Lisa Simpson = Glenn Beck?

Lisa Simpson = Glenn Beck. You heard it hear first.

One of my favorite moments in The Simpsons happens during the episode ‘Much Apu about Nothing‘. A lone bear wandering the streets of Springfield prompts local residents to demand that Mayor Quimby ‘think of the children’ and create a gigantic government program called Bear Patrol to keep their streets bear-free. Homer, looking approvingly at an overhead Bear Patrol helicopter, tells Lisa:

HOMER: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol is working like a charm!

LISA: That’s specious reasoning, dad.

HOMER: Thank you, honey.

LISA: By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.

HOMER: Hmm; how does it work?

LISA: It doesn’t work; it’s just a stupid rock!

HOMER: Uh-huh

LISA: … but I don’t see any tigers around, do you?

HOMER: Lisa, I want to buy your rock…

LISA: Sigh. Okay…

Statisticians often cite this little scene when explaining that correlation does not imply causation. For me, the more important lesson is that smart people (like Lisa) can take advantage of other peoples’ ignorance and stupidity to make a buck.

With that in mind, let’s turn to a story in Politico today. (Side note: I cringe to link to Politico and encourage its lowest-common-denominator, know-nothing style of reporting. That’s not a knock at the truly wonderful people I know who happen to work for the rag. Just a knock at the rag itself. Besides, a person has to make a buck, right?)

Today in Politico we read about how Glenn Beck and other right-wing media personalities are actively encouraging their listening audience to buy gold. They also happen to receive large sums of money from scam artist firms that sell gold coins at highly inflated prices. Beck insists that his recommendations to buy gold stem from his legitimate worry about government spending, debt, inflation, and economic collapse. “When the system eventually collapses, and the government comes with guns and confiscates, you know, everything in your home and all your possessions, and then you fight off the raving mad cannibalistic crowds that Ted Turner talked about, don’t come crying to me. I told you: get gold.”

Is Glenn Beck a Certified Financial Analyst? Does he have any relevant economics background? No. Read for an insightful profile of Beck’s origins, and you’ll find that Beck is something of a media prodigy, having started out DJ-ing on the radio in his mid-teens. But you’ll also find that he has zero higher education. If his high school curriculum was anything like mine, then the most he is likely to know about monetary policy and investment is how to spell the words (if that).

But with Beck’s native intelligence, he must know that he doesn’t know enough about monetary policy to be dishing out financial advice to millions of viewers. Presumably this would set off some sort of ethics alarm inside a normal person, causing them to re-evaluate their actions. But as with Lisa preferring her father’s money to her own dignity, Beck is all too happy to shout, “Gold!” and cash in on the profits.

Lest we forget, gold has basically zero intrinsic value (other than as plating on high-end electronic hook ups). If Beck were really worried about hedging against USD debasement, he really should tell people to look into Euros or Yen or some other major world currency whose value is based on actual economic fundamentals and whose value would likely increase in the event of USD inflation. The reason he turned to gold instead of real world currencies, however, is that its hard to sell 1 Euro for more than the dollar price of 1 Euro. Even regular Beck watchers aren’t that stupid. But gold takes on a certain aura in the mind of the uneducated, defying rational appreciation. Hence Goldline’s ability to market $1,600 in Swiss gold coins for $5,000. C’est la vie.

It’s funny to watch Lisa take advantage of Homer. You kinda get the feeling that Homer’s happiness in believing in the power of his anti-tiger rock far outweighs the money Lisa conned out of him. And maybe we should feel the same way about Beck’s viewers. Maybe they’re happier in their Waco compounds, sitting on a pile of overpriced Swiss coins,  cleaning their rifles, and muttering about the apocalypse. But that doesn’t stop Beck from being a sleazy huckster.


2 Responses to “Lisa Simpson = Glenn Beck?”

  1. 2 Rigoberto April 17, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    First of all I would like to say great blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like
    to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to know
    how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
    I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any suggestions or hints? Many thanks!

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This is a group blog. JSC5 currently writes from the US. JSC7 writes from behind the Great Firewall of China.

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