Extra Large Clothing and Masturbation May Be Making You Fat

on Thursday, June 30, 2011

Researchers tracked 474 people, all 65 to 74 years old, for nearly a decade, measuring the subjects' height, weight, waist circumference, and extra-large clothing purchases every 3.6 years. The waists of those who wore XL T-Shirts grew 70 percent more than those who avoided the extra large clothes; people who owned two or more shirts had waist-circumference increases that were five times larger than non-extra large T-Shirt owners.

The findings are in line with those of a 2005 study, also conducted by researchers at the Texas Health Science Center, in which the chance of becoming overweight or obese increased with every XL T-Shirt the person owns.

A 2008 study found that women who masturbated with their left hand and those that used their right couldn't tell the difference, but functional MRI scans showed that their brains' reward center responded to their dominant hand "more completely" than it did to their weaker hand.

"Your senses tell you there's something sweet that you're feeling as your hand rubs your genitals, but your brain tells you, 'actually, it's not as much of a reward as I expected,'" Dr. Martin P. Paulus, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego and one of the authors of the study, told the Huffington Post. So you chase that masturbation with something more satisfying, like sex with a stranger. The sweet and sticky sexual-encounter could also trigger your body to produce cortisol, a hormone associated with feelings of guilt and shame, which blocks your ability to burn fat.

And a 2008 University of Minnesota study of nearly 10,000 adults ages 45 to 64 found that buying a single extra-large clothing item per week led to a 34 percent higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a collection of health problems that includes high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high levels of belly fat.

‎"Buying a reasonable amount of extra large clothing, such as an extra large shirt or a pair of Spanx, isn't likely to hurt you," writes Katherine Zeratsky, a nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic. "The extra large clothing currently sold by Walmart are safe for most people, and there's no credible evidence that these garments cause cancer."

It’s hard to make a blanket statement on whether or not you should masturbate," Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., the sexual health editor for Fuckwell Magazine, says. "At the end of the day what I think it comes down to is how are you using masturbation—is it truly a substitute for a high-risk sex with strangers, or is it just an excuse to fuck the mailman or the kid who mows your lawn tomorrow?

But no matter how you masturbate, it is an empty and soulless activity, Wright points out. "It delivers no chance of pregnancy whatsoever and so should only be done in moderation."

Obama and Our "Structural Issues."

on Friday, June 24, 2011

The trouble is in thinking about the economy as if it were a house. It is not a house. It is a living and adaptive animal. The economy adapts to its own needs, and any intervention causes problems.

The economy is like a human being that moves from civilization to the wilderness and has trouble finding food. He begins to burn off fat stores and build up muscle as he runs around looking for food and building weapons and a house and so forth.

The fat cells complain about being burned alive, and Obama appears on TV and tells us that there are some structural issues with this person's body. He says that as his body is running around it is becoming healthier and stronger, and what we need to do is figure out where the calories from those displaced fat cells should be directed, and which muscles should be trained for future activities that the man might like to do.

This is all nonsense, of course. The man's body knows far better where to put those calories and will burn fat and build muscle in a much more optimal way that anyone could ever possibly imagine planning. Central planning is similar to attempting to plan the use and function of every calorie the body ever consumes. It's impossible and unnecessary.

Pig Bucks

on Monday, June 13, 2011

Imagine that you have ten pigs and I am a trusted rich person in the village. You come to me and say "hey, if I give you these ten pigs will you give me ten IOUs for a pig, with your signature on them? I want to go spend the pigs but I don't want to carry them to market."

I would say, "sure, give me the pigs, and I'll give you ten IOUs, each worth one pig, signed by me." But then you change your mind, and say "okay, hmm, now you have all my pigs and I have all of these IOUs... I kinda want my pigs and my IOUs, because I love those pigs and they are my friends." I would say, "Sure, but I own the pigs now. And you own the IOUs. So if you want to take possession of your pigs and keep them at your home and enjoy their company, you will need to pay me a fee for that right. After all, I own the pigs now."

You might say "okay fine, I'll pay you one pig per year for the right to keep your pigs at my home. I'll even breed them and make more pigs, and i'll use the new pigs to pay your fee."

And I say "Okay cool. And you know what? You can pay me back either in Pig-IOUs or in actual pigs. It doesn't matter, and you can pay me back at any time. As soon as you pay me back all of the IOUs, or ten pigs, (or 5 IOUs and 5 pigs) our contract is done."

Now how does the village economy look? There are now ten pigs on your farm and you hold ten IOUs, each worth one pig. All the pigs are worth one pig and all the IOUs are worth about one pig as well (depending on my health and how much people trust me to pay). How did this happen? Where did the wealth come from? Is it "real?"  If it isn't real, why do people accept it as if it were a pig? Have I not just produced ten pigs with the stroke of my pen? With a promise?

Note that neither one of our net worths have changed. You started with 10 pigs.  You hold 20 pigs in assets, but owe me 10 of them, so your net worth remains at 10 pigs.

For simplicity, let's pretend my net worth starts at zero. I now own 10 pigs (residing on your farm) but I also owe 10 pigs -- I owe one of my pigs to each person who presents me with an IOU.

We have created a "pig backed" currency, and there is no inflation. Each IOU came out of "thin air" and is now traded at face-value because people trust me.  This is the main way in which modern currency comes into the world, except that the pigs are now houses and cars, and I am called a "bank."

The second method for bringing new pig-bucks into the world would be me printing up some fakes and spending them on the town. This would cause inflation (a reduction in the value of the pig-buck). The first method outlined above, does not cause inflation as new pig-bucks (we'll call them piggies) hit the economy. 

So there are two ways the piggies come into the world. One is via lending and the other happens when I simply make new ones and spend them in the village, hoping no one will notice, which will eventually lower the value of the piggies.

Now, what happens to the piggies over time if I do not issue any additional notes? They would fluctuate in tandem with the value of a pig, and they would also be slightly less valuable than a pig, depending on how much people trust me to keep my promise on those notes. As the value of the pig goes up and down, so too does the value of my piggies.

However, even though the value of real pigs and my reputation affect their value, the piggies would probably rise in value over time, and this has happened with previously issued old-world currencies, that rose as much as 25% above their face value. After issue, currencies tend rise in value (deflation) for a few reasons:

They are easier to carry, and there is no risk that the pig may die, and the notes do not need food or shelter or protection from wolves. They are easier to transport, store, and protect from theft and destruction. Further, they hold additional value because of their liquidity, which we will examine now.

Let’s imagine that another farmer comes to me and says “I like those piggy bucks you got there, they are a lot lighter and easier to carry around than pigs, and I was wondering if you could turn my cows into piggies as well.” And so I would estimate the value of his cattle; if he holds five cows and I see that people are generally willing to trade ten pigs for five cows, I issue him another 10 piggies and take possession of his cows. He also loves his animals, and I loan them back to him as well, and he agrees to pay me one piggy per year as a fee (interest) on the loan.

Another man wants his home turned into piggies, and I estimate the value of his home based on its size, quality and location, and I judge that his home is worth about 50 piggies. Since he likes living in his house, I loan it back to him as well after trading his home for 50 piggy-bucks.

To see how liquidity plays an important roll in all of this, imagine I offer you the choice: I will buy your large boat by trading you my home, worth about 100 gold pieces, or I’ll give you the gold pieces. You would want the gold, not because you already have a house, but because it will be a lot easier to trade the gold. It is a more liquid asset.  My home may sell for 100 pieces of gold, but it may take some time to find a buyer... so for this reason, liquid assets are more valuable to people than large, illiquid assets even if their last sale prices were identical. This is the other reason that piggies go up in value after being issued. They are much more liquid than the pigs, cows, and houses and so forth that generated them. It’s easier to spend one of your piggies than 1/50th of your house.
So, now that we see that the value of the piggies will be going up compared to pigs and cows and houses, is that a good thing? As it turns out, no, for several reasons. The first is that people have created contracts and loan agreements over time using piggies as a unit of account. So when a man agrees to pay another ten piggies next year, he doesn’t want to owe more next year than he thought. If it currently takes three chickens to trade for a piggy, but next year he finds that the value of the piggy has gone up and he must now trade four chickens per piggy, he has made an error last year and paid one chicken more than he thought. Deflation, is just as bad as inflation in this way.

Another reason deflation (rising piggy value) is bad is that it makes it impossible to issue loans to people at an interest rate below the deflation rate. So if the piggy is rising in value each year by 5%, and you want to loan piggies to your neighbor at 3%, that’s very difficult because you would have to pay him to take the money from you. If you wanted to charge him 3% you would have to pay him 2% per year that he holds your piggies. The lowest possible interest rate becomes the rate of deflation, unless you want to pay people to take your piggies, so this slows everything down and encourages people to stop making loans because it is more convenient to hold them and earn 5% than it would be to loan them out; the faster piggies rise in value (deflate), the less willing people will be to issue loans denominated in piggies. If piggies are rising at 20% per year, they cannot be reasonably loaned away at less than a 20% interest rate, and that rate will likely be much too high. People might be willing to make loans at less than that rate.

As deflation rates increase, the incentive to make direct loans rises. Instead of loaning you 1,000 piggies to buy a car, I would buy the car and loan it to you, and agree that you will pay me ten gallons of gasoline per year that you have it as interest payments, removing the need to deal with piggies at all. If the deflation rate is high enough, the value of piggies as a medium of exchange and a unit of account is completely destroyed.

It is certainly possible to make loans by paying people to take your money, but deflation leads to another problem; eventually one piggy will be worth as much as a house, and when an asset is worth that much it loses all of its liquidity value, and people can’t use it to buy pigs and cows and so forth anymore, so the value of the piggy as a means of exchange would eventually be lost to some cheaper, more liquid asset.

So, what is the solution to the deflation problem? Well, there are two solutions, actually. The first is for me to print up enough fake piggies and spend them in the village until they become so plentiful that their value drops back to what it originally was. This is a great way for me to make additional profits in my piggy manufacturing career, and it also helps to stabilize the value my product, the piggy.  My goal in spending fake piggies would be to try to spend just enough so that deflation doesn’t happen, but not so much that inflation occurs. I want my piggies to stay the same value, relative to all other things, as much as possible.

And this isn’t an easy job.  I don’t want to just peg my money to the value of a pig, because the value of the animals swings wildly up and down depending on how many farmers produce each year, new drugs, natural disasters and diseases and so forth. If the value of pigs fell a lot one year, I would have go take a bunch of assets and sell them for my piggies on the open market in order to remove some of those IOUs from circulation (in order to raise their value by lowering their supply). And the next year, when animals go up in value, I would have to print up more fakes, and all of this would just become a huge headache of fake notes and selling off my art collections from time to time.

So I decide that I will simply remove my piggies from the “pig standard.” I will no longer redeem piggies for pigs.  However, I will still accept piggies for all loans on my books; in fact, I say that if you have a loan with me and you are borrowing any of my stuff, you must now pay me only in paper piggies. Real animals will not be accepted or redeemed. Some people think this is a bit strange, but there are so many people who have loans with me that they need those piggies in order to pay me, and the value of the piggies remains relatively stable because people need them to pay my interest payments, and they are used to the piggies and they trust me so no one is really that worried.

At this point everyone has become so used to piggies that they simply put up signs stating how many piggies it will take for them to trade cows, tools, food. clothes and other things. In the old days people would negotiate using other stuff. People might say “I’ll give you two chickens for your cow” and things like that, but now they just say “I’ll give you two piggies for that cow,” or the cow farmer may even post a price in piggies. He would put up a sign stating that the “price” of his cows is “two piggies,” because everyone uses piggies, they are so easy to carry, they don’t go down in value and they are pretty predictable. They are so liquid that people have forgotten about the old days of negotiating chickens or fish for cows that all of their financial ideas and calculations are based on only one asset -- piggies, and I like that.

I love my new situation, off the pig standard, because now I don’t have to deal with the constant fluctuations of the value of an actual pig, and I become very good at keeping the value of the piggy pretty stable. And now I get a little greedy. I start to print up a few more piggies than I should, and spend them in town, and I inflate the currency very slowly, so that it is barely noticeable.  People begin to have grand discussions about the “causes for inflation.”

A man named Keynes is adamant in his opinion that inflation is caused in two ways that he calls “demand-pull” and “cost-push.”  As he sees it “prices” (and by this he really means “number of piggies” required), go up when the total needs and wants of the entire village goes up. This he calls “aggregate demand.” He thinks that when people generally just want more things, the “prices” for all those things goes up.  But I know this is pretty silly, because I know that prices are really just a ratio regarding a very specific thing -- piggies, and I know that I am personally in control of the value of my piggies. 

I’ve been messing around with my little balancing act for years, trying to keep their trade-value stable. I know that when the demand for something goes up, people are willing to trade (pay) more of anything for that item. If suddenly it becomes very fashionable to have a white horse, people are willing to trade more of anything they have for those white horses. Dark horses, cows, pigs, chickens and gold all go down in value compared to white horses, because the guys with white horses won’t trade them unless you offer him more than yesterday.

I know that my piggies are just one of those assets in a sea of items that the white horse-owners will accept for their possessions, and I know that it isn’t just piggies that are experiencing inflation relative to the white horse. All things are inflating compared to the white horse! 
And when it comes to his explanation for “cost push” inflation, I think its just equally silly. If the “prices” for white horses go up, the guys who sell white horse-meat are going to have a rough time. They’ll have to trade more for those horses, and ask for more in trade if they want to make a living. All of this has nothing to do with my piggies, per se. They are only one of myriad assets available.

The Truth About Calories


Clint Carter of Men's Health has written recently a piece that purports to debunk a few myths about calories. I thought it might be helpful to debunk the debunker, as it were, and make my small effort to stop the promulgation of "bro science," especially when it makes to to publication by Yahoo Health and Men's Health at the same time.
Myth #1: Calories Fuel Our Bodies 
Actually, they don't 
A calorie is simply a unit of measurement for heat; in the early 19th century, it was used to explain the theory of heat conservation and steam engines. The term entered the food world around 1890, when the USDA appropriated it for a report on nutrition. Specifically, a calorie was defined as the unit of heat required to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.
To apply this concept to foods like sandwiches, scientists used to set food on fire (really!) and then gauge how well the flaming sample warmed a water bath. The warmer the water, the more calories the food contained. (Today, a food's calorie count is estimated from its carbohydrate, protein, and fat content.) In the calorie's leap to nutrition, its definition evolved. The calorie we now see cited on nutrition labels is the amount of heat required to raise 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.
Here's the problem: Your body isn't a steam engine. Instead of heat, it runs on chemical energy, fueled by the oxidation of carbohydrates, fat, and protein that occurs in your cells' mitochondria. "You could say mitochondria are like small power plants," says Maciej Buchowski, Ph.D., a research professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University medical center. "Instead of one central plant, you have several billion, so it's more efficient.

Stating that "calories don't fuel our bodies," is just laughably wrong. Calories are a measurement of stored energy. They can be applied to anything that can be burned -- including food, fire wood, and gasoline, and our body pulls energy from food to keep the body running. Calories are a direct measurement of the potential energy in each food, and to state that the calorie content of food does not matter is ridiculous. It doesn't matter if the body "chemically oxidizes" food to yield energy. That process is still a type of "burning." A campfire can be described as "oxidizing" wood.

Later, he states that the body has to spend more energy burning proteins, and has trouble accessing fuel when it is mixed with fiber, which is correct, but her numbers are exaggerated estimates. The body is tremendously efficient in sucking every last calorie from its food, unless the body is diseased or sick.

If I offer 2,000 gallons of gasoline to you, does it matter if you burn them all in one car or 100 cars? The result is the same; the cars will travel the same distance, net.

In fact, the Ph.D's statement is backwards. The more power plants we have the less efficient the power generation becomes. Each one of those cars has to warm up to peak efficiency. This is why we have central power stations -- it is more efficient. Economies of scale work for coal burning and food burning in your body.

In any event, the number of "power plants" doesn't matter. The fuel entering the body, and the body's ability to pull energy from it is all that matters. Don't forget that a car "oxidizes" gasoline to produce power for the car. Calling it oxidization doesn't mean it isn't burning the food.

Myth #2: All Calories Are Created Equal 
Not exactly
Our fuel comes from three sources: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. "They're handled by the body differently," says Alan Aragon, M.S., a Men's Health nutrition advisor. So that old "calories in, calories out" formula can be misleading, he says. "Carbohydrates, protein, and fat have different effects on the equation."
Example: For every 100 carbohydrate calories you consume, your body expends 5 to 10 in digestion. With fats, you expend slightly less (although thin people seem to break down more fat than heavy people do). The calorie-burn champion is protein: For every 100 protein calories you consume, your body needs 20 to 30 for digestion, Buchowski says. Carbohydrates and fat give up their calories easily: They're built to supply quick energy. In effect, carbs and fat yield more usable energy than protein does.

Indeed, the body has more trouble generating energy from different types of food, be it protein, carbohydrates, fats or alcohol. A lot of work has been done on this topic, and the calories we see on food labels take this information into consideration. The calories listed on the label will be a good approximation of the amount of energy the body will be able to pull from the food, which will be different from the amount a fire can get fromt he same food. To imply that 100 calories of protein is going to yield less than 100 calories of energy for an average human body is absolutely incorrect.
Myth #3: A Calorie Ingested is a Calorie Digested 
It's not that simple
Just because the food is swallowed doesn't mean it will be digested. It passes through your stomach and then reaches your small intestine, which slurps up all the nutrients it can through its spongy walls. But 5 to 10 percent of calories slide through unabsorbed. Fat digestion is relatively efficient—fat easily enters your intestinal walls. As for protein, animal sources are more digestible than plant sources, so a top sirloin's protein will be better absorbed than tofu's.
Different carbs are processed at different rates, too: Glucose and starch are rapidly absorbed, while fiber dawdles in the digestive tract. In fact, the insoluble fiber in some complex carbs, such as that in vegetables and whole grains, tends to block the absorption of other calories. "With a very high-fiber diet, say 60 grams a day, you might lose as much as 20 percent of the calories you consume," says Wanda Howell, Ph.D., a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona.
So a useful measure of calories is difficult. A lab technician might find that a piece of rock candy and a piece of broccoli have the same number of calories. But in action, the broccoli's fiber ensures that the vegetable contributes less energy. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that a high-fiber diet leaves roughly twice as many calories undigested as a low-fiber diet does. And fewer calories means less flab.
We've been over this above. This information is calculated and applied to the calories listed on the label, including expected losses to urine, feces, and respiration. Fiber will slow the release of calories to the body, but will not reduce the total calories pulled from the food before digestion is complete.

Myth #4: Exercise Burns Most of Our Calories 
Not even close
Even the most fanatical fitness nuts burn no more than 30 percent of their daily calories at the gym. Most of your calories burn at a constant simmer, fueling the automated processes that keep you alive—that is, your basal metabolism, says Warren Willey, D.O., author of Better Than Steroids. If you want to burn fuel, hit the gas in your everyday activities.
"Some 60 to 70 percent of our total caloric expenditure goes toward normal bodily functions," says Howell. This includes replacing old tissue, transporting oxygen, mending minor shaving wounds, and so on. For men, these processes require about 11 calories per pound of body weight a day, so a 200-pound man will incinerate 2,200 calories a day—even if he sat in front of the TV all day.
And then there are the calories you lose to N.E.A.T., or nonexercise activity thermo-genesis. N.E.A.T. consists of the countless daily motions you make outside the gym—the calories you burn while making breakfast, playing Nerf football in the office, or chasing the bus. Brandon Alderman, Ph.D., director of the exercise psychophysiology lab at Rutgers University, says emerging evidence suggests that "a conscious effort to spend more time on your feet might net a greater calorie burn than 30 minutes of daily exercise."

Correct! Congratulations, Clint, this is actually correct!

Myth #5: Low-Calories Foods Help You Lose Weight 
Not alway
Processed low-calorie foods can be weak allies in the weight-loss war. Take sugar-free foods. Omitting sugar is perhaps the easiest way to cut calories. But food manufacturers generally replace those sugars with calorie-free sweeteners, such as sucralose or aspartame. And artificial sweeteners can backfire. One University of Texas study found that consuming as few as three diet sodas a week increases a person's risk of obesity by more than 40 percent. And in a 2008 Purdue study, rats that ate artificially sweetened yogurt took in more calories at subsequent meals, resulting in more flab. The theory is that the promise of sugar—without the caloric payoff—may actually lead to overeating.
"Too many people are counting calories instead of focusing on the content of food," says Alderman. "This just misses the boat."

Aspartame or diet soda *causing* obesity is ridiculous. The studies he mentions *associate* obesity with diet soda in the same way that obesity is associated with extra large clothes. We all know that wearing XL clothing won't make us fat, but wearing three XL t-shirts per week is also *associated* with increased risk of obesity! Stating that drinking three diet sodas per week is associated with obesity is the same type of statement.

How Mexican illegals replaced American field workers.

on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This is a response to this article, which purports to show that the stereotypes about computer programmers caused the profession to become predominantly male, and that the solution to adding more women to the computer programming profession is to remove the traditional stereotypes about computer programmers. If only we could think of computer geeks as predominantly female, and remove the nocturnal and nerdy stereotypes, more women would take computer engineering courses in college, and eventually half of programmers would be women. Using exactly the same logic, I will show how the profession of picking artichokes in America came to be dominated primarily by illegal immigrants from Mexico. As you may notice, the logic itself is somewhat unconvincing.

Asked to picture a field worker, most of us describe the archetypal Mexican: a hard working illegal immigrant. We imagine him passing endless days picking strawberries and other produce in a dusty and chemical laden field. According to workplace researchers, this stereotype of the Mexican field-worker is self-perpetuating, and it keeps the field work of artichoke farming overwhelming Mexican. Not only do hiring managers tend to favor Mexican applicants, but Americans with social security numbers are less likely to pursue careers a field where feel they won’t fit in.

It may be surprising, then, to learn that the earliest field workers were white Americans, and that field work was once stereotyped as a job for white Americans.

As historian Nathan Ensmenger explained to a Stanford audience, as late as the 1860s most people perceived field work as a natural career choice for savvy young Americans. Even the trend-spotters at Cosmopolitan Magazine urged their fashionable American readership to consider careers in farm labor. In an article titled “The Field Workers,” the magazine described the field as offering better job opportunities for Americans than many other professional careers. As farm worker Bruce Hopper told a reporter, picking strawberries was “Just like hunting. You have to plan ahead and be patient as you look for wild animals or strawberries…. Americans are ‘naturals’ at farm work.” James Adams, the director of education for the Association for Farm Machinery, agreed: “I don’t know of any other field, outside of corn farming, where there’s as much opportunity for an American.”

The "Artichoke Boys"
The world described in the Cosmopolitan article seems foreign to us today. In fact, says Ensmenger, change was already in the air at the time of the article’s 1867 publication date. It’s true, however, that the very first farm workers were Americans, and that the field remained open to Americans for many years thereafter. In the early 1940s, the University of Pennsylvania hired six Americans to work on its farm, which was one of the world’s first artichoke farms. These six Americans, known by contemporaries as the “Artichoke Boys,” were charged with “setting up” the farm to grow artichokes. They are widely celebrated as the world’s first American artichoke farmers.

However, says Ensmenger, the presence of these Americans did not indicate that managers of the artichoke project had modern attitudes toward Americans in the workforce. Rather, managers hired Americans because they expected farming to be a low-skill job, akin to factory work, manual labor, or lumberjacking. Assuming that the real “work” in farming would be limited to the dirt moving side, managers reserved these tasks for Americans workers.

The idea that picking artichokes was less important than picking strawberries persisted for many years and Americans continued to work as artichoke picking field workers. Employers, says Ensmenger, were in for a surprise when they discovered a truth that we now take for granted: “Artichoke farming,” he says with a smile, “is hard.” The Americans involved in the artichoke project distinguished themselves by picking higher quality artichokes at a faster rate, and by advising their colleagues on farming improvements. For example, Bob Holbertson convinced skeptical farm owners to include water stations in order to guard against dehydration.

As the challenge of growing artichokes became apparent, employers began to train Mexicans as field workers. Rather than equating farming with hard work, employers now compared it to Mexican-stereotyped farming such as growing hot peppers or black beans. But even so, hiring managers facing a labor crunch caused by the rapid expansion of farming could not afford to be overly choosy. The quickest way to staff new field work positions was to recruit Americans and Mexicans, and employers continued to hire Americans alongside Mexicans.

The “Mexicanization” of artichoke farming.
In 1967, despite the optimistic tone of Cosmopolitan’s “Artichoke Boys” article, the field work profession was already becoming dominated by Mexican illegals. Mexican farm workers discouraged the hiring of Americans. Increasingly, farm industry ad campaigns linked Americans to human error and inefficiency in field work.

It’s not hard to imagine ads from the 1940’s, encouraging farmers to move away from American field workers and replace them with high-tech farm equipment.

At the same time, new hiring tools—including tools that were seemingly objective—had the unintended result of making the field work profession harder for Americans to enter.  Eager to identify individuals to hire as field workers, employers relied on interviews and wages to make hiring decisions. With their focus on wages and hard work, they may have favored Mexicans, who were more likely to have experience with difficult farming and accept a lower wage. More critically, the interview process was widely compromised and the “correct” answers were available for study through all-Mexican networks throughout Mexico. Before they arrived, Mexican workers new what to say during the interview and how much they should ask to be paid. American workers enjoyed no such luxury.

According to Ensmenger, a second type of test, the personality profile, was even more slanted to Mexican applicants. Based on a series of preference questions, these tests sought to indentify job applicants who were the ideal artichoke picking “type.” According to test developers, successful artichoke pickers had most of the same personality traits as other farm workers. The important distinction, however, was that artichoke pickers liked “napping in the afternoon” and that they disliked “small hats without brims.” It is these personality profiles, says Ensmenger, that originated our modern stereotype of the Mexican field worker napping at three in the afternoon with a large-brimmed sombrero hat on his face.

Artichoke picking today
Today, we continue to assume that the artichoke pickers have large hats, and that napping in the afternoon is a Mexican trait. As long as these assumptions persist, says Ensmenger, the artichoke-picking workforce will continue to be Mexican-dominated. Although the stereotype of the Mexican field worker was created in the 1960s, it is now self-perpetuating. Employers seek to hire new recruits who fit the existing mold. Young people self-select into careers where they believe they will fit in—for example, Only 3% of Americans teens expect to work on a farm, down from 90% in 1885.

By uncovering the history of American field workers, Ensmenger seeks not only to remind us of American’s forgotten contributions to the artichoke-picking field. More broadly, he is interested in the process of how and why the field became predominantly Mexican. The fact that stereotypes embedded in advertisements and hiring practices had such a profound effect on “Mexicanizing” this profession, says Ensmenger, also sheds light on what can be done to reverse the trend, making field work and other farming professions more open to Americans.