Voice of Sanity – January 2017

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voiceofreason@piedmonthumanists.org

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

January 2017

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

 

The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: January 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th.

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday January 15th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM January 12th and 26th. (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 

 

The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on January 5th, 19th.  

 

January 8th: Election of Board Members will be held.

 

January 14th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.

 

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Membership comes due on January 1st. The price is $24 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Dues can be paid directly to board members at the Sunday meetings or at the Thursday evening Freethought groups. They can also be paid on the website through Paypal. To pay by mail please send checks to: Piedmont Humanists; 3620 Pelham Road; Suite 5, # 135;

Greenville, SC 29615.

 

 

  HIGH RELIGIOSITY, INCOME INEQUALITY AND SUICIDE

By

Richard G. Dumont, Ph.D.

Introduction

The development of my novel measure of high religiosity is described in my 2010 Evolutionary Psychology article, “High Religiosity and Societal Dysfunction in the United States during the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century.” In that article, where I attributed authorship to my French pseudonym, R. Georges Delamontagne, I wrote:

“The composite measure of high religiosity developed for this study is based upon responses to six questions asked in the 2007 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Religious Landscape Survey’s national probability sample of more than 35,000 respondents (2009). Among the several dimensions of religiosity examined in the Pew research were denominational identification and five beliefs and practices. The composite measure of high religiosity includes the percentage of U.S. states’ respondents selecting the first response alternative within each of the following categories:

Denominational affiliation: Evangelical Protestant Tradition (26% of Pew sample);            Mainline Protestant Tradition (18%); Historically Black Protestant Tradition (7%); Catholic Tradition (24%); Unaffiliated (16%); and All Other (9%, with none of the othe4 10 traditions or faiths having more than 2%, Including Muslims and Jews).

Belief regarding the existence of God or universal spirit: Absolutely certain that God exists (71%); Fairly certain (17%); Not too certain/not at all certain/unsure how certain 4%); Does not believe in God (5%); Don’t know/refused to answer/other (3%).

Belief regarding interpretation of Scripture [Bible or Holy Book]: Word of God, literally true, word for word (33%); Word of God, but not literally true word for word/unsure if literally true (30%); Book written by man, not the word of God (28%); Don’t know/refused to answer (9%).

Belief [or value] regarding importance of religion in one’s life: Very important (56%); Somewhat important (26%); Not too important/not at all important (16%); Don’t know/refused to answer (1%).

Frequency of attendance at religious services: At least once a week (39%); Once or twice a  month/few times a year (33%); Seldom or never (27%); and Don’t know/refused to answer (1%).

Frequency of prayer: At least once a day (58%); Once a week/a few times a week (17%); A few times a month (6%); Seldom or never (18%); Don’t know/refused to answer (2%).”

A principal components factor analysis, the results of which are displayed in my Evolutionary Psychology article, revealed that the z scores for the above variables were arranged in a single dimension. The variable HIGHREL was operationally defined as the combination (sum) of the z scores for EVANPROT, ABSCERT, WORDGOD, VERYIMPO, SERVWEEK, and PRAYDAY. The HIGHREL z scores for the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., .are displayed in Table 2 of the EP article. Thee scores range from a high of 13.57 for Mississippi to a low of -9.89 for Vermont.

Definition of Income Inequality

The Gini Coefficient is the measure of income inequality used in this study. The Gini Coefficient utilizes household income as units of analysis. Its values range from 0, which is indicative of a situation where all income is shared equally among all households, to 1, where all of the income is held by one or a very few households. Obviously, these are theoretical extremes that could never exist in reality. In 2010 the Gini Coefficient for the U.S. was .469, and ranged from a high of .532 for Washington, D.C., to a low of .419 for Utah. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_Gini_coefficient.

Finding of Previous Research

In general, previous research has revealed an inverse relationship between religiosity and suicide; namely, the higher the religiosity, the lower the suicide rate. For example, in their article, “Religiosity and Attitudes toward Suicide,” published in OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying (December, 1992), George Domino and Karen Miller write in the article’s abstract that:

            “The relationship between religiosity and attitudes toward suicide was assessed

              in a sample of 186 Christian adults, most affiliated with churches or church-related

             organizations. A significant correlational pattern was obtained, such that persons

             higher on religiosity tended  to perceive suicide as reflective of mental illness,

             as less of a cry for help, as not being an individual’s prerogative, as highly related to\

             a lack of religious influence, as ‘abnormal” behavior, as evidence of the aggressiveness

             of human nature, and as a moral evil not to be condoned.”

Other studies point to the importance of the economy in having effects on suicide rates. Indeed, a number of studies have reported on the effects of income inequality, as measured by the Gini Coefficient, and suicide rates. For example, J.W. Lynch, G.A. Kaplan, et.al., in the abstract of their article, “Income Inequality and mortality in metropolitan areas of the United States,” write that “… income inequality was associated with increased mortality due to cancer, diabetes, [and several other leading causes of death, including suicide].”

Comparable findings have been reported for other countries. For example, in “Income inequality and the suicide rate in Japan: Evidence from co-integration and LA-VAR,” Kazuyuki Inagaki writes “… the fluctuations in Japan’s suicide rate are partially explained by income inequality.”

Findings of this Study

An Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) multiple regression analysis, involving high religiosity (HIGHREL) and income inequality (GINI) as independent variables, with the suicide rate (SIOURCE) as the dependent variable was performed, the results of which are displayed in Table 1.

The correlation coefficients between the two independent variables with the dependent variable are ─..368 and ,045. The explained variation, R2, is .122. Therefore, contrary to several previous studies, we have found that there is no relationship between high religiosity and the suicide rate. The highly religious are as likely to commit suicide as their non-religious counterparts. Also, in contradistinction to previous studies, higher levels of income inequality are related to lower suicide rates. This finding is actually consistent with Durkheim’s theory in that income inequality, like the Catholic Church, is hierarchically organized, has a recognizable set of “rites and rituals” and constitutes a form of social integration.

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Table 1: Ordinary Least Squares (0LS) regression of suicide rates (SUICIDE) on high religiosity (HIGHREL) and income inequality (GINI)

____________________________________________________________________________

      r

    Beta

       B

    s.e.b.

      t

      p

GINI

  ─.368

     ─.408

 ─60.020

  20.198

─2.972

   .005

HIGHREL

     

 .045

       .152

     0.108

       .097

   1.109

   .273

Intercept

       ꓸ000                   

   39.714

     9.100

  4.364

   .000

SIOURCE

       DF

     SS

     MS

       F

 Prob.>F

Regression

2

     92.402

   46.021

    4.474

   .0165

Residual

        48

   493.727

  10.286

Total

       50

   585.768

R2 = .1571,  F = 4.47,    D..F. = 2  48,   Prob.> F = 0ꓸ0165

Adjusted\ R2 = .1220

Standard Error of Estimate = 3.21

 

______________________________________________________________________________

           

The correlation coefficient of ─.368 represents a moderately strong inverse relationship of the Gini Coefficient with the suicide rate, the r of .045 demonstrates no relationship of high religiosity with the suicide rate, and the Adjusted R2 (amount of explained variation) of only .1220  (12.2%) suggests the need for substantially more research on this subject.

 

 

                        A SHORT HISTORY OF MONOPOLY AND MERGERS

 

Historically the intent of antitrust was to disperse economic monopolies so that their power did not harm the needs of the general public. The basic difference in legal attitude toward the monopolies of yesterday and the business consolidations of today seems contradictory at best. Government action was needed to prevent old-style monopolies from harming the general welfare of the public but modern consolidations are pictured as needing more relaxed laws for efficiency in delivering their goods and services to the consumer.

 

The first statute to be passed regarding monopolies was the Sherman Act in 1890 under the presidency of Benjamin Harrison. Congress claimed power to pass such a law because of its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. The act was a preventative to keep companies from raising prices by choking off of the supply of a specific commodity or service. But later it was used to control monopolies that discouraged competition in the market place.

 

Teddy Roosevelt was instrumental in using the Department of Justice to seek out these activities. He was successful in breaking up the Rockefeller family’s Standard Oil Company, a monopoly that controlled nearly every aspect of the oil market causing countless smaller businesses in the production, refining, transportation, and sale of oil to either go bankrupt or come under its control. The Clayton Antitrust Act in1914 put more muscle into the Sherman Act by banning mergers, acquisitions and exclusive business agreements. Lastly, the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 banned the use of price discrimination against competitors.

 

During the early 1930s the National Industrial Recovery Act was passed. The intention of this law was to encourage both manufacturing and fair labor practices, but it generated an unwieldy number of regulations. There were at least 4000 prohibitions against certain business practices in the two years of the law’s existence. No one knows exactly why the regulation did not work but historians put the blame equally on business, unions, and the administration. It was finally declared unconstitutional in 1935 due to the obvious overregulation by the administrative branch of the federal government. 

 

President Franklin Roosevelt then appointed Thurman Arnold as head of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice. The DOJ became instrumental in targeting those businesses with the worst predatory conduct and anti-competitive schemes. It is interesting to note that no specific general law was needed to create a more equally competitive market place, only direct attention to those areas where a handful of corporations controlled an excessive amount of power. No one knows whether this plan of action was truly successful because the advent of World War II drastically changed the economic picture for both business and labor.

 

In the 1970s attitudes changed toward antitrust such that the use of the term “monopoly” was mostly used to describe large businesses that existed before WWII. Part of the reason for this may have been the realization that America was becoming dependent on other countries for certain products, especially oil; and that markets were entering a global phase. Attention turned away from protecting the welfare of citizens to emphasizing the welfare of consumers instead. The old concept, where, in the words of William Douglas, “the concentration in private hands of power (would be) so great that only a government of the people should have it” was abandoned.

 

Political policy changes began in the 1980s. These loosened previous laws lowering the bar against antitrust violation and allowing the mergers and acquisitions we see today. Consolidation and integration became the modern terms for the kinds of business activities originally called monopolies. The two terms are identical but the modern version can occur in two different ways. Horizontal consolidation/integration happens when a company merges with another company that is a provider of a closely related product. An example of this was when Volkswagon acquired Porsche in 2012. Vertical consolidation/integration happens when a company buys a business that is involved in a facet of its production. An example of this would be when a car manufacturer buys a tire manufacturer to exclusively supply tires for its manufacturing; or when the same manufacturer buys dealerships to sell its cars.

 

To be sure, there is much to say for the efficient running of a business and consolidation can be an asset in getting quality goods and services at a reasonable price to the consumer. But economists are beginning to see a “bad side” to these business techniques.

 

First, continuous merging can tempt companies to adopt a permanent policy of predatory pricing. The ability of being able to produce larger quantities of goods can allow a merged company to consistently underprice any competitor. This destroys smaller businesses and discourages people from forming new companies of the same genre. Secret arrangements between the merged company and other businesses can subtly squeeze out competitors, as well. An example of this is the fact that large manufacturers of foods can arrange deals with supermarkets for premium shelf space leaving less eye catching space for small competitors. No matter how good a product may be, if people don’t see it they don’t buy it.

 

Everyone is familiar with the layoffs that follow many mergers. Those who are let go may have trouble getting employment yielding a comparative salary to that in their old job. Those who stay usually want to hang on to the job they already have rather than move to another section of the country with better opportunities. In both cases there is a loss in remuneration. Many people who have been fired find new jobs at lower pay and people who haven’t been fired hesitate to ask for more money. These circumstances describe the term “wage stagnation” quite well.

 

Also, patents can be used by large companies to shut out new growth by rivals for many years and conversely, these same companies can refuse investment in new ideas slowing down the progress of a new technology. Monsanto achieved the former by buying up competitor’s patents as well as its competitors. Horizontal consolidation should be revisited here, too, because a large corporation can incorporate smaller companies selling the same products and then compete with “itself” by underpricing or running specials that are detrimental to these same smaller businesses. Amazon umbrellas various booksellers but underprices them with specials. 

 

Whether it is monopoly, consolidation, or integration the activity contributes to a lack of healthy competition between businesses and a lack of employment or lower wages for consumers. Congress is not without power to tighten control over the anti-competitive behavior of some large corporations. A law already exists for this provision for under Section 2 of the Sherman Act. This use of the law was successful in bringing Standard Oil, AT&T, and Alcoa under control in the past. Even if the prosecutions are not entirely successful as in a recent case against Microsoft, they call attention to the abuse of consumers and laborers because of the lack of honestly competitive capitalism. Changing laws to make it easier for plaintiffs to seek reparation from those who abuse the anti-trust laws would also help the situation. The burden of proof of a complaint is laid too heavily on the defendant and the price and time consumed by the lawsuit discourages action before it has even begun.

 

Last year Elizabeth Warren gave a speech at a senate judiciary committee meeting on this very subject. In her speech she stated that excessive consolidation and the resulting focus of power threaten both a balanced competitive economy and an efficient democratic political structure. We should remember this is a country of people, not commodities and that a modern democracy should be implemented responsibly by the legislative and administrative divisions of government to provide opportunity for both sides of the economic equation.                      JB

 

http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/42/new-tools-to-promote-competition/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Industrial_Recovery_Act

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman_Antitrust_Act

 

  

A copy of a letter sent in December to those members of Piedmont Humanists who are also members of the national American Humanist Association appears below.

 

  

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Dear member,

I wanted to be the first to share with you the big news: Just an hour ago, President Obama signed the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act into law. It is the first law in history to recognize “non-theists” and protect our community from discrimination.

This is a tremendous recognition of the humanist movement—we’re here, we’re standing strong, and we will fight to protect our values.

This new law strengthens the government’s work to promote international religious freedom and states, “The freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs as well as the right not to profess or practice any religion.”

The law also condemns “specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs” and all attempts to forcibly compel “non-believers or non-theists to recant their beliefs or to convert.”

Celebrate with us, and share this historic achievement proudly with your friends and family. Post it on Facebook. Tweet about it. Take a selfie and show that you are proud to be a humanist. And please—donate generously to help make more of these legislative victories possible.

Together, we made history. Thank you

 

 

Paraprosdokians


Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase
is surprising or unexpected and is frequently humorous.
(Winston Churchill loved them).

1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you … but it’s still on my
list.
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright
until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up — we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in
a fruit salad.
8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is
research.
9. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
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