Charles Dickens would find himself in an alien world if he witnessed modern life. The wealthier are working harder than the poorer.
Silvia Bellezza, a professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, should know. Along with Georgetown’s Neeru Paharia and Harvard’s Anat Keinan, Bellezza co-wrote a paper in the Journal of Consumer Research about a rare status symbol: seeming busy.
The roles have obviously switched since the late Industrial Revolution. On average, the richest American men, on average, work more than those poorer. In The Theory of the Leisure Class, economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen wrote in 1899 that “conspicuous abstention from labor … becomes the conventional mark of superior pecuniary achievement.”
That we are all aware of this explains why we take a while to respond to messages on social media. Also, that we may not answer the phone right away. And if or when we do, we are short and to the point.
But Bellezza also observes that this is mostly an American phenomenon. Vacations, which for Italians are as sacred as loving your own mother, are still a sign of status in Italy. The longer they are, usually the richer you are supposed to be, at least on the other side of the pond.
A recent report by the BBC discusses the uses of swearing and finds some surprising benefits to it. It also debates the merits of quoting swear words in referred speech fully spelled out or with asterisks (as in “Sh**!”).
It turns out that saying bad words—or, rather, screaming them at the top of your lungs—also helps you resist intense physical pain. Oddly, it may also promote bonding. People apparently tend to trust the potty-mouthed rather than those with stiff upper lips.
Like vocabulary overall, the swearing lexicon changes over time. Some words lose their strength: those that had a religious origin are now the milder kin of their louder cousins. Yet bodily effluvia have perennially been used metaphorically for less than poetical prose.
So, crossing verbal red lines have some advantages, as we all instinctively knew anyway. What else would you do in particularly bad traffic? But use these words with caution, like shooting in the air. If you aim them at the wrong person, make sure you have backup or an exit plan, very quickly.
The OPEC ganging up to drive up oil prices is good news for producers and investors. It may not be as good for consumers, but rest assured. It’s not going to get too bad this time around. And for a very powerful reason: the oil cartel doesn’t want the barrel to reach the crazy levels of a decade ago.
So, don’t be fooled by the bellicose rhetoric of Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC’s secretary general. It makes you nostalgic for the bad old days of the 1970s, doesn’t it?
But all that is white noise. There is a market rationale behind the OPEC’s moves. “Saudi Arabia saw that propping up oil prices would mean ceding more market share to surging U.S. shale production.” That, too, would encourage “existential threats like electric vehicles, so the kingdom let rip.”
In plain words, the cartel wants you to keep your gas guzzlers and remain hooked to oil. They simply want to keep exploiting the mechanics of addiction. So, do yourself and the world a favor: go energy efficient. And, if it suits your budget, do get that electric car. It will be better for all of us.