Mountains will labour: what’s born? A ridiculous mouse! (Ep.II.3, 136–9)
Back in about 1995 on USENET in a particular “newsgroup,” one of the other frequent posters was David Friedman (son of Milton). There was also an individualist-libertarian sort of publishing company I was a fan of, and its head had been posting about how he was going to further be posting something really revolutionary, life changing, and on and on. The baiting, suspense, and morsel feeding went on for a couple of weeks and then, finally, the earth-shattering post was published and David was the first to reply:
“The mountain roared, and gave birth to a mouse.”
I have never forgotten that. It was an excellent lesson delivered in a single sentence. David was very good at that.
I was reminded of it when, after I published my shock and awe over the grotesque compensation NuSi paid to various Presidents, VPs, and a single director, one of my French readers opined:
La montagne qui accouche d’une souris.
“It hurt the mountain’s butt so much that it found it justified to reward itself for so little.”
Maybe I’m wrong. It has been four solid years and NuSI has produced a singe small pilot study, conducted a larger one that concluded in latter 2014, and a year and a half later, they have been unable to get the results written up and published—which, incidentally, is a big fat clue for me about how this is going. They say other studies are already in the pipeline. How many people will be diagnosed, have amputations, suffer coronary events, get cancer, or die in the interim?
I’m not feeling any particular sense of urgency, but at least people are making millions combined, as those who donated waited for what was touted The Manhattan Project. NPR said that. Forbes said that. Even Tim Ferriss—who was on the list of science advisors at the outset but has been mum ever since—said that.
You know what? The only way this resembles The Manhattan Project is in the Top Secrecy. Nobody wants to say what went wrong and if you think nothing is going wrong, there are bridges for sale in the most ironic of places. …It’s quieter around here than a litter of mice with mountainous parents.
As expected, there are opposing views. We saw them in what what we’ve gleaned so far in the the to-be-published study. And, now, we’re seeing them in the revelations that Anthony Colpo broke yesterday.
Now look: I don’t begrudge people for making money. Money might not buy happiness, but it sure makes life a lot more fun. Heck, overseas flights aren’t free, nor are lightweight carbon-fibre bikes.
And I certainly don’t begrudge people for making lots of money; more money means more options in life.
What I do detest are the exorbitant salaries paid to people who run these supposedly non-profit health organizations. You know, the ones devoted to finding a cure for this or that health condition, but after fifty years or more have little to show for their efforts. Certainly not a cure, just a bunch of conferences held in exotic locations, and millions upon millions paid to CEOs who lived the high life, while the poor plebs who donated to them continued to suffer cancer and heart disease just as frequently as ever.
This sham was elucidated beautifully in Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth, by Bennett and DiLorenzo. Before you give one single cent more to any health organization, I strongly suggest you read this book (they’re selling copies as cheaply as 1 cent on Amazon). It may have been written back in 1994 but rest assured, nothing has changed – except that nowadays the CEOs of these non-profits get paid even more handsomely.
And I’ll be perfectly frank: So far I see little in NuSI – nor its best-known staff member – that indicates it will achieve anything different. As of May 9, 2016, NuSI has already churned through millions of dollars and nicely fattened the bank accounts of its founders, yet the only research of note it has produced is a metabolic ward study that found an isocaloric ketogenic diet did not cause any greater fat loss. It did, however, accelerate the loss of precious lean tissue.
Which is what I’ve already been saying for the last 11 years.
I’ll categorize these opposing views into three.
FANBOYS AND GIRLS
LABOR THEORY OF VALUE
This is the notion that someone’s compensatory value is determined by a function of the length and breadth (long and hard) of their labor, and not the contribution to the supply and demand dynamics in a marketplace for the profitable delivery of a product or service on offer.
It was principally popularized by Karl Marx. And it permeates all statehood and social interaction to this day. It’s one Big. Fucking. Problem.
People always want you to know how hard and how long they worked on some thing.
It’s beyond the scope to give you all the arguments that render it pathetic, so I’ll just relay what an acquaintance of mine has said for the couple of decades I’ve know him (paraphrasing):
‘I don’t care how long, how hard, or how dirty your hands got making mud pies.’
This is my favorite. It’s related to LToV, above, but a bit more explicit.
The idea here is twofold.
- This is Gary Taubes’ and Peter Attia’s market rate of compensation.
- This is less than Gary Taubes or Peter Attia could have earned elsewhere.
I’m going to save #1 for my next post on How To Do A Manhattan Project, but both suffer the logical fallacy of begging the question before you even get started. But let me just tackle #2 here.
Opportunity cost is a microeconomics term whereby we seek to better understand why a firm does one thing and not another, or doesn’t change from one thing to another. Or, it seeks to integrate intangible costs into a “calculation” for doing any of the forgoing. Remember that economics is a social science. In other words, what makes it complicated is that you’re dealing with the behaviors and choices of people who are economically engaged in creating, producing, distributing and trading various values.
It’s not only economic or P&L calculations that motive people to choose doing one thing over another. For example, if it was all just “how much money can I make in the shortest time,” everyone would be crack dealers—until the market collapsed from oversupply, everyone was in prison, or both.
In the case of Gary and Peter, one thing I do believe is that they had a deep passion for this and on a passion level, I love The Manhattan Project metaphor. But be careful in using that, because you’re soliciting donations, not offering a product or service with contractural terms of refund. The Manhattan Project had a no-failure clause.
So, there are a couple of ways to refute this. The first is the most simple: ‘oh, you can make more elsewhere, doing something else? Then either go do that, or shut the fuck up and stop your whining. Do your fucking job.’ Simple enough?
The second is, beyond the begging the question fallacy (they are assuming that they really could earn more, without evidence), that it’s no more a ‘cost’ than it’s a cost to buy stock in a company. The intended spiel goes: they have so sacrificed (opportunity cost) in order to bring you this solution they worked fingers to the bone on (Labor Theory of Value).
It’s a gambit. If they succeed, then opportunity cost was an investment that paid off. They’re famous, get speaking gigs with lavish honorariums, get book deals, etc., and labor theory of value is as meaningless as wondering how many hours Robert Oppenheimer put in towards making the first three atomic bombs.
…It’s only in failure that the foregoing fallacies are brought to the forefront to defend their failure and why they ought be paid very well anyway. You might charge me with question begging on that score alone, since it’s not yet absolutely known whether NuSI is a failure or not.
A mouse. So far.