What Can We Learn from a 103 Year Old Woman?

Someone asked asked Evelyn, a 103 year old woman, about important career memories, and she responded:

I was a teacher at the age of 14, and I taught in a one room school house. I have a lot of memories about this time in my life. Like the big boys who used to not listen to me. And the day a father came to school and asked me to, “go get your teacher.” I said, “I AM the teacher.” Then he asked me again, and I gave him the same answer. He was pretty surprised that I was handling that class all alone.

An irrational fool was surprised that she would be a teacher as a young woman. How can you be so brainwashed! Think for yourself! The reason teachers are old is that they’re unionized, controlling the political system by monopolizing schools. A 14 year old is more qualified to teach children than an old person because she remembers being a child, using their language, allowing her to skillfully communicate with students.

We blindly accept many absurdly foolish things for decades such as:

  • accepting “money” that constantly depreciates, backed by nothing except paper;
  • taxing people for working and investing;
  • allowing governments to control food, drugs, and health care systems;
  • allowing governments to indoctrinate children, heavily regulate colleges, influence newspapers, operate public radio and television networks.

We accept this nonsense despite repeated failures of socialism because of the endowment effect and status quo bias.

The endowment effect is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. This is illustrated by the fact that people will pay more to retain something they own than to obtain something owned by someone else—even when there is no cause for attachment, or even if the item was only obtained minutes ago.

Status quo bias is a cognitive bias; a preference for the current state of affairs. The current baseline (or status quo) is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss. Status quo bias should be distinguished from a rational preference for the status quo ante, as when the current state of affairs is objectively superior to the available alternatives, or when imperfect information is a significant problem. A large body of evidence, however, shows that status quo bias frequently affects human decision-making.

Daniel Kahneman and Dan Arielly discuss irrational thinking including status quo bias and the endowment effect in their books, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.

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