The Wild West ... the outback ... The new world of the 1800s was a time of true liberty. People stood on their own merits. They won or they lost and they reaped the rewards or swallowed the consequences. There were no cubicle dwelling civil servants hell bent on saving you from yourself. No planning permits no licenses no permissions no heritage overlay no bylaw no regulators no inspectors. And guess what ... it worked

This site is set up to provide a forum for a number of like minded professional economists to post and comment on contemporary issues. There are a number of regular contributors whose bios are made available on the site. Most if not all of these contributors use a pseudonym for the simple reason that they are practicing economists who must take into consideration the commercial implications of posting their opinions.

While some may feel that this is a bit of a gutless approach it is the only way we can ensure free and open discussion without jeopardising our paycheques.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Are environmentalists retarded OR the unsustainable abuse of Mr Venn's diagrams (Roy Rodgers)

This blog goes out there for all those that have had to endure the pain of sifting through endless glossy sustainability reports that are stuffed full of meaningless graphics engineered by overpaid and under intelligent environmental consultants who are yet to realize that the phrase “visual learning” is simply code for stupid.

So what’s the beef … well, apart from everything else, I'm sick of the abuse these guys doll out to venn diagrams.

I can't begin to count the number of times I’ve decided to actually check out a graphic rather than turn the page only to find myself immersed in a five minute internal discussion regarding whether I somehow lack the cognitive ability to ‘get it’ or whether the enviro retard that wrote the report doesn’t actually know what a venn diagram is. To date most, if not all, of these discussions conclude in my favor.

I am not going to apologies for the use of the word retard. If you don’t get what a venn diagram is, then you are most definitely intellectually retarded. Venn diagrams are not difficult to understand. They are basically a graphical representation of sets (conventionally these sets are portrayed as circles, but can also be ellipses, squares or just blobs). Where sets overlap it indicates that some members of a set are also members of another set. Where a set is wholly contained within another set it indicates that the set is a subset of the greater set. NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

Nor can these doyens of stupidity claim unfamiliarity. Venn diagrams are not new. They’ve been around for a few hundred years and their recorded use goes back to the 1600s, predating even Mr Venn himself.

Leibniz used them in the 1600s. This is no accident as Leibniz is one of the founders of propositional calculus (logic) and Venn diagrams are reported to have begun life as a analytical tool used to assist in the understanding of syllogistic arguments — all cats are black, kev is a cat, kev is black. The diagrams allow for the representation of universal and particular contentions (all and some).

So they are definitely not new. No excuses there.

The following website provides ample evidence of the abuse sustainability consultants inflict on venn diagrams (along with other diagrammatic tools). It’s worth a look, just for laughs. You should note that all the diagrams posted on the page are considered to be just grouse!

Let's take a couple of examples.

Example 1.

At first glance it appears pretty reasonable. I think we can safely say that families, schools and neighborhoods are all subsets of the broader economy.

But this is as far as reasonableness goes. From here on in things start to get real murky. For example:

  • the diagram indicates that only a proportion of the family is actually counted as a part of the neighborhood. Now assuming that family is normal, it is highly unlikely that it will be dispersed geographically across multiple neighborhoods. And while it would appear that all the children are actually participants in the neighborhood, the majority of the remaining adults appear to not be. So where are they? The only plausible explanation is that the majority of adults have been excluded from the neighborhood because they have been either chained up in the basement or locked up in the attic. Given that these non neighborhood family participants are adult we can also assume that they are being separated from their community on a voluntary basis (gimps perhaps).

  • a significant number of adult family members attend school. The word school generally refers to primary or secondary school; if the diagram were pertaining to tertiary institutions the set should be labelled education. This indicates one of two things a). the family includes a disproportionately high number of adults who are also teachers b). the family includes a large number of intellectually challenged individuals. Given the suspicion regarding the prevalence of gimps we most likely assume b).

  • The next notable observation is that the school is also not a subset of the neighborhood. This means that the school most likely contains members from multiple neighborhoods from which we can deduce that it must be a private school. Public schools are organized on a neighborhood basis therefore if the school were public we would expect to see it portrayed as a subset of the neighborhood. This supports the contention that the adults who are members of both the family and the school sets must be intellectually challenged. If they were teachers they would not be able to afford the tuition for a private school.

So what does the above Venn diagram tell us? Well I can only speak for myself and I must admit I don’t think the author was trying to provide a diagrammatic representation of a community of affluent but stupid gimps.

Example 2.

God save us ….

Example 3

Please shoot me…. No wait …. Just shoot the retard.

This is where my headache really starts to kick in. Economics is a science not a thing or collection of things, it is a field of study that looks at how participants (not even necessarily humans) allocate resources. So again claiming you can generate a set that encapsulates economics is fallacious. It's akin to having a set labelled physics or biology.

Granted, the term economy is often used to refer to the total system of things and how they interact, but the economy and economics are two different things, in just the same way that the physical world and physics are two different things.

Further confusion is generated by the contention that the environment, social and economic are separate and identifiable sets. After 9 years of formal economic training at both the undergrad and post grad levels I personally don't get it. How can something have a social or environmental benefit or cost and not be included in an economic framework. The retards seem to have missed the point that economics is universal.

The big concern is who exactly is paying for this rubbish and secondly if it's you ... I suggest your enviro retard consultants, by displaying such a base misunderstanding of how to use a Venn diagram, undermine any confidence you could possibly have in any advice they give based on quantitative evidence ... after all venn diagrams are not the hardest things to master.


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