Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
Aw…would you look what our clipboard-carrying, white-coat-propeller-beanie wearing researchers have done this time.
Contrary to the common notion that paying taxes can be a painful experience, researchers at the University of Oregon say the practice actually may trigger feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
“Paying taxes can make citizens happy,” Ulrich Mayr, a professor of psychology, said in a release accompanying the study in the Friday issue of Science.
Now when we all have to pay taxes, do I really have to have some letters after my name to criticize or to question this? I mean, really? Because on tax day I’m lots of things, but I don’t think you could call any of those things “happy.”
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, the researchers observed the brain activity of 19 women who were given a balance of $100 each. The researchers created the effect of taxation by making mandatory withdrawals from their account. The withdrawn money was actually sent to a food bank’s account.
Participants also made additional choices about whether to give away more money or keep it for themselves.
The article then goes on to explain why all nineteen of them were female, and whether they were drifting though their financial life-circumstances like dandelion seeds, or whether they had some real hard-and-fast responsibilities to fulfill of their own. Or something in between.
Oops! I made that up. No, the article doesn’t explain any of that. So…these are nineteen enterprising female students, working their way through college while holding down two or three jobs apiece, supporting massive families of babies and toddlers all by their lonesomes, living on Top Ramen with mean old landlords hassling them for money…or, not one of the nineteen has any responsibilities to meet, whatsoever. Which means, of course they’d get warm fuzzy thoughts giving it away. ‘Cause otherwise, y’know, they’d have to find something to do with it.
Or anything in-between those two extremes.
The resolution to which…on the planet from whence I come…this would have an effect on what is to be learned from the research.
But not on planet Oregon-Pinko-Commie-Researcher-land, nosiree! Nineteen women, that’s all ya need to know.
“The fact that mandatory transfers to a charity elicit activity in reward-related areas suggests that even mandatory taxation can produce satisfaction for taxpayers,” the study said.
Mayr said the findings show people are willing to pay their taxes as long as they support good causes. The authors noted, however, that the results may have differed if people had been presented with a tax that seemed less fair or benevolent.
So in other words, the research doesn’t prove or suggest jack-squat. People feel good when required to make mandatory donations, so long as the funds are used in a manner that meets their liking. So to feel happy, they don’t have to choose whether the funds are spent, but they do want to choose where the funds go.
People — women — like to spend money.
I hope they didn’t spend a lot of time or energy figuring that out.
I find it interesting that the research could have been so much more explosive and charged with not-so-phony importance, if they just took it one teeny tiny step further. What parts of the brain start getting tingly when the money goes to bad places? That would have made more of an issue of the involuntary nature of taxes, I think all would agree.
Or how about when the money goes to a program that does or does not meet your approval…and, once there, it gets wasted on graft, fraud and corruption? What if the waste takes place because of a lack of controls you just know would have been in place, at least to some extent, had the money been spent in the private sector?
But stopping where it seems to have stopped, the research tells us next to nothing.
Well, it does tell us one important thing. It tells us our clipboard-carrying white-coat-propeller-beanie-wearing researchers can miss important points, points that rob all the value that might have been left in the research they’ve been trying to do.
We see it in the executive summary of the study being explored…
Civil societies function because people pay taxes and make charitable contributions to provide public goods. One possible motive for charitable contributions, called “pure altruism,” is satisfied by increases in the public good no matter the source or intent. Another possible motive, “warm glow,” is only fulfilled by an individual’s own voluntary donations. Consistent with pure altruism, we find that even mandatory, tax-like transfers to a charity elicit neural activity in areas linked to reward processing. Moreover, neural responses to the charity’s financial gains predict voluntary giving. However, consistent with warm glow, neural activity further increases when people make transfers voluntarily. Both pure altruism and warm-glow motives appear to determine the hedonic consequences of financial transfers to the public good. [emphasis mine]
It’s a thought process that ends up precisely where it began. The assumption is made that when you pay taxes, you are directly contributing to some nebulous concept that is haphazardly summarized in the words “public good.” The assumption is further made, and it seems not to be contested anywhere, that charitable contributions and taxes are responsible for the functioning of “civil societies.”
Appearances being any indication, it hasn’t even occurred to the propeller-beanie-wearing researchers that some of us might possibly have questions or issues about this.
Or that “public good” is a subjective concept, not an objective one. For example…our government now-and-then funds programs overseas to assist the indigent in family planning. This education includes abortion counseling, so whenever a Republican President is sworn in he invokes or reinstates a ban on the program, and whenever a Democrat President is sworn in he repeals the ban. That’s because some among us think these programs are in harmony with the public good, and others of us think it is oppositional to that public good. See, it’s an opinionated thing…decided by values that are ingrained deep within the personality and ethical/philosophical values embraced by that individual. There are many more issues just like this one; I’m simply picking out the one whose support, or whose opposition, is the most deeply offensive to selected subsets of the electorate.
This is, I would suggest, all of what meaningfully separates private donations from public ones. In the former, you get to decide what is good; in the latter, you don’t.
By failing to take this into account, the researchers have released a study that essentially reports on exactly what I’ve crudely summarized above: Whether our gals like to spend cash on things.
Why were they all female, anyway? It’s disturbing that this is never explained. It almost looks like they were trying to figure out how the two sexes react differently to a situation, and stopped halfway through. Maybe in the days ahead we’ll get an answer to that.
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