Monday, 10 July 2017

More Sex is not safer Sex unless it entails autocephalous self-sodomy

Some twenty years ago Prof. Michael Kremer wrote this paper which helped make 'Freakanomics' sexy. I don't mean Kremer lubed up Arrow or instructed Debreu in the technique of the reach-around but rather that his paper contributed to the notion that Economics Professors have counter intuitive insights which could improve policy making.

The opportunity cost of Abstinence is having sex- a very big deal indeed. The opportunity cost of using a condom is much smaller. As a matter of fact, men rapidly get used to it and the truth is it diminishes the extent and stickiness of the dreaded wet spot. It makes sense to target Persuasive Messages at behaviour which has a low opportunity cost. One sacrifices little- rather, one gains, by avoiding unwanted pregnancies- by using a condom. By contrast, adopting abstinence has a high opportunity cost. Much more than the pleasure of sex is wholly foregone.

Politicians, however, might want Public Health Messages to stress abstinence because they have a particular religious or social agenda to advance which is itself predicated on the irremediable stupidity or sinful nature of the public. They may want to cut public provision of health care for sexually transmitted diseases which are believed to have higher incidence amongst despised minorities. Thus, it may be futile to point out to them that condoms actually reduce the spread of STDs while worthless bromides about abstinence are a stupid waste of resources. Still, in that case, one should hold up such politicians to ridicule and contempt- not suggest that they have made a pardonable error by reason of lack of expertise in economic theory or econometric practice.

What is utterly stupid is to engage in 'preliminary calculations using standard epidemiological models and survey data' to conclude that people do not chop off their own heads and shove them up their own arses in order to talk worthless Junk Social Science shite. Why? Because never in the history of humankind has anyone ever chopped off their own head and shoved it up their arse.

Similarly, never in the history of human sexual relations has acceptance of Abstinence as a superior action-guiding ethical theory altered STD risk for those engaged in sexual intercourse. By contrast, fear of disease or pregnancy, can reduce STD risk even after intercourse commences.

It is not merely the promotion of Abstinence which does not change risk for those engaged in sexual intercourse. The formulation of a Junk Social Choice argument while in the throes of passion is equally useless.

It may be that there is some rare combination of circumstances such that it is feasible to chop off one's head and shove it up one's own arse. Similarly, it may be possible to invent a scenario where public health messages regarding abstinence reduce STD risk during intercourse. However, it is sheer stupidity and careerist Junk Social Science to take the proposition seriously and write a fucking paper about it.

Why does Junk Social Science happen?
The answer is that Economics, as a profession, is not solely concerned with asserting that one can cut one's head off and shove it up one's arse- because, under the standard assumption of perfect information (by which the Second Law of Thermodynamics is annulled) a Heath Robinson contraption can be easily conceived to make this feasible- but, rather, that once one's head is lodged firmly in one's rectum, it will pronounce the most mischievous possible policy prescription with added oracular force.

Consider the following-

This is sheer stupidity.
People who can reduce their rate of partner change can also develop costly signals and screen for risk- in other words the matching mechanism changes. Thus the population is segmented. The equation given here has no value.

The equation assumes that libido is a fixed endowment and that all matches have an identical mechanism. This is scarcely realistic. The promiscuous won't stop banging each other at every opportunity just because they are also banging faithful partners.

I suppose, it could be argued that if some non promiscuous people gratuitously make their genitals available for what is essentially a masturbatory purpose, then there may be some set of miserly and undiscriminating agent who don't get an STD. The problem is that this can't be described as an 'externality'. It is a sacrifice- a very sad one.

Turning to a more cheerful prospect, consider the epidemic of Economists cutting off their own heads and shoving them up their own arses so as to publish Junk Social Science papers.  Suppose the rate of growth of this epidemic is determined by the mean and variance of the number of co-authors per published paper and is correctly specified by the equation given above.

If a certain proportion of less shite Economists decide to reduce the number of co-authors on their papers, or even stop publishing papers altogether, then it must be the case that the rate of growth of the Epidemic will increase. Thus, we can predict that, provided at least one Economist cuts off his head and shoves it up his arse, then more and more will do so. More remarkably yet, less shite Economists who reduce their number of  co-authors will cause a 'negative externality' such that the steady state prevalence of Economists cutting off their own heads and lodging them securely in their rectal cavities, will increase.

As a matter of fact, academic Economics already recognises that its own theorems can represent   a negative externality giving rise to an epidemic of Junk Social Choice which is morally equivalent to Economists chopping off their own heads and shoving them up their poopers.

Thus, contra Landsburg, Economists are not obliged to believe that 'more sex is safer sex' unless, of course, they also collectively commit to an endemic steady state such that a significant proportion of their number suffer autocephalous self-sodomy the moment the thing becomes feasible.

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