The seventh year anniversary of a cultural icon’s last journey

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows 

How Harry Potter shaped a generation
[Via Boing Boing]

Seven years after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Caroline Siedelooks back on the book series that defined a generation.


This series changed how books are read and by whom. It also instructed a generation on the proper way to deal with authoritarian perils, even as the individuals involved were complex, multifaceted characters

We could hate the actions Snape took as much as we liked them. Same with Dumlbedore. Or Draco. They did things not because they were evil but because they were humans trying to make their way in the world, dealing with the consequences of the decisions they made. Sometimes people die because of those decisions.

It showed that even if not perfect, people could do the right thing to help others and to defeat the forces that drive authoritarian tyrannies.

Exactly the battle that generation will fight in real life. Those books provided early training for what the Potter generation will deal with most of their adulthood.

Talking with strangers makes us happier and feel more productive

tokyo subway 

You’d Be Happier If You Talked to Strangers More Often
[Via D-brief]

Humans are some of the most social creatures on this planet, but step into an elevator, train or public bus and something strange happens: we fall silent, stare at the wall and ignore the strangers surrounding us. But in doing so, we might be missing out on an easy way to make ourselves happier people.

Through several experiments, behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder demonstrated that we view solitude as a better option than engaging a stranger, not because we like being alone, but because we mistakenly think others don’t want to talk to us. As a result, we miss a chance to make our morning commutes more pleasurable, or even make a new friend.

Defying Expectations

The scientists started their investigation by recruiting over 100 commuters at a train station in Homewood, Illinois, and splitting them into three groups. One group was given instructions to strike up conversation with a stranger, another told to stay silent, and the third to simply carry on like they normally would. Then, after their commute, participants filled out an assessment that asked them to rate how productive, pleasant and happy their commute felt.

A second experimental group simply filled out a survey that asked them to predict their happiness levels in each of the three situations. However, they weren’t asked to take action.

In the first experimental group, those who struck up a conversation with someone — across the board — had a more pleasurable commute, and even felt more productive. On average, they spoke for 14 minutes. But interestingly, those that were asked to predict their moods went in a completely different direction: they assumed that talking to a stranger would make their commute less pleasant, less productive and leave them less happy.


It turns out that we are such social creatures that we would actually like to talk with people, even when we do not want to talk with people.

Interesting findings.

Making a better world = Separating Sheep from Goats

Ellis Island

The parable of the sheep and goats – to me, one of the defining Biblical passages describing the underlying principles of Christ’s teachings. (with the Sermon on the Mount being the other major one).

As I have written before:

Whether it is the New Commandment to love one another, the Second Great Commandment to love our neighbors, turning the other cheek in response to evil, or how to love one’s enemies, His teachings show a path that breaks cycles of violence that often reverberate during times of change and strife.

This parable catalogs some of the actions that can be taken by those following his teachings – the sheep. It details how they separate themselves by how they treat others.

Seeing a person in difficulty, having compassion and acting to remedy that difficulty is one of the defining teachings that Christ provided.

They are about how to treat other humans, how compassion is required. Empathy and sympathy are what constantly drive successful societies and simply slow down cultures doomed to failure.

Time for us all to be separated – so many goats and so few sheep. From Matthew 25:

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

In reality, few geniuses did it alone. Perhaps none.


[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

The End of ‘Genius‘.


Edison was wrong. Or at least the picture is. He was not a solitary genius working by himself, alone in the lab. He had the help of many, many others.

The perspiration did not come only from Edison. It came from over 200 researchers working on his ideas. The number should be 0.5% inspiration (his) and 99.5% perspiration (theirs).

One of the great debates between those who are of the Age of Reason and those of the Romantic: does genius come from the friction between individual drive and social requirements or does it come fully formed from the natural state of a solitary human?

Data supports the former view.

We all live in a social setting and almost all the things we call genius came about through discussions, debates and simple interactions in a community. Even if that community is a simple pair of people.

The idea of a solitary genius was  a construct of the romantics, an authoritarian group that arose as a reaction from the distributed democracy of the Age of Reason. The latter based itself on logical actions of the head – that Nature could be understood – giving us social changes embodied in things like the Declaration of Independence and the Industrial Revolution

The former based itself on the emotional affairs of the heart – that Nature could simply be observed, never understood – giving us artistic changes embodied in people such as Coleridge and Beethoven. The latter championed the connectedness of people, while the former championed the uniqueness of a solitary genius.

Recent research suggests the view of the romantic does not actually match reality; that every genius stood on the shoulders of giants; that social interaction drove and modified the results of a genius; that we often only know of genius because of the very same social interactions that romantics try to pretend are not there.

So why do we continue to support, if not actually require, a view that a single person can drive creativity by themselves, that they  can innovate alone?

I would suggest that we seek a balance – the fame of the individual against the anonymity of the group.. While we value the importance of community, we desire to be seen as more than a node in a network. Things move ahead because a small group (perhaps staring with a single person) change the way a community acts. It is the friction of the individual drives and the community needs that produce the best solutions.

A creative individual alone does nothing. A community without creativity  does nothing. A successful society requite both innovative individuals and communities that value innovation. They need both the head of Reason and the heart of Romantics.

In the end, though, we are social animals and everything needs to be seen through the prism of communities of humans.

As the article states: 

This is just one piece of an impressive body of research in social psychology and the new field of social neuroscience, which contends that individual agency often pales next to the imperatives of a collective.

Or, writing at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, from Thomas Done:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: 

 We are all connected. No one does everything by themselves.

A treasure that exists only for one person has no value. What a genius provides must be valued by a community, otherwise it is no treasure.


Telling people how we will horribly mess things up probably won’t change anyone’s views

 Star Trek: Spock

How Western Civilization Ended, Circa 2014 |
[Via  Mother Jones]

You don’t know it yet. There’s no way that you could. But 400 years from now, a historian will write that the time in which you’re now living is the “Penumbral Age” of human history—meaning, the period when a dark shadow began to fall over us all. You’re living at the start of a new dark age, a new counter-Enlightenment. Why? Because too many of us living today, in the years just after the turn of the millennium, deny the science of climate change.

Such is the premise of a thought-provoking new work of “science-based fiction” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, two historians of science (Oreskes at Harvard, Conway at Caltech) best known for their classic 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. In a surprising move, they have now followed up that expose of the roots of modern science denialism with a work of “cli-fi,” or climate science fiction, entitled The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. [SPOILER ALERT: Much of the plot of this book will be revealed below!] In it, Oreskes and Conway write from the perspective of a historian, living in China (the country that fared the best in facing the ravages of climate change) in the year 2393. The historian seeks to analyze the biggest paradox imaginable: Why humans who saw the climate disaster coming, who were thoroughly and repeatedly warned, did nothing about it.


Dystopias like 1984 are popular because they show us what will happen if we stop doing something we are already doing  (like resist authoritarians). This one seems to be trying to show us what will happen if we keep doing what we are  already doing. 

Not really helpful, in my opinion. We need narratives that help us learn how to act successfully, not stories that show an Apocalypse. The most popular fiction recently have examined how people can fight against a dystopia, not just accept it.

Here they seem to just tell us  that everything we try to do will be a failure. Hard to get people energized to chance.

Scaring people accomplishes little and is actually the fundamental reason people will grab onto any competing narrative, no matter how many lies are part of the narrative. They simply stop hearing the truth because of fear.

The Original Star Trek is the most influential SF show of all time because it was optimistic, even while showing many continuing problems. It showed people how to act. 

Real science fiction authors have done a much better job.

Beware of this scam – predicting the World Cup with 100% accuracy while creating provable conspiracy theories

Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha 

How to predict news events with 100% success
[Via Boing Boing]

It’s simple, writes Andy Baio: “Delete Your Mistakes.”


This scam was just done on Twitter with the game between Argentina and Germany. They not only predicted the correct score but also who would score the goal and when it would occur. It went viral.

Luckily the perpetrator made a mistake and did not keep all their handiwork private.

The author of this article uses another example – a youtube video predicting a presidential election. The YouTube video has a time stamp that is from 6 months before the election. It states the exact results and links to Instagram, Flickr and Twitter accounts –  all also timestamped from before the election, that accurately show the correct results, state by state.

So the election was pre-ordained, a kabuki created by the corporations?

How this is done is to create private accounts months ahead of time for every possible combination, then delete all the incorrect accounts and make the correct one public.

Easy to do with a little programming skill.

So watch out for those who predict the Emmy winners, election results or World Series champions, after the fact.

Obama’s dingo policy goes over like lead balloon

 Canis lupus dingo

Following Backlash, White House Realizes Guy Who Opposed Obama’s Own Patent Reform Plan Shouldn’t Lead The Patent Office
[Via Techdirt]

A little over a week ago, it came out that President Obama was on the verge of appointing a former pharmaceutical industry exec, who had spent years fighting against the very kind of patent reform that President Obama supported, to be head of the USPTO. It was a little odd how the news came out — as it seemed to be clearly “leaked” to a few folks in the press that Phil Johnson was likely to be the nominee. However, the move was pretty quickly condemned, and now the same folks are saying that the White House has changed its mind, and will not offer the position to Johnson.

At the very least, that suggests that the “leak” of his name was something of a trial balloon, to see how it would go over — and the vocal rejection (including by big patent reform supporter Senator Chuck Schumer) made the White House realize that it would be in for a pretty angry fight over the nomination. Hopefully, the next nominee isn’t someone who has vocally fought against the President’s own position on patent reform…[More]

So here is one time that he appears to listen. Nice to see a distributed approach succeed over the normal authoritarian.

I did love the comment that stated this sort of policy: “Let’s hire the dingo as our babysitter” Maybe the new tools of distributed democracy will make this policy much less likely.

Being an asshole in a video game may make people better people

Critical Miss! 

Another Study Suggests Acting Immorally In Video Games Actually Makes Players More Moral
[Via Techdirt]

As the evolution of video games as a major entertainment medium marches on, you would expect to see more and more studies done as to their effects. And, since the chief topic among those having this conversation seems to center around the effect of violence in games, that’s where much of the focus of these studies is going to go. Now, we’ve already discussed one study that linked violent video games and the so-called Macbeth Effect, in which the gamer feels the need to cleanse themselves of the wrong-doing with a conversely benevolent action. That study was important because it demonstrated that the effect of violent games might have the opposite effect of the all-to-prevalent theory that virtual violence begets real-life violence.

A recent study appears to boil this down even further, indicating that instead of feeling any kind of desensitizing effect, immoral actions taken in video games produce a more sensitive, compassionate person.

A study led by Matthew Grizzard, assistant professor in the department of communication at the University at Buffalo, reaffirmed previous research saying that committing immoral acts in games can cause players to feel guilt. Moreover, the study found that players would become more sensitive to the specific moral codes that they violated while playing — and according to Grizzard and his co-authors, that may eventually lead players to practice prosocial behavior (that is, voluntary behavior for the benefit of other people).

The study was done at an unnamed Midwestern university, sampling nearly 200 individuals for testing purposes. The game used was Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, an older game that was previously used in a study that first tried to measure guilt in the gaming population. The methodology used by several researchers from major universities is interesting, to say the least.

First, the researchers randomly assigned the participants to play a game or perform a memory recall task. They randomly assigned the gaming segment to play Cold War Crisis in two ways: Either they would play as terrorists (the “guilt condition”), or as U.N. peacekeepers in the “control condition.” The researchers also split the memory recall participants into two groups: They asked the guilt condition people to write about a time in which they felt particularly guilty, while they requested the control condition folks to write about a normal day.

What they found is that feelings of guilt were more profound in those gamers who played as terrorists compared with those that played as peacekeepers. The rationale at work is that terrorists are unjustified in killing the U.N. characters, but not vice versa. What thatdemonstrates is that players taking what they deem to be immoral actions within a virtual environment are emotionally stimulated in thinking about those actions and develop thoughts and opinions based on those actions, building generally towards empathy through guilt. Coupled with other research, this is important.


Interesting research.  Not what one would expect but makes sense. At least for people who are empathetic.

I’m sure this only works for normal people and not psychopaths. But it is interesting that that “immoral virtual behaviors are capable of eliciting guilt.”  And that guilt usually results in taking actions to assuage the feeling, often by doing pro-soical things.

So now do this with a group of Wall Street financiers  some CEOs and politicians. Compare with public defenders, firefighters and doctors. I’d be interested in any differences.

They will have to do more work to see if this lessens as time goes on but, as a strictly anecdotal observation, I almost always hate playing the bad guys when given the choice. In Dungeons and Dragons  I could not abide anyone who was evil.  Heck, even in Angry Birds I refuse to play the Pigs.

Uselss app finds usefulness in warning Israelis of rocket attacks

 Bomb Shelter in the Golan Heights, Israel

Pointless Yo app now alerts Israelis to rocket attacks
[Via Ars Technica]

An app that became infamous for its astounding lack of utility has found a purpose: warning Israeli citizens about rocket strikes. As reported by the Times of Israel (via Valleywag), Israelis have been using the app Yo to subscribe to alerts from Red Alert: Israel about incoming attacks during the Hamas-Israel conflict.

Yo was roundly mocked when it secured $1.2 million in funding and again when it was shown to have gaping security holes. It does almost nothing; tapping a contact’s name within the app sends a push notification to that person’s phone and makes it say “yo.” That’s… it.

Now Yo has partnered with Red Alert: Israel, an app that shows users “where the rockets fired at Israel by Gaza terrorists are aimed,” according to the Times of Israel. Red Alert: Israel’s app sounds an alarm during attacks, and it’s meant to work as a backup for the sirens that sound to alert residents. Users who so choose can now receive a “yo” when rockets have been launched.


I love this.  The developers of Yo are nothing if not adaptable. Eight hours of work to create an app that could save lives. From a totally useless app to a reasonably valuable one. Who is laughing now?

Distributed approaches again succeed over hierarchical.

Neymar is out mainly because Velasco Carballo did not do his job (UPDATE: FIFA had a role)

Mondiale finito. Si è rotto l'asso brasiliano.
[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

For Bellicose Brazil, Payback Carries Heavy Price: Loss of Neymar.


UPDATE: FIFA picked the ref because he threw very few yellows. So they bear some blame because the ref knew that if he showed too many yellows he would not get picked to call the final. It was not money involved in the ref tanking the game. It was FIFA.

It was an ugly, cynical game. It is the referee’s job to control the game. He called something like 54 fouls but only gave  3 yellows, one for a technicality, not a challenge. Brazil crushed James Rodriquez with little consequence. He gave a yellow to Rodriquez for a first time innocuous foul yet several Brazil players commit 5 or more horrible fouls without a card.

The referee list serv was not happy with the referee’s game even while it was happening. In a physical game with lots of fouls, the proper response is not simply to let it continue to escalate until someone is hurt. Because eventually the players will take justice into their own hands.

Brazil decided to sow a physical game and reaped the loss of their best player. Because the referee did not perform at a world-class level.

A few yellow cards early would have changed the complexion of the game. For the better. And Neymar might still be healthy.

The referee is the only one who has the power to prevent such play. He did not and it became more rugby than soccer. 

I am sorry to see Neymar out. But the failure of the referee to control the physicality of the game (most fouls in the Cup so far and he did not even call the kick on Neymar a foul), a physicality initiated by the Brazilians, resulted in some payback. Everyone knows that is what will happen which is why the referee cannot lose control.

It is never a good thing when you read the referee’s name in a game summary. Shame on Velasco Carballo.

Jay Rosen nails it with respect to Facebook

Facebook Beachfront 

[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

Facebook’s controversial study is business as usual for tech companies but corrosive for universities.


I was more upset with PNAs than Facebook. Glad to see someone else is.

Uncomfortable NSA leak from possible second source?

NSA Targets Privacy Conscious for Surveillance
[Via Schneier on Security]

Jake Appelbaum et. al, are reporting on XKEYSCORE selection rules that target users — and people who just visit the websites of — Tor, Tails, and other sites. This isn’t just metadata; this is “full take” content that’s stored forever.

This code demonstrates the ease with which an XKeyscore rule can analyze the full content of intercepted connections. The fingerprint first checks every message using the “email_address” function to see if the message is to or from “”. Next, if the address matched, it uses the “email_body” function to search the full content of the email for a particular piece of text – in this case, “”. If the “email_body” function finds what it is looking for, it passes the full email text to a C++ program which extracts the bridge addresses and stores them in a database.



From this leak, it appears that almost anyone who tried to create online privacy and anonymity is seeing their online data being captured by the NSA. As one person said, they are separating sheep from goats – those who do not protect their privacy and those who can.

Separate the goats out and then only concentrate on them.

But what is really fascinating and possibly very important – several people believe this leak comes from another source than Snowden. If so, this is big.

Troubling: IRB approval for the Facebook study only came AFTER the study was done

Media statement on Cornell University’s role in Facebook ‘emotional contagion’ research
[Via Cornell]

Cornell University Professor of Communication and Information Science Jeffrey Hancock and Jamie Guillory, a Cornell doctoral student at the time (now at University of California San Francisco) analyzed results from previously conducted research by Facebook into emotional contagion among its users. Professor Hancock and Dr. Guillory did not participate in data collection and did not have access to user data. Their work was limited to initial discussions, analyzing the research results and working with colleagues from Facebook to prepare the peer-reviewed paper “Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion through Social Networks,” published online June 2 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science-Social Science.

Because the research was conducted independently by Facebook and Professor Hancock had access only to results – and not to any data at any time – Cornell University’s Institutional Review Board concluded that he was not directly engaged in human research and that no review by the Cornell Human Research Protection Program was required.


We are finding out more each day that makes the Facebook study very worrisome.

Looks like groups are falling into CYA mode. There was no IRB approval before the study was done.

Cornell in the last paragraph simply stated that the IRB said examination of the results of a pre-existing database was okay. This is much narrower than saying an IRB approves the study.

But it is also problematic.If the data are collected by unethical means, the same logic can be used – “he was not directly engaged in human research and that no review by the Cornell Human Research Protection Program was required”

Under this sort of approach, the results of the Tuskegee experiments could be approved by an IRB and published if someone just looked at the pre-existing results.

In fact, the entire purpose of an IRB is to prevent something like the Tuskegee experiments from ever being done again. Yet, according to the rationale used by Cornell, it would be perfectly acceptable to use that database.

This is very disconcerting.

Updated: Did PNAS publish a medically unethical paper?

Healthy Human T Cell 

Facebook’s science experiment on users shows the company is even more powerful and unethical than we thought
[Via PandoDaily]

If you were still unsure how much contempt Facebook has for its users, this will make everything hideously clear.

In a report published at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Facebook data scientists conducted an experiment to manipulate the emotions of nearly 700,000 users to see if positive or negative emotions are as contagious on social networks as they are in the real world. By tweaking Facebook’s powerful News Feed algorithm, some users (we should probably just call them “lab rats” at this point) were shown fewer posts with positive words. Others saw fewer posts with negative words. “When positive expressions were reduced,” the paper states, “people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

The results shouldn’t surprise anybody. What’s more surprising, and unsettling, is the power Facebook wields in shifting its users’ emotional states, and its willingness to use that power on unknowing participants. First off, when is it okay to conduct a social behavior experiment on people without telling them? Technically, and as the paper states, users provided the consent for this research when they agreed to Facebook’s Data Use Policy prior to signing up, so what Facebook did isn’t illegal. But it’s certainly unethical.


UPDATE: Looks like it is also a poorly designed study also. Unethical and bad science.

Shame on PNAS.

I don’t care about Facebook. PNAS is at fault here. Human experimental protocols without proper informed consent and institutional oversight should never be published. 

Yet here it is.

I read the article and I did not see any discussion of specific informed consent for this example of human experimentation. Human subjects are supposed to be allowed to opt out when given informed consent for a specific research protocol.  To do otherwise is now regarded as medically unethical.

And I did not see mention of any outside review of the protocol by a board tasked with oversight of human experimentation. Failure to do this is now regarded as medically unethical.

Both informed consent and review board oversight are supposed to be part of any research protocol involving human subjects.

Sure, Facebook may legally be permitted to do the research (corporations are permitted to do all sorts of immoral and unethical things, as long as they are legal). However, medically unethical research is not supposed to be published, no matter what the legality.

To my mind, by failing to secure these two important procedures necessary for proper experiments on humans, PNAS has disgraced itself and published a medically unethical paper.

We just went through a lot of controversy regarding HeLa cells and consent. The answer I often heard was that this was back in the primitive days of human experimentation, that today we would get specific informed consent and oversight. 

Yet here we have a published experiment on over 600,000 human subjects apparently without proper consent and no oversight.

How in the world does PNAS publish a report dealing with human subjects that not only did not gain specific  informed consent but seemingly had no oversight from any sort of review board?

Very disappointed in seeing a prestigious scientific journal publish such an unethical and morally obtuse paper.

Especially one that, as discussed in the Pando article, may well be quite weak on its protocol, analysis and conclusions.

Shame on PNAS.

Adam Smith knew that higher wages result in harder working employees

 Adam Smith


Adam Smith on How to Make the Working Class Happier and More Productive: Pay Them More
[Via Grasping Reality with Both Hands: Economist Brad DeLong's Fair, Balanced, and Reality-Based Semi-Daily Journal]

Adam Smith:Smith: Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter 8: “The liberal reward of labour…

…as it encourages the propagation, so it increases the industry of the common people…. A plentiful subsistence increases the bodily strength of the labourer, and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition, and of ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty, animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious, than where they are low; in England, for example, than in Scotland; in the neighbourhood of great towns, than in remote country places. Some workmen, indeed, when they can earn in four days what will maintain them through the week, will be idle the other three. This, however, is by no means the case with the greater part.

Workmen, on the contrary, when they are liberally paid by the piece, are very apt to over-work themselves, and to ruin their health and constitution in a few years. A carpenter in London, and in some other places, is not supposed to last in his utmost vigour above eight years. Something of the same kind happens in many other trades, in which the workmen are paid by the piece; as they generally are in manufactures, and even in country labour, wherever wages are higher than ordinary. Almost every class of artificers is subject to some peculiar infirmity occasioned by excessive application to their peculiar species of work. Ramuzzini, an eminent Italian physician, has written a particular book concerning such diseases….


He then went on to say that capitalists should moderate the working conditions of their laborers, rather than working  them to death. Better to make a little less during the good years in order to make more during the lean.

The Wealth of Nations does not really say what so many say it does. But then Smith was sure things would be run my moral and ethical people.


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