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A Swede in Germany

Archive for September 2022

Follow-up: Children vs. parents vs. the government (circumcision)

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Long ago, I wrote a text ([1]) criticizing a Conservative complaint about anti-circumcision suggestions by the Left ([2]). While I stand by that text in principle and remain strongly opposed to (non-voluntary) circumcision, I have since seen many practical complications around rights and power that make me question my priorities. In particular, it might well be that some arbitrary power given to the parents would be a far lesser evil. As the author of the complaint said to another commenter, but representative for much of the reactions:

Your missing the point of the original post. The problem is the government’s intervention in this very personal decision. That is the danger to society, not whether you are for or against the practice. Once we allow the government to start running our families or religions, Fascism will follow.*

*Compared with my impression, he might have the causalities wrong. Does Fascism follow because we allow the government to X, does a Fascist government insist that we “allow” it to X, or is it a mixture? Witness e.g. Joe Biden.

Similarly, in direct response to me:

[…] The issue is not circumcision; it’s whether some Left-wing (or Right-wing for that matter) Moon-bats know better than parents and should be allowed to intervene in child rearing. Just look around and see the results. We are in the 5th decade of the Progressive experiment to have Social workers and other government agencies take over the responsibilities of raising our children. Object failure with kids coming out of school who cannot read, teenage pregnancies and abortions at all time highs.

Government does very little right. Suggestion that we continue to cede parental rights to it makes no sense.

Notably, the Leftist attitude of very selective and hypocritically applied rights (both with regard to “what rights” and “rights of whom”) and great centralization of power has done much harm and is very contrary to a free and democratic society.

The status of parents relative their children (and vice versa), which was at the core of the original circumcision discussion, is a great source of examples—and shows why it is very hard to say what measures are acceptable. This to the point that a circumcision dictated by the parents is a far smaller danger than what current schools, governments, whatnot, impose or would impose if not resisted. (Also see excursion.)

In the last few years, we have e.g. seen schools presuming to go behind the parents’ backs when it comes to gender-dysphoria, which could result not just in a slice of skin missing from a penis but an entire penis being surgically removed and/or used for vaginoplasty (or whatever the word might be), in a decision that could be regretted* a few years later and that cannot be considered truly informed**. The same, m.m., applies to the girls. Note that even lesser interventions, e.g. hormone supplements and suppressors might have far-going and/or permanent effects, and certainly more so, on average, than a circumcision.

*While I have never seen formal statistics, the Internet is full of complaints that e.g. “I was pushed to go ahead and now, when it is too late, I realize that this is not what I wanted” or “transitioning seemed as it would solve all my problems, but it just made matters worse”.

**The decision is monumental and life-altering. Should any teen, let alone proper child, make such a decision without even getting the parents’ perspective on the issue? (Even assuming that the parents are not given a legally binding veto; and even disregarding the question of whether a teen has half the knowledge and experience to make an informed decision.) This includes not just different perspectives, but also own experiences. What if e.g. one of the parents can truthfully say that “I went through something similar, but it blew over after a year or two and now I am happy that I did not act on it”? Is that not something that the child would benefit from knowing? An interesting thought-experiment is to replace this monumental and life-altering decision with something lesser, but still very, very major—say, a girl of 14 who wants to marry her boyfriend. Would even the gender-fanatics consider this an appropriate decision to make behind the parents’ back?

Something very similar applies to COVID-vaccines, where at least some schools have put pressure on children to get vaccinated without the parents’ knowledge, let alone consent. This despite the uselessness of these vaccines in the age group(s) relevant; and despite the risks (small, but by no means trivial) involved.

Then we have matters like indoctrination into far-Left quasi-religions like CRT and attempts to turn the children into Leftist/environmental/whatnot activists. Note, in particular, “action civics”, which foregoes true civics education in favor of activism on issues/for causes that the children themselves are typically far too poorly qualified to judge, but which happen to match the opinions of e.g. the teacher, Greta Thunberg, AOC, or Bernie Sanders. (Which is not to say that Thunberg et al. are good judges of the matters at hand—but they do have strongly voiced opinions.)

Indeed, from what I have read on schools (sadly, often including colleges) in the U.S., and often other countries, the old principle of parents being the guardians and school merely having an “in loco parentis” right during school hours has been inverted: the school (or, worse, the state) is the guardian, and parents are given a mere “in loco scholae” right during the dark ages when schools are closed and children risk exposure to wrongthink. Moreover, this right is often thin and combined with more duties than rights relative the school,* to the point that parents might be reduced to unpaid caretakers.

*In [1], I opine that parents (should) have more duties than rights towards their children. This claim is not to be confused with the above, which is an unrelated matter with a very different ethical situation.

A particularly absurd demonstration of the sheer presumptuousness of schools is shown by a representative* incident from the COVID-era: A student was participating in a remote class. The teacher spotted something “offensive” in his room, reprimanded him, and demanded that the “offensive” object be removed. Justification: during the participation, the student’s private room would be part of the classroom and everything had to conform to the rules of the classroom. A saner attitude, and what I would have told the presumptuous teacher and/or the principal, had I been one of the student’s parents, is the reverse: This is my home and my rules apply. If you intrude through an online class, then you are a visitor in this home and should behave accordingly. If you are not willing to do so, I will exercise my legal right to throw you out.

*I have seen several somewhat similar incidents. Unfortunately, I do not remember the exact details of any individual incident.

However, similar problems are very widespread, and I suspect a deliberate strategy to (a) reduce or remove non-governmental* instances of (in some sense) power, (b) transfer power to more and more centralized points. Everyone should obey and no-one should presume to object. No-one should have any power, unless that power is granted by the government** for the purposes of the government. No-one should form an own opinion, unless appointed by the government to do so—and then the opinion becomes mandatory for everyone. Etc.

*Or maybe non-Leftist.

**Or maybe the Left, here and elsewhere. While the drift to a larger and more powerful government is by no means uniquely Leftist, it is the stronger with the Left; at least the current Left seems think that only the Left could ever be “legitimately” in power (unlike e.g. Donald Trump); and the associated machinery, including a large proportion of civil servants, often has a strong Leftist tilt, implying that even with non-Leftist political leadership, the government as a whole tends to remain Left-of-Center. (Also see excursion.)

Consider, among other examples:*

*However, note that many of these might have partial explanations in natural developments unrelated to the Left. Also note that they are not necessarily caused by Leftist politicians, even when they do relate to the Left. (For instance, a Leftist activist abuse of administrative positions in colleges and/or Leftist propaganda pressure on colleges might have much to do with the below item on the infantilization of professors.)

  1. A continual strengthening of the U.S. federal government over the state governments, giving the individual states less possibilities to stand up to the federation.

    This is paralleled by a similar trend in the EU, where the core principle of subsidiarity grows ever more neglected. (I might go as far as suspect that some national governments use the EU as an excuse to do what they want to do, but do not want to take the blame for.)

  2. The move from many small to few large businesses, which are easier to control, and through which the number of persons truly* in charge of something is reduced. Note how Leftist governments, including e.g. Communist China, Nazi-Germany, and Social-Democrat Sweden, often have pushed hard to achieve such centralization. (And, whether for similar reasons or accidentally, many Western countries have so large obstacles to running small businesses, especially with employees, that too few take the leap.)

    *A sole owner and CEO of even a small private company is in charge in a manner beyond that of a non-owner CEO of a public company, and far beyond a middle-manager in a larger company, even should they have the same number of subordinates.

  3. Flattening of hierarchies within companies, as in e.g. Sweden and as pushed by many “progressive”* business experts. The more employees are “equal” and the fewer “bosses” there are, the fewer citizens there are accustomed to some level of power or authority. (This the more so, cf. above, when someone today “equal” would have been owner/CEO of his own small business a 100 years ago.) Moreover, there are lesser rewards and recognition for excellence, which might reduce self-confidence among those who would have been willing to take a stand. Ditto lesser responsibility at work and potentially a resulting lesser responsibility in matters political.

    *Not necessarily and automatically in the Leftist sense, but certainly in the “look how forward-thinking and modern I am” sense.

    (Whether larger and/or deeper hierarchies are a good thing, I leave unstated. Other factors play in, e.g. that promotions often go to incompetent smooth talkers and to those who understand more about company politics than about the company business—a deeper hierarchy might well just leave us with more incompetents ordering the competent around.)

  4. Not only are college students increasingly infantilized, reducing or delaying their ability to stand up for themselves against e.g. the government, but the same applies to college faculty and scientists, full professors included. Sites like Minding the Campus contain a great many examples of highly educated and intelligent persons having to bow down to various administrators hired to ensure Leftist goals A, B, and C. This includes cases of having to write letters of apology or take classes on A, B, and C for having said something in class that some snowflake thought offensive—and usually something that no reasonable third-party would have considered offensive.

    Someone who researches the “wrong” topic and/or reaches the “wrong” result can see a promising career end, tenure denied, research grants go to someone more PC, etc. Speak out about scientific knowledge that contradicts an official narrative and cancellation will follow—as will accusations of being variously “racist”, “sexist”, “anti-vaxx”, whatnot, depending on the topic at hand.

    Etc.

    No, no mere professor should have the right to make statements about reality or to encourage students to think on their own. His, sorry, their only message should be what is Approved and compatible with the Cause. What that message is, is for us Administrators and Activists to determine.

  5. Then there is the whole COVID-debacle, which might provide material for dozens of items for someone patient* enough. I lack this patience, but I do point to e.g. how physicians and medical researchers have seen problems similar to the previous item, how physicians have been limited in their rights to treat according to their own best beliefs, and a great number of earlier texts on various COVID-related issues (not always ones relevant to the current topic, however).

    *Pun unintended, but fortunate in that someone who has been a hospitalized COVID-patient might well have much to add that we others have missed.

Excursion on “government”:
The word “government” is tricky, due to differences in international meanings and implications, and my own use tends to be inconsistent. Above, it is mostly intended in the more U.S. sense of the sum of all elected politicians, civil servants, departments, agencies, and whatnots. Sometimes, the use in the more international sense of those-currently-in-charge might be intended; sometimes, the use of either meaning in a given sentence is compatible with my intentions.

Excursion on benefactors and power:
There is an aspect of benefactors and power that applies above, but is easily missed: If (misperceived or real) good deeds, charity, rightings of judicial wrongs, and other help cannot come from outside the government, there is less reason for the citizens to be grateful or loyal to other entities than the government. Consider e.g. a privately owned business with a dozen employees, where one employee needs some type of help.* In one universe, the owner can choose to help or not help,** in the former case earning loyalty points. In another, his hands are tied by tax payments, some of which go to render the same help in a manner that tricks the employee into believing that the government helped him at no cost to anyone else. In yet another universe, the employee works for a public multi-national company, and there might be no-one in the hierarchy who is and feels*** authorized to help him with company resources.

*I find it hard to give a specific enough example that also works generically. For instance, “needs an expensive operation” might work in one jurisdiction but not another, depending on the rules for and coverage by various health-insurance plans. (And might be abused by some naive Leftist by “You see! We need mandatory single-payer insurance!”, with no consideration for the bigger picture, overall costs, flawed incentives, whatnot.)

**Depending on the details and modalities, the chances might be good, e.g. in that a solid employee receives a loan against future wages. (Which is also better for the employer than tax payments that result in money being gifted, and often fairer for society.)

***Even someone with the formal right might abstain in order to avoid criticism from above.

The effect of taxes on such situations should not be underestimated. For instance, for a private individual to be charitable is much easier when taxes are low than when taxes are high, and higher taxes for the purpose of “good deeds” might well result in a similar effect on the recipients, but with gratefulness transferred away from deserving private individuals, who would have helped or, in the past, did help, to the undeserving government. For the religious, tithing with low taxes and with high taxes are worlds apart. Etc.

Indeed, it is often the governmental intervention that causes the need for governmental help (or “help”). Consider the German health-insurance scam,* where rates around 15 percent of income are typical. What if the brunt of these 15 percent were instead invested by the individual, and used to pay for health (or other) costs as they arise? Chances are that he would do considerably better (and have better incentives), and that his “need” for help when something does happen in today’s system largely arises through his loss of money to pay for health insurance in the first place. (Ditto unemployment insurance, mandatory pension fees, and many taxes.)

*Not a true insurance at all and I stand by the word “scam”. A true insurance would pay for those few large events that are problematic for normal earners, e.g. cancer treatments and big operations, not for everyday nonsense like the common cold. I am very much in favor of a true health insurance; I am very strongly opposed to the current wasteful bullshit.

Excursion on hypocrisy and motivations:
Many of the above problems are given hypocritical and weak motivations to justify their presence. For instance, I have repeatedly heard claims in the family “mandatory schooling is necessary, because some parents might indoctrinate their children and school is needed as a counterweight”, while the schools, themselves, engage in massive indoctrination. Without mandatory school and/or with home schooling, maybe some children would be indoctrinated; with mandatory school, it is virtually all of them. The true issue is not one of indoctrination, but of indoctrination into a certain set of wanted-by-the-Left (and/or -the-government, -educators, -whatnot) opinions. If the indoctrination conforms with this set, it is viewed as good; if it is contrary, it is seen as evil. Similarly, merely not exposing the children to the “good” indoctrination is seen as evil; similarly, teaching the children to think for themselves, which might cause them to withstand the indoctrination, is seen as evil. In effect, it is less a matter of making school a counterweight to the parents and more of preventing the parents from being a counterweight to school. This is the more annoying as the indoctrination in school is often more harmful/evil than the parental—contrast e.g. “All Whites are evil by birth!” with “Christ died to redeem us all.”, let alone with “We should think for ourselves. Sapere aude!”.

Excursion on the duration of indoctrination:
For indoctrination to be durable, an absence of contradiction is beneficial, maybe necessary. A lone pair of indoctrinating parents from the previous excursion are unlikely to have a major permanent influence, unless the rest of society is on similar lines. School is typically supported by the press, many politicians, the message from TV shows, etc., and this indoctrination is harder to shake, as I know from my own experiences.

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Written by michaeleriksson

September 28, 2022 at 9:27 pm

Nazis XVIIb (opinions of others): Nazis as progressive Leftists / progressive Leftists as Nazis

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Today, I encountered two articles of relevance.

Firstly, the claim that Sorry Liberals, But The Nazis Were Progressive Leftists.

A key point is represented by “But to hide the reality of what their ideological brethren have committed, Democrats lie and say monsters like Mao, Stalin and Hitler were of the right.”. As far as Hitler is concerned, this is much of what my text series is about. The claim concerning Mao and Stalin might go too far, as the typical excuse is more limited, viz. that they were not “true” Communists/Socialist/whatnot (and “once we do have true X, utopia will follow, so give us a second/third/fourth/… chance to get it right”); however, the principle holds in that monsters of the Left are disowned in an intellectually dishonest manner.

A key argument is a division of political groupings according to preferences for big resp. small government, with the former “mandating behavior and regulating lives”, and how paradoxical that would make the Leftist rhetoric and the classifications proposed by the Left. Notably, they paradoxically imply that, when allegedly going further Right from e.g. Conservatism to e.g. Nazism, “conservative belief in individual rights disappears and becomes about collectivism”. (Collectivism, of course, is a Leftist preference, and the more so, the closer we get to the extreme Left.) The focus on big and small government might be too limited, as it only considers one criterion; however, it is an important criterion and one much more reasonable than e.g. nationalism. The related claim

Look up Hitler implemented from a policy perspective and you’ll find a lot of socialism. He was very much a supporter of collectivism, he simply excluded people he hated or needed as scapegoats. Everything else was socialism.

is particularly interesting, as it does capture much of both Hitler’s behaviors and the problems with the Hitler debate. Nevertheless, it is an oversimplification.

Another claim, concerning (modern!) German attacks on free speech, echoes my own standard claim that “Fascist is as Fascist does”:

Ask yourself a basic question: Which seems more fascistic, writing mean things, no matter how nasty, online from your couch or arresting people who write mean things online from their couch and throwing them in prison? Then ask yourself which party in this country [the U.S.] would love little more than doing the exact same thing. Your answer isn’t the “semi-fascists,”* they’re the real thing.

*As historical context for future readers: Joe Biden recently accused others of being “semi-fascist”.

Secondly, a very disturbing tale of yet another unwarranted FBI raid. At best, this was a massive overkill; at worst, it was extreme political persecution on a truly Nazi level. If we believe the accusers, one Mark Houck committed two directly connected, likely mild, cases of assault.* Result? He saw his house and family raided by a “SWAT team of 25 to 30 FBI agents”, who “swarmed their property with around 15 vehicles”, with “rifles in firing position”. A civilized society would have sent a single squad car and asked for cooperation. In fact, depending on the details,** even a written notification to “please present yourself” might have been sufficient.

*Note the difference between assault and battery. (The latter being what many mean when they say the former.) Indeed, if we believe the accused (cf. below), I would not rule out that even the prior provocation that brought Mark Houck to action constituted assault by the allegedly assaulted towards the 12-y.o. son of the alleged assaulter.

**Notably, whether the main purpose was to arrest or to secure evidence—but what evidence could reasonably be present? Looking back, I cannot shake the suspicion that the FBI is deliberately abusing house searches to collect irrelevant evidence, in the hope of finding some other crime than was already alleged, and/or to harass the victims.

If we believe the accused? Then the alleged assaults were preceded by prolonged provocation, violations of personal space, and other circumstances, directed at a minor, that might well make the actions justified and/or self-defense. (Certainly, the actions directed towards Houck’s son were ethically much worse than what Houck did in response.) True cause of the raid? Political persecution of a pro-life activist.

Key quote:

This should terrify every American. Mark Houck isn’t a drug lord or a mass murderer. He was involved in a minor scuffle at an abortion clinic, and now he’s facing a possible sentence of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000 if convicted.

Fascist is as Fascist does.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 26, 2022 at 3:29 pm

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Nazis XVIIb (opinions of others): Nazis as progressive Leftists / progressive Leftists as Nazis

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Today, I encountered two articles of relevance.

Firstly, the claim that Sorry Liberals, But The Nazis Were Progressive Leftists.

A key point is represented by “But to hide the reality of what their ideological brethren have committed, Democrats lie and say monsters like Mao, Stalin and Hitler were of the right.”. As far as Hitler is concerned, this is much of what my text series is about. The claim concerning Mao and Stalin might go too far, as the typical excuse is more limited, viz. that they were not “true” Communists/Socialist/whatnot (and “once we do have true X, utopia will follow, so give us a second/third/fourth/… chance to get it right”); however, the principle holds in that monsters of the Left are disowned in an intellectually dishonest manner.

A key argument is a division of political groupings according to preferences for big resp. small government, with the former “mandating behavior and regulating lives”, and how paradoxical that would make the Leftist rhetoric and the classifications proposed by the Left. Notably, they paradoxically imply that, when allegedly going further Right from e.g. Conservatism to e.g. Nazism, “conservative belief in individual rights disappears and becomes about collectivism”. (Collectivism, of course, is a Leftist preference, and the more so, the closer we get to the extreme Left.) The focus on big and small government might be too limited, as it only considers one criterion; however, it is an important criterion and one much more reasonable than e.g. nationalism. The related claim

Look up Hitler implemented from a policy perspective and you’ll find a lot of socialism. He was very much a supporter of collectivism, he simply excluded people he hated or needed as scapegoats. Everything else was socialism.

is particularly interesting, as it does capture much of both Hitler’s behaviors and the problems with the Hitler debate. Nevertheless, it is an oversimplification.

Another claim, concerning (modern!) German attacks on free speech, echoes my own standard claim that “Fascist is as Fascist does”:

Ask yourself a basic question: Which seems more fascistic, writing mean things, no matter how nasty, online from your couch or arresting people who write mean things online from their couch and throwing them in prison? Then ask yourself which party in this country [the U.S.] would love little more than doing the exact same thing. Your answer isn’t the “semi-fascists,”* they’re the real thing.

*As historical context for future readers: Joe Biden recently accused others of being “semi-fascist”.

Secondly, a very disturbing tale of yet another unwarranted FBI raid. At best, this was a massive overkill; at worst, it was extreme political persecution on a truly Nazi level. If we believe the accusers, one Mark Houck committed two directly connected, likely mild, cases of assault.* Result? He saw his house and family raided by a “SWAT team of 25 to 30 FBI agents”, who “swarmed their property with around 15 vehicles”, with “rifles in firing position”. A civilized society would have sent a single squad car and asked for cooperation. In fact, depending on the details,** even a written notification to “please present yourself” might have been sufficient.

*Note the difference between assault and battery. (The latter being what many mean when they say the former.) Indeed, if we believe the accused (cf. below), I would not rule out that even the prior provocation that brought Mark Houck to action constituted assault by the allegedly assaulted towards the 12-y.o. son of the alleged assaulter.

**Notably, whether the main purpose was to arrest or to secure evidence—but what evidence could reasonably be present? Looking back, I cannot shake the suspicion that the FBI is deliberately abusing house searches to collect irrelevant evidence, in the hope of finding some other crime than was already alleged, and/or to harass the victims.

If we believe the accused? Then the alleged assaults were preceded by prolonged provocation, violations of personal space, and other circumstances, directed at a minor, that might well make the actions justified and/or self-defense. (Certainly, the actions directed towards Houck’s son were ethically much worse than what Houck did in response.) True cause of the raid? Political persecution of a pro-life activist.

Key quote:

This should terrify every American. Mark Houck isn’t a drug lord or a mass murderer. He was involved in a minor scuffle at an abortion clinic, and now he’s facing a possible sentence of 11 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of up to $350,000 if convicted.

Fascist is as Fascist does.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 26, 2022 at 3:22 pm

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Nazis XVIIa: Opinions of others (Introduction)

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Every now and then, I see someone else making similar points to what I have done/will do in this text series.* Ditto, outside this text series, concerning the strong similarities in behavior, opinions, and general attitudes between the U.S. Democrats (and some other Leftist groups) and various Nazi/Fascist groups of the past. Under the heading “Nazis XVII”, I will occasionally mention some of them.

*Yes, there will be more material in due time. However, the remainder will likely only come by and by, as I (a) grew tired of the topic during the earlier, intense, busyness, (b) have many other things to do, including other texts to write.

This heading might or might not also include more extensive arguments from books, and might or might not address dissenting opinions.

Excursion on dissenting opinions:
For the sake of completeness, I really should go into dissenters, those who claim that the Nazis were Rightwing, to a higher degree than I have so far. However, almost every argument that I have seen in this direction has fallen into one of three pointless categories or a combination of these pointless categories:

  1. Argumentation solely by assertion, which is not true argumentation at all, and the addressing of which, beyond simple rejection, is likely to lead to more frustration and waste of time than any benefit.
  2. The automatic classification of anything nationalist, racist, whatnot as Rightwing, regardless of the totality of opinions and regardless of how often nationalism (etc.) has been present on the Left.

    This issue has been dealt with at length in earlier installments and additional effort seems unwarranted.

  3. The automatic classification of anything totalitarian, authoritarian, “police-y”, whatnot as Rightwing, regardless of the totality of opinions and regardless of how often totalitarianism (etc.) has been present on the Left.

    I have probably* dealt with this to some degree in earlier installments. In case I have not, I note that the flaws are very similar to the previous item. Indeed, looking at reasonably modern ideologies and groupings (maybe post-WWI?), these aspects have been found decidedly more often on the Left than on the Right—including in the current U.S.**

    *It is hard to keep track by now.

    **Consider e.g. the extreme demands on conformance in opinion and compliance in behavior, the brain-washing of children and students into far-Left ideologies, the J6 travesty and other judicial abuses, the extreme hate-rhetoric of many Democrats, and the widespread use of violence against Republicans.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 26, 2022 at 1:48 pm

Correction / Mistaken plausibilities

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Recently, I wrote:

In the softer fields, sadly, similarly large-scale fraud does take place, as with e.g. the common IQ-denialism and, more generally, the “nature [sic!] only” claims.

This should read:

In the softer fields, sadly, similarly large-scale fraud does take place, as with e.g. the common IQ-denialism and, more generally, the “nurture only” claims.

Excursion on errors:
The above is an excellent illustration of some problems discussed in A few notes on my language errors: Firstly, it is usually parts that are edited during revision or proof-reading that contain errors, as they have fewer iterations of checks. Here I originally wrote “blank slateism”, moved to “tabula rasa”-something when my spell checker complained and I was uncertain whether “slateism” or “slatism” was the better version (neither was recognized). Then I found the “tabula rasa” formulation too awkward and switched to the faulty formulation actually used. Secondly, the issue of homophones and near homophones (“nature” vs. “nurture”), where I still make mistakes.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 26, 2022 at 8:48 am

U.S. inflation hitting harder than it officially should

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In a recent text, I gave some examples of how German food prices seemed to have risen considerably above the, already high, nominal inflation rate.

Today, I encountered a U.S. article making a similar analysis based on a mixture of personal observation and official statistics, comparing the prices around the respective mid-terms* of Trump and Biden.

*The author counts the “now” as part of Biden’s mid-term. I am uncertain whether this is correct, as the actual elections presumably are in November. (The article was published on September 23rd, 2022; my time of writing is the 25th.)

Examples given include a roughly 70 percent increase on the price of milk (over roughly four years), which annualizes naively* to more than 14 percent. In a less naive calculation, we would almost certainly see lower or considerably lower annualized values for the remainder of Trump’s term, correspondingly higher values for Biden up-til-now, and a higher value for Biden in 2022 than for Biden in 2021.** My text also included a milk comparison, with a (very roughly) estimated 50 percent in 2022 alone.

*Just go with four equally contributing years and take the fourth root of 1.7 for the geometric mean. This is naive, as the years are not equally contributing. Depending on the exact definition of “mid-term” (cf. above), we might also have less than four years to explain the 1.7.

**Giving even a rough approximation of the correct values would require much more research. However, some feel for the principle can be had by simply taking the tenth root of 1.7 for year one, this squared for year two, to the third power for year three, and to the fourth power for year four, which accumulates to 1.7 over four years. This would give inflation rates of respectively 5, 11, 17 and 24 percent for years one through four. (Note that this still likely makes Biden look too good relative Trump—it is just a demonstration of principle.)

Written by michaeleriksson

September 25, 2022 at 1:57 pm

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Mistaken plausibilities

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In the past, I have written about topics like how some jump to conclusions about sexism or racism (e.g. [1], [2]) as causes for some certain event where a neutral and reasonable third party would, in most cases, suggest other causes.* This up to and including the systematic application of distorting gender-glasses** or their equivalent for e.g. race and/or systematic interpretation within a detached-from-reality framework like CRT. In light of later thoughts, I want to point to the possibility of an explanation that is (a) applicable to much more general situations, (b) is partially*** less incriminating when applied to allegations of sexism, racism, whatnot: mistaken plausibilities.

*Consider e.g. a woman being fired. The explanation for this might be sexism, but a more likely explanation is that she under- or outright mis-performed. Another explanation is a personal antipathy from a higher up—unrelated to her being a woman, maybe even involving a female higher up. Other explanations yet are possible that do not involve sexism.

**Yes, this is a thing and a thing that some Feminists, at least in Sweden, deliberately push.

***The jumped-to conclusions remain incorrect and there is an overlap in that e.g. PC propaganda might have brought on mistaken plausibilities that, in turn, led to a false conclusion of e.g. “sexism”.

To illustrate the general idea: When I was very, very young, I and my sister had been jumping on a bed. Mother was angry, as the previously well-made bed was now unmade. I tried to blame Martians, believing that this was sufficiently plausible to create reasonable doubt* (not that I knew the term at the time). Mother concluded that I was/we were still guilty and just trying to escape an “earful”. I, in turn, was honestly surprised that she was not open to my explanation.

*Indeed, I have long considered writing something about specifically the varying plausibility of reasonable doubt to various parties based on this event. For now, I just note that different levels (sometimes, areas) of knowledge, understanding, experience, intelligence, whatnot can lead to different positions on what doubt is reasonable.

I encountered Martians and other extraterrestrials, ghosts, witches, time travel, whatnot on a near daily basis—and I more-or-less took for granted, e.g., that there were Martians and that they often visited Earth. These encounters, true, had yet to manifest in my own life, but TV and my comics were full of them. My exposure to science and other aspects of a more adult worldview was much more limited, and my critical thinking was still that of a very, very young child.

My mother, on the other hand, had some* understanding that not everything on TV and whatnot** was to be trusted, she had lived a much longer life without a personal encounter with Martians, and she might have had the insight that children (and, sadly, adults) often lie to escape culpability.*** (She might also have considered factors that I had not, say, the relative likelihoods that Martians, should they exist and visit Earth, had and had not made their way into the house without her noticing.)

*Although, an imperfect one, as she was more culpable with regard to e.g. the news. A major point of this text is that adults often fall victim to similar errors, just in a more subtle manner. Witness e.g. the many true believers in the COVID-propaganda.

**Not limited to comics, of course, but also including novels (note e.g. how many historical inaccuracies the typical historical novel has), newspapers, works of non-fiction, etc. Their standard is usually higher or much higher than that of (children’s) comics, but most of them contain at least some amount of error and taking them too much at face value, as many adults do, is a mistake. Note, in parallel, how much of modern fiction engages in what appears to be deliberate reality distortion regarding e.g. crime rates in various racial groups, rates of domestic violence for the respective sexes, frequencies of clear cases of race- or sex-based discrimination, etc.; and the damage that this does to the worldview of the unwary. Ditto misleading journalism.

***Here she might have been well ahead of me at the same age. As an adult, I hardly ever lie, and I have often failed to consider the possibility that others could be lying, unless I either knew the truth to be something different or the lie was too obviously implausible.

Here we see how different persons can give a certain explanation drastically different plausibilities, which plays in to which explanations they prefer respectively reject.

We can apply the same thinking to e.g. a Catholic medieval village. Let us say that a statue in the church appears to be crying. The villagers have been raised to believe in miracles, saints, omens, whatnot, and would likely consider a miraculous* explanation highly plausible. Many might not even bother to consider other explanations, like a natural phenomenon, maybe relating to condensation or a previous rainfall.** From my point of view, however, a miraculous explanation is highly unlikely, as I have seen precious little evidence*** of miracles (and, as an atheist, would find them highly unexpected). At the same time, I have seen a great many cases of condensation, I know that a stony and/or unheated church might be prone to condensation, I have heard of alleged miracles that have turned out to have a scientific explanation, etc., and would be quite likely to consider natural causes. I have also encountered a great many hoaxes of various kinds, and would certainly not rule that option out.

*With reservations for terminology. My intent should be clear.

**This especially if a “I want to believe” factor plays in. Keeping such factors in mind when looking at other cases can be worthwhile.

***Strictly speaking, neither would the villagers have. However, they would have heard plausible-to-them claims from far away, they would have read/listened to stories, backed by higher authority, of saints performing miracles, they would know stories from the infallible-to-them Bible, etc. Compare this with the often too trusting attitude towards science, main-stream media, and the government today. (Also see excursion.)

Excursion on trusting science:
Many trust science in a highly naive manner, or, worse, trust others when they claim-that-science-claims. (Note e.g. [3], [4].) However, even highly critical thinkers, those who think for themselves, who are aware that even natural science sometimes gets things wrong, and who deeply mistrust the social “sciences”, usually take much on faith—and might not be that different from a medieval Catholic who trusted the Pope and the Bible. For instance, I know a fair bit about Relativity Theory, including being aware experimental evidence*, e.g. measurements involving atomic clocks that have remained still (relative the Earth) respectively traveled by airplane that show the time difference predicted by theory. Or do I? Strictly speaking, I have read accounts that claim that such experiments have taken place and have delivered certain results.

*Arguably, failed attempts at falsification.

Do I doubt these claims? No: physicists are (or have historically been) less likely to lie and distort than members of softer and/or more ideologically driven fields; plenty of physicists would have had much to gain by falsifying Relativity (so why have we seen so little contradictory evidence?); it would take a massive effort to keep such a big lie going for well over a hundred years; and the plausibilities are one-sided. Still, I am open to the theoretical-but-highly-unlikely possibility of fraud—just like I am open to the theoretical-but-highly-unlikely possibility that God does exist, after all.

In the softer fields, sadly, similarly large-scale fraud does take place, as with e.g. the common IQ-denialism and, more generally, the “nature only” claims. However, there are many voices that point out the faults of this denialism, and both the experimental evidence and everyday observations* are strongly in favor of IQ—not of the IQ-deniers.

*Everyday observations are, for natural reasons, not something that applies to Relativity (more correctly: to the differences between it and classical physics).

Written by michaeleriksson

September 24, 2022 at 6:25 pm

The Left, COVID, and absurd disappointment

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On quite a few occasions,* I have seen complaints along the line that “I can’t understand that the Left did this!” or “I can’t understand that the Left didn’t resist this!” in reference to COVID-countermeasures (be it in general or with some specific example). This often with a rider of “We are supposed to be the good guys!”, “We are supposed to be the ones who stand up for freedom!”, or similar.

*Including several times on the otherwise usually excellent Brownstone, including, today and as a borderline case, Why did the Left Fail the Covid Test So Badly?. (The title does not fully match the contents of the article, but it was the final straw for me to write this text.)

This well illustrates the difference between those who understand the Left and those who do not, especially between those who look at the actual actions of the Left and those who only listen to the self-portrayal (and portrayal of the “enemy”) spouted by the Left:

None of this “did” and “didn’t” is the least bit surprising, except maybe in that the Leftists got away with it so brazenly and with so little protest from the non(!)-Left. The exact character of the Left does vary from country to country, time to time, and faction to faction (even within one country), but most of what we have seen is typical Leftist behaviors and attitudes applied to a new situation. Disregard for the individual in face of a claimed greater good? Check! Massive reality distortion to reach political or ideological goals? Check! Censorship? Check! Defamation and maligning of opponents and dissenters? Check! Forcing compliance by whatever means necessary? Check! Wanting demonstrations of said compliance? Check! Complete disregard for Economics, side-effects, incentives, whatnot? Check! Pursuing a once stated goal religiously, even when that goal has been proved harmful or pointless? Check! Pushing power from the citizens to the government? Check! Pushing power from local governments to central government? Check! Pushing power from elected officials to bureaucrats? Check! Demanding a uniform support from news organizations and other media? Check! (Etc.)

No, the Leftist behavior is not the least bit surprising—and neither is the fact that the greatest COVID-sinners tendentially were Leftist governments. Truly surprising, on the contrary, was that the Swedish Social-Democrats, the historical main proponents of the nanny state, proved to have one of the most reasonable (least unreasonable?) attitudes with an eye at e.g. the economy, civic rights, and medical “conventional wisdom”*. Similarly, if anything, it is the many (if usually lesser) failures of non-Leftist parties, e.g. in Germany and the U.K., that are surprising.**

*One meta-reason why there were so many governmental failures, is that old and reasonably proven approaches and old and reasonably proven knowledge were rejected in favor of experimentation and speculation, possibly in the misguided belief that COVID was something truly new, instead of a variation of an old theme.

**But, in all fairness, it does fit into a larger pattern both of politicians growing ever more self-absorbed and of “RINOs” (resp. the local equivalent) being ever present. In Germany, the Merkel-run CDU, the allegedly Conservative “Christian Democratic Union”, had increasingly and long before COVID betrayed its voters and its natural values, be they Conservative, Christian, or democratic, in favor of populism-to-stay-in-power, of implementation of Leftist ideas, and of letting Leftists into power unnecessarily. (Note e.g. how Merkel repeatedly preferred to form coalition governments with the Social-Democrats over more natural coalitions and/or minority governments.) On the other hand, the new, post-Merkel, Social-Democrat government has so far been even worse COVID-wise, after adjusting for the lower infection rates. If the Social-Democrats had it entirely their way, there would, among other things, be forced vaccinations.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 22, 2022 at 5:07 pm

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Ending my readings on Ender before the ending

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As I noted recently ([1]), I was in the process of reading Orson Scott Card’s “Ender” saga. Half-way through the third book, I have given up on it, in the wake of the big family fight. There are simply too many too self-righteous characters, too much pontificating, too large swaths of that annoying attempted analytical inner monologue that plague many poor writers. At the same time, the limits of the author’s thoughts appear, as he tries to write the thoughts of great geniuses.

*As when character A internally analyses the exact motivations of character B or the exact implications of situation C, in a detail which borders on the laughable, because it takes one set of possibilities and turns them into (misperceived) certainties—and often a set of possibilities that is not even the single most likely set.

Looking at the first book (“Ender’s Game”) as a standalone effort, it had an interesting, original, and well-executed main storyline, excepting the limited plausibility of young children being the best choices for the task at hand. However, the Locke/Peter and Demosthenes/Valentine storyline did more to detract than to enrich, the discovery of a surviving queen-to-be-saved was cheesy and detracted further, and the level of character-genius involved might simply have been too high. Even the six-year old version of Ender might have moved at or above the level of the average adult in terms of intelligence, which might then have implied an (age-peer) I.Q. approaching 300. His siblings certainly reached the genius standard for adults even at ten and twelve (or thereabouts), which, again, likely brings us to an (age-peer) I.Q. above 200, maybe in the direction of 300. Such creatures would ultimately be so beyond comprehension by even regular geniuses that fiction about them borders on the pointless. (Indeed, writing about alien species makes much more sense, as the author can create these freely, without the restrictions of reality that writing about humans pose. There might even be room to discuss how well Card writes non-genius characters.)

The second (“Speaker for the Dead”) is very different, taking off thousands of years later, but also quite interesting in some aspects, especially relating to how different various life-forms and cultures can be.* Both Demosthenes/Valentine and the queen-to-be-saved play a larger part, and do add more value than in book one, raising the question of how much the author might have planned in advance. (Locke/Peter was long dead.) The supposed great revelations** about the “murders” and the piggie-to-tree transition fall flat, however. I contemplated similar ideas at a comparatively early stage, and it strikes me as ridiculous that several highly intelligent scientists, who spent years or decades living with these events, would have failed to even consider the possibility throughout that time. (See [1] for some minor additional information on the book.)

*However, I do not necessarily consider these parts biologically realistic.

**I am often annoyed by authors putting in supposedly great revelations that are far from it. In some cases, if not here, this includes things that are obvious to the thinking reader, at least as a possibility. This is particularly annoying when a character supposedly of great mental powers fails to see something over a prolonged period of time. (Another possible case in this book series is the “not a simulation” revelation from the first book. Unfortunately, I already knew this from the movie and cannot judge the book fairly, but I do know that I caught on faster than Ender did in the movie.)

The first half of the third (“Xenocide”) had some points of interest in the “godspoken”, OCD sufferers construed as influenced by the gods, but otherwise was lacking in something worthwhile and new relative the second book. (A standalone book focusing on the world of Path and the godspoken might have been a better investment of both the author’s and the readers’ time.) Meanwhile, the flaws discussed in the first paragraph grew out of hand.

Excursion on plausibilities:
In a work of science fiction, some suspension of disbelief is natural, e.g. in that it is accepted as “within the rules” that someone can go from point A to point B faster than a light beam could.* However, this suspension should be limited to areas where it makes sense, not extended to any and all aspects, and there must be some degree of consistency. Here, Card repeatedly strikes me as weak. Consider the idea** of ansibles, which allow instantaneous communication—even between ansibles in radically different co-moving frames. These, however, will not agree on what events are simultaneous, making the idea of instantaneous communication nonsensical and/or a source of paradox (within an even approximately Einsteinian universe). It does not help that the attempted explanation for how they work makes quantum entanglement seem like a triviality.

*Assuming that a sufficiently consistent and plausible solution is available (cf. the rest of the excursion). For instance, some type of wormhole-based portal might achieve this without exceeding the speed of light, thereby avoiding the complications predicted by current physics. Creating such a portal might put a heavy stress on the “fiction” part of “science fiction” and might even be a source of causality complications, but it is not something that is obviously and manifestly out of bounds. (In comparison with ansibles above, note that “instantaneous” and “ridiculously fast” are not the same thing.)

**Not his idea originally, but he makes very ample use of it, and the ansibles are crucial to several important aspects of and developments in the books.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 20, 2022 at 7:14 pm

Inflation hitting harder than it officially should

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During the days of comparatively low inflation, before the COVID-countermeasure and Russia-boycott era[s] took over, I repeatedly saw claims that inflation numbers were highly misleading and that the “true” inflation rate was higher than officially indicated.* While I never looked into this in detail, it does seem to hold in the current world, where price hikes on at least food** have often been far larger than the alleged, already high, inflation rate.

*Including some interesting side-claims, e.g. that governmental dietary recommendations were less aimed at improving health and more at shifting consumption to cheaper foodstuffs, e.g. from meat to bread. (I make no statement about the correctness of this claim, but I note that the recommendations that I remember from school were quite heavy in carbohydrates, which are often viewed less positively today, and easy on proteins, in general, and non-dairy animal products, in particular.)

**My consumption of other things than food and energy tends to be small and irregular, making changes hard to judge. (There are books and the like, but I buy a book once, and a difference in price between two different books tells me little about inflation.) Moreover, I do not pay attention to my own energy prices unless my supplier sends me a letter; and the price increases on energy are complicated through government interventions, and correspondingly hard to judge relative inflation when we look at the direct consumption. (But it is a major driver of inflation through indirect consumption, as electricity goes into virtually everything else that we buy.)

Some examples that have particularly annoyed me,* typically** with a price change taking place in 2022 alone:

*Especially in light of their being unnecessary, being largely caused by flawed government interventions of various types, notably regarding COVID and energy.

**As I have not kept actual notes, I cannot be more specific than that.

Milk: Used to be 60-something cents for a liter.* Is now at 99 cents, for an increase of around 50 (!) percent.**

*Here and elsewhere, I go by the brands that I usually buy. Note that I tend to buy cheaper brands, including store brands. (Germans might recognize “Ja!” as a good example.)

**I will use rough approximations throughout, as I do not usually know the exact old and/or the exact new price. Here, as a lower limit based on an original price of 69 cents, we have 43 percent. With lower original prices, the percentage increases.

Meals for frying: The local Aldi has a range of ready meals that just need a few minutes in a frying pan.* The one that I bought most often, a great personal favorite, was at 1.80-something. A few months ago, it was raised to 2.20-something, and then, again, to 2.60-something—40 percent or more.

*There is almost certainly a good English word for such, but I have no idea what it might be.

(Various other frozen meals? In a very rough guesstimate, the average price increase has been in excess of 20 percent on e.g. frozen pizzas, frozen lasagnas, and whatnots, with a variation from product to product.)

Sausages: The type and package of sausage that I have bought most frequently over the last few years, used to be at (likely) 1.99 Euro. The last time around, it was at 2.39 (?), for around 20 percent.

Coffee: I used to be able to buy the “good” brands for around 2.50 Euro per 500g package at ever recurring* sales, with a regular price of around 5 Euro. Today, the rebated price tends to be above 5 Euro and the regular price at 7-something Euro. Moreover, there are fewer sales. From my point of view, the prices have roughly doubled. (However, coffee often underlies price fluctuations based on e.g. how successful harvests have been. The overall change might reflect more than just inflation.)

*For a long stretch, the brands took turns with sales in a near continuous manner.

Rote Grütze:* Aldi used to sell this in 1kg buckets (handle and all). By now, the buckets are gone and 0.5kg containers have come instead. The buckets used to sell for around 2.50 Euro; the cones are at around 1.50 Euro, for a price/kg of around 3 Euro and, again, an increase of roughly 20 percent.

*There appears to be no good English name, but compote seems to be something slightly similar.

An interesting “maybe” is a great deterioration in the quality of my (previously) favorite brand* of muesli: For a period of maybe six months, every new package that I bought contained less and less nuts and more and more raisins. While I have nothing against raisins, this has shifted both the taste- and the health-profiles in a negative direction: The taste is by now over-powered by the raisins, the benefits of the nuts are gone, and the fast sugars of the raisins are likely to screw with how the body reacts.** The last time around, I actually found myself manually picking out as many raisins as I (with a reasonable effort) could. This was a few months ago and I have no intention of revisiting the brand.

*One of the two versions of the Rewe store-brand to be specific.

**Indeed, one of the reasons that I preferred this brand was that is was, originally, lower in fast sugars than many others. Notably, as great as good muesli is, it is very energy rich. Combine this energy richness with fast sugars and the associated ups-and-downs in blood sugar level, and I suspect bad things to be the result.

Excursion on shrinkflation:
With some reservations for rote Grütze above, I am not aware of any case of shrinkflation, but as the intent of shrinkflation is typically subterfuge, there might well be such cases that I simply have missed.

Excursion on low-end products being hit harder:
I would speculate that low-end products are more sensitive to the current problems, which might make me more affected by price increases, as the margins are lower. Higher-end products tend to have higher margins, which could mean that the seller and/or producer are willing to swallow more of a cost increase and/or to delay the price increase for some time—especially, when a portion of the cost increase is believed to be temporary. (Then again, maybe it is the other way around, as they might consider their customers less price sensitive.) An interesting potential example of this is coffee (cf. above): not only have the rebated prices taken a proportionally worse hit than the “full” prices, but capsules for Dolce Gusto* have taken a smaller hit still, at maybe 20 percent. A regular carton of 16 capsules used to be almost as expensive as a 0.5kg package of plain ground coffee, but, obviously, only gives 16 cups, which is far less than the 0.5kg package used for drip brews,** and the margins were correspondingly much larger. (I would not be surprised if most of the price was markup.) Correspondingly, the sellers might prefer to reduce the margin a bit and keep the customers, over keeping the margin and potentially losing customers.

*I buy these once in a blue moon, as the speed and convenience can be pleasant, but I taste-wise (and price-wise…) prefer regular drip brews.

**I have never kept tabs on the number of cups, especially as I make smaller cups when brewing; however, going by weight, my recently purchased “Grande” appears to have “16 x 8g = 128g” according to the carton. This is marginally more than a quarter of the regular coffee; most other types of “black coffee” Dolce Gusto use less or considerably less coffee; and the various cappuccinos, lattes, and whatnot only have 8 doses of coffee (and 8 doses of e.g. milk), making their coffee content correspondingly smaller. (However, they sell at the same price, regardless of coffee content.)

Excursion on inflation vs. deflation vs. fix value:
Even in the glorious days of 2-percent inflation, I was highly skeptical to the approach taken by various governments, central banks, and whatnots. I am not convinced that even this level of inflation was justified by sound Economics, but suspect that it was a matter of governmental convenience at the cost of the people.* Would not a zero inflation be fairer and better for everyone? Alternatively, like in some stretches of “yore”, that prices may have risen one year, sunk the next, and averaged out to near constancy over a longer stretch of time.**

*This might include aspects like a lower debt burden, exchange rates that do not grow too high (by some standard), an implicit shifting of tax brackets to put more and more of the people in higher brackets, and similar. For Leftist governments, we have the added “advantage” of existing fortunes being undermined; and, maybe even for non-Leftist governments, that there is a greater incentive to work, as saving up for the future and living on money already earned is harder.

**Notably, for countries on a gold or silver standard when the amount of available gold resp. silver was approximately constant or grew approximately in proportion to the overall economy.

Take it one step further: Would not deflation (i.e. “negative inflation”) be the way to go to increase the wealth of the people? Keep your salary and your bank account at the same level—and ten years down the line you will still earn more and be wealthier (in real terms). Let better production methods and other developments drive prices down, even if slowly, and everyone might be better off. Ditto if product quantity and/or quality improves at a fix price.

There are claims that a little inflation would be a good thing, and that deflation would be bad; however, these claims have so far left me unconvinced as their are too many conditions applied and/or too much speculation.* For instance, with a deflation of 2 percent a year (compare the longstanding inflation goals of 2 percent a year), why would anyone be deterred from consumption? A similar** effect has not prevented e.g. the computer industry from flourishing and leaving products like food for next year, when they will be cheaper, is either silly or suicidal. Inflation allows (real) wages to go down? Only very temporarily, as the unions will factor in the inflation in the next round of increases. There might be less incentives to borrow money, but I do not see that as a bad thing. Etc.

*Including assumptions about an otherwise fixed economy, without productivity improvements; use of severe deflation (e.g. 20 percent a year) instead of mild (e.g. 2 percent a year); and application of short-term thinking on the agents within the economy in that deflation is a rare abnormality that causes unusual concerns and behaviors. (The latter does match the current situation, but not the situation suggested by me.) Indeed, I suspect that the point of various claims is less to give a fair analysis and more to “prove” that “deflation is bad; ergo, we must have inflation”.

**Here we have a deflationary effect specific to the product group, as opposed to an economy-wide one.

Excursion on “mis-yearing” price increases:
A confounding factor is that businesses do not necessarily increase prices immediately in reaction to various events. The reasons for this can be manifold, including e.g. a wish to wait until the competition raises prices, a wish to avoid unnecessary up-and-down fluctuations, a fear that raising too many prices at once (in e.g. a grocery store) can put off too many customers. Then there is the wish to keep those annoying “x.99” prices. For instance, if a certain product sells at 0.99* and a 10-percent increase is called for (according to some set of criteria), then this would result in a price of 1.09. If the margins are large enough and the fear present that the leading “1” will be a greater deterrent than the leading “0”, it might make sense to wait. A year later, another 10-percent increase is called for, or a “real” price of 1.19**. Foregoing 10 cent is one thing, 20 another, and now the price is raised by the full amount. The impression of the customers might then be misleading, because they are not aware that they had been given an implicit 10-cent rebate in the past. It is certainly possible that the strong price increases in 2022 go back partially to such delays in the increases.

*Here and below, I will leave out the currency units. They would add nothing to the illustration. Note, however, that I implicitly assume an x.yz system in both currency units and notation, which does not apply to all currencies.

**Strictly speaking, 1.20, but that would violate the prices-must-always-end-with-a-9 rule.

Excursion on multiplicative rates and underestimating inflation:
One reason that many underestimate inflation is that they fail to consider its multiplicative nature. For instance, to repeat and extend the above calculations with a more sensible 1 as a basis:

Iteration/Year True value* Naive value**
0 1.00 1.00
1 1.10 1.10
2 1.21 1.20
3 1.33 1.30
4 1.46 1.40
10 2.59 2.00
20 6.73 3.00

*Value achieved by multiplying with a factor of 1.1 for each iteration. Rounded and/or padded to fit the normal price format.

**Value achieved by just adding 10 percent of the original price per iteration. Padded to fit the normal price format.

As we can see, the difference between the true and the naive value is small for the first few years, although a difference is notable already in iteration/year 3 and certainly 4.* However, as time passes, it explodes upwards.

*The naivety of the naive estimate might be increased, should typical pricing be used, as we might then have e.g. 1.29 instead of 1.33 for the third iteration/year—but we might see an apparent explosion to 1.49 for the fourth. (The same phenomenon as discussed in the previous excursion.)

Excursion on other attempts to mislead customers:
Attempts at e.g. “shrinkflation” are not the only problems. For instance, I have recently bought quite a few semi-ready meals from Knorr, where a ready-made mix of pasta, cheese, and various other ingredients are heated in water for a few minutes—convenient, tastes well, and very filling if enough water is used to create something closer to soup than a “dry” meal. (Healthy? More dubious.) However, the misleading claims about energy are definitely problematic. For instance, the package that I am looking at right now makes three claims about energy content: (a) 397 kJ per 100 g of cooked (“zubereitet”) product. A careless customer will now look at the 100 g and the overall raw weight of 153 g and assume roughly an overall of 600 kJ—which borders on diet food. The true value is 2598 kJ, or well above four times as much. The more pleasant value is an illusion created by counting the water. (b) 1294 kJ per alleged serving* (“Portion”). The careless customer would now naturally assume that this is the result of cooking the overall, but he is still off by a factor of two—allegedly, two servings result from a single package. To this, I note that cooking just half the contents while keeping an even distribution of various ingredients would be tricky, that the dish is not suitable for a keep-and-reheat scenario, and that only half would be too little for a full meal for one person. (Half might or might not do as a snack or as a part of a multi-course meal.) (c) 15 % of the energy needed per day.* This, again, per alleged serving and with the same misunderstanding likely to arise. (But, oddly, the value is kept high by using a reference person at 8400 kJ per day, which, I suspect, is on the low side for men and growing teenagers of either sex.)

*Both servings and energy-per-day measures are next to useless, as they vary much too much from person to person. The former does more harm-than-good and should be banned, as they are often outright abused. (I recall seeing bags of potato chips that used servings of 20 g, or well below an ounce. Does not sound like a typical serving to me.) The latter likely do more harm-than-good, and it would be better for the individuals to learn what fits them on an individual basis.

The two values that would have made the most sense, energy per uncooked weight (kJ/100g) and energy per entire package, are very, very absent.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 19, 2022 at 5:57 pm