Super Freaking Economics
Last February in Detroit they were kicking around the idea to erect a new public statue dedicated to some local hero. The only problem was that the masses of the great unwashed wanted it to be a statue of Robocop: the fictional Hollywood mechanised-corpse law-enforcer from the eighties.
I like how the mayor of Detroit felt it necessary to issue a statement: “There are not any plans to erect a statue of Robocop. Thank you for the suggestion”.
Whereas in amongst what you might call the London riots of the August just gone, in the temporary breakdown of society, the British general public were calling out for the likes of Robocop and Gene Hunt to be sent out to restore order… But a word to the wise for David Cameron is that he might like to do a little bit of reading first…
Setting the scene and everyman Prime Minister David Cameron is on your average family holiday in Montevarchi, accidentally providing photo opportunities to get himself in the papers, but then just happens to make the headlines by refusing to tip a poor local waitress because she had the wilful temerity to not know who the hell he was. Doesn’t she know he’s a famous person?
Not only did he go against the local custom, but he allowed the inner-toff to emerge with the belief that the only thing that the hired staff – who should know their place – deserve is a damn good thrashing.
But then the bad press garnered from this gave rise to a PR opportunity where he could “coincidentally” return the same café, later in the week, and both publicly make amends with the unfortunate girl and get a friendly photo with her for the papers.
Because who will remember the bad story after this? After all who remembers when Tim Henman, in a fit of pique, beat up a ball girl at Wimbledon 1995? He returned to publicly make amends and gave her a kiss which was referred to by the media as the “Hen-peck” and the whole sorry incident was never mentioned ever again… Who remembers that these day? I do… In my dreams… Blood… So much blood…
The only problem for David Cameron was that, whilst he dawdled, at home London was burning and all the politicians were off sunning themselves on expensive holidays. But still a few more days couldn’t hurt and he duly returned to the Tuscany café to give the waitress a paltry couple of quid tip. Result.
When he returned Cameron successfully disrespected all the country’s Police by taking credit for ending the riots and then put all his faith in one American cop, Bill Bratton, who he was trying to shoehorn in as head of The Met.
Bill Bratton, the former New York police chief, made his name through overseeing a clean-up of New York under Mayor Rudy Giuliani with a dramatic decline in crime and gang warfare. A result for which he’s not shy on claiming the credit. Step in Freakonomics (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, 2005) which uses hard data to “uncover hidden truths about our world”.
Chapters include how cheating American teachers and corrupt sumo wrestlers were unmasked; What incentive estate agents have to sell your house properly; How the Ku Klux Klan was brought down with the help of Superman; And it breaks down the economics of drug dealing through the first time analysis of the chain of command and discovers that it looks mightily familiar.
They also cover the astounding crime drop in America and even though it’s not reported about Bill Bratton in the media this Super-Cop’s “achievements” in New York are seriously questionable as Freakonomics reveals that the massive crime-drop actually started before Bratton and Giuliani took office in 1994 and surprised everyone as a massive crime-boom was predicted. The book reveals that the cause of this drop was instead attributable to a Mrs. Norma McCorvey of Houston, Texas.
It sounds improbable, right? It sounds like the set-up for a Monty Python sketch, but…
In 1969, at the age of 21, Norma McCorvey became pregnant a third time and wasn’t able to have an abortion because they were illegal in America. So she started a campaign for legalisation which was finally passed by the US Supreme Court in 1973. So when Giuliani and Bratton appeared with their zero-tolerance policing they were surfing a wave of a generation of criminal masterminds, super-villains, robbers, rapists and addicts… That hadn’t been born twenty years earlier!
Cue the massive crime-drop. The link being made is on the basis that unwanted children are those more likely to fall into a life of crime. And thus, friend of David Cameron, Bill Bratton did not perform the miraculous turnaround of New York on his own. But he sure as hell fought Giuliani for the credit.
The sequel SuperFreakonomics (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, 2009) is just as interesting and as clever a book covering subjects such as the affect of TV on Indian women; What street prostitutes have in common with departmental Santa Clauses when the mechanics of the whoring business is broken down; Why suicide bombers should buy life insurance; And the perils of walking drunk.
But they saved most interesting story until last when they detail how scientists taught a group of capuchin monkeys all about money and created a currency of metal coins for them which they could earn in experiments and then use to buy the food of their choice.
You might think that raising the awareness and intelligence of a group of our close cousins might have its hazards, but to keep them mentally subdued they were all given names of James Bond film characters… I’m imagining a monkey Plenty O’Toole and a monkey Hugo Drax.
Then one day something out of the ordinary happened when the monkey Felix Leiter (that really was his name!) had finished his experiments and was given his tray of money, but instead of taking the cash he knocked the tray over, scattering the monkey money, which caused a commotion amongst the others, squabbling about on the floor for the loot, which the monkey Felix Leiter used to effect some sort of jail break.
And that wasn’t the extraordinary thing! For all the other monkeys were now flush with unexpected wealth and the scientists observed the monkey Hugo Drax give a coin to monkey Plenty O’Toole in what they believed was the first reported instance of unprompted monkey altruism…
That is until what happened next…
When the scientists realised they’d just witnessed the first act of monkey prostitution in recorded history… All eight seconds of it.
What have we done to the world? What have we done?
Still David Cameron might have tried to have Super-Cop Bill Bratton installed as head of The Met, but the Home Secretary Theresa May put her foot down, having none of it, and he had to make do with just the role as a special advisor.
However back in Detroit the locals didn’t give up so easily on the city’s favourite son and they launched a crowd-sourcing project to try raise fifty thousand dollars… It took a matter of days. Coming soon to the streets of Detroit: Someone will be getting Robocop after all… Now where’s our Gene Hunt?