Time for FREXIT?

France is being fined 500 million Euros by the EU because it didn’t meet its ‘renewable energy’ goals in 2020.

Yet the CO2 intensiveness of France’s electrical generation is running about 121gCO2/kWh, while Germany is at 647gCO2/kWh.  Apparently, nuclear doesn’t count as ‘renewable’ by EU standards.  (The numbers would have surely been even more favorable to France in 2020 than those based on this 2022 snapshot, given that so many French nuclear plants are down for maintenance at the present time)

Nihilism — Really?

A piece at Quillette notes that it has been 22 years since David Brooks published Bobos in Paradise, the book that put him on the map.  The article reviews the predictions that Brooks made in the book and how they have actually played out in practice.

My focus in this post, though, is on something Brooks wrote very recently:

Performative populism has begun to ebb. Twitter doesn’t have the hold on the media class it had two years ago. Peak wokeness has passed. There seem to be fewer cancellations recently, and less intellectual intimidation. I was a skeptic of the Jan. 6 committee at first, but I now recognize it’s played an important cultural role. That committee forced America to look into the abyss, to see the nihilistic violence that lay at the heart of Trumpian populism.

(excerpted by Tyler Cowen from the NYT column)

If I were looking for Nihilism, I’d look for it among those people who view human beings as nothing more than a plague on the planet…for example, those who circulate this meme:

…I doubt seriously if many of them have MAGA bumper stickers on their cars.  I might also search for nihilists among those ‘activists’ who enter museums for the purpose of damaging our civilization’s greatest works of art.  I might search for them among those who desire to reduce all aspects of human experience…knowledge, art, music, love, sex, families…to nothing more than tokens in an endless power struggle of group against group.

Trump supporters are motivated by many different things, some admirable, some not so admirable…but I don’t think ‘nihilism’ is a significant factor.

Brooks also refers to ‘populist authoritarianism’….there is apparently a style guide somewhere telling media people that the two words need to always be coupled.  But seems to me that authoritarianism might be found about those who demand that social media work with government to suppress disfavored views, and those who use their former offices in the Intelligence field to imply a malevolent foreign origin for a story which has now been clearly shown to be true…and, especially, among those like Charles Schumer who warned that “if you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you”…but apparently felt no need at all to do something about reeling in this authoritarian abuse of authority.  I’d also look for authoritarianism among those who are upset about Twitter Blue Checks being made so widely available that people can’t tell who is a real journalist who deserves to be believed unquestioningly.

Brooks also says that “Democrats restrained their more extreme tendencies while Republicans didn’t.”  His definition of “extreme” must be quite different from my own.

I was surprised to see that Tyler Cowen, who is a pretty smart and thoughtful guy, titled his link “the wisdom of David Brooks.”  While Brooks does occasionally write insightful things, I don’t think this column falls in that category.  It reads to me like a recital of a catechism by someone seeking to provide reassurance of his orthodoxy.

What is the Purpose of Holding & Expressing Political Beliefs?

The late Clay Christensen, IMO one of the relatively few business academics whose books/articles contain ideas that are genuinely thought-provoking and useful, discussed the ‘job’ for which a product is ‘hired.’  An example: milkshakes, sold by a restaurant chain which wished to increase its sales of that product line.

The chain’s marketers segmented its customers along a variety of psychobehavioral dimensions in order to define a profile of the customer most likely to buy milkshakes. In other words, it first structured its market by product–milkshakes–and then segmented it by the characteristics of existing milkshake customers….both attribute-based categorization schemes. It then assembled panels of people with these attributes, and explored whether making the shakes thinker, chocolatier, cheaper, or chunkier would satisfy them better.

Marketing 101 stuff. But it didn’t yield much in the way of results.

A new set of researchers came in with a different approach–to understand what customers were trying to get done for themselves when they “hired” a milkshake. They spent an 18-hour day in a restaurant and recorded when the shakes were bought, whether the customer was alone or with a group, whether he consumed it on the premises or drove off, etc. Surprisingly, most of the milkshakes were being bought in the early morning. After analyzing the data, the researchers returned and interviewed the customers. Evidently, these were people who faced a long, boring commute and wanted something to eat/drink on the way. Milkshakes were superior to alternatives because they didn’t get crumbs all over (like bagels) or get the steering wheel greasy (like a sausage & egg sandwich.)

The most important thing is that the same customers, at different times of the day, would buy milkshakes in other circumstances/contexts…and the desirable product attributes would be different. For example, they might come with their kids after school. And whereas the same person in his role as a commuter might want something that is relatively slow to drink (thick shake, large container), when he reappears in his role as a parent he might want something that goes down relatively fast (less viscous shake, smaller container, maybe even a larger straw.) What matters is not just who the customer is, but what he is trying to do.

OK, the idea of milkshakes for breakfast is not something I find appealing, but then I don’t need to combine breakfast with driving.  Some people do.  More importantly, Christensen’s insight generalizes beyond the milkshake field, and I’ve wondered what applicability it might have to politics.

So, why do people have political opinions?  What ‘job’ are they hiring the opinion to do?

Is the opinion based on their analysis of which policies/politicians will benefit them, and/or benefit people they care about?

Is it based on their impression of which opinions they had better express, if they want to keep their jobs–friends–boyfriends–girlfriends–spouses?

Is it the ‘job’ of the opinion to make them feel better about themselves?  Is it to get virtual revenge against people in their past–parents, employers, Mean Girls, school buillies?

Is it based on a desire to avoid cognitive dissonance by not contradicting views that they have held previously?

What other reasons do political opinions get ‘hired’ for?…bearing in mind that several factors may influence the hiring of a particular opinion…and what are the implications of this angle on things for practical political marketing?  (if any)

(Christensen story is from his book The Innovator’s Solution, co-authored with Michael Raynor)


From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend ye
And the spirits that stand
By the naked man
In the Book of Moons, defend ye!

That of your five sound sense
You never be forsaken
Nor wander from
Yourself with Tom
Abroad to beg your bacon

The moon’s my constant mistress
And the lonely owl my marrow
The flaming drake
And the night-crow make
Me music to my sorrow

I know more than Apollo
For oft, when he lies sleeping
I see the stars
At mortal wars
And the rounded welkin weeping

With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander
With a burning spear
And a horse of air
To the wilderness I wander

By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond
The wide world’s end
Methinks it is no journey

(Not specifically a Halloween poem, but it certainly sets the mood, doesn’t it? This is Tom O’Bedlam’s Song, dating from sometime around 1600. There are lots more verses, and many different versions.)

This is Interesting

UpSmith is a startup focused on solving the shortage of skilled workers, as seen by employers, by addressing the problems of skill development and career mobility, as seen by employees.  As part of this effort, UpSmith wants to work on improving the image of skilled-trades jobs.

Can make an important contribution if it succeeds.