You're the dupe of your emotions...
WE'LL GIVE IT to you straight, writes Bill Bonner in his Diary of a Rogue Economist.
How come people care about fairies and Super Bowls and Brexits...and falling in love?
Hold that question. Let's first glance over at the financial world for just a second.
This week saw another increase in stock prices. Why? "JOBS, JOBS, JOBS," said US Economist-in-Chief DJT.
Last month's jobs report was said to be outstanding. But what is curious about the job situation is that the US is adding beaucoup jobs when it was supposed to be already "beyond full employment."
How is that possible? How come these people don't already have jobs?
The jobs report now being applauded as proof of a robust economy is two parts claptrap and one part fraud.
What's really happening, we believe, is that "full employment" was achieved by simply disappearing 16 million workers over the last 10 years.
They're not counted as part of the labor force because, after the crisis of 2008-2009, they weren't able to find jobs! Now, they are dribbling back...mostly to low-paying "gig" work.
Typically, that's what happens at the end of an expansion. Unemployment reaches its nadir just as the expansion reaches its apogee. Then, the planets roll over...growth goes negative...and unemployment goes up.
Already, mounting auto inventories and slumping house sales suggest that the expansion may be reaching its end. This is nearly the longest recovery ever recorded; a recession can't be long coming.
But let's leave that...where only time will tell anyway...and return to more fundamental issues.
The hardware we know as "human" – the bones, the meat – was apparently developed by billions of years of adaptation, mutation...and perhaps divine intervention.
We don't know exactly how or why it worked the way it did...but it delivered to us the wreck we know as "human beings".
And you are perfectly within your rights to fill in the missing knowledge by saying: "God created man." And perhaps He did.
If so, you can blame Him or praise Him. But the process by which He made us appears remarkably "hands off." That is, the bone record looks like a lot of fumbling and bumbling...trial and error – the same process we see in the rest of the natural world.
From Lucy to all manner of knuckle-dragging bipeds...from monkey to man...with plenty of dead ends, false starts, and mutant ninja turtles along the way – the process can be described as "evolution" even without knowing why it goes in the direction it does.
(No point in writing and telling us that you KNOW how the whole thing works. We won't believe you.)
The more interesting and controversial point is this: The human software was created in more or less the same way.
Why do we think what we think? Why do we smile? Why do we shake hands, or say please and thank you?
Again, there are oceans of ignorance on the subject. But on our little patch of dry land...the process that gave us our thoughts, our instincts, and our emotions looks a lot more like evolution than anything else.
In other words, when we fall in love, we don't do so because we think it would be a good idea to fall in love. We don't do it because there is a falling-in-love contest that we want to win.
We don't do it because someone tells us that we should or because we'll earn more money if we do. Instead, we do it because we're programmed to do it.
We didn't think our way to falling in love any more than we thought our way to having five fingers rather than seven, or to wanting to eat fried foie gras rather than raw sewage.
But we do.
And if you are puzzled as to what this has to do with the money world, please bear with us. Because today we see that our most powerful instincts and emotions are engaged in a way that has very little to do with what we think. Or, to put it another way, we think what our instincts and emotions lead us to think.
We think she's pretty. We think she's smart. We think she's sexy.
But why do we bother to think any of these things? "The mind is just the heart's dupe," wrote André Gide.
Your thoughts are brought to bear as your instincts and emotions – your heart – commands, not the other way around.
What you think is what your software tells you to think. Of course, there's room for "creative" thinking...or thinking "outside the box"...coming up with ideas that seem to be contrary to your basic instincts and well-being.
And sometimes you are faced with choices your brain has to figure out, more or less, on its own.
You may even think that falling in love is not such a good idea. You may decide not to marry and not to have children.
You may come to believe you can jump off of a cliff, flap your arms, and fly. You think...and therefore, you are flying!
You don't do yourself any favors with this sort of fantasy...but you do the human race a useful service. You eliminate your DNA from the gene pool! That software, in other words, is taken off the shelf. Not because it's good or bad; it just doesn't work.
The population that exists today is the product of people whose parents probably fell in love, wanted to have children, and didn't jump off the ledge. And their software – instincts, emotions, social conventions, traditions – is our software.
And among the most powerful, most atavistic, and most disastrous of our programming is the instinct that made the Super Bowl, the Crusades, The Wall, and WWI so popular:
Us versus them.
The "us" and the "them" vary with fads and fashions. Christians vs. Jews, Protestants vs. Catholics, Blacks vs. Whites, Red vs. Blue, Rams vs. Patriots, etc, etc.
Coming into style now: Rich vs. Poor.