Tip here!

image of an apple with an orange insideAs a Brit’ tipping has always felt awkward. Not sure I should tip, how much, and so forth. Since I didn’t grow up in the US, I never had a “tipping role model” and although I think I do OK tipping now, most times I’m just uncomfortable with it. Well, it seems I’m not alone.

The esteemed Steven Levitt it turns out feels the same. In this episode of the Freakanomics podcast they are joined by Cornell professor Michael Lynn, who has written 51 academic papers on tipping. They look at the science, data and social norms’ of tipping, who tips best, worst, and who gets tipped best and how to get better tips.

Most interesting is that they raise the question, should be tipping be made illegal because it is [unintentionally] discriminatory. Should Tipping Be Banned?

The Law of Unintended Consequence

“”The fetus is the property of the entire society,” he proclaimed. “Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.””

This month marks 40-years since the 1973 Roe vs Wade landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, legalizing abortion. As some states are now trying us back to pre-1973, with little fanfare, Virginia and Michigan Republican governors recently signed new abortion bills into law. There are issues other than simply obvious one of abortion.

It’s possible to draw a lot of parallels between the former President of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, and the Tea Party, also with a number of recent issues and topics that have come up in Texas, for example the teaching of Sex education in schools, abortion rights etc. It would behoove those that espouse the same policies, to note what became of Ceausescu. He was executed after a short show case trial by his own people, long before the Arabic Spring.

[from ceausescu.org] “Ceausescu made mockery of family planning. He forbade sex education. Books on human sexuality and reproduction were classified as “state secrets,” to be used only as medical textbooks. With contraception banned, Romanians had to smuggle in condoms and birth-control pills. Though strictly illegal, abortions remained a widespread birth-control measure of last resort. Nationwide, Western sources estimate, 60 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage.”

Freakanomics authors Dubner and Levitt posit that the data proves that this was partly responsible for the huge rise in social unrest in Romania some 15-20 years later; as recently as 2009, the BBC uncovered the still appalling state of some of Romania’s orphanages, some 20-years after the fall of Ceausescu. This growth, the number of babies and children in orphanages and in need adoption and fostering, should have been an obvious consequence.

Law of unintended consequences

  1. The subsequent rise in crime was an unintended consequence. Ceaucescu expected these “forced birth” babies to grow and become part of his mass people automation workforce, instead, the grew up in a suboptimal environment and many turned to anti-social behavior and crime
  2. The demands of this growth in unwanted babies places a huge additional demand on their society, which Romania at the time never lived up to, or only minimally tried; in the early 1990’s Save the Children started compiling dossiers and records of the children from as many as 600 Romanian orphanges, only to find many had simply vanished without trace. “”We never found out what happened to them. Some could have ended up on the streets, or been trafficked to other places. No one knows,” said Silvia Boeriu, the head of Save the Children in Romania.
  3. You can’t hide the societal effect of such actions, it cost Ceaucescu and his wife their lives. While I’m not suggesting the same will happen in the USA, it’s safe to assume that none of the current politicians will be remembered or looked on positively in years to come if they persist in this direction..
  4. If Dubner and Levitt are indeed right, that Roe vs Wade and the legalization of abortion in the early 1970’s had a direct correlation to the drop in crime in the 1990’s because there were significantly less “unwanted” babies that had matured to the peak age for committing crimes, and especially violent crimes; should this push to either rollback the clock, or make it seemingly impossible to offer abortion services, we better be ready for 2032 and all that will come.

These are all unintended consequences that can be proven by data, except #4, which is supposition, supported by historic data and trends. What is really a logical side of the Dubner/Levitt research, was in fact that the majority of women who were given the choice, later went on to have  “loved” babies in what todays passes as stable homes. Obvious really.

Freakanomic Gifts

Freakanomics at Dell World
(cc) Some Rights Reserved sfoskett @ flickr.com

Despite being an executive at Dell, I didn’t have an invite to last weeks Dell World in Austin. Just a couple of the external speakers were President Bill Clinton and the Freakanomics authors and speakers Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt.

Even if you were able to attend, I know Dubner didn’t cover Christmas gift giving, and this is a great listen. Spoiler alert, it includes a mention of compression socks.

Dubner talks to the economist, Justin Wolfers, who takes what Dubner likes to call the anti-narcissist approach, the spotlight effect. Don’t over think it. You can read a transcript here.