(I’m taking a course on writing clickbait headlines. How’m I doin?)
The best minds of the age have been grappling unsuccessfully with the central economic mystery of the age: how to keep consumers buying houses, cars and cheap crap from China when they don’t have jobs. The Best Minds tried turning houses into ATM machines; they tried dropping no-limit credit cards from helicopters over urban areas; and of course they tried, over and over again, lowering taxes on billionaires. Nothing seems to have worked.
All along, the solution was right under our noses. As dramatically as America has turned from a nation that made things, into a nation that consumes things, so, just as dramatically, it has turned into a nation that spends unlimited amounts of money researching the answers to stupid questions. If you don’t think it’s a major industry, flourishing right under our noses, consider a sampling — just a small sampling — of the 204,000,000 results I got when I Googled “a new study says:”
- eating two or more helpings of fried potatoes a week doubles your chance of dying (but wait, isn’t everyone’s chance of dying 100 per cent?);
- more than a third of teenage girls experience depression (and the other two-thirds experience what? Irrational exuberance?);
- the bacteria that inhabit beards offer surprising health benefits;
- addiction to the Internet “looks like” heroin addiction and can cost you $50,000;
- people who swear are more honest than clean talkers;
- drinking coffee makes us better at working out. On the other hand, an old study (2014) says drinking too much coffee is very bad for us and many people drink too much;;
- coconut oil is not as healthy as a slightly less-new study said it was;
- men with daughters get richer than other men;
- people who play video games are more likely to succeed at work;
- living in poverty is as bad for the brain as losing a full night’s sleep, or dropping 13 IQ points;
- the best fan base in the National Football League belongs to the Dallas Cowboys;
- the fastest way to lose weight is to abstain from eating;
- stress is good for you; on the other hand, stress at work is as bad for you as second-hand smoke;
- sandwiches with unhealthy ingredients are unhealthy;
- drinking diet soda can lead to strokes and dementia;
- forget what you thought you knew about salt from reading those other studies;
- all studies, including this one, are wrong.
Think about it. Every one of those studies (I have linked to each one to show you that I am not making any of this stuff up) was funded by someone — someone who obviously has money to burn. Unlike the gazillions of dollars given by the central bankers to the other central bankers to accomplish “quantitative easing,” this money actually did create jobs.
Remember those 90 million adults who are missing from the unemployment statistics because although they don’t have jobs, they don’t count as unemployed? All this time we thought the government was pulling a fast one: those people are the ones doing all the studies.
People in lab coats with tape recorders had to fan out across the country asking the stupid questions; clerks had to transcribe the tapes with the stupid answers on them; computer coders had to turn the transcriptions into zeroes and ones, to they could be digitally analyzed, cross-referenced and indexed for interpretation by people with doctoral degrees in stupid questions.
All of these people required the necessities of work: offices, laptops, smartphones, airline tickets, bottled water, gym memberships, yoga classes and fully stocked juice bars. Talk about a full-employment, infrastructure refreshing, tax-generating, overstimulation package for the economy of the 21st Century.
Want a job? Learn to ask stupid questions. Want to manufacture something? Two words: lab coats. Want people to give you money and make you famous? Do a study.
A word of caution, though. Don’t think this bonanza applies to real questions such as what to do about climate change or refugees or gun violence or things like that. You’ll never get funding for that kind of junk. Instead, follow the example of the folks who did a study that just concluded: “Women are genetically programmed to cheat on their mates.” You’ll raise big money, easily. And the research will be fun.