The human mind is wired to accept ridiculous reasons as if they are legitimate. Studies have shown that people are more likely to agree to a favor if the word "because" is used in the request. It doesn't seem to matter what follows that word. As long as the sentence is in the form of a reason, people accept it as though some actual reason is present. (See the book Influence.)

I've often used this method. I think I've mentioned these uses before, but I will reiterate to set up my larger point.

Guys tend to argue over who picks up the check after dinner. In cases where I know this situation is likely to arise, I prepare a ridiculous "because" reason that I trot out when the moment is right. After allowing the other guy or guys to make their ceremonial attempt at paying, I say something like "I'll pay today because this is the seven month anniversary of when you bought your car. Congratulations." I'm exaggerating slightly, but it isn't hard to come up with some trivial reason why you should pay. The funny thing is that any reason you offer will settle the discussion. It works every time.

Another situation in which the ridiculous reason works is when a large dinner group is being served and only half of the people have their dishes. Everyone sits there staring at their food as it cools, trying to be polite. In these cases I say loudly "According to etiquette, you can start eating as soon as three people have been served." Everyone instantly digs in. I think I read that rule of etiquette somewhere, but it's clearly a random number. There is nothing special about three. Ridiculous reasons win again.

I mention these examples because I think the world needs another ridiculous rule to solve some big problems. And it's no fair saying my new rule is ridiculous because that's exactly the point. The new rule would be this: Any land controlled by a country for 50 years straight is legitimately theirs. It's like a statute of limitations for armed resistance.

Obviously the people living in the disputed lands will reject this rule when it kicks in. It's really for the benefit of others who might be inclined to help the continued struggle for independence. Most struggles depend on outside help. This rule allows the outside helpers to withdraw without being dishonorable.

While the 50 year rule is clearly arbitrary and ridiculous, our minds allow us to accept such things as if they are real rules. So in time it might influence the inhabitants of the disputed lands to accept their situation. Realistically, if a country is controlled for 50 years, it's probably going to stay controlled. Continued resistance doesn't benefit anyone.

Consider all of the international struggles that involve lands conquered more than 50 years ago, or approaching that. The partisans need a reason to stop fighting that doesn't sound like they are a bunch of quitters. Honor is at stake. The 50 year rule is the non-reason reason.

I am aware that this rule, if followed, would sanction enormous unfairness, subjugation, apartheid, and worse. But those things would happen with or without the rule. The only difference is how many innocent people die trying to change a situation that is unlikely to change.
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May 5, 2009
This is the book Scott is talking about:
He recommended this book in his blog a year or two ago. I bought it and it was a fascinated read.
May 2, 2009
I disagree with your reasoning because it is antithetical to the grand tradition of Western Civilization, threatens the existing social order, and is fattening.
Apr 30, 2009

The problem with adding your BECAUSE rule is that it goes head-to-head with the opposition's "Because" rule:

"We want that land.....
.... BECAUSE it's our ancestral homeland" (nevermind the ancestors of the current occupants)
... BECAUSE the occupiies are evil" (nevermind that we blow up their women and children every chance we get)
... BECAUSE God is on our side (nevermind about their god, or that God hasn't spoken directly to anyone in an obvious way for centuries)

The magic of BECAUSE is that allows people to do what they already want to do. Your 50 year rule assumes that the group already wants to cede the land, but is stuck in a "...BECAUSE it's what we do" mindset. I think that assumption is flawed. If the leaders want something, they'll figure out a culture-specific BECAUSE that thier people will follow.

Nice try. No dice.
Apr 29, 2009
Your arbitrary 50-year plan is just silly. It should be 47 years because 47 is a Prime number and therefore more mathematically significant.
Apr 29, 2009

I favor the one hundred and fifty year rule because that's how longer than we've had California and shorter than we've had Alaska.


Why not one hundred? It moves the Israeli thing off the table and (with America bankrupt and the Arabs/ Palestinian remittances about to go into negative cash flow, Israel is going to lose it's financial base next year anyway and reform) covers most other situations. Might start up trouble over the next few years over things like southern Armenia, etc, but presumably the Armenians either have nukes, or they won't by 2015.
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Apr 29, 2009
"Realistically, if a country is controlled for 50 years, it's probably going to stay controlled."

The Moors occupied Spain (and a big part of France as far north as Poitiers, not so far from Paris) for some 700 years before they were turfed out. They say there are Moroccan families who still hold front door keys to palaces in southern Spain, thinking that sooner or later or much later they'll get them back again.

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Apr 29, 2009
Excellent uncle Scott. It's been a while since you made the monkeys practice their steps like this.
What's funny is that even when they KNOW they're getting their strings pulled, they still go off, as in...

Unfortunately for this latest Monkey Dance routine, your simple solution ignores several realities......

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 29, 2009
I'd be very curious to see results from these 'because' studies done on children or teens. I wonder when this effect kicks in. After reading this yesterday, I decided to experiment at home with my 6 year old son. When he asked why he couldn't stay up another ten minutes, I said, "Because french fries are yummy." It didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped.
Apr 29, 2009
This is the most absurd offensive thing you have ever come out with. I am Irish. We were ruled by the British for 800 years from the middle of the twelfth centuary to 1937 when we were finally declared a free state. We fought for 800 years. We didnt give up after 50. We fought for the right to have our own culture and our own autonomy. We fought wars and we fought politically in the Bristish Parliment.

Today we are free and Ireland is much better for it.

Your rule may prevent a few deaths but it would give victory to those who abuse power. That is unacceptable in a modern society.
Apr 29, 2009
TJF, just to clarify your point, "the british " were not opresses of Hong Kong, it was on loan to us for 99 years, and actually falls neatly into Scotts, theory, as we controled it for x time, it was considered ours and we dutifully handed it back to the chinese. There was no war and no bloodshed... there are more arguments about toys in a playground...

Adorita, I have to say that you are fantasticaly correct, as im a father to be (9 weeks to go) my better half does little but say "because im pregnant" when reasoning for anything. Alot of it is fair, but the "can i have 10% off because im pregnant" (it worked) was my favourite abuse of a "because"

to add my own thoughts, people where i work now are organising meetings "because" yada yada yada. I have now been to a meeting to organise a commitee to organise meetings.... erm... because we are idiots i think... We appear to be pre programed to here "because" and say "yes"!!
Apr 29, 2009

I hate to point out the obvious, but both of your examples involved people accepting silly reasons to do what they really wanted to do in the first place (i.e. - Let you pay the check or just start eating. Even the people without food were probably just as uncomfortable making the others wait.)

The problem is that people will give or accept any reason to do what they really want to do anyway. Remember, we (the U.S.) had to take the whole country because it was our "Manifest Destiny". I still don't know what that means, but it sounded like a good reason at the time.

Of course, some of the examples people give here work because of people's own experience. For example, people will accept the excuse that your company has ridiculous rules because they know their own company has ridiculous rules.

Your 50-year rule won't cancel out all the other ridiculous reasons people have for doing the things they want to do. The opposition will just counter it with another ridiculous rule (after 50 years, we get the right to revolt again - or something like that).
Apr 29, 2009
I can think of a few exceptions:

1. The American Indians and us. (We considered the land "ours" for more than 50 years before we started on a widespread campaign of death and destruction, and vice versa.)

2. The American colonies (not to mention any other colony in the world [India, Hong Kong, etc.]) and the oppressors, the British.

3. Israel v. Palestine. 5,000 years ago Israelites moved into Palestine and said that God told them to kill everyone so they could have it. I think that is something like 100 times the time period you gave for continued resistance.

I can't believe no one else offered these really, really, really obvious exceptions (I only say they're obvious because I was able to think of them quickly without doing any research, and I'm an idiot.).

Apr 29, 2009
So if the US just hanges on in Afganistan / Iraq for another 44 or so years then the Taliban / Al Qieda (sp) will just have to give up?
Sounds like a plan.
Why not revert to the old British way of simply planting a flag. If you manage to keep your flag flying over a country it belongs to you. If the locals can pull it down you have to leave. But rather than going about it in the normal bombs and guns way everything goes on-line is a big Call Of Duty type game, but the teams would be biased to reflect the firepower of the competing sides.
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Apr 28, 2009
Your theory doesn't work for me, Scott. I tend to treat people who invoke ridiculous rules as ridiculous people. For a bill, the rule to offer to pay is ridiculous, except maybe in the context of dating early on (if you invited someone out in a romantic sense, it's only polite to pick up the tab). For serving food, it's ridiculous to have to wait in the first place (doubly so if you intend to pay, I sure would not want to pay for a cold, inferior meal).

As for countries, centralization under something like the 50-year rule is a horrible idea, and the notion that a few powerful cabals of elites should control all the land, resources, and lifestyles on earth is what is truly ridiculous and antiquated. I propose my own arbitrary rule, any three or more people owning at least 1 acre of land are allowed to secede and form their own country, and may NOT be stopped by any government entity.

Just think of all the jobs we'd create for the cartographers alone!

> Scott replied to one poster: "I would argue that people want to be seen as the person paying."

Depends on the situation. Maybe if you're taking someone out for their birthday. In a group, I'd always advocate for each person paying for their part of the meal. Although, if you really feel so strongly that you want to be seen as subsidizing my prime rib, what are you doing for dinner this Friday? ;)
Apr 28, 2009
I have a better rule. Any leader who proposes invading another country will be killed by a UN hit squad. Problem solved, and no need for further rules, 50-year or otherwise.
Apr 28, 2009
Scott, if your comments don't allow HTML, I think the comment box should say so.
Apr 28, 2009
Intuitive_Aptitude: I am guessing he's talking about <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Influence-Psychology-Persuasion-Business-Essentials/dp/006124189X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240975786&sr=8-1">Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion</a> by Robert Cialdini. I have that book out of the library right now so it must be famous. It's getting kind of dated, and the author's kind of weird, but it's still pretty fascinating and I definitely recommend it.
Apr 28, 2009
"According to etiquette, you can start eating as soon as three people have been served."

Scott Adams, you are a god damned genius.

If you hadn't become a cartoonist, I'd say there's a good chance you may have become a therapist instead. But then, what you're doing, both in your blog and in your strip is therapy of sorts.
Apr 28, 2009
I just got out of meeting about a school program that is going to be transformed from healthy and useful to a fraudulent waste of time and taxpayer money. However, the "restructuring" does have a strong "because" behind it - so it has the support of the administration and the school board. Due to budget cuts the program had to change. The number 1 goal was to avoid firing certificated teachers. They met that goal! Hurray!

I would humbly suggest that the number 1 goal should have had something to do with educating students - but that's just me....
Apr 28, 2009
Scott's mention of picking up the check reminded me of the term credited to Roger Miller, describing people's reluctance to do so: shellout falter.
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