Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Information Asymmetry

I probably spelled that wrong, but oh well. I'm currently reading Freakanomics. Chapter 2 is about the effects of people having different access to information and what happens when informational inequity is equalized by things like the internet. One example is that term life insurance premiums have plummeted in the last decade. Why, because there are very little differences in the products and people are able to easily go to internet web sites to shop for the lowest quote. This cuts off the high pressure insurance salesman and allows people full access to the competitive landscape.

Another example is a Mr. Stetson whose life mission was to combat racism and bigotism. He took on the Ku Klux Klan and realized that because of its secretive nature nobody really knew about it. So he infiltrated it and became a member. While walking in his neighborhood he noticed some kids playing a game where they had secret passwords and the similarity to the Klan struck him. He thought it would be great to expose the Klan as the juvenile, childish organization that he knew it was. So he arranged for the Superman radio show to create a story line where Superman takes on the Klan. This was post WWII so the show needed a new bogeyman to replace the Nazis who had just been defeated. On the show they revealed all of the Klans terminology, secret passwords, and everything else. After the first show, kids everywhere were playing Superman vs. the Klan and using secret Klan passwords, handshakes, and terms. The Klan members were embarrassed and participation at the local Klavern dropped precipitously after a very short time.

The same thing happens in many other areas, but it struck me that the same phenomenon also applies to religions including Mormonism. Mormonism makes many, many claims that would be very difficult to investigate without the internet because the church very early on tries to control all access to information about itself and methodically discredits anything that may make it look bad. The most blatant admission of this is the talk by Boyd Packer, the current president of the church's 12 apostles, that some truths are not particularly useful. What he was talking about were facts that might make people doubt the church's claims.

This is why the temple endowment is so "sacred" that no one is every allowed to talk about it. Almost everyone who hasn't been through laughs in disbelief when they hear or read what goes on in there. It IS ridiculous and shocking in its total inanity so it must be kept secret.

But, churches everywhere, not just the Mormons, are feeling the effects of more equal access to information. Gone are the days where Bibles are in Latin and chained to the pulpit where only priests can read and interpret them and the congregation is illiterate and superstitious.


Anonymous said...

Uuh. Remebering your post on the t-shirt/coffee/moroni...the church succeeded & got the shop to discontinue the t-shirt. The new slogan is even better: "The lord giveth and the church taketh away!"

Bull said...

I love it. They need to lighten up some and learn to laugh at themselves. Might as well, everyone else is...

Anonymous said...,2933,269375,00.html Here is the link to the story about the new shirt. Maybe you should get a couple for your family reunion. "anonomous sister"

Bull said...

You can get your shirt here: Just Add Coffee"