M-F is the new weekend

As you may have guessed from the previous post, I’m not a fan of inflation, which also makes me doubt the validity of “real GDP.”  To consider just one example, let’s look at the output of “office work.”  I gather from shows like Mad Men and The Office, that office work has always involved a lot of downtime.  But in the pre-internet era what was one to do with that downtime?  You can’t just go golfing, they won’t pay you unless you are on site.  Mad Men suggests the three martini lunch can kill the boredom.  But that’s not good for one’s health.  The Office suggests childish pranks—but do you really want to hang out with Dwight?  Fortunately, modern office work offers much better possibilities: the internet.

My theory is that the workweek has been inverted, people play Monday through Friday, and work on Saturday and Sunday.  This is just the opposite of the world my dad lived in.  And I have proof.  Take a look at a typical graph of my blog readership.  The most recent day (Saturday) is not yet over, but will come in around 3000 hits.  If you look closely you will see that the hits rise sharply on M-F to around 5000/day, and drop sharply on Saturday and Sunday.  I’d guess other bloggers see a similar pattern.

Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 2.52.24 PM

In standard economic models Monday through Friday are workdays, and then people take the money they earn and have fun on the weekends; “consumption.”  If that model was correct, you’d expect blog reading to drop-off sharply when people are working, and then rise sharply on weekends, when people have “free time” to read blogs.  But we observe just the opposite.

My theory is that lots of men secretly look forward to Monday.  Saturday and Sunday are a steady stream of “family fun” activities, the sorts of things politicians look forward to doing more of after they’ve been caught with their mistress.   But family fun today is simply one scheduled event after another.  When I was young we’d just hang out.  At night we’d go downtown to collect railroad flares, to get material for making explosives (hope the NSA doesn’t read this.)  In those days parents had fun on weekends, sitting around drinking with other adults while the kids roamed around the neighborhood.  Now kid’s lives are over-scheduled, everything is waaaaaay more complicated.  You don’t pick up a quart of milk, it needs to be hormone-free organic soy milk.  After a full weekend of all this modern “family fun,” many men are anxious to get “back to work” and start surfing the internet.

Yes, my dad’s generation had some advantages, they dealt with real people.  But in the real world the ratio of “Dwights” to “Jims” is simply too high.  I rather see what Tyler Cowen has to say.  Yes, I’ll take my fantasy electronic world over the real thing.  Nozick was wrong, utilitarianism wins.  We are all much happier this way.

PS.  A lot of this post is made up, I’ve never even seen Mad Men.  The railroad flares story is true, however.

PPS.  I have several conferences and also some “family time” coming up.  Expect less posting for a while.

PPPS.  Has anyone else noticed that Yglesias has stopped posting on weekends?  🙁



57 Responses to “M-F is the new weekend”

  1. Gravatar of marcus nunes marcus nunes
    15. June 2013 at 13:55

    My blog chart has the same pattern (on a much lower level. In general there´s much less posting on week-ends, when the writers take a break before coming back on Monday to provide the ‘fun’ for the readers. But I´ve noticed that tweets keep going on week-ends!

  2. Gravatar of gwern gwern
    15. June 2013 at 14:11

    Maybe it’s just your site (or maybe a bunch of financial sector types are carefully parsing various posts as part of their job!). I decided to take a look at my own modest little site’s weekly traffic pattern:

    This sample includes 1,830,479 unique pageviews since October 2010: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/182368464/Analytics%20www.gwern.net%20Days%20of%20Week%2020101001-20130615.pdf (a custom report generated along the lines of http://moz.com/ugc/using-google-analytics-for-blog-post-timing-insights )


    R> barplot(c(282909, 305741, 260629, 245542, 227523, 262109, 246026), names.arg=c(“Monday”,”Tuesday”,”Wednesday”,”Thursday”,”Friday”,”Saturday”,”Sunday”))


    Why would there be a spike in Tuesdays? Search me.

    > My theory is that lots of men secretly look forward to Monday.

    My readership skews *heavily* male, as far as I can tell.

  3. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    15. June 2013 at 14:36

    Maybe the HFT guys are pinging your website all week looking for tradable blog keywords. What’s it look like from 9:30-4:00?

  4. Gravatar of Brett Brett
    15. June 2013 at 14:38

    I never noticed that about Yglesias’ posting, but it makes sense. Slate probably doesn’t pay him for weekend posts, and they’re not alone. The Atlantic doesn’t seem to post anything new on weekens either.

  5. Gravatar of J J
    15. June 2013 at 14:40

    Professor Sumner,

    I think your post has some sexist sentences in it.

    That aside, I disagree with your proof (although not necessarily with your theory). I, and maybe others too, think of reading your blog as part of my education and work time. Maybe non-economists don’t think so. But, I imagine a significant part of your readership is economics professionals and academics. Why is reading your blog not work like reading academic papers? I certainly imagine that writing your blog counts as work.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. June 2013 at 14:54

    J, It was supposed to be humorous. Don’t assume these are my views. 🙂

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. June 2013 at 14:54

    I actually like my family time.

  8. Gravatar of Bonnie Bonnie
    15. June 2013 at 15:18

    Or maybe some of the unemployed are reading are reading your blog looking for some hope while their spouse is at work, kids in school; and the weekend is when they spend time together. I did that a lot while I was, um… between jobs. I have new job now and don’t get to look at your blog much except after 5pm and on weekends; although I do occasionally sneak in a peek while waiting for others to complete dependencies to my projects.

  9. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    15. June 2013 at 16:09

    As an economist, reading your blog makes me better able to do my job. I don’t see any issue.

  10. Gravatar of Neal Neal
    15. June 2013 at 18:35

    Happy father’s day to you, too! 🙂

  11. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    15. June 2013 at 20:03

    this much truth will never be understood

  12. Gravatar of Lars Christensen Lars Christensen
    15. June 2013 at 21:35


    The pattern is the same on my blog. I clearly has less readers during the weekend.

    However, I would not consider your or my own blog as “consumption” – for a lot of people reading blogs is part of the job. That is also the case for me. In fact that is exactly what the numbers are saying – Monday-Friday is worktime, while weekends are family time.

  13. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    15. June 2013 at 22:29

    Alright, that’s it, who taught Scott how to troll?

  14. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    16. June 2013 at 02:44

    Well, you might also look at it from this perspective: weekend still IS fun time, hence NO blog reading 😉

  15. Gravatar of Simon Simon
    16. June 2013 at 04:02

    Recently I’ve begun drifting over here from Krugman, just to keep an eye on you guys. But this one stopped me. I froze. I laughed. By 5:00 this evening, I’ll have cried. The truth of this post may be more profound than IS-LM. Happy Father’s Day.

  16. Gravatar of Theo Clifford Theo Clifford
    16. June 2013 at 04:55

    I think the PPPS reveals part of the real reason fewer people reads blog posts at the weekend – no-one *writes* blog posts at the weekend. Part of the fun of the blogosphere is being able to read debates happening in real-time, and leave angry comments at the bottom of them. It stands to reason that some substantial fraction of your views, Scott, come from people who have already read all the week’s posts – maybe at work, maybe in the evenings – and aren’t really interested in checking all the blogs they follow only to find no new content.

  17. Gravatar of Tim Worstall Tim Worstall
    16. June 2013 at 05:43

    It’s not just the economics blogs. It’s true of all of them. It’s most certainly true of “commercial” sites like Forbes as well. Traffic picks up around 9 am EST and dies down again around 4 pm PST. Mon to Fri (I don’t know the stats for all of Forbes, only for my little part of it.) But this is a general finding over all electronic media. People really are reading it at work…..or at least, peak traffic is during working hours.

    You can also see other peaks. Say a story gets picked up by an OX blog. Peak traffic from that link will be in Oz business working hours.

  18. Gravatar of Petar Petar
    16. June 2013 at 06:15

    Same here….and I was convinced Croats (still) lived in your dad’s world….

  19. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    16. June 2013 at 08:50

    The same thing is true for radio broadcasts. The week-end programming is by the second and third stringers.

  20. Gravatar of Luis Luis
    16. June 2013 at 10:48

    Forbidden weekend now!!!!!

  21. Gravatar of Jon Rodney Jon Rodney
    16. June 2013 at 12:13

    Just to confuse you, I am now working on a bot to ping random posts on your blog once every 10 seconds, weekends only.

  22. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    16. June 2013 at 19:29

    Abenomics is catching on! In this case, a new hit J-Pop hit single “Abeno Mix” has over a million views.


    Here’s how Google translated it, no idea if it’s right:

    It is a novel unit skirt length is changed by the stock price. In the hope that the economy of street corner goes up we will continue to work! Abeno ☆ MIX Koji Miyashita: Lyrics: Takemura large composers recommend changing into black ↑ (Agee) ↑ (Agee)

    Alright the tone Japan boom red Carry on Come on! Carry out! Good bye-deflation– Revolution ♪ boldly this country I become cheerful and aside something that is difficult Carry on Come on! Carry out! Economics Evolution ♪ right there ♪ Do not forget correction of the yen appreciation quantitative easing public investment inflation of 2% and Let’s go Let’s aim for first. ! It’s economic recovery in the perseverance and courage so by raising the economy by raising a fist to believe so Smiley in town with everyone NIPPON cheering Bab Bab Bab bubble Love Love Love Bubble Bab Bab Bab Love Abeno ☆ MIX such ↓ ‘s (Sagueneenne) ↓ (Sagueneenne) mood × I do not promote it he just pray to become a (bad) Carry on Come on! Carry out! Stock prices rise the sound Fascination ♪ challenges this country it is in plenty but We’re Gonna go still Carry on Come on! Carry out! Financial problems Renovation ♪ Let’s start with monetary easing construction bonds Banking Act also amended ♪ I Abebaburu Let’s go ze aiming more than 3%! ! Raise the economy’s Yeah bonus allowance hyper reducing lower interest rates I also NIPPON cheerleaders also Smiley you of you if I match the Lonry power’m one person it’s economic growth in patience and courage so to increase the economy by increasing the fist permanent (TWAIN NIPPON cheering everyone believe so Smiley of) Bab Bab Bab Love Love Love Bubble bubble Bab Bab Bab Love Abeno ☆ MIX

  23. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    16. June 2013 at 20:49

    Why Noah Smith supports fiscal stimulus: http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/why-i-am-fiscalist.html

  24. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    17. June 2013 at 01:08

    What is Scott’s explanation for this? http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2013/06/its_not_just_th.html

  25. Gravatar of Sam Sam
    17. June 2013 at 05:33

    This rings true. I just spent the weekend with family for Father’s Day and am using the first couple hours of work to catch up on missed blogging. Econ blogs are great cause they often have graphs and charts, so people walking by are never suspicious.

  26. Gravatar of marcus nunes marcus nunes
    17. June 2013 at 05:49

    @ Saturos
    I think the answer is less ‘convuluted’. The Fed ‘poisoned’ markets with a dumb set of words:

  27. Gravatar of Coleton Stirman Coleton Stirman
    17. June 2013 at 06:12

    Looks like conventional wisdom on the right (at least Forbes) is still strutting about as if Keynesians are the only people that disagree with them, and have yet to come to terms with Mr. Sumner and Market Monetarism, because apparently aggregate demand doesn’t matter.


  28. Gravatar of Justin Irving Justin Irving
    17. June 2013 at 07:09

    I agree with John and Lars. Reading econ blogs is a good way to stay up to date on the *important* macro news if one works in research. On the weekends, the last thing I want to do is think about economics.

  29. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    17. June 2013 at 07:48

    Bloomberg is attributing the recent uptick in the S&P to withdrawal of QE, since the recovery is now “self-sustaining”: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-16/end-of-easing-spurs-s-p-500-gains-of-16-amid-economic-expansion.html

  30. Gravatar of Doug M Doug M
    17. June 2013 at 08:33

    I will admit it, I check this site when I should be working. I also check in, “after hours” on weekdays, but I rarely check on weekends.

    But, I try to generally unplug on weekends, stay off the computer, seldom check my e-mail, never reply to e-mail.

  31. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    17. June 2013 at 09:37

    Gavyn Davies has the contrary view from the bond market: http://blogs.ft.com/gavyndavies/2013/06/16/what-the-bond-market-is-telling-the-fed/

    Jon Rodney +1

    I hope Scott never discloses the frequency at which this blog gets hit from “Perth, Australia”, that would just be embarrassing…

  32. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    17. June 2013 at 10:21

    Jim Pethokoukis debates John Taylor on QE: http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/the-feds-qe-policy-me-pro-vs-stanford-economist-john-taylor-con/

  33. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    17. June 2013 at 13:08

    Keynesian Spy Agencies?

    “Brown’s role in promoting the $1tn stimulus package was critical in staving off global economic catastrophe and it seems that some of the credit for that success should go to the intelligence community, cast in the surprising role as secret promoters of Keynesian economics.”


  34. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    17. June 2013 at 16:28

    Scott, Your blog is a small (but very interesting) part of the internet’s econosphere. The econosphere is a small part of the internet’s socio/politicosphere.

    The activity of the info providers… the government, industry, academia etc… and their disseminators, the Press… goes way down on the weekends.

    I think you mistaking a supply side effect for a demand side effect.

  35. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    17. June 2013 at 16:32

    Who says internet access at work is an improvement over long, socially lubricated, tax deductible lunches anyway ?

    If I had to pick one… it’s no contest.

  36. Gravatar of Justin Justin
    17. June 2013 at 18:36

    I’ll admit it – I read your blog during work (typically during lunch, but not exclusively). In my defense, I suffer from having to use horrible proprietary software which creates a lot of downtime, and I might as well use that time productively.

  37. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    18. June 2013 at 01:56

    Work? My UI benefits are too generous to justify going back into the labor force.

  38. Gravatar of M-F is the new weekend | Fifth Estate M-F is the new weekend | Fifth Estate
    18. June 2013 at 03:12

    […] See full story on themoneyillusion.com […]

  39. Gravatar of J.V. Dubois J.V. Dubois
    18. June 2013 at 04:54

    This quality of life or “happiness” is quite a weird thing. I am more subscribed into a “paradigm shift” view of the happiness and society. I will try to illustrate it on a very simple point

    I will use one example – movies. We have color, sound, HD, CGI effects and in a way movie produced today has a much higher (potential) “quality” than any movie shot 80 years ago. But somehow I feel that those old low-tech movies were probably even considered as more exciting and fun to people who were watching them at that time as those produced nowadays.

    But we are not at the olden times. We lived through several paradigm shifts. It is imposible to compare utility of switching from iPhone 4 to iPhone 5 in the same way people measured utility from switching from having to carry water from well as opposed to having water from water cock.

    Anyways, what I find most interesting is how modern technologies are used in poor societies. For instance it seems that in general very poor people prefer to have cell phones over having sanitation. For them it is more valuable.

  40. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    18. June 2013 at 06:41

    Wow, Pethokoukis mopped the floor with John Taylor at Saturos link. Not pretty.


  41. Gravatar of Liberal Roman Liberal Roman
    18. June 2013 at 07:59

    “let’s face it, France has made it much too attractive to retire at 55” – Krugman!


    OMG!!!! Hell just froze over.

  42. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    18. June 2013 at 09:32

    Wonder if Krugman is up to reading this;


    A doubling of home ownership is associated with more than a doubling of the long-run unemployment rate.

    We are not sure what explains our correlation. But we show, using various micro data sets, that higher home ownership leads to lower labour mobility, greater commute-to-work times, and a lower rate of business formation. Our hunch, on which further work will be needed, is that the housing market exerts powerful externalities upon the labour market. This would not have surprised Milton Friedman, who, in his writings on the natural rate of unemployment, emphasised the need for labour mobility in an efficient economy.

  43. Gravatar of chris mahoney chris mahoney
    18. June 2013 at 12:25

    Retirement kills men. They are only happy at work. Have you ever noticed how no one you know is retired? They are always doing something nebulous, like blogging.

  44. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    18. June 2013 at 12:29

    “It is our view that a flourishing libertarian movement, a lifelong dedication to liberty can only be grounded on a passion for justice. Here must be the mainspring of our drive, the armor that will sustain us in all the storms ahead, not the search for a quick buck, the playing of intellectual games or the cool calculation of general economic gains. And, to have a passion for justice, one must have a theory of what justice and injustice are – in short, a set of ethical principles of justice and injustice, which cannot be provided by utilitarian economics.

    “Antilibertarians, and antiradicals generally, characteristically make the point that such “abolitionism” is “unrealistic”; by making such a charge they are hopelessly confusing the desired goal with a strategic estimate of the probable outcome.

    “In framing principle, it is of the utmost importance not to mix in strategic estimates with the forging of desired goals. First, goals must be formulated, which, in this case, would be the instant abolition of slavery or whatever other statist oppression we are considering. And we must first frame these goals without considering the probability of attaining them. The libertarian goals are “realistic” in the sense that they could be achieved if enough people agreed on their desirability, and that, if achieved, they would bring about a far better world. The “realism” of the goal can only be challenged by a critique of the goal itself, not in the problem of how to attain it. Then, after we have decided on the goal, we face the entirely separate strategic question of how to attain that goal as rapidly as possible, how to build a movement to attain it, etc.” – Rothbard, Why Be Libertarian?.

  45. Gravatar of Daniel Daniel
    18. June 2013 at 13:57

    Yeah Geoff, that sure showed everyone 🙂

  46. Gravatar of CA CA
    18. June 2013 at 15:17

    Ha! Daniel wins the internet today.

  47. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    18. June 2013 at 15:34

    Chris Mahoney,

    The oldest man I’ve met is a classical liberal economist by the name of Alan Peacock i.e. of the “ratchet effect. He’s in his nineties and working on the economics of the UK version of social security, which is the same topic he started writing about at the beginning of his career!

    I think you’re right: purpose is the key to a good old age.

  48. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    18. June 2013 at 15:58


    FYI, your response strongly suggests just that. Remember, all I did was quote a passage. The fact that you thought it is to be taken as “showing up everyone”, reminds me of Gertrude in Hamlet, Act III, scene II.


    Keep those standards high. BTW, do you work QC for United Airlines?

  49. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    18. June 2013 at 16:48

    “We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” confessed Andy Haldane, Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England, to Members of Parliament in London last week.

  50. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    18. June 2013 at 16:56

    I guess Haldane is so foolish that he does not understand that the world’s population has over the last few years suddenly become extremely prudent (prudish?) savers who consume very little and invest very much, thus decreasing the difference between demand for outputs and demand for inputs, thus decreasing interest rates.

    After all, with such low NGDP growth in Britain for the last 4 years, does it make any sense to say that there is no way that costs would eventually decline and raise profitability and interest rates back up?

    When profits are up and interest rates are down, that’s a strong signal of credit expansion form of inflation.

  51. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    18. June 2013 at 18:00

    “The “realism” of the goal can only be challenged by a critique of the goal itself, not in the problem of how to attain it.”

    This is wrong. Self-evidently Wrong.
    It is based on a nieve and heroic misunderstanding of basic human nature.
    It has never been applicable to any society. The entier history of humanity bears this out.

    For this to be true it would be one of those history “ending” moments…. those kinds of moments that utopians have promised throughout out history, with not one to ever become manifest.

    (Kinda like someone’s vision of what would happen if we got a NGDPLT market… 🙂 )

    I really would like for one of these positive visions for a history ending moment to come to pass someday… but to believe it will happen… that takes more than I have.

  52. Gravatar of Don Geddis Don Geddis
    18. June 2013 at 20:01

    Geoff: I agree with you completely. It’s sad that someone so foolish as Haldane, with such a broken understanding of how macroeconomics actually works, is unfortunately in a position of power to be able to (partially) affect those very same variables.

    Many results in economics are counterintuitive. It’s too bad when some people are so confident of their naive gut intuition, and they just get everything so wrong.

  53. Gravatar of Geoff Geoff
    19. June 2013 at 03:26

    Don: Couldn’t have said it better. Nothing is worse than gut intuition and false conceptions of scientism, as opposed to self-reflective intuition and rational inquiry.

    I have only one quibble. Results in economics only seem counter-intuitive, and aren’t actually counter-intuitive, if one’s intuition is well-formed.

  54. Gravatar of Ben J Ben J
    19. June 2013 at 04:06


    Out of curiosity, how do you think we should deal with anthropogenic climate change?

  55. Gravatar of Suvy Suvy
    19. June 2013 at 05:36

    Prof. Sumner,

    I wanted to get your take on this. These are the SHIBOR(Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate) curves and how they’ve shifted over the past couple of weeks.



  56. Gravatar of Linus Huber Linus Huber
    19. June 2013 at 11:06

    (Longterm effect of inflationary monetary policy on society)
    Issued by Linus Huber on Jan. 30, 2013

    I still am able to remember certain events taking place during my childhood and value those episodes, simply due to the fact that they stayed in my memory like for ever and, therefore, they must have made a great impression onto my still developing personality. It is not a matter of assessing those experiences in themselves but to consider their significance in how they influenced my future conduct as adult. It also explains the notion that changes in the individual’s behaviour take place in a very slow motion as we were exposed to past principles during the years when our personality was formed.

    Monday was the most important work day in my father’s working life. Furnished with a substantial amount of cash he went early morning between 3 and 5 a.m. on his way to collect all those calves he purchased the previous week by driving from farmstead to farmstead in order arrive with the fully loaded truck at the marketplace by latest 8 a.m. As earlier as better, as the purchasing agents of slaughter houses and feeding operators may otherwise have covered their needs already. Of course, his long experience and net work was helpful to him, nevertheless, a minor doubt seemed to always remain, as he had to work hard to arrive at the present situation in his life when he dared the first step into independence after having worked as a simply employee at the train station where, beyond other duties, he was assigned to attend the station’s large weighing scale and consequently was able to establish some contacts within and knowledge of the cattle trade. He was fully aware that the wellbeing of his 6 children and wife at home depended on his success. His irregular anxiety attacks during the prior evening often produced a relentless itching sensation on the bottom of his feet and he treated those symptoms with the rigorous employment of a rather rough cloth-brush.

    These episodes signify the fact that risk taking can produce a great deal of stress and is quite an unpleasant experience for an individual. However, the question we have to ask ourselves is whether such experiences prove to have a positive longterm effect on the individual person as well as on society at large or whether we should try to prevent such occurrence (e.g. by issuing a government program that guarantees the purchase of all cattle reaching the market). Although the individual detests stress, different studies prove that stress changes the individual’s behaviour in as far as the individual strives to reduce risk which will enhance the values of sustainability, responsibility and accountability. In addition, it is a rather questionable theory that when we redistribute risk to the public domain that the individual person will experience less stress as his attention will shift to other areas of potential sources of stress. In actuality, it is human nature that requires and is looking for challenges as we otherwise will suffer a slow death. This aspect is best demonstrated by the fact that people exposed to a life-changing experiences, e.g. end of one’s career or the death of one’s partner, often fall into a sluggish, dull and depressive state as the stimulating effects of challenges and stress are lacking. In other words, the anguish experienced due to a risky and challenging situation produces in itself a positive outcome for the individual person.

    The next question, we should ask ourselves, considers the effect on society when the insecurities are reduced from the individual and therefore the costs of such measures redistributed to society at large and how this will affect the individual’s behaviour in such a society. It is hardly refutable that the above listed qualities of risk-averse behaviour (sustainability, responsibility, accountability) will be effected in the opposite direction. The knowledge of such reflexivity is much better developed in scientists than in today’s economists as they are much better equipped to evaluate the impact of manipulative action on a living organism as compared to a mainly mathematical approach taken by economists that emphasises mechanical and physical attributes. To further the comprehension for the word “reflexivity”, let me use an example that fits well into our time period.

    I seldom am sick, however, whenever an non-life-threatening illness befalls me, I will investigate the potential sources of the symptoms in the internet on my own. In my own capacity, I evaluate the most probable cause of my discomfort and consult people close to me for further advice. Thereafter, I make my own decision on how to treat the sickness, which often means that I simply do nothing and let the body do its job while it is trained to increase its capacity of resistance at the same time. At other times I will visit a trusted pharmacist, discuss the best and most cost-effective medication for the purpose, administer it and the matter has been brought to its conclusion. Of course, unforeseen difficulties may arise, but this is possible as well, when I use the advice of a trained medical doctor. However, the important aspect of this example lays in the fact that I take full responsibility, assuming the full risk, instead of delegating it. Unfortunately, this procedure of dealing with one’s minor illnesses is not possible in most Western countries, as the health insurance will reject any costs occurred from such behaviour and/or the medication will not be available without a prescription by an approved practitioner of the medical profession. Under the circumstances that the individual would be forced to cover medical expenses from his own pocket (no health insurance), the number of visits to the physicians office may drop by 50% and result in a major reduction in this increasing share of economic activity as well as increase sustainability and personal responsibility. I, therefore, can conclude that the present system produces the wrong incentives by delegating self-reliance and risk to the grey area of the general public and the rules therefore undermine the sustainability of the system as a whole, a fact that produces negative consequences for society. The example is not chosen to criticise present health policies but simply to show the longterm effects on the individual’s behaviour and to demonstrate the meaning of reflexivity. Just as an aside, I did not even mention the enormous administrative costs that arise from a managed system.

    “He never cashed in his cheque” were my father’s words. I was unable to recognise whether he considered this to be a delightful or dissatisfying fact as the sound of those spoken words projected a sense of apprehensiveness. Shortly prior to this day, my father was involved in a court case in which the seller of some pigs filed a lawsuit. After having sold those pigs to my father concluding the deal with a handshake and after the completion of delivery, the seller felt the agreed price too low and felt cheated, resulting in him taking legal action. In the cattle trade it was/is a common feature to seal a deal with a handshake without the use of any documentation. The seller lost his case in the court and had to pay for the costs of the court proceedings of both parties. The original payment in the form of a cheque, however, never took place as the seller did not present the cheque to the bank. After some deliberation I concluded that the seller’s lack of claiming his dues must have been the result of one of the following reasonings. Perhaps, during a burst of temper, he tore the cheque into pieces and was now too proud to ask for a newly issued cheque. Maybe, the seller believed that he did not have the right to claim payment as part of the court’s decision in that this represented part of the punishment in his eyes. Perhaps, he wanted to demonstrate his disdain by refusing any payment from a contemptible person as my father must have appeared to him by that time. Whatever the reason might have been, all of them show a deeply rooted sense of personal responsibility and concomitant respectability. The court must have arrived at the conclusion that my father did not deceive the seller and the deal, therefore, was valid. In consequence, the seller was forced to scrutinise his own honesty and probably felt embarrassed and accused of dishonourable conduct. When comparing this behavioural pattern with today’s commonly applied conduct we certainly are able to recognise a change in the behavioural model. Honour, respectability, tradition and honesty have lost in weight in today’s world where often nothing but the figure on the bottom line counts. The ease of commerce, that depended on mutual trust, has been replaced by countless clauses and provisions based on an extensive regulatory frame work. Within this context, we now should ask ourselves whether, under the present development of increasing regulation, we arrived at a more just, honest and rule of law observing environment in our society or whether the feeling of real justice (not formal law observance) and legal certainty has been undermined. I do not want to rate the changes but simply state that, under the influence of the numerous regulatory measures, personal responsibility and values like honour and respectability have declined. Respectable and responsible behaviour cannot be decreed by laws but are human values that define us as humans. As more and more aspects of social interaction are regulated, the more the human’s inherent need of respectability and personal responsibility is reduced as those aspects of ensuring a coherent social order have been delegated to the rule makers. This represents another example of reflexivity.

    In the attempt to reduce the risk of the individual member of society, we have created many systems and regulations. The management and enforcement of these rules take a huge administrative effort and we created or expanded corresponding institutions. Like society, an institution is better regarded as a living organism and one should avoid to view them simply in terms of their function. From nature we know that an organism tries to grow and, when under attack, will defend itself. It is rather easy to comprehend this aspect as it is obvious that each employee within such an organisation will act to enhance his job security by expanding his/her sphere of influence. It is a normal human behaviour and should be considered a positive trait in itself. However, this behaviour of an institution’s members may entail negative implications for society at large in its interaction with the increasing size of the regulatory frame work. It acts like a booster to the above development and more and more rules become institutionalised resulting in reduced flexibility and sustainability of the overall system in the long term. The idea to eliminate every risk by centrally planned measures produces increasingly difficulties with sustainability and vitality for the whole system. With the reduction of personal liberty, qualities like self reliance, personal responsibility, accountability, community spirit, empathy, respectability and many other important values for a well functioning society are weakened. Those human qualities are replaced by the struggle to influence the rules themselves and to find ways to profit from existing rules and this simply due to the fact that we have delegated the responsibility for a smoothly functioning social order away from the individual. Honourable and respectable behaviour has lost its importance and simply the rules decide. Those who feel disadvantaged by the rules, try to change them in their favour (generally an option reserved for the elite) or, like probably the most of us, fall into a state of resignation. For economic reasons rules and laws are increasingly irrelevant (bending or disregard of constitutional law and reinterpretation of laws that violate the spirit they were written in) to the decision makers as they project the seemingly overwhelming important task of saving the system, while ignoring the fact that the system is damaged by exactly those actions of increased arbitrariness and insecurity that may inflict much larger wounds to the fabric of society than a temporary set-back in economic growth.

    “This is a real man” my father exclaimed when the buyer of my, due to an motorcycle accident, recently deceased brother’s apartment in Zürich paid with a bundle of bills in cash. I was no more a child but still the sound and dynamics of those spoken words were filled with conviction and produced an lasting imprint on me. It was not simply the fact that my father admired the buyers ability to pay in cash but an air of respectability was transferred to the buyer. There are numerous sayings that glorify the meaning of cash money. My father’s perspective, as well as the viewpoint of many others of his generation, was probably formed in the difficult years after 1929 and he stuck to his conviction even in view of empirical evidence that proved the incorrectness of that notion since the middle of the last century at the very least since money in whatever form including cash lost purchasing power, no matter what currency one looks at. It represents a behavioural pattern that has been etched on his mind for good.

    Most people of that generation are probably not alive anymore today or have hardly any direct influence on today’s events. When discussing the matter of money with young people, I often get an unambiguous reply that I do not have a clue about the meaning of money in today’s world and that a currency’s function is simply a means for payment. Numerous economists have developed abstruse ideas and theories as well and sneer at the idea of sound money. It was in 2001, when I purchased a new vehicle in Singapore (due to high taxes a rather expensive endeavour) and when, after completion of negotiations, I explained that I plan to pay in cash and therefore an additional cash-payment discount should apply, the salesman was close to cancelling the agreed transaction. The reason for this notion was the fact that the salesman was counting on earning an additional commission when getting a credit agreement signed which in my case did obviously cease to apply. At that time already, I was wondering what type of implication this kind of incentive system will take on social values and which kind of values will be promoted as well as which ones weakened as a consequence. The value system of a society can never be contemplated in isolation because when one type of value increases some other value must lose in degree of relative importance. It can never be a moot objective to investigate the origins of changes in society’s value scale.

    The power of suggestion plays an important role in the field of psychology for the purpose of changing the subject’s self-image. This insight is applied in the area of education as well as when raising a child in order to promote a desired mode of conduct. The behaviour of society at large as well as the individual’s behaviour within society can be modified over time in applying the same principle. Each law or regulation exerts an influence on at least two levels. In one way, the desired improvement in terms of quality of life is achieved for a part of the population and in another way, due to the adaptive capabilities of organisms, a minor change in one’s behavioural mode can be registered. The changed pattern of behaviour can itself be divided into two areas, namely into the area of the rules affecting the individual’s action directly and into the area where the new rules have an implied impact on the individual’s self-image as member of said society. As higher the regulatory density the lower will be the level of personal responsibility and accountability, self-reliance, honourable and respectful attitudes, individual freedom and other factors essential for a successful society.

    The effectiveness of a taken measure on the behavioural pattern of the individuals within a society is strongest when all members are subjected to the measure on a continuous basis to produce a maximum impact on the self-image. There hardly is any other system created by humans that outweighs its influence on people’s self-image and the social order to a greater degree than money. Money is omnipresent, used daily by everyone and everywhere, measures economical success and contributes decisive to the self-image of an individual. The influence of this medium on a currency area’s people is not limited to monetary and economic aspects only but, on the basis of its overwhelming relevance, affects the intangible values within the concerned society. The attributes of a currency that rests mainly on the monetary policies of the respective Central Bank, therefore are of enormous societal significance.

    Without exception, Central Banks the world over pursue a policy of currency devaluation. It actually is surprising that not even one exception to the rule exists and all of the currencies presently in use are devalued, especially when viewed from a longterm perspective. Some devalue faster others slower but all of them are subjected to debasement. Is this a natural phenomena and an inherent trait of a currency or is it man-made? Upon closer inspection we, of course, can detect that a deliberate manipulation takes place by sacrificing the currencies value for arriving at short term economically favourable outcomes. In other words, the property rights of the currency owner is violated in order to achieve a statistically measurable and therefore quantitative improvement of economic performance. Growth, however, is measurable in quantitative terms only unable to assess the quality of that growth (e.g. by evaluating factors of sustainability). It is not difficult to conclude that economic growth arrived at by manipulative monetary policy will produce negative results for society that are not directly measurable but, over time, will influence society in a negative way. Hereinafter I like to explain some of those negative consequences which should be evaluated in context with the above explanations of reflexivity to arrive at a comprehensive picture of the jigsaw puzzle.

    We just explained that the manipulation of currencies (persistent longterm devaluation) violates the property rights of the holders of currency. When the currency is devalued, the corresponding loss of purchasing power of the currency holder of let us say 20% in 10 years does not evaporate but someone else within the currency area has benefited correspondingly. In general, those net in-debted in currency terms reaped those benefits. It simply is a wealth transfer and society has been conditioned to consider this aspect in their behaviour as normal. The real result is an environment that enhances the volume of credit creation and benefits the financial sector as the net currency debtor benefits without corresponding effort and is able to register a profit, even after the deduction of the costs of the financial transaction. In spirit this situation does violate the property rights stated in most constitutions and consequently undermines the spirit of the rule of law.

    The partial expropriation of the currency holder’s purchasing power produces some additional side effects in that money turns to adopting more of the attributes attached to possessions than property. E.g. we can possess a car without being the owner of that car. This is best demonstrated when comparing a rented car to a car owned by the driver. Do we behave in exactly the same manner when the car is owned or rented? Some drivers may have those qualities and not act differently at all. Nevertheless, the sentiment of care and sustainable maintenance for a rented item are limited. Ownership does not simply has benefits but entails the obligation to take care of the item in question on a sustainable basis. When property rights are weakened, people are being conditioned over time to think in a short term and unsustainable way. When this way of thinking is practiced by a small number of the population only, the effect on society will probably be negligible. However, when on the basis of conditioning over many decades an ever increasing percentage of the population is changing their behaviour in the described direction, there will be damaging consequences for society in that short term thinking and unsustainable behaviour will be entrenched in the system.

    Another effect is the culture of immediate gratification that is expressed by the wish to possess an item today and now without saving first for it. One prefers to in-debt oneself than to exercise patience and forbearance and to budget responsibly. This development leads to a behaviour that undermines the value of sustainability. The concept that one has to first work hard to arrive at a certain level of living standard is weakened. However, living on credit, to use a popular expression, is promoted. Today and now is more important than the uncertain future that is no more calculable. The consumer and throw-away society is born.

    The behaviour toward risk changes also in that the risk increasingly is transferred away from the risk taker to society at large. This development did not start with the bail-outs in 2008 but reached its temporary climax in that eventful year. Such a constellation increases the preparedness to run high risks and undermines the virtue of diligence, a necessary requirement for sustainable development. The relief from negative consequences of risk taking undermines the virtuous values indispensable to a successful and free society like diligence, responsibility, accountability and honesty.

    As money will be worthless in the long run, people focus more on tangibles to escape the value deterioration of the currency. The idea to save your nest egg or for some future emergency in the form of a simple savings account is frowned upon and is being replaced by investments in tangible assets. This enhances a materialistic ideology in which ethical principles and other values important for a smoothly running society lose their significance. It feeds the notion of mistrust towards decision makers (no one likes to be manipulated) and produces tendencies of individualism with a reduction of empathy towards other members of society.

    The economic well-being of the population depends increasingly on growth that is based on the devaluation of the currency and the high power concentration with the monetary authorities is elevated to a degree that they must feel like pontiffs. Incrementally it becomes unavoidable to disguise the non-existent sustainability and the game of perception management starts. As the population clings to the status quo, the proclamations of the decision makers are desperately received and accepted with enthusiasm, although those claims are contradicting logical thoughts. Respectability, honesty, responsibility, accountability and sustainability are replaced by a culture of lies and deception.

    Another aspect of the reduction in property rights is the fact that actually theft is being legalised. The consequential undermining of the rule of law reduces the protection of personal freedom. Of course, some aspects of personal freedom must be limited, but outside the spectrum of those aspects, the rules of the state should mainly aim at protecting the personal freedom and consequently the associated personal responsibility and similar positive traits that enhance a smoothly functioning social order. I do place central banks to the functions of government despite the fact that they do enjoy formal independence. Each intervention, regulation and manipulation must be evaluated on its longterm effect on the value scale of society. These are not measurable aspects but qualitative values. As economists are trained in measurable changes, this kind of analysis that includes psychological effects is alien to them.

    In order to conclude my short essay, I would like to give you, dear reader, a way to remind yourself of the above contents: When you manipulate people like lab rats, do not wonder, when increasingly they will adopt the attributes of a rat (conditioning). Or in other words, who devalues money, devalues humaneness.

  57. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    22. June 2013 at 06:19

    dtoh, You can’t fool me.

    Everyone, Of course I was merely trying to be funny, so I don’t disagree with those that agree with me, or those that disagree.

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