for all, with the understanding that it is that pursuit, rather than attainment of those goals, that gives a good life meaning;
b) Our goal in life must be the achievement of truth and justice for all, because anything less means failure and triumph of evil.
and: a) Young persons often rejects religion because they decide that any God who created a world filled with so much evil does not deserve their attention; most get over that angry young man syndrome when they mature sufficiently to understand that “good” could not exist without evil, delight without disappointment, happiness without sadness, etc., and free-will requires the possibility of a real choice, including the choice for evil;
b) Any God who created a world filled with evil must be an evil God; the existence of good, delight, happiness, etc., does not require the existence of evil, disappointment, sadness, etc., and if free-will requires the existence of choices that can lead to evil, we would be better off without free-will.

If you picked (b) on any of the above, go directly to #6
If you wisely picked (a) on all the above continue:

5. When I die:
a) I have no way of knowing (other than by faith) what, if anything, will happen to my individuality;
b) I know I will be in oblivion and my individuality will cease to exist.
and: a) In the absence of any definitive evidence regarding any sort of awareness after death, it is wise to assume such an afterlife will exist, there being no penalty for being incorrect;
b) It is wise to assume there will be no afterlife because I have hard evidence to prove that, or the penalty for being incorrect (while alive or in oblivion after death) is too great to bear.
and: a) Notwithstanding absence of definitive evidence of a Creator, everything I observe and understand suggests to me that it is most improbable that the universe, life on earth, and especially my ability to reason and have free-will, could have evolved by chance in a mechanical universe;
b) Science explains (or is capable of explaining) how the universe came into existence and how life evolved on earth, and my ability to reason along with everything else I observe appears to be a logical consequence of evolution and other known (or knowable) mechanical processes.
and: a) Given that I was born ‘out’ of this world and will die ‘into’ it, my perception of individuality is likely to be a fantasy;
b) I was born ‘into’ this world as a unique individual, and when I die ‘out’ of it, that individual will no longer exist.
and: a) The most logical explanation for human reason, good and evil, and free-will, is that the Creator is enjoying a game of hide and seek with Himself, playing the parts of billions of human beings, and multi-billions of other lifeforms, rocks, clouds, raindrops, etc.; and when ‘the lights go out’ I will know that all the wrongs I have done in my life were done to myself, and I will rejoice in all the good deeds and regret all the bad deeds that I have done to myself;
b) The most logical explanation for human reason, good and evil, and free-will, is a mechanical universe that is purposeless and meaningless (except for possible personal satisfaction for individuals while alive), so that when ‘the lights go out’ I will be in oblivion and it will not matter if I have done good or bad deeds to anyone (except for the personal satisfaction I might derive from living a good or bad life while I am alive).

If you picked (b) on any of the above, go directly to #6.

6. Go back to #1 and this time THINK ABOUT IT!

If you wisely picked (a) on all the above then: Go directly to Goal and collect 200 dollars.