Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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28 September 2013

Low Bandwidth

The latest meme in the rationalizing the low socio-economic status of certain segments of society (SES-cuses, let's call them) is "low bandwidth". The idea is that the poor have so damn much on their minds - just from the stress of being poor - that they make poor decisions as a result. So poverty itself keeps them poor by causing them to do self-destructive things.

Other recent SES-cuses are "stereotype threat", where students perform badly in school pursuant to negative vibes from authority figures who expect them to do badly due to stereotypes; and the bad outcomes that result from the failure of parents to speak enough words to their children in those ever critical years of ages 5 to 7 3 to 5 0 to 2.

But wouldn't this result in a death-spiral of poverty - something we don't see? And is this phenomenon exceptional to our current generation, where class mobility is low, vs. previous generations where mobility was high?

That's hard to believe, given the realities of today. Compare a typical middle-class family to an impoverished one - who has more bandwidth issues on a given day? For both, the day begins with getting the kids off to school. The middle-class mother needs to get the kids dressed - what to wear? "No, I don't like those pants! I wanna wear the Mighty Super Morphing Ranger Power pants!" "No, you're not wearing those to school - those are for play" "Waahhh!" Then breakfast - oh crap, there's no milk. French toast - but we need the bread for lunch. Oh shit, lunch - what do we have? "Can you buy lunch?" "No, the lines are too long!!" "Ok, well it's baloney - tough, that's all we have." Then of course there's soccer practice, car pools to arrange, etc. etc. Sounds like overload to me.

How about the poor family? You get the kids up and dressed - they wear uniforms in the urban school district, so no decisions there - on goes the uniform. How about breakfast? Nothing to worry about there - they get breakfast when they get to school, courtesy of good ol' Uncle Sam. Lunch - ditto. Soccer? What soccer!? Now that's more like it - life is simple - what's the problem?

I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the concern that poor people have bandwidth problems, but I suspect they're more cause than effect when it comes to poverty. When I think of the successful people I know, I'm struck by how many stressful activities they can juggle throughout the day. Meeting with clients, making deals, hiring/firing/disciplining employees, making major purchases, financing initiatives - all deeply agita-inducing actions that must be taken on to have a successful business. Sure, we all have to do these things, but to my observation successful people are able to handle a number of these simultaneously.

But apparently, according to the authors of the study proposing this bandwidth problem, to a poor person just hearing about a hypothetical $1500 auto-repair bill is enough to send them reeling into a low-IQ stupor. The authors seem to feel that being poor causes this inability to handle a lot of stress. My guess is that easily suffering brain overload at the slightest conundrum is one predictor of poverty, while deftly managing multiple dilemmas at once is a predictor of success.

19 September 2013


First off, as California native Steve Sailer guessed, preliminary analysis suggests my prediction regarding California's NAEP performance is probably a losing bet...but more on that anon.

But trends can confound even the most obvious expectations. Thirty years ago, one very safe prediction I would have made would have been that bank branches would be very rare if not totally disappear. Already, by then, ATM's were springing up everywhere and growing exponentially. Even then you could deposit money in them. Clearly, the hand-writing was on the wall - the bank-branch's days were numbered.

Yes what has happened? Here in my neck of the woods, there are more bank branches, not less. When you walk into the bank, it seems there are just as many tellers as there were in 1983. The only difference is there aren't long lines of customers at each window - but the tellers are still there.

So what happened? I asked an accountant friend of mine and gave me some explanation about bringing in customers and blah-blah, but I still don't get it. Sure, my wife is down at the bank at least once a week, but she has her own small business and is lucky she can log onto Gmail. But in the 70's, everyone had to go to the bank once a week - now, very few ever need to visit in person. And yet, there's still all these bank branches everywhere.

Son one prediction I'm inclined to make now is that in 10 years most fast-food operations will be automated. I expect one or two employees to manage customers and check on operations - but surely all these other simple-minded operations can be automated.

But why should I have any faith in that prediction, when the no-brainer prediction of disappearing bank branches was so far off the mark?

17 September 2013

Let's Charge Him Now Before They Start Protesting

Sounds like the white cop in Charlotte, NC might be getting railroaded. The chief, who is black, had him arrested almost immediately with apparently very little investigation and without the blessing of prosecutors.

But from the information that is starting to come  out, the poor kid who was shot seemed  to be acting maniacally after his car wreck. This will be an interesting case to watch unfold.

10 September 2013

Predictions - Anyone Wanna Bet?

In the spirit of the famous Simon/Ehrlich bet, here are some predictions for 2023. Any takers?

  • Real GDP growth will average less than 2.5% per year over the next decade
  • The Gap - as measured by NAEP 8th grade math scores among black and white students nationwide - will be greater than 0.9 standard deviations.
  • California's performance on the 8th grade math NAEP will not improve relative to the U.S. mean (in standard deviation units) over it's 2013 performance.
  • The price of oil - despite decreased demand - will be no lower than the average price during 2013.
  • The Social Security revenue estimates of the CBO with regard to the 2013 Comprehensive Immigration Reform act will prove to be too optimistic (as a % of GDP). The CBO estimates of the immigrant population in the U.S. as of 2023 will prove to be too low.
  • The share of total income earned by the bottom 20% of American families (measured in terms of family income) will be lower than it is today; this will also hold true for wealth.
  • Neither Libya nor Egypt will have a functioning democracy.
  • Average global temperature, as measured by the GISS, will not be lower than today.
  • The per capita GDP of Brazil, measured in $PPP, relative to that of Switzerland in terms of dollar difference, will not be improved.