The Reality Of College Students’ Sex Lives

Not too terribly long ago, while waiting for class to start, some students were talking about their “crazy” weekend, and basically led on like every weekend consists of a huge drunken orgy.  The teacher rolled her eyes, and the guys started laughing.

As I listened, I thought to myself, “I’d like to know what percentage of students take part in such events.  I’d also be curious to know the degree of their participation.”  I speculated that that students weren’t near as comfortable in those situations as they let on, but I really didn’t know.  I also guessed that men would like that sort of thing more than women, but that was just mere speculation, which I was basing primarily on evolutionary psychology.   I didn’t have any hard facts to back my assertion.

So I decided that I’d research it out.  It turns out that the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology has published several detailed papers on the sex lives of college students.  The studies are more detailed than I could have imagined.  Some are on kissing, others are on factors contributing to sexual attraction, and others are on views toward commitment.  But the study that really caught my attention was Hooking up:  Gender Differences, Evolution, and Pluralistic Ignorance (2010).   It’s exactly what I wanted to know.  This particular study comprised a random sample of 507 students, who basically responded by filling out a detailed survey about their sex lives, how often they took part in various sexual encounters, and how comfortable they were in various sexual situations.

Participants were asked questions related to,

(1) How comfortable are you with engaging in the following activities during a hook-up?
(2) Think of the average person of the same sex as you. How comfortable do you think this person of the same sex is with engaging in the following activities during a hook-up?
(3) Think of the average person of the opposite sex as you. How comfortable do you think this person of the opposite sex is with engaging in the following activities during a hook-up?

The five behaviors that participants rated for each question were: sexual touching above the waist, sexual touching below the waist, oral sex (giving), oral sex (receiving), and intercourse. Participants also indicated which of these behaviors they had actually engaged in during a hook-up.

And what sorts of results did they find?  Well, they found what I pretty much expected.

Abstract: “Hooking-up” – engaging in no-strings-attached sexual behaviors with uncommitted partners – has become a norm on college campuses, and raises the potential for disease, unintended pregnancy, and physical and psychological trauma. The primacy of sex in the evolutionary process suggests that predictions derived from evolutionary theory may be a useful first step toward understanding these contemporary behaviors. This study assessed the hook-up behaviors and attitudes of 507 college students. As predicted by behavioral-evolutionary theory: men were more comfortable than women with all types of sexual behaviors; women correctly attributed higher comfort levels to men, but overestimated men’s actual comfort levels; and men correctly attributed lower comfort levels to women, but still overestimated women’s actual comfort levels. Both genders attributed higher comfort levels to same-gendered others, reinforcing a pluralistic ignorance effect that might contribute to the high frequency of hook-up behaviors in spite of the low comfort levels reported and suggesting that hooking up may be a modern form of intrasexual competition between females for potential mates.

And what is pluralistic ignorance exactly?

Pluralistic ignorance (PI) has been demonstrated to play a role in hook-up behavior. PI is characterized by individuals behaving in accordance with (generally false) beliefs attributed to the group, regardless of their own beliefs (Fields and Schuman, 1976; Miller and McFarland, 1987). Lambert, Kahn, and Apple (2003) found that young adults routinely believe that others are more comfortable with various sexual behaviors than they, themselves, are. This leads them to behave as if they were more comfortable than they actually are, and engage in behaviors with which they are not actually comfortable.

And can we be more detailed as to who we’re dealing with in this study?

Participants included 507 undergraduate students at a mid-sized public university. The sample was 55% female (n = 277) and 45% male (n = 227). The mean age of participants was 19.7 years (SD = 1.7). Participants included 42% first-year/freshmen (n = 214), 28% second-year/sophomores (n = 140), 16% third-year/juniors (n = 82), and 14% fourth-year/seniors (n = 71).

So, what percentage of students are involved in these hookup relationships, and how far do they go?

And just how comfortable were they doing this?

It looks like men are down for just about anything.  Women seem ok with being touched, but are uncomfortable with anything more.

Steven Pinker, in his book How The Mind Works (1997), talked about these same issues.

The first question of strategy is how many partners to want. Remember that when the minimum investment in offspring is greater for females, a male can have more offspring if he mates with many females, but a female does not have more offspring if she mates with many males—one per conception is enough. Suppose a foraging man with one wife can expect two to five children with her. A premarital or extramarital liaison that conceives a child would increase his reproductive output by twenty to fifty percent. Of course, if the child starves or is killed because the father isn’t around, the father is genetically no better off. The optimal liaison, then, is with a married woman whose husband would bring up the child. In foraging societies, fertile women are almost always married, so sex with a woman is usually sex with a married woman. Even if she is not, more fatherless children live than die, so a liaison with an unmarried partner can increase reproduction, too. None of this math applies to women. A part of the male mind, then, should want a variety of  sexual partners for the sheer sake of having a variety of sexual partners.

Do you think that the only difference between men and women is that men like women and women like men? Any bartender or grandmother you ask would say that men are more likely to have a wandering eye, but perhaps that is just an old-fashioned stereotype. The psychologist David Buss has looked for the stereotype in the people most likely to refute it—men and women in elite liberal American universities a generation after the feminist revolution, in the heyday of politically correct sensibilities. The methods are refreshingly direct.

Confidential questionnaires asked a series of questions. How strongly are you seeking a spouse? The answers were on average identical for men and women. How strongly are you seeking a one-night stand? The women said, Not very strongly; the men said, Pretty strongly. How many sexual partners would you like to have in the next month? In the next two years? In your lifetime? Women said that in the next month eight-tenths of a sexual partner would be just about right. They wanted one in the next two years, and four or five over their lifetimes. Men wanted two sex partners within the month, eight in the next two years, and eighteen over their lifetimes. Would you consider having sex with a desirable partner that you had known for five years? For two years? For a month? For a week? Women said “probably yes” for a man they had known for a year or more, “neutral” for one they had known for six months, and “definitely not” for someone they had known a week or less. Men said “probably yes” as long as they had known the woman for a week. How short a time would a man have to know a woman before he would definitely not have sex with her? Buss never  found out; his scale did not go down past “one hour.” When Buss presented these findings at a university and explained them in terms of parental investment and sexual selection, a young woman raised her hand and said, “Professor Buss, I have a simpler explanation of your data.” Yes, he said, what is it? “Men are slime.”

Are men really slime, or are they just trying to look like slime? Perhaps in questionnaires men try to exaggerate their  studliness but women want to avoid looking easy. The psychologists R. D. Clark and Elaine Hatfield hired attractive men and women to approach strangers of the opposite sex on a college campus and say to them, “I have been noticing you around campus. I find you very attractive,” and then ask one of three questions: (a) “Would you go out with me tonight?”  (b) “Would you come over to my apartment tonight?” (c) “Would you go to bed with me tonight?” Half the women consented to a date. Half the men consented to a date. Six percent of the women consented to go to the stooge’s apartment. Sixty-nine percent of the men consented to go to the stooge’s apartment. None of the women consented to sex. Seventy-five percent of the men consented to sex. Of the remaining twenty-five percent, many were apologetic, asking for a rain check or explaining that they couldn’t because their fiancee was in town. The results have been  replicated in several states. When the studies were conducted, contraception was widely available and safe-sex practices were heavily publicized, so the results cannot be dismissed simply because women might be more cautious about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

A Few Of My Favorite Quotations

I find it near impossible to choose a favorite quotation.   Every time I come across a good one, I store it away in my private catalog.  After browsing through all I’ve listed over the past six years or so, I’d have to say my all time favorite quote is this one,

“Happy is the nation without a history.”
– Beccaria

As Schopenhauer noted, peaceful years appear in history books as brief pauses scattered here and there, while wars and revolutions dominate.   If you’ve ever had time to read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland, the novel’s heroine, complained that history, “tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me.  The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing , and hardly any women at all, it is very tiresome.”  I share her sentiments.  To be honest about it, human history is depressing.

But, cheer up!  My next favorite would probably go to John Heywood, the English poet and playwright.

“Many hands make work light.”
– John Heywood

He’s known for many famous sayings.  A few include, “Out of sight, out of mind”, “Better late than never”, “This hitteth the nail on the head”, “All is well that ends well”, “When the sun shines, make hay”, and “Haste makes waste.”

There’s no doubt that my favorite philosopher would be Bertrand Russell.

“…it is not enough to recognize that all our knowledge is in a greater or less degree, uncertain and vague, it is neccessary at the same time, to learn to act upon the best hypothesis without dogmatically believing it.”
– Bertrand Russell, Philosophy For Laymen

In life, it’s important to balance, “This is the best hypothesis which the data and evidence supports”, and “Even if this is so,  I may still be wrong.”

I have so many great quotations from Bertrand Russell.  Here’s another.

“Extreme hopes are born of extreme misery.”
– Bertrand Russell, The Future of Mankind

And we can’t forget Joseph Campbell.  You have to love Joseph Campbell.  He’s amazing.

“Not everyone has a destiny: only the hero who has plunged to touch it, and has come up again–with a ring.”
– Joseph Campebell, Hero With A Thousand Faces

I love that book.  It’s too bad that my brother borrowed it and never brought it back.  That also goes for several of my Teaching Company DVD series!  I still have Campbell’s The Masks Of God set though.  I keep it hidden in the corner of my study so family members won’t find them.

After reading Hero With A Thousand Faces, I kept wondering how I would define “bliss”.  Joseph Campbell always said, over and over, “follow your bliss.”  I’m going to be vain and put a quotation of my own, which comes from a deep influence Campbell had on me.

“You are experiencing bliss when the only way to distinguish dream from reality is that reality is much more vivid.”
– Jason Summers

I think this aligns well with several of Einstein’s quotations.  Einstein believed wholeheartedly in science and the scientific method, but you also find him saying things like this,

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
– Albert Einstein

Clearly Einstein felt imagination and dreaming an integral part of who we are, and a faculty which we must continually develop and exercise.  Another of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, felt the same way.

“Lively passions commonly attend a lively imagination.”
– David Hume

I think pursuing bliss requires the use of all of what we are, not just our rational faculties.  You have to always be dreaming, believing, and imagining, but also critical, analytical, and ever increasing in knowledge, all at the same time.  The pursuit of bliss requires the utilization of every aspect of who we are.  Notice I said “we”, not “you”.  I think we need to include everybody.  As I wrote the other day, none of us exist in isolation, separate from those around us and our environment.  When it comes to the pursuit of bliss, bring all your friends and family along too!

And for a few fun quotations,

“What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is like, but how it was made.”
– Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit

Greg bought me On Bullshit years ago as a gift.  It’s hilarious.

I suppose considering I’m a physicist, I find the next quote both hilarious and profound.  It comes from the Nobel laureate physicist, Enrico Fermi.

“… where is everybody?”
– Enrico Fermi

During a luncheon in 1950, a conversation broke out among prominent physicists about extraterrestrial civilizations, whether or not the speed of light can ever be exceeded, and so forth.

“It was after we were at the luncheon table, ” Konopinski recalls, “that Fermi surprised us with the question ‘but where is everybody?’ It was his way of putting it that drew laughs from us. ”

For all of you Physics nerds (are they any besides me?), you can read a detailed account of the incident  here.   The question raises a very good point, I think.  If life is everywhere throughout our universe, then where are they?  Shouldn’t we have visitors showing up all the time?  Then again, maybe they do, but they’re so intelligent that they don’t even bother communicating with us.  I don’t know.  Either way, I find it a profound question.

What Are “You” Anyway?

Just the other day, I wrote a post related to quantum mechanics and the observer.  In that post, I mainly discussed “other” observers.  I didn’t really talk about the most important observer of all — “you”.  The “I”.  “Me”.  People often say, “Everyone else may be a robot, but at least I know I’m alive.”

Philosophical problems like those are never answered because they’re rooted in confused thinking to begin with.   Problems rooted in confused thinking can never be solved because most of the time, there’s nothing needing to be solved.

David Bohm, in a collection of letters to his brother-in-law Yitzhak Woolfson, discussed the confused thinking which gives rise to our idea of “I” — our “self” — “me”.   If you’ve never heard of David Bohm, he was one of Albert Einstein’s best friends, and one of the greatest quantum physicists to ever live.  He was also heavily involved in the Manhatten project.  The man was brilliant.

Bohm discusses this problem with his brother, and I’ll let his own words speak for themselves.  When I look in the mirror and wonder what “I” am, my thought process runs similar to his.

Also, one can ask, “Is there really an ‘I’ that is ‘doing’ the observing or is there not just a process of observing that is going on?” When a person is serious about what he is doing, the ego falls away, and the individual as a whole is perceiving and acting. For instance, suppose that he is playing music. When he is finished, the ego process comes back into existence, and takes the credit. But in reality, the ego process never does anything at all, except to get in the way. Imagine trying to play music, while the ego is saying, “I am now playing music. Isn’t it wonderful what I can do?”

So it seems to me that at all times, when the ego exists, the individual is in a state of confused perception. In this state he sees “the world,” and also, he hears the words “this is ‘I,’” along with a feeling of ownership or possession of a whole set of qualities, memories, urges, relations, desires, etc. This latter feeling can be called “identification.” The individual also has the illusory perception of a process in which the centralized collection of qualities is initiating actions. But in reality, it is the individual as a whole who acts. The confusion is that the individual is seeing the process as if it were the separate ego that was acting, as in a moving picture we see the image of a person as if it were “doing” things.

[ … ]

I would like to go a bit into the origin of the confusion that is responsible for the ego process.

[ … ]

It seems to me that every experience leaves a kind of “negative trace” or imprint in the mind. When the experience is repeated, it fits this imprint as a key fits a lock. In this way one can recognize it. One can also produce an internal image in the imagination, which is recognized in the same way that direct perceptions are recognized, i.e., against the “negative trace.” So memory is a positive internal imitation (in the imagination) of something that was once perceived, while recognition precedes imitation in the development of the infant, because it is basically a simpler procedure.

One can compare recognition to a set of grooves and scratches impressed by past experience on the mind, while memory is like the “play-back” of the record as internal images, sounds, etc.

It is important to notice that both recognition and memory involve the emotions as well as factual records of what happened outwardly. Thus, if the infant has a certain experience that is pleasant, his recognition traces start to demand a repetition. He tries to find a way to repeat it. But if they are unpleasant, he tries to find a way to avoid it. Here is the real beginning of the ego process. Evidently when the memory “play-back” develops later in the child, it too will be accompanied by emotional demands for or against the experience in question. Since thought is based on recognition and memory, it is clear that thought and feeling cannot be separated. They are two aspects of the one process, which is the response of recognition and memory to new perceptions.

Out of thought is then born desire, the urge to continue, to enhance, to possess, to make secure that which is pleasant and to guarantee the avoidance of what is unpleasant. Desire attaches itself to an object of the imagination, in order to attain permanence. But the object of desire is always changing. Firstly, the real object changes in one way, while the object imagined in desire changes in another way. We then discover when we get the object of our desire that it isn’t what we expected; we soon encounter satiety and boredom. Other objects soon seem more attractive to desire. Besides, objects of desire change in unexpected ways, grow old, and even pass out of existence. So the attachment of desire to an object leads to contradiction (contradictory desires), and out of this comes confusion.

Religious people and moralists then tell us to suppress desire, shape it, control it, direct it to God or to the triumph of Communism. Psychologists and others tell us to sublimate it. But doing this only heightens the contradiction and confusion. Then comes fear that one will never achieve satisfaction of desire, a state of anxiety and despair, alternating with periods of hope, when there is the momentary belief that one can escape into a new job, a new religion, a new hobby, a new marriage, etc.

So we see that the ego process, with its attachment of desire to an object, is inherently in a state of confusion. What is the origin of this confusion? It is very simple. We mistake the demands made in the “play-back” of memory for true feelings. True feelings arise only in fresh perception of what is new. This perception is understanding on the intellectual side, and it has the wholeness of feeling sometimes called love on the emotional side. It can also be called creativity. But this creativity refers to creative living, and not just to the expression of creation in art, science, music, etc. It is essential to understand that the play-back of memory and the recognition “scratches” are not creative in this sense. They have their utility as factual memory to guide you in your life or your job (how to get home, etc). Memory is, like fire, “a good servant but a bad master.” And as soon as you take the play-back of emotions seriously, you are the slave of memory, since your actions will then be only a response to these “memory scratches,” and not to reality as it actually is from moment to moment. Since the “memory scratches” cannot fit reality (because reality is always changing), one comes into a state of contradiction between demands based on memory and reality, as well as between the different aspects of memory demands that contradict each other. So the ego is inherently in a state of confusion and contradiction.

What is to be done about all this? The answer is, as I said before, nothing at all. Whatever action is born of desire will also be self-contradictory (e.g., the desire to end desire which in fact only continues desire in another form). But the question is, “Why do anything at all about desire?” Desire seems to be necessary to mental life. It is like a many-colored flame, very beautiful and full of energy, always changing. When it is attached to something, it falls into contradiction and confusion – the flame turns into dense smoke. But if you understand the futility of doing anything at all about desire (satisfying it, attaching it to an object, shaping it, suppressing it, choosing “good” desires and getting rid of “bad” desires), then you will just turn away from these efforts, and let desire do what it will, to die as to unfold in its own natural way. Then there will be no contradiction. Desire does no harm if it is not attached. In other words, desire is something different, when you understand it. For recall, “As man sees, so he is.” If you see desire in a new way, then desire is different in its operation in you.

– David Bohm, writing to his brother-in-law Yitzhak Woolfson, (1962)

Everyday occurrences, when you really think about them, are nothing like what people think is going on.

People imagine that there is a little “spirit” controller within my body, controlling everything I do, and another little “spirit” controller in every other living thing, and we hold each other morally culpable for our actions, judge one another based on things like intelligence, work ethic, and so on, where these little spirits are either at war or in love with each other.  It’s all confused thinking.

Have you ever really sat and thought about what you’re doing when you converse with someone else?  Have you studied the neuroscience into how your brain works?  “You” are not conversing with “me”.  There’s simply a conversation taking place, mostly automated by our brains.  “I” is just a word – a symbol on this computer screen.  How could it do anything?

Don’t believe me?  If I gave you brain damage in Broca’s area, you’d become diagnosed with Broca’s aphasia.  You’d know what you want to say, but wouldn’t be able to put it into words for me.  So much for the idea that you’re controlling your vocal chords and directing each individual vibration and exhalation of air.

Philosophers such as John Locke felt that we could control our bodily movements, giving us “free will” to walk and move about how we want to.  That’s not true.  Your brain does all sorts of calculations and planning with every movement.  There are several modules which act like computers, reading in sensory information, planning limb trajectories, attempting to perform the action, receiving feedback, making corrections, and so on.  There is no simple “you” controlling a bodily movement.

Even if you believe this the case, I want you to perform a simple experiment for me.  When I talk with my physics buddies, and we’re in a restaurant someplace, I ask them to simply place their hand on the table, and then lift it up.  They then look at me funny and do so.  Then I ask, “How many state changes of the universe just took place?  Did you think of them all?”  If this movement were captured in a slow-motion camera, how many frames would such an arm movement have?  How many individual movements in every individual cell and atom?  We might as well assume an infinite number.  I can assure you that you didn’t think of them all, nor direct each and every one of them.

I think “you” probably controlled your movement, but the confusion is that “you” is some ultimately simple thing, instead of your entire brain, your entire body, and even your environment around you.  You can’t separate any of it.  The smallest event, when truly thought about, is infinite in scope and extent.

Have you guys seen Carl Sagan’s Cosmos?  Remember when he places the apple pie on the table?  He says, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”  If “you” wanted to move your arm, all by yourself, you’d also have to create the entire universe.

When you perform an action, you do so as an entire unit.  In a very real sense, the entire universe moves with every action you do.  People on this planet can make you feel like you’re nothing and no good.  Don’t believe any of them.  You’re alive, and everything you do is a big deal, no matter how small.  Even the most insignicant events of your life are complete miracles.  I don’t know who or what you should thank – God, the universe, your mother… — but you need to be thankful that you’re alive.  Celebrate your existence.

“You” is your physical existence in its entirety.  Every aspect of your brain and body, and your surroundings too.  When someone says, “I” am everything, in a sense they’re correct.  But to define yourself as the words bouncing around in your head is confusion.  I think when people speak of “everything”, they’re using the same categorization system the brain can use, creating a class “everything” which has no prerequisites to be a member.  Every new concept and experience can be a member, making it a very broad container of sorts.

Intelligent folks tend to lend way too much weight to their words.  They act as if someone who can’t express their feelings and intentions in words is somehow inferior and doesn’t understand.   You may well know something, and completely understand something, but not be good at expressing it.

I was watching a Woody Allen movie years ago.  I think it was Annie Hall?  I can’t remember which one it was.  Woody was walking with the girl down the sidewalk and Woody says, “I love you”, and she says, “Define it.”  Then he stumbles with his words and we as viewers are supposed to come to the conclusion that he’s not all that smart, and that he doesn’t understand what love is.

Did you catch how Bohm defined love?  It doesn’t require words.  It’s a proactive action.  To try to put it into words gets you caught in that whole “desire” stuff he mentioned.  I think love and everything else that’s beautiful about us humans is active, in the moment creativity.  You want to love the person in front of you, be in the moment then and there with them, not be stuck in memories of past experiences.

Woody should’ve replied, “I love this.”  and then extended out his hands indicating everything around him.  “I love this moment.  I love watching you smile.  I love watching your hair blow in the wind.  I love admiring your outfits.  I love listening to your jokes and the way you make me laugh.  I love your intelligence and listening to your opinions on things.  I love the way you make me feel.  I love everything about you.”  I don’t think “I love you” needs any further explanation; it says all that needs to be said.

I suppose we could say, “I want to create more moments like this.”  But that’s defining “her” in terms of your current memories.  In that case, you love the memories and experiences which are like those memories.  The more time that goes by, the more inaccurate those memories will be a reflection of “her” right now.  Good memories are not a bad thing, but to love the real her requires a constant pursuit in reality.  The world changes.  You change.  She changes.  Moment by moment, and day by day, the world moves on in constant flux.  You have to leave your own head and be immersed in the world where you both are, actively engaged.

This applies to more than just love.  The nature of knowledge and thought are misunderstood as well.  Thinking is not something that you do, thinking is something that you are.  As your brain crunches away, thinking about all sorts of things and problems, are you actively and “willfully” controlling it?  No.  It happens, just like anything else happens.  It’s not an action of the will, because if you have various forms of brain damage, that thinking stops.  It’s a computer, and it crunches away at what’s fed into it.

When you have a rush of insight, was that because of some willful action “you” did, or did it just happen once the brain finished its calculations?  We’d all have to agree that it just came to us.

I’ve never been big into prizes, awards, and certificates.  Great things, like insights, just happen and we should share them collectively with one another.  Few men soar very high on their own wings.  We stand on the shoulders of giants, as Issac Newton aptly put it.

That’s another illusion plaguing mankind – ownership.  “Mine” and “Yours”.  Most of our society still thinks in terms of ownership and “merit”.  This marks a good moment to break into song:  “She works hard for her money. So hard for it, honey.  So you better treat her right.”  (That song just came to mind, sorry).

None of us exist in a vacuum.  We are completely dependent on one another, our environment, and even all those wonderful (or terrible) things left behind for us from previous generations.

Who invented the mathematics we all learn in school?  Was it one person?  No.  It’s a cross-cultural, cross-historical-age phenomenon.  The same goes with the languages we speak, the furniture designs we use, the clothes we wear, and everything else.

What I mean by “thought” is the whole thing – thought, felt, the body, the whole society sharing thoughts – it’s all one process. It is essential for me not to break that up, because it’s all one process; somebody else’s thoughts becomes my thoughts, and vice versa. Therefore it would be wrong and misleading to break it up into my thoughts, your thoughts, my feelings, these feelings, those feelings… I would say that thought makes what is often called in modern language a system. A system means a set of connected things or parts. But the way people commonly use the word nowadays it means something all of whose parts are mutually interdependent – not only for their mutual action, but for their meaning and for their existence. A corporation is organized as a system – it has this department, that department, that department. They don’t have any meaning separately; they only can function together. And also the body is a system. Society is a system in some sense. And so on. Similarly, thought is a system. That system not only includes thoughts, “felts” and feelings, but it includes the state of the body; it includes the whole of society – as thought is passing back and forth between people in a process by which thought evolved from ancient times. A system is constantly engaged in a process of development, change, evolution and structure changes…although there are certain features of the system which become relatively fixed. We call this the structure…. Thought has been constantly evolving and we can’t say when that structure began. But with the growth of civilization it has developed a great deal. It was probably very simple thought before civilization, and now it has become very complex and ramified and has much more incoherence than before. Now, I say that this system has a fault in it – a “systematic fault”. It is not a fault here, there or here, but it is a fault that is all throughout the system. Can you picture that? It is everywhere and nowhere. You may say “I see a problem here, so I will bring my thoughts to bear on this problem”. But “my” thought is part of the system. It has the same fault as the fault I’m trying to look at, or a similar fault. Thought is constantly creating problems that way and then trying to solve them. But as it tries to solve them it makes it worse because it doesn’t notice that it’s creating them, and the more it thinks, the more problems it creates.

– David Bohm, Thought As A System

The way we think creates a society.  We don’t have this information database which is “knowledge” in our brains, which we then access and utilize before we make our decisions.  No.  The knowledge is us.  The thought processes are us.  We are our thoughts and they’re us.  You can’t separate us.

A deep connection exists between everything in this universe.  I guess most of you reading this probably haven’t studied quantum mechanics, but man oh man, it gets really weird.  You’d probably never guess that what you’re doing now influences both people in the past and those in the future who haven’t even been born yet.  Yes, you heard me right.  We have scientific laboratory evidence showing that the future can influence the past.

To me, this expresses that even on a fundamental physical level, the very atoms of we’re constructed, past, present, and future, of all ages, are all connected.  Not just through memories and carried through time.  We’re connected on an atomic, physical basis, across a giant timeless web.  And if the many-worlds interpretation is true, we’re not only connected with past and future time periods, but with all other potential possible realities as well.  Of course, all this stuff blows our mind, which simply fizzles out trying to think about it.

A major problem in the world is we don’t see these connections, but they’re there when you think about it.  We have these mistaken views that we’re all individuals, disconnected from one another and our environment.  This confusion has led us to pollute our world, to mass exterminate other species, and to make wars on one another and with nature.  Even in politics, between nations we think of individual nations, acting like what we do is our business, and what they do is their business.  You can’t disconnect the individual from the environment, or vice versa.  They’re one and the same.  There’s the political landscape with everyone and everything in it.  What you do affects me and what I do affects you.

What is the source of all this trouble? I’m saying that the source is basically in thought. Many people would think that such a statement is crazy, because thought is the one thing we have with which to solve our problems. That’s part of our tradition. Yet it looks as if the thing we use to solve our problems with is the source of our problems. It’s like going to the doctor and having him make you ill. In fact, in 20% of medical cases we do apparently have that going on. But in the case of thought, it’s far over 20%.

– David Bohm, Thought As A System

Have you noticed that we’ve never been able to figure out the problem of balancing structure with change?  We’ve never figured it out in political philosophy, and we haven’t quite come to grasp it in the world of physics.  We have these atoms which consist of both particles and waves, but we know both are one and the same;  nonetheless, it’s still confusing to us.  In government, we’ve tried to form a system which can change with the times, yet still allow the expression of individual diversity.  It’s not easy.  We want to be independent, but also dependent upon one another with social safety nets (when we’re in trouble anyway).

We like the net to be there when we fall, but we don’t want to help provide for it.  I wouldn’t blame this on moral failures, but simply on our bodies which are selfish, self-replicating machines, produced by evolution, caring mostly about spreading its genes.  We have both selfish instincts and the ability to have compassion for one another.  Yin and Yang.  It’s all there in the half crocodile, half rational brain of ours.

Even in our political documents – The Declaration of Independence.  This is us, that is you.  This land is us, that land is you. It’s so ingrained in people, the thought of us/them is just part of human collective thought.  It’s part of the collective mind.  It’ll take a lot of time before we can get rid of it.  We have to deal with racism, different religious belief systems, cultural differences, and problems like unity versus diversity, freedom versus organization, the individual versus the state, and so on.

Human society started off ruled by alpha males, then tribal warlords, and then kings, monarchs, and tyrants.  We’ve managed to extend our integration with democracy, and have slowly found a way to include most everyone within the nation in the political process.  Next we have to unite the nations.  Also, we have to include our environment and all the other life around us as well.

This may sound like a digression, but it’s not.  All of this is “you” because “you” are everything (everything as in, all of your experiences).   How can “you” be something different from the life you’re experiencing?  And that’s not solipsistic.  I can say this because the “dividers” between things don’t have fundamental realities.  They’re products of the same mind which tells you “This is me” when you look in the mirror.  As I mentioned the other day, autistic individuals don’t feel other human bodies which they see are “observers” and alive; they see them as complex moving objects.  What grounds do you have to say that what you see in the mirror is a simple “observer” – “you”?

This is terrible…

One out of every 34 Americans who earned wages in 2008 earned absolutely nothing — not one cent — in 2009.

The stunning figure was released earlier this month by the Social Security Administration, but apparently went unreported until it appeared today on in a column by Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston.

It’s not just every 34th earner whose financial situation has been upended by the financial crisis. Average wages, median wages, and total wages have all declined — except at the very top, where they leaped dramatically, increasing five-fold.

Johnston writes that while the number of Americans earning more than $50 million fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 in 2009, those that remained at the top increased their income from an average of $91.2 million in 2008 to almost $519 million.

The wealth is astounding, says Johnston. “That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!… These 74 people made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute one in every eight workers.”


And I’m in agreement with Johnston’s assessment as to the cause behind this.

It is the latest, and in this case quite dramatic, evidence that our economic policies in Washington are undermining the nation as a whole.We have created a tax system that changes continually as politicians manipulate it to extract campaign donations. We have enabled ”free trade” that is nothing of the sort, but rather tax-subsidized mechanisms that encourage American manufacturers to close their domestic factories, fire workers, and then use cheap labor in China for products they send right back to the United States. This has created enormous downward pressure on wages, and not just for factory workers.

Combined with government policies that have reduced the share of private-sector workers in unions by more than two-thirds — while our competitors in Canada, Europe, and Japan continue to have highly unionized workforces — the net effect has been disastrous for the vast majority of American workers. And of course, less money earned from labor translates into less money to finance the United States of America.

I also think the actions of the Federal Reserve are to blame here as well.  Greenspan inflated a nasty bubble when he lowered interest rates far below where they should’ve been.  All the cheap credit flowed into the housing sector and home prices doubled within a very short time period.  As my last post indicated, the “Rent Is Too Damn High”.  I honestly do want a campaign button.  People who are already struggling are having to pay twice as much rent as they should be.  Half of the prosperity during the Clinton years was a false prosperity induced by people borrowing against artificially inflated home equity and spending it in the economy.

You can see that during the Clinton years, Greenspan really pumped up this housing bubble.  Then ironically, to further stimulate an economy cheap credit had already badly damaged, the Fed during the Bush and Obama administration continued to lower interest rates in hopes to further “stimulate” the economy.  This leads to even more mal-investments and misallocation of capital resources.  Once interest rates hit the floor, what’s left to do?  They don’t want to increase taxes so they print money instead.

This business cycle induced by the Fed manipulating the interest rates is really a wonder to behold.

Step 1: It all begins when they lower interest rates, inflating asset bubbles and burying everyone in debts.

Step 2: Because the prices are artificially high due to cheap credit policies, once the credit faucets run dry, you run into a deflationary period as prices try to return to normal levels.

The economy begins to depend on cheap credit to survive but it’s an unsustainable course.  The Fed knows it can’t continue its low interest rate policies, but if it were to increase interest rates it would bring on deflation.  As Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises point out, however, there’s nothing that can be done to fix this.  A price correction is inevitable.  Homes and other asset bubbles are going to deflate back to true market levels.

Step 3: The politicians wet themselves when they think of deflation in a debt-driven economy, and nobody knows what to do.  They try to prolong the inevitable by slowly lowering interest rates, lower and lower.  This begins the “how low can you go” game.  More and more economic resources are misallocated and the economy never recovers.

step 4:  Interest rates hit 0 percent and the economy still isn’t being “stimulated”.  They fear lowering taxes.  In desperation, they oftentimes turn to printing money in stimulus programs.

The end result?  Slow economic erosion.

And all of this happens because of the central bank screwing with interest rates.  I hate central banks.  And low interest rates aren’t the only way they can screw things up.

As you can tell from the chart, if interest rates are hiked up too high, you also get economic problems.  Businesses can’t adapt quickly enough to policies like this.  They don’t know what to expect.  Should they expand their operations, or will credit rates ramp up out of nowhere?  How can they properly perform economic calculation?

One pattern you see from the chart is that when they lower interest rates, then quickly ramp them back up, you get recessions.   When Bernanke increased interest rates in 2004, this caused all kinds of economic problems — especially to all those who had taken out adjustable rate mortgages.  Their payments shot up out of nowhere.  This is an example of misallocation of resources.  People are in homes who shouldn’t be in homes.  They can’t afford them.

Government programs, such as the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), led to considerable subprime lending (near 6% of subprime loans).  In 2002, we had the American Dream Down Payment Act, subsidizing down payments for low income buyers.  A lot of Republicans like to place all the blame on government programs like these, but the majority of subprime loans came from the private lending institutions, induced primarily to so by the low interest rates.

Mortgage fraud was everywhere; lending standards were lax; Rating agencies were giving triple A ratings to anyone and everyone.  Wall Street went into a speculative-frenzied casino mode, betting on who will and will not default on their mortgage loans.  The CDS and other derivative markets went nuts.

The recent use of subprime mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, interest-only mortgages, and stated income loans (a subset of “Alt-A” loans, where the borrower did not have to provide documentation to substantiate the income stated on the application; these loans were also called “no doc” (no documentation) loans and, somewhat pejoratively, as “liar loans”) to finance home purchases described above have raised concerns about the quality of these loans should interest rates rise again or the borrower is unable to pay the mortgage.[39][85][86][87] In many areas, particularly in those with most appreciation, non-standard loans went from almost unheard of to prevalent. For example, 80% of all mortgages initiated in San Diego region in 2004 were adjustable-rate, and 47% were interest only.

In 1995, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began receiving affordable housing credit for buying subprime securities [88]

Some borrowers got around downpayment requirements by using seller-funded downpayment assistance programs (DPA), in which a seller gives money to a charitable organizations that then give the money to them. From 2000 through 2006, more than 650,000 buyers got their down payments through nonprofits.[89] According to a Government Accountability Office study, there are higher default and foreclosure rates for these mortgages. The study also showed that sellers inflated home prices to recoup their contributions to the nonprofits.[90] On May 4, 2006 the IRS ruled that such plans are no longer eligible for non-profit status due to the circular nature of the cash flow, in which the seller pays the charity a “fee” after closing.[91] On October 31, 2007 the Department of Housing and Urban Development adopted new regulations banning so-called “seller-funded” downpayment programs. Most must cease providing grants on FHA loans immediately; one can operate until March 31, 2008.[89]

Some believe that mortgage standards became lax because of a moral hazard, where each link in the mortgage chain collected profits while believing it was passing on risk.[92] Mortgage denial rates for conventional home purchase loans, reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, have dropped noticeably, from 29 percent in 1998, to 14 percent in 2002 and 2003.[93]

In March 2007, the United States’ subprime mortgage industry collapsed due to higher-than-expected home foreclosure rates, with more than 25 subprime lenders declaring bankruptcy, announcing significant losses, or putting themselves up for sale.[94] Harper’s Magazine warned of the danger of rising interest rates for recent homebuyers holding such mortgages, as well as the U.S. economy as a whole: “The problem [is] that prices are falling even as the buyers’ total mortgage remains the same or even increases. … Rising debt-service payments will further divert income from new consumer spending. Taken together, these factors will further shrink the “real” economy, drive down those already declining real wages, and push our debt-ridden economy into Japan-style stagnation or worse.”[95] Factors that could contribute to rising rates are the U.S. national debt, inflationary pressure caused by such factors as increased fuel and housing costs, and changes in foreign investments in the U.S. economy. The Fed raised rates 17 times, increasing them from 1% to 5.25%, between 2004 and 2006.[81] BusinessWeek magazine called the option ARM “the riskiest and most complicated home loan product ever created” and warned that over one million borrowers took out $466 billion in option ARMs in 2004 through the second quarter of 2006, citing concerns that these financial products could hurt individual borrowers the most and “worsen the [housing] bust.”

Then Wall Street’s gambling got them in trouble.  The banks dump all their bad assets on us, the taxpayers.  Congress worried that if the casino imploded on itself, we’d all be wiped out.  The banks were infused with billions.  Do they learn from their wicked ways?  Nah.  They continue gambling and pay back the government with money they earned gambling in this casino.

Has there been any significant reform and regulation put in place?  Nah.

You know what I hate about all of this?  It’s all bankers, government, and big Wall Street finance groups.  The “shadow banking” complex, as many economists call it. Us normal working people are pulled into this corrupt system and what are we supposed to do?  These financial oligarchs are raping us.