The global economy is an insanely complex system of labor, money and goods all governed by laws to keep each facet in check. So it'd be pretty depressing if researchers discovered that the whole thing was actually the end result of a bunch of seemingly random bullshit, wouldn't it?
Answer: Yes it would be, and they did.
#5. The Belief in Hell
It's widely believed that fraudulent practices like mortgage underwriting and predatory lending were some of the main causes of the 2000s credit crunch, which raises some terrifying concerns: If the state of the economy is so dependent on a handful of people promising not to be greedy, what's really stopping the economy from collapsing all over again as soon as those assholes decide more is better? Surprisingly, it might be their belief in hell.
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Harvard researchers both independently studied the correlation between believing in hell and economic development. Each analyzed years of data from dozens of countries, and in each case the results were the same: The more a population believes in hell, the less corrupt and more prosperous their country's economy is.
"I hate it when naked men try to swamp my boat. No more insider trading!"
Interestingly, believing in God alone didn't cut it. It's explicitly the fear of eternal damnation that ultimately scares us into not being such gaping assholes and working earnestly toward a brighter future for everyone.
Of course, nothing is actually stopping you from being a decent, hardworking banker or whatever without believing in hell. The problem is that when you look at the big picture, it simply isn't in our nature to give a fuck about more than a handful of people or their money.
"That whole Enron scandal won me enough new souls to build a whole porch out of shinbones."
So it takes the threat of being boiled alive in their own urine to make a few corporate heads stop and rethink their strategy of embezzling and Ponzi schemes. Which starts to make a lot more sense given that so many CEOs are ...
It takes a lot to be a corporate CEO, knowing that each decision you make can affect thousands of people and the economies of dozens of nations. It means emotionally distancing yourself from the lives you potentially ruin and taking advantage of other people's misfortune, all while stating with a straight face that you have their best interest at heart.
Luckily there already is a name for it: psychopathy.
Some experts say a staggering number of corporate heads suffer from this condition, or more realistically, enjoy every damn second of it.
"Johnson, get me that report by 5 or I'll kill you! Seriously, I will."
That was the findings of author Ron Jonson, in his book "The Psychopath Test." He put the ratio of psychopaths among CEOs four times higher than among the general population. He wasn't the first to notice it either (see: every office worker ever). As early as 2004, Professor Robert Hare -- an expert on psychopaths and author of the Psychopathy Checklist -- warned that the psychopaths' manipulative nature and superficial charm made it very easy for them to reach high-power corporate positions. It's actually been suggested that business powerhouse Henry Ford was a psychopath (who not only famously spread conspiracy theories about the Jews, but also spied on his employees and forced the secretary he was banging to marry his chauffeur as a cover up).
Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, at the 1929 annual Gigantic Asshole's conference.
Professor Hare has actually noticed clear psychopathic patterns in the behavior of the executives at Enron and WorldCom, where executives plunged ahead with destructive and clearly unsustainable practices, unable to make any kind of sane connection between the actions and their consequences. They just blindly plowed ahead, in that way that only the truly crazy can.
Suddenly, Windows Phone 7 makes sense.
Fortunately, most psychopaths don't last forever in a corporate environment, because when things go wrong they tend to throw fits, blame others and ultimately just abandon ship. And then, presumably, an equally dangerously unhealthy person takes their place.
And that's how dolphins end up covered in oil.
#3. The Sun and the Moon
When we say the weather affects the economy, you figure we're talking about a drought or tsunami wiping out some nation's most valuable crop at harvest time. But it turns out that perfectly nice days can have just as big an impact on the world market.
Studies show that the stock market does better on sunny days than on cloudy days. And we're not talking about one particular month, when maybe it was just a weird coincidence -- researchers looked at data from 26 countries across 15 freaking years. And what they found was that stocks are the opposite of vampires.
It seems to be a solely psychological effect, with the sun putting the investors in a good mood, making them more likely to try new things, take more financial risks and maybe even ask out Debbie from human resources.
The sun: The tequila of Wall Street.
Well ... that sort of makes sense. Now try to figure this one out:
According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, for a period of 15 days around a new moon, stock market returns are twice as high as those during the rest of the month. So as we approach a full moon, stock prices drop. It may seem like a coincidence but, again, this is not a minor amount of data here: the researchers analyzed 30 years of market data from 25 countries, even going as far back as 100 years with U.S. stock indexes. So stocks are also the opposite of werewolves.
That, or stock brokers are all werewolves who get distracted as "the change" approaches.
Financial executives insist that observing a giant space rock is no substitute for conventional market analysis because the system is certainly more complicated and also because no one wants to believe that such a complex job could be done by a random asshole with a calendar. Still, it's refreshing to think that maybe it's not OUR fault for sinking our life savings into that Vietnamese company that makes breast implants for dogs. The moon made us do it.
Look at that flat-chested dog. How could these not take off?