Why Are So Many Veterans Homeless?

Our society tends to view people who have served in the military as being, generally, more honorable and virtuous than the average person. We react with strong disapproval when someone suggests that military veterans might, in any way, be less virtuous than those who have not served in the military. Question: Could this custom to honor veterans be a factor that has (ironically) actually contributed to the high incidence of homelessness among veterans?  In such a serious matter as homelessness, are we really doing veterans any favors by taking some questions off of the table?

Regular Job Versus Army 3 Scenes

This article attempts to explain a dynamic which may, in some cases, contribute to the higher rates of homelessness among veterans.   First, we present several terms which are needed to simplify the discussion:


  • PSC = Pre-disposition to Poor Self-Control
  • MID = Military Imposed Discipline
  • LHT = Learned Helplessness Training
  • PML = PSC minus MID plus LHT = Increases the risk of homelessness

Overview of the PML dynamic:

  • Before joining the service, some prospective recruits suffer from PSC.
  • While in-service the PSC can be essentially “patched-over” by MID.
  • MID unintentionally normalizes, encourages and celebrates a type of LHT.
  • Following separation (post-service), the MID ends.  At this point, (unless an adaptive psychic change has occurred) an individual may find himself reverting back to his original PSC – but now with the additional burden of his LHT.
  • PSC minus MID plus LHT places a discharged veteran at a higher risk for homelessness by reducing his ability to self-exert, self-control and self-direct.

The standard explanation

What causes the higher rates of homelessness among veterans?  The standard answer refers to the well-known factors of PTSD, combat and training injuries, and family stress due to the hardships of the military life-style. (Note: these are all “honorable” factors.)

The PML explanation does not mean to suggest that any of these recognized causes of veteran homelessness are incorrect.  PML is merely an additional possible explanation. PML could occur either alone or in conjunction with any of the commonly recognized causes of homelessness. PML may be entirely absent in many (or even most) cases of veteran homelessness.

The statistics

How many American adults are homeless?  1 in 500 – or about 0.2%.  (There are many homeless children in America but, for the purposes of this article, we will only consider adults, in order to be able to compare with the number of homeless veterans – since all veterans are adults.)

How many veterans are homeless?  1 in 200 – or about 0.5%.  How many American adults are veterans?  1 in 8 – or about 13%.  What proportion of the adult homeless population consists of veterans?  1 in 4 – or about 26%.

So, being a veteran more than doubles your risk of homelessness from 1 in 500 to about 1 in 200.   Or from 0.2% to 0.5%.

Does Poor Self-Control (PSC) exist?

Is there any evidence to support the belief that PSC does indeed affect some military recruits?  How will PSC-suffering trainees internalize the message of the Drill Sergeant?

We propose that there exists a small fraction (less than 1 in 200) of military recruits who start their training with a innate pre-disposition to lower-than-average self-care and/or poorer-than-average self-direction.

To support this claim, we refer you to the commonly recited anecdotes in which many service members were said to have “volunteered” to join the service because a judge had offered them a choice between jail or the military.  Assuming that these stories were based in fact, then, for this small group of “volunteers”, we can understand how the imposed discipline of the military lifestyle (MID) might have proven to have been a type of “behavioral medication” – something that would have helped to keep them on-track and productive.

When the period of military service ends, the imposed discipline also ends.  At that point, full self-discipline and self-direction must begin.  For that small fraction of PSC-suffering service members who were being behaviorally “medicated” by the MID, their original condition of poor self-discipline might easily re-emerge.

Also, some recruits join the service because they need a job – and the service is a guaranteed job.  People who have strong self-control and self-discipline can usually find a job on their own.  Because they will keep on looking.

Imposed-discipline vs self-discipline

It is a common perception among military recruits that some aspects of their training actively dissuade the trainees from taking the initiative to care for themselves and to direct themselves.  Recruits are required to get out of bed at a certain time, exercise at a certain time, work at a certain time, etc.  The only way in which the recruit exercises self-control is in the sense that he determines to do whatever the Drill Sergeant tells him to do.

While that is indeed a type of self-control, it is, not a type of self control that requires independent thinking.  In this sense, the discipline could be best understood as imposed-discipline, rather than self-discipline.

Also remember that the recruit’s decision to follow the Drill Sergeant’s direction is not exactly an exercise in free will – in the usual sense of the word. Because there is an implicit threat of violence and humiliation which is directed toward the recruit to remind him that the alternative to the “decision” to obey the Drill Sergeant is not going to be pleasant.

Fortunately,  most recruits make it through Basic Training.  From hindsight they look back on this period with pride and with a sense that they surprised themselves at their ability to stay on track and productive.  A healthy person internalizes the voice of the Drill Sergeant and carries it with him for the rest of his life as a type of cheer-leader.

Hurry up and wait

Learned Helplessness Training (LHT) is a form of behavioral conditioning in which a person is trained to take no action to care for themselves.  So, for example, when a situation comes up which would naturally prompt an individual to take some self-care action, then, a person who has been conditioned into learned helplessness will just put up with the difficulty and do nothing.  This topic was first studied in 1967, when researchers trained dogs to take no action to avoid electrical shocks.

Are there some aspects of military training which (inadvertently) channel a service member’s thinking toward a type of Learned Helplessness Training (LHT)?

Service members have an old saying: “Hurry up and wait.”  It is used to describe any situation in which soldiers are directed to rapidly form a line – only to wait while the line slowly moves forward, processing one soldier’s needs at a time.  It can be very frustrating when a person first encounters the “hurry up and wait” dynamic, but, after a while, everyone seems to get used to it.

When a soldier returns to civilian life, the “Hurry up and wait” dynamic needs to transition over to: “You have to do everything for yourself – or it won’t get done.”  For most people, this change comes as a relief.  But, to the extent that a soldier has been conditioned into LHT, the act of re-learning all of life’s extra responsibilities can (psychologically speaking) present a challenge.

The Army takes care of that

In a slight variation on the “hurry up and wait” theme, there are many tasks which soldiers are instructed to let someone else take care of:

Finding a job?  You wait for “new orders.”  Deciding what to wear?  You wear a uniform. Getting to and from work?  You wait for the van.  Finding a place to live?  You live in the barracks.  Getting food to eat?  You eat at the chow hall.   Finding a doctor?  You go on sick call.

In each of these instances, soldiers are expected to use the “system” in order to address the need in question.  If a service member decides to take the initiative, and work outside the system, he usually winds up with a negative reaction from his supervisor.

Do all of these instances of using the “system” work out to be a type of LHT?  For most people, the conditioning to in-action is fairly easy to overcome.  But for some, it might be harder.   Once a person returns to civilian life, they will have to perform each of these self-care activities using their own initiative and decision-making abilities.  Failure on any one of these tasks will place a person at a higher risk for homelessness.

Use it or loose it?

The long period of imposed-discipline (while on active duty) and relatively un-exercised self-discipline could  (unintentionally) serve to atrophy the final strength of the service member’s self-discipline at the point of separation from active duty.

It makes sense that an individual’s personal skill/ability of self-discipline directly correlates to their skill/ability to hold a job and thus avoid homelessness.  The PML framework simply suggests that the higher incidence of homelessness among veterans could, in some cases, be due to a depressed skill/ability of self-discipline.

The PML perspective relies on some ideas which are obviously un-flattering to military veterans.  Because of this, we can understandably expect that these ideas will be viewed negatively by some.  Ironically, the supposedly “pro-veteran” thinking (which would reject PML out of hand) might, unintentionally, create a barrier to helping that small fraction of homeless veterans who may indeed have been affected by atrophied self-discipline.

A thought experiment

Lets imagine a scenario in which the missing MID could be restored.  How might that impact the post-service veteran’s likelihood of becoming homeless?

Lets imagine if a Drill Sergeant were to be assigned to follow an at-risk-for-homelessness veteran post-service and use the MID techniques to enforce a schedule of: 1) An “early to bed early to rise” sleep pattern,  2) Look for work diligently,  3) Study to improve job skills, 4) Healthy socialization, etc.  (Again, using the same MID-based threats of violence and humiliation that worked so well during the period of training and active duty.)

Let’s assume that the MID-enabled veteran retains the same overall level of mental and physical health that he had at the point that his active service ended.  So how might this imaginary post-service MID impact his chances of becoming homeless?  The answer should be obvious.

The purpose of this imaginary scenario is to make clear that there are very real differences between imposed-discipline and self-discipline.  For some people, externally imposed-discipline (i.e., MID) is an effective means of keeping them on-track.

Get help and get active

Are you a veteran?  Do you consider yourself to be at risk for homelessness?  Is it possible that your service period may have weakened some areas of your self-discipline or self-direction?  Our point is that self-discipline is a variable.  We believe that it can be damaged.  But it can also, sometimes, be healed by a change in perspective.

Get Help Get Active is a 100% free service designed to help people (veteran or non-veteran) who sense that their own self-discipline skills are below the point where they themselves reasonably expect that they should be.  We offer free, confidential and customized encouragement to help folks with the career goals that they themselves pick. And you can get some cash, too.

America is the land of opportunity for people who are willing to exert themselves in the realms of 1) Working, 2) Looking for work and 3) Studying to improve job skills.  If you are able to stay on track on your own, then that is great.  But if you would like to get a boost along the way, consider joining up.

Remember, you will never pay anything.  Get help and get active!

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58 Responses to Why Are So Many Veterans Homeless?

  1. Doug says:

    Great article! I believe you have a great concept but people will have to have an open mind when hearing some things or they will get defensive for veterans.

    I think I saw this (when I was in the service) and actually had a similar view. So many seem to think the service will teach you to work hard, which it can, but I also saw a lot of people doing only what they needed to do and no more. Lots of “thats not my job” attitude as well.

    Keep at it! Doing great!

  2. Ideas says:

    The People That We Honor

    I liked this part: “Society tends to view people who have served in the military as being, generally, more honorable and virtuous than the average person.”

    I agree that that is the way we view them – but is it actually the correct view? Let’s (hypothetically) turn that idea on it’s head for a minute. Maybe, we should instead assume that a veteran is *less* virtuous than a non-vet?

    Sports Stars, Movies Stars, Politicians and the Criminally Insane

    And there is actually some rational support for this way of thinking. At least just by looking at the question of: “Who are the people that are generally honored in our society?”. In other words, do we (as a society) tend to honor the people who deserve honor or those that positively do *not* deserve honor? We honor sports heros, movie stars and singers. Three of the most brain-dead professesions going. And we honor politicians too. And the criminally insane too (they get documentary TV shows).

    Congratulations – Even Though You Are (Probably) Doomed

    We also honor people who announce that they are going to marry by giving them expensive gifts and by saying “congratulations”. When in fact we know that 50% of these marriages will end in divorce – and another 25% will stay married even though they will regret the decision for the rest of their lives.

    Alternatively, the people who we rarely honor (the vast majority who just go to work and do a good job and pay their bills and stay out of trouble) are the ones who really deserve the most honor!

    Statistically Speaking

    So this is not to say that veterans do not deserve to be honored, per se. I am just trying to point out that: the fact that society has made the decision to “honor” a certain group should, probably (statistically speaking) be a strong indication that the group or person in question might not actually deserve any special honor at all. At least its something to think about.

    • PAL says:

      OOP Intro:

      What does it mean to “honor” someone?
      Who are the people that we honor?
      On average, do the ones that we honor really deserve it, from hind-sight?
      All nations honor their soldier.
      On average, do all soldiers from all nations deserve honor?
      For those that, from hindsight, do not deserve honor, why were they honored?

  3. Ideas says:

    Does Personal Responsibility Exist?

    Sure others are at fault – so they have vice. But do virtue and vice also live in my innermost being?

  4. Ideas says:

    The Problem Is Not The Problem – it is your perception of the problem that is the problem.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is There a Correlation Between Veteran Homelessness
    and Time Spent In The Field by MOS?

    Vets have experience in camping out from their service experience. I wonder if the MOS’s that have a higher familiarity with camping out have higher rates of homelessness? For example, do infantry soldiers tend to have higher rates of homelessness than office-worker soldiers? In other words, perhaps the fact that they have already familiarized themselves with camping out makes the process of becoming homeless easier (psychologically speaking) to accept?

  6. PAL says:

    Here’s an unusual article. The basic claim is that (perhaps) being a veteran does not necessarily place a person at a higher risk of homelessness? Could it be that the homeless sometimes just claim to be veterans so as to improve the liklihood of receiving a hand-out? http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2003-10-24/news/0310240134_1_homeless-veterans-homeless-men-vietnam-veterans

  7. Rosemary says:

    Nice article, Tim. I will attempt to print it for the veteran outreach agent I meet with on the 23rd with your permission? You are very intelligent and do quite a bit of research, it appears! Appreciatively, Rosemary

  8. allentown5 says:

    Very interesting article. It reminds me of when I was living in a recovery house for people with drug & alcohol addiction. I had a roommate who was in his 20s who just got home from serving across seas for about four years. He was living at the recovery house because of the fact that he had an addiction to drugs. Not only that but also because he had no other place to live and would have been homeless. We had alot of conversations, and stuck together because we were by far the youngest people in the house. Anyways my point is that he had an attitude about him that he had already accomplished more then not only , else in the house but also more then most people that he knows. Which in my opinion/veiw I believed he was right. With all that said. One of the requirements to live at the house was that you have to have a job. This guy refused to get a job because of the fact that he felt like he had already did enough and seen enough for a lifetime. Maybe it was an exuse because he didn’t want to work. But then again maybe it was true. That was his truth in his reality. I respected the guy for what he had done for this country. I believe everybody is different. Veteran or not. Sticking to your article though maybe that is the belief system of many soldiers and or veterans. And since they truly believe that since they served for this country. That now it’s the countrys turn to provide for their needs. Which in some sense I agree. Although in another sense that type of thinking could lead them to homelessness. Especially if they are still young & expect to be taking care of for the rest of their life.

  9. People sometimes talk about a “short leash”. “I need to be on a short leash”. A friend told me that when he got out of jail. I understood it to mean that he felt that he needed imposed disciple because his self-discipline was weak. I feel that way sometimes about myself.

    In the army we had that imposed discipline – which made it easy to stay on track.

  10. PAL says:

    Joining The Army Versus Intoxication

    About the idea that you raised of whether or not people sometimes join the service in order to have a job, and whether or not that motive is indicative of someone who has poor self-control … it reminds me of the question of why people use drugs. In other words, people use drugs because they want to have a quick & easy transformation in their mindset. And they know that drugs will quickly and easily provide that transformation. And, statistically, they know that the transformation in their mindset will generally be a positive one – hence the term “getting high.”


    Meanwhile everyone also knows that there are many other ways to reach the state of a positive transformation in the mindset. But, unlike the drug-route, these other ways of reaching the positive transformation are usually not quick and easy. For example, we all know that vigorous exercise generally brings a positive transformation of the mindset – but it is hard to do. And we all know that when we invest a lot of self-discipline into a learning goal (like reading an educational book) then we get a good feeling about ourselves. But reading educational books are not quick and easy.

    Environmental Transformation

    So, when someone joins the service, there is a quick and easy environmental transformation – but the transformation puts you into the sink-or-swim mode where “sinking” means the threat of externally imposed pain, humiliation and imprisonment. So most people a) quickly begin to produce vigorous self-exertion and many people (maybe not most, but certainly many) b) quickly begin to regret their decision to place themselves in that environment. In any case, since most people quickly move into the “swim” mode, they do, at least successfully transform their career into a state of being self-supporting.

    And perhaps this explains some of the reason that so many service members have substance abuse problems – i.e., perhaps the predisposition to solve a career problem by joining the Army and the predisposition to solve the problem of mental angst by using a drug are both, ultimately, connected with an underlying predisposition to take the quick and easy route to solving problems. In both cases, all you have to do is to make the initial decision to get involved – then the process moves you along under it’s own steam.

    [GRAPHIC: “The Process Moves You Along Under its own Steam” – Showing people waiting at the train station. Then they board the train – which is really just a tiny engine “powered” by a giant bottle of liquor (which is smiling and looking out the window with its left arm resting on the window sill of the engine compartment). Then the passenger sits in the single car behind it – which is just big enough to fit him. At this point, the “process” takes you along under it’s own steam. Similar situation for a soldier-to-be. But his train is “driven” by a toothy smiling drill sergeant who is leaning out the window of the engine while the soldier rides in the single car behind it.] –> see GRAPHICS page.

    Hence, joining the Army is similar to taking a drug.

    • Which one burns more calories? The drug-fueled journey or the MID-fueled journey? Hard to say. But there are two types of calories – those that we freely burn vs those that we burn under compulsion. I wonder what the distribution between the two is?

  11. PAL says:

    Are soldiers really volunteers? On the first day, yes, they are definitely volunteers. But every day after that, they are probably closer to being indentured servants with a set of modified civil rights.

  12. Does It Always Make Sense To Honor Veterans?

    Do all soldiers from all wars and from all nations equally deserve honor? And what exactly does it mean to be “deserving of honor”?

    A Very Odd Coincidence

    For example, lets think about the foot soldiers who served in WWII on the Nazi side. After the war, did they deserve honor? I am thinking that they probably did not, since they were laboring in support of an wicked government. But the soldiers who served on the American side probably did deserve honor … right? Now that seems like a very odd coincidence that a whole generation of German soldiers were not deserving of honor, while a whole generation of American soldiers were deserving of honor.

    This is especially odd since, I think, in both cases, the vast majority of the soldiers were only very superficially aware of the underlying details that made their respective sides of the war either just or unjust. (In other words, most of them probably did not meet the MITA standard – see below.) And I would think that truly honorable participation in a violent conflict could only come about once a soldier had (at least to some extent) independently confirmed for himself that the cause that he was fighting for was indeed just.

    Minimum Independent Thinking and Acting

    The answer to this paradox revolves around the question of how much independent thinking and acting we minimally expect from people. Lets call that the standard of Minimum Independent Thinking and Acting (MITA). So, if someone does not, at least, meet the MITA standard, then, is it really possible that they still deserve honor?

    The nice thing about the MITA standard is that it gives us a way of distinguishing between honorable people (who happened to find themselves in dis-honorable social environments) from dis-honorable people (who happened to find themselves in honorable social environments.)

    In all likelihood, the MITA standard did not even cross the minds of most soldiers during WWII. And if that is true, then it would probably be fair to say that the vast majority of soldiers (once you group all of the WWII Germans and all of the WWII Americans together) were probably just very average people who were swept along by the dominant thinking of their local community.

    And then, from hindsight, we honor the winners – or at least those who fought on the side which we believe to have been just.

    A Higher Standard

    Alternatively, I would think that those who actually do deserve honor are only the small percentage of people who were actually honorable before they became soldiers. And after they became soldiers they gave form to their honorable qualities by carefully and independently determining whether or not the war (that they were being instructed to participate in) was indeed just. (In other words, they met the MITA standard in order to participate in national violence – which is probably quite a bit higher than the everyday MITA standard.)

    And if they determined that the war was just, then they participated with vigor. Alternatively, if they determined that the war was un-just then they bravely stood against the current and did what they could to stop the unjust war – all the while probably suffering cruel insults and imprisonment and being called traitors by people who were actually themselves traitors – traitors to their own integrity and independent thinking.

    • Diagram – chart showing “who among the soldiers of earth deserves honor” – all Americans? Yes (except for confederates). Germans? No, sorry. Polish? Errr … were they fighting on our side in ww2? Yes? Okay, good, in that case, then, yes they deserve honor. Very quickly the chart devolves into a list of our allies vs our enemies. Which is kind of suspicious.

      So what about the case of a war in which America did not have a stake? In that case, which, if any or all, soldiers deserved honor?

    • PAL says:

      DIAGRAM – a small number of honorable people scattered throughout a large number of dishonorable people. Versus a small number of dishonorable people scattered among a large number of honorable people.

      Question: Are most people honorable or dishonorable? In other words, is it appropriate to assume a scenario in which there is “a small number of honorable people scattered throughout a large number of dishonorable people?”

    • Can Honoring a Veteran Inadvertently
      Accelerate his Descent into Homelessness?

      Can a soldier be honorable if they do not meet MITA? (MITA = “the standard of Minimum Independent Thinking and Acting” – see more above.) If the answer is no, and if the soldier does not meet MITA, then, is it possible that we are actually doing harm to a veteran by telling him that he does deserve honor? Possibly. The mechanism of harm is that the honor givers would by lying to the veteran by telling him that he was more virtuous than he actually is. And since one of the most important virtues is self-control, we might be causing the soldier (now a veteran) to believe (incorrectly) that his ability to self-control and self-direct (an important area of virtue) was higher than average (when in reality it may even be lower than average.). Hence the person could be led to develop an overly high estimate of his ability to undertake and complete tasks that require long-term patience and effort – such as finding and holding a civilian job.

      [Diagram: Telling a veteran that he deserves special honor (he has higher than average virtue) may set him up for failure if, in fact, he has lower than average virtue. Like telling a drug addict that he has higher than average ability to resist the temptation of relapse sets him up for failure if, in fact, he has lower than average ability to resist the temptation of relapse. In the case of the veteran, the “drug” that he took was the decision to join the service. That single voluntary decision carries forward in a wave of non-voluntary decisions (as the soldier is forced to produce RSE in a wide range of “life zones” as directed by the service.)]

      Such an overly high estimate of his ability to self-direct and self-control would likely result in disappointment and puzzlement once the veteran encounters the boring realities of the civilian work world. The veteran might then (seemingly reasonably) ask himself: “Why is the process of finding and holding a civilian job so much harder than I had expected that it would be for a person with my high level of virtue?” And the answer that he might then (seemingly reasonably) give himself would be: “Well, I guess that I am just getting a string of unlucky breaks.” But such a perspective would be be an insidious way to encourage him to mis-focus his energies away from where they are actually needed – i.e., on getting a personal manager / job-coach who could help him to stay on track as a way of coping with the handicap of his under-developed virtue.

      Hence, giving undeserved honor to a veteran could actually speed his descent into homeless. BTW, this is reminiscnet of the way that all of the kids now-a-days get trophies – just for showing up to the ball game. In real life, not everyone gets a trophy. So, the kids who have been trained to believe that they will get a trophy with only minimal effort will be in for a shock when they encounter the employment world of business and industry.

      BTW, the same dynamic could just as easily apply to a non-veteran as a veteran. I.E., when someone compliments a person by saying that the person is especially virtuous in some way when, in reality, the person receiving the compliment is not actually virtuous, then the victim’s self-perception can become distorted. This distortion can, in turn, cause the victim to over-estimate his strength-of-will in being able to deal with the struggles that life presents to him. Then, when the struggles seem to be overwhelming, the victim may decide to give up. In truth it may just be that the victim’s virtue was actually kind of weak (just the opposite of what the lying complement-er claimed) in terms of dealing with the struggles that life presents.

      This is so very true.

      What Is Honor?

      BTW, what is Honor? It is a recognition of special virtue on the part of the honoree. So do soldiers have special (i.e., above average) virtue?

      Here is a theory: Think about the Seven Deadly Sins + Fear. If someone’s heart revolves around these, then is it possible that the person actually deserves honor? I am thinking that the answer is: Probably not. But you could have one or more of these defects fully active in your life and still be 100% successful from the perspective of the DMT. Because you can still follow orders and refrain from breaking any low-level laws like robbery, murder or rape.

      Diagram showing how personality defects can be rampantly out of wack, but you could still be given an honorable discharge.

      Alternatively, people who have the character qualities just opposite of the SDS + Fear probably are honorable people.

      Before, During or After?

      Do soldiers become honorable before, during or after their service?

      • Anonymous says:

        What is honor?

        Honor is publicly recognizing that a person has a level of virtue that is higher then the level of virtue of the general population. In fact, it’s not just higher, it’s so much higher that it enters a new tier So that’s what it means when we honor veterans. Now, in reality, it may be that the veterans Virtue is actually lower than the average person’s virtue and it may actually be so much lower that it enters a lower tier. So u can see how this could become a nice diagram.

    • PAL says:

      The Shield of Honor

      Statistically speaking, do dis-honorable people seek to hide themselves behind the shield of honor? Alternatively, do truly honorable people claim honors for themselves – or do they tend to shun those honors?

      The Shield of Honor

      In the military, this idea of honor is so exact, that the organization itself tells you who deserves honor and who, specifically does not. There are five levels: general, honorable, other than honorable, bad conduct and dishonorable.

      But does the honorable discharge mean that the person was actually honorable – or that they followed orders? If it means that they were actually honorable, then how could soldiers from warring opposing nations each receive an honorable discharge?

  13. PAL says:

    Fear Processing In The Brain

    Its not me – it is my amygdala. I wonder if that would work equally well ala Brain Lock? It was almost miraculous. So why hasn’t it made a bigger impact on my day-to-day list of important life events? That is a very interesting question. Perhaps the broader disease is protecting itself at a new level?

  14. PAL says:

    Psychologically Predisposed By Nature Or By Injury?

    Are there people who are psychologically predisposed to only be able to produce reasonable self-exertion when they are faced with a credible, near-term threat of punishment?

    A person can voluntarily enter a business relationship with the government by joining the Army. Once the relationship is started, though, it is no longer voluntary in the usual sense of the word. In some important ways, it is closer to a multi-year master/slave dynamic. This is because the soldier is compelled (via threats of imprisonment, public shaming and fines) to produce reasonable self-exertion in the way that the Army instructs.

    You might say that the master/slave dynamic makes sense in this case because of the unusual requirements of the job of being a soldier. Lets suppose that that is the case.

    So why is the temporary master/slave kind of business relationship illegal in other non-military, voluntary arrangements?

    If, indeed, there are people who are psychologically predisposed (either by nature or by injury) to only be able to produce reasonable self-exertion when they are faced with a near-term credible threat of punishment, then why not allow them to voluntarily work for companies which would (legally) be allowed to meet their needs?

    Predisposed By Illness?

    The above formulations assume that Illness is not the cause of the individual’s inability to produce RSE. If Illness were the cause then, of course, the right thing to do is to provide medical healing to the sufferer.

  15. PAL says:

    Its easy to lie when you are looking for a job and tell the would-be boss that you are actually a very energetic hard-working fellow when, in fact, you might only be a very low-exertion worker.

  16. PAL says:

    Safety Versus Freedom

    Think about the herds of sheep that lived in the wild from prehistoric times. How were they domesticated? And why were they (their specie) able to be domesticated while other types of animals were not?

    A Gain in Safety Versus a Loss of Freedom

    There are probably several factors that were at play. One factor had to do with the desirability (in terms of meat, wool, leather, milk) of the animal from the perspective of the human herders. Another factor was the propensity of that specific type of animal to perceive a net benefit to themselves by becoming allied with the human overlords. By “net benefit”, I mean that there was a loss (from the perspective of the animals) in terms of their freedom, but a gain for the animals in terms of their safety.

    Although, now that I am thinking of it, that calculation of Safety versus Freedom probably never entered the minds of the individual sheep. I suspect that, instead, the operative principle was the combination of the sheep dog on the one hand and the movement of the bulk of the herd on the other hand.

    The Mind of the Herd

    So, if you were to ask: “Why does the herd move in the direction that the herder wants?”, then the answer revolves around the motion of the dog (at the far perimeter) who causes the sheep (at the edge of the herd) to move so as to avoid the danger of the dog. Then, the sheep at the center of the herd move in response to the current of sheep at the edge. So, perhaps there is some calculation of Safety versus Freedom after all? But, in this case, “Safety” means “I move with the mind of the herd – whatever it collectively decides” and “Freedom” means “I move where, I, myself, as an individual sheep would prefer.”

    (Interestingly, it is the Safety instinct that drives the individual to follow what it perceives to be the “mind of the herd”. Originally, this “mind” was a normal and healthy meta decision-making system that enabled the herd to make group-wide perceptions and formulate responses to danger. The human herders are able to take advantage of the inclination of the individual sheep to move with the herd by using the dog to artificially inject a perception of danger – and thus manipulate the “mind of the herd”.)

    Career Structures that Lean Towards Safety

    In terms of the soldier profession, the Safety versus Freedom calculation that I see is the safety of the government job (which soldiers have) – versus the freedom to make individual decisions (which soldiers do not have.)

    Some people may, by nature or by training, find themselves making a Safety versus Freedom calculation that leans more heavily towards Safety (much as the sheep who allow themselves to be controlled by the dog.) Such individuals would, therefore, naturally gravitate towards career structures that offer the higher Safety (in exchange for lower Freedom.)

    Then, once having become acclimated to said high-Safety/low-Freedom lifestyle, they may have trouble in returning back to the “wild” state. This is reminiscent of the way that pets (who have been raised with humans) may find themselves at a disadvantage in knowing how to survive in the wild when their human benefactors are no longer available to provide them with the high-Safety/low-Freedom setting.

    Two Opposite Kinds of Safety

    Its worth noting that the term “Safety” has two separate meanings when it comes to the question of being a professional soldier. The first meaning (which was being used above) is that the continuity of the job is safe – i.e., soldiers do not get fired or laid off. The second meaning of safety is, ironically quite the opposite, since the fighting work that a soldier is expected to do is usually very un-safe.

    In any case, we see how there exists a dynamic in which the high-Safety/low-Freedom state of the soldier profession is followed by a low-Safety/high-Freedom state when a solder returns to the “wild” of civilian life. Perhaps this could explain some (not all, but some) cases of homelessness among veterans?

    • PAL says:

      Graph of Safety Versus Freedom

      From the last paragraph:

      In any case, we see how there exists a dynamic in which the high-Safety/low-Freedom state of the soldier profession is followed by a low-Safety/high-Freedom state when a solder returns to the “wild” of civilian life. Perhaps this could explain some (not all, but some) cases of homelessness among veterans?

  17. Tiffany says:

    Grab the Psychological Momentum

    Laugh at yourself! To grab the psychological momentum – a la HB 443. What is it that prompts people to get angry when someone else laughs at them? If the reason that someone is laughing at you is kind of minor compared to the reason that you are laughing at yourself, then the whole dynamic of the interaction changes to one of a non-issue.

  18. PAL says:

    Something about Self-Interest as a factor that differentiates something …

  19. PAL says:

    Why Not Just Re-Join The Army?

    Here is a solution for homeless veterans – but it would only work for those who are homeless due to their MBH-LSE.

    The similarity between this re-enlistment and a regular re-enlistment is that the re-enlistee would, once again, live under the UCMJ with it’s multi-year RSE contracts enforced by MID. The difference would be that the re-enlistee would not be a weapon carrying soldier. Instead, the re-enlistee’s would initially receive training to learn a new job and then be required to look for work and become (quasi) self-supporting using the income from the new job. But all the while, the re-enlistee would really still be working for the military – hence the MID.

    In this case, the military would, much as is the case of the regular soldier, be mortgaging the future NTP-amplified TE (which it would skim in the future – exactly as it does now with “regular” military training) in order to pay for the monthly salary/benefits during the NTP-development stage (which is the training.) Thus, we would be able to implement the “Thought Experiment” that you described in the article.

    Basically, all we would be doing is using the pre-existing framework of the Military’s 13th Amendment exception in order to work around the problem of: “A private company and a private individual may not voluntarily enter into a multi-year RSE slave-labor contract due to the 13th Amendment.”

  20. Worker Ant says:

    Faith, the Boss, the Payoff Horizon (PH) and the Rate of Return (ROR)

    There is no shortage of work. TP have nearterm PH and clearer ROR. But that only occurs when there is a boss who wants the TP. NTP tend to have longer-term PH and volatile ROR. It requires faith in the value of the PH and ROR for someone to take the NTP jobs. But when a boss is involved, there is much less faith required to take the TP job. Actually, even in this case, there is a great need for faith, but it is a single point of faith, i.e., “the boss knows what he is doing” – versus the multiple points of faith required for NTE.

    A Single Point Of Faith

    And that is very suitable (SPOF) for someone who relies upon others to do his thinking for him.

    • The Inescapability of Choice

      One of the most fundamental of choices is how we spend our time. Time management.

      Then there is the choice of swimming to the light or to the darkness. This title would probably fit well with that graphic.

      Most people choose not to think. Just like Ayn Rand said – but you cannot escape choosing.

  21. PAL says:

    The Action of an Existence Proof on Political Correctness

    There is an idea (generally only held by allegedly “scientific” fringe groups) that there is Differential Intelligence Between Varieties Of Humans (DIBVOH). Right now, though, to even ask that question is forbidden speech because it suggests racism. But, if an alien race were to be discovered, and the members of this race had obviously superior mental powers over humans (and they have a rough way to quantify it), then that would make the question of DIBVOH more legitimate to ask and investigate. This increase in legitimacy would be even greater if the aliens themselves consider their own race to be divided up into varieties – some of which are more intelligent than others.

    This phenomenon of introducing the “existence proof” of DIBVOH (using the case of aliens beings) illustrates a commonly observed phenomenon in which: Political correctness thinking (really a philosophical barrier) keeps certain things from being studied and measured, but then, once an existence proof is found, the dam breaks so to speak, and the underlying questions become allowable to be open to scrutiny and study.

    This is a commonly observed phenomenon in the history of science. What is this phenomenon called?

    Another example of this phenomenon could occur in the study of evolution. In the hypothetical example in which life is discovered on another planet, but, for one reason or another, it is clearly known that the discovered new life form is an engineered product produced by some alien race. At that point, the flood gates would be legitimately opened to ask the question of “regular” earth-bound life, as to which (if any) modules of life were engineered by an alien race.

    (This post belongs at NB).

    • Ingrid says:

      If that were true and the weaker race were at the mercy of the stronger race then would you hold the weaker responsible for what it could not do? How would you rectify the situation if you were a member of either race?

  22. PAL says:

    The Action of Political Correctness on
    Multiple, Difficult To Measure Causes,
    Each Of Which May Partially Contribute
    To a Single, Observable Resulting State

    Graph Idea: Let us suppose that five layers of difficult to measure causes actually exist for a certain phenomenon. The actual distribution of contributions by each of the causes to the phenomenon are:

    • Cause #1 (C1) = 70.0%
    • Cause #2 (C2) = 10.0%
    • Cause #3 (C3) = 10.0%
    • Cause #4 (C4) = 10.0%
    • Cause #5 (C5) = 00.0%

    Now let us suppose that, due to Political Correctness, Cause #1 is thought of as “Impossible to Consider”. This can happen when there is a long-held philosophical belief by the “Establishment” that Cause #1 cannot possibly be a factor contributing to Phenomenon A. Thus, proposed treatments will only be allowed to address C2 – C5. Furthermore, because C2 – C5 are believed to constitute (together) 100% of Phenomenon A, the power of the applied ameliorative efforts will, necessarily, be an overdose. This overdose will, in turn, lead to it’s own negative effects.

    This analysis reminds me of how the government attempts to correct perceived problems in the society by applying subsidies and/or taxes.

    • PAL says:

      Three diagrams: First, the “real causes”. Second, due to the filter of “believed proportions”, the first chart is wildly distorted. These “believed proportions” become form the input stream for the government beaurocricy to manipulate. But the action of manipulation has unforeseen side effects. Which results in the fourth diagram in which the unbelieved factors become even larger in their proportion of the “real” causes.

      See: Multiple Causes.gdoc

      A vital part of this formulation is the condition that the factors are difficult or impossible to measure. There are variations in the degree to which we like or dislike things. This is obvious to all normal people. But the dogma of the academy is that everybody wants to learn. So that dogma (we could call it the Academic Prime Error) (abbreviation: APE) makes it impossible to see the obvious truth which APE stands against. Which is that learning is suffering. And different people have different levels of endurance when it comes to that suffering. But that knowledge is hidden by APE.

  23. PAL says:

    Mirror the Military Contract

    The proposed contract of forced labor will exactly mirror the contract offered by the Army – whether for 2, 3, 4, 6 or 10 years. With the exact mirror – how could anyone object?

  24. PAL says:

    The Way To Start The Conversation

    People are naturally supportive of veterans and react with strong negativity to any suggestion that veterans are, in some ways, less virtuous than non-veterans. Hence, there is a big hurtle to cross when bringing up one of the main premises of this article directly, i.e., the idea that military service is a form of slavery (as evidenced by the use of fines, imprisonment and the threat of physical violence to keep soldiers at the job). An idea that might help to more gently cross this hurtle would be to ask people how the operation of the military mission would change if soldiers were free to quit at any time – as is the case in a “regular job.”

    The obvious answer is that, in order to retain soldiers, the government would need to heavily increase their pay & bonuses. But, from the perspective of the military industrial complex, that “increase in pay and bonuses” is not economically desirable.

    Then, perhaps, you could bring up the question of the ban on forced labor from the 13th amendment. So the question arises as to how the military (legally) gets around that ban on forced labor?

    The Honor Premium

    A related idea is that of the “Honor Premium” (HP). This means that the Decision-Makers at the Top (DMT) of the military “pay” soldiers with “honor.” Because soldiers perceive this extra intangible benefit, the paymaster is able to reduce their cash salaries, thus reducing the cost of the overall mission of the military.

    It is likely, that the DMT carefully studies how to optimize the value of the HP (as perceived by the soldiers) in order to reduce the overall operational costs to keep the military mission going. The DMT has to take special care that the foot soldiers do not perceive that they are being “over-honored” – because, if they do, then the value of the HP would decrease.

    This last scenario would be similar to the case of a woman who can be successfully wooed by flattery, but who will, at a certain point of excessive flattery, sense that she is being crassly manipulated and will, therefore, reduce (possibly strongly) her receptivity to the wooing flattery.

  25. PAL says:

    The Honor Premium

    Women can sometimes be successfully wooed by flattery. However, there is a certain point of excessive flattery, beyond which, a woman may sense that she is being crassly manipulated and will, therefore, reduce (possibly strongly) her receptivity to the wooing flattery.

    Is there a similar phenomenon at work in military service?

    Military service comes with many different benefits – some of which are tangible, but some of which are intangible. The Honor Premium (HP) is a way of describing that fact that part of the “pay” that soldiers receive are the honors that are provided to them. Because soldiers perceive value in this extra intangible benefit, the Decision-Makers at the Top (DMT) of the military are able to reduce the *cash* salaries paid to soldiers – thus reducing the cost of the overall mission.

    It is likely, that the DMT performs very careful studies in order to optimize the value of the HP (as perceived by the soldiers). But the DMT has to take special care that soldiers do not perceive that they are being “over-honored” – because, if they do, then the value of the HP would decrease – possibly dramatically. This is similar to the earlier point that related to how women can sometimes be manipulated by flattery, but the process can backfire if the woo-ee perceives that she is being crassly manipulated.

    The reason that I started to think about this was that I was wondering how the operational dynamic of military service would change if soldiers were legally allowed to quit their jobs whenever they liked (similar to the way that private employment works.) Currently, he DMT use the threat of imprisonment, fines, public humiliation and beatings to keep soldiers “on the job” through the length of their contracts. If these extra force-based keep-you-on-the-job techniques were to become no longer legal, then the DMT would need to put more cash into amplifying the value of the pay and benefits that the soldiers received in order to keep them on the job. But that increased cost is, obviously, not something that the DMT would like to pay.

    According to the 13th Amendment to the US constitution, contracts of forced labor (i.e., slavery) are illegal – even if all parties voluntarily agree to the contract. Clearly the military is an exception to this rule. Does that mean that military service is akin to a modified form of slavery?

    It is a well-known observation that, once soldiers are “set free” from the service, they become twice as likely as non-veterans to become homeless. If, indeed, military service is similar to a modified form of slavery, then, does that similarity have any bearing on the increased likelihood of homelessness among veterans?

    • PAL says:

      Side question: Are women more susceptible to being manipulated by flattery than men? That is (what I understand as) the dominant prejudice. Or should I say “perception” rather than “prejudice?” How could “susceptible to being manipulated by flattery” even be measured?

    • Anonymous says:

      Are Soldiers Victims of Flattery?

      Side question – Are soldiers victims of flattery? I mean when they receive (and believe in) the Honor Premium.

  26. PAL says:

    Can You Quit in the Middle of Basic Training?

    What percentage of military recruits would quit in the middle of basic training if it were not for the threat of prison, fines, beatings and purposeful public humiliation? One estimate: 80%.

    PAL PITCH: Ask this question.

  27. PAL says:

    Can Slavery Be A Voluntary Career Path?

    Lazy people are attracted to slavery as a career path (meaning, that they themselves become slaves) with greater intensity than non-lazy people. That is the premise that you are offering. Is it true? That is hard to answer because of the difficulty in measuring laziness and doing controlled studies of slavery. Interestingly, though, the premise does roughly agree with the observation from the Book of Proverbs: “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.” Proverbs 12:24

  28. PAL says:

    A Hybrid Citizen

    That is what a soldier is – because he retains many of the rights of a regular citizen, but he is also forcibly constrained in ways that are borrowed from slavery.

  29. What is “Hiding Out”?

    Staying in the basement and hoping that your mother does not yell at you about your inactivity. But knowing that eventually she will bring up the conversation. Sunday is a “safe” day to go out bcz you know that there is no mail and no work.

  30. PAL says:

    Two Kinds of Acceleration

    Admin update at [link]

    Why is it that people generally dislike dealing with the boss? Its because no one likes to have somebody telling them what to do. So why do employees put up with their bosses? Of course, it is because they want to keep the benefit (mainly getting paid) that comes from the job.

    This article points out the similarity of the cost/benefit that comes from having a boss versus the cost/benefit that comes from having an accountability partner. In both cases, the feedback that we receive is irritating, but in both cases, there is a tangible, long-term benefit that comes from putting up with the relationship.

    AP = An Accountability Partner
    BAJ = Boss at a Job
    NTE = Non-Transferable Exertion
    TE = Transferable Exertion
    POH = Payoff Horizon
    ROR = Rate of Return

    An Accountability Partner (AP) is someone who helps you to stay on track with your Non-Transferable Exertion (NTE). The function of the AP is nearly identical to having a Boss at a Job (BAJ). The only difference is that the BAJ is an AP who helps you to stay on track with Transferable Exertion (TE.) In both cases, you get a valuable service with tangible benefits. The difference has to do with the Payoff Horizon (PH) and the Rate of Return (ROR) for your efforts.

    In the case of the TE BAJ, the PH and ROR are converted by the business structure into exact numbers with high probability. In the case of the NTE AP, the PH and ROR are (statistically) much higher in the long run, but, because of the non-converted PH and ROR there is a much greater need for faith, which most people lack. Because of this lack of faith and the lack of precision, most people find it very difficult to 1) recognize their need for an NTE AP and to 2) welcome the relationship into their inner-most being in order to affect their decision making.

    This could be put into an excellent graph.

    The power of the TE BAJ comes from his ability to accelerate your perception of the consequences of your non-focused time-management choices. This acceleration occurs when he threatens to fire you. At that point you suddenly recognize that there will be a long-term major loss, so you easily correct yourself to get back to work in order to avoid the long-term loss.

    The power of the NTE AP comes from your willingness to allow him to see the truth about your time-management choices, and to give you his direct feedback. If the feedback is negative, then it serves to accelerate your perception of the consequences of your non-focused time-management choices. At that point your suddenly remember that there will be a long-term major loss, so you can more easily correct yourself to get back on track with your NTE to avoid the long-term loss.

    • Graph idea for POH feedback and certainty of POH.

      July has four weeks mon- fri. For TE BAJ AP, there are four “loops” in which I work at the job (energy arrow pointing right) and then get a check (energy arrow pointing left – backward in time.)

      But NTE AP does not have a similar exact predictable ROR nor exact predictable POH. The actual chart (from hindsight) would have many dead ends and many long intertwined loops. But that could also have a nice chart!!! 🙂

      And you could also map the AP vs BAJ relationships to the tree of labor from the TE and NTE article!!!! It’s coming together!!!!! 🙂

    • PAL says:

      Write: Using an AP

      Same time daily mon – fri or mon – sat.
      Intros 7 mins = 3.5 mins each
      Reports, commits and feedback 8 mins. = 4 mins each
      Stay focused on the format.

      Example call with intros reports, etc.
      Rational for why this helps.
      A boss is an accountability partner for paid TE. An AP is an AP for unpaid NTE.

      Confidentiality. Dementia and pride and the problem of aggressive or unkind or demeaning feedback.

    • Help Me To Make The Right Decision

      BAJ helps you to make a decision by focusing your mind on the cost benefit question of continuing right now to do the TE. An AP does the same thing but for NTE with a longer and probabilistic POH and ROR!

    • Anonymous says:

      Illustration idea a table showing all different kinds of work that you can do all of which will contribute to having a successful career however only one or two of them can be monetized using BAJ and transferable exertion.

    • PAL says:

      Why Do People Fail to Create Non-Transferable Value?

      Its not because they don’t know that their time is valuable. Its because they can’t threaten to fire themselves. I think.

      For example, we all recognize that exercise creates a healthier body. And we value our own health. And we recognize that the cost (per unit of work time) to “get into shape” is fairly low. So why can’t we get ourselves to exercise? The same thing goes for the task of preparing healthy foods.

    • Anonymous says:

      Five Weeks of Purpose

      The purpose of the five week AP process is for you to be able to conclusively prove to yourself whether or not you are able to keep yourself on track with your own RSE in the area of NTE. Your final answer to yourself should take the form: Yes or No.

    • Anonymous says:

      Graph idea Management is like a pressure/flow-rate/directional multiplexer that is inserted inline with hydraulic line. There is no way to avoid it in a regular job so we allow ourselves to be psychologically acclimated to it as a nothing – as happens to horses with bridals. In army the multiplexer action is purposefully ridiculously contorted in order to train workers to stop thinking in terms of “this job makes sense or does not make sense.” What is name for the subluxation of the will that occurs when the soldier very peacefully adapts to the contortion of multiplexer?! In AP leg of energy flow it is obvious that the link can be easily bypassed. The illusion of control is broken.

    • Dinner Party says:

      Analogy of a bearing for management in a seemingly smooth, non-aggressive way – but that only happens because it stays within the stress limitations of the machinery – I.e., The boss does not aggravate you so badly that it causes you to question the whole premise of do I even want to be in this relationship as an employee?

    • Anonymous says:

      Idea for AP process:

      Visit 2x per week. One hour each. Make a daily written record:
      X = amount of time spent working for $$.
      Y = time networking
      Z = time learning
      Also, how efficient / focused were X,Y,Z?

  31. PAL says:


    Three horizontal lines:

    1. People who are attracted to military service start out (before they join up) by being 2.5 times as likely as the average person to become homeless (this is Cause #1). Circumstances that arise due to their military service do not influence their likelihood of becoming homeless. (So Cause #2 is zero).
    2. People who are attracted to military service start out (before they join up) by being somewhat more likely than the average person to become homeless (this is Cause #1). Circumstances that arise due to their military service also increase their likelihood of becoming homeless. (Cause #2). Cause #1 and Cause #2 combine to result in a person who is 2.5 times as likely as the average person to become homeless.
    3. People who are attracted to military service start out (before they join up) by being somewhat more likely than the average person to become homeless (this is Cause #1). Circumstances that arise due to their military service decrease their likelihood of becoming homeless. (Cause #2). Cause #1 and Cause #2 combine to result in a person who is 2.5 times as likely as the average person to become homeless.
    4. People who are attracted to military service start out (before they join up) by being no more likely than the average person to become homeless (So Cause #1 is zero). Circumstances that arise due to their military service increase their likelihood of becoming homeless to be 2.5 times greater than the average civilian.

    Why does the UCMJ allow soldiers to be imprisoned, fined, publicly humiliated for refusing to follow orders?

    From Marines at CCF (or was it the VFW?) –> One objection as to why veterans become homeless is that their training is not transferable to civilian work. But if that is true, then why don’t they at least go for a basic laboring job? (Since that is all you really need in order to at least keep a basic roof over your head.) And why don’t they go on to get training that is suitable to help them to get a better civilian job?

    I have never learned anything from a person who agreed with me! So thank you for disagreeing with me! 😀

  32. PAL says:

    War was the leading cause of death in the military nearly every year between 2004 and 2011 until suicides became the top means of dying for troops in 2012 and 2013, according to a bar chart published this week in a monthly Pentagon medical statistical analysis journal …

  33. PAL says:

    About making that transition from AMD to SMD – I was okay with it back in the Army – but that was similar to the way that a cat adjusts serenely to being in a cage. It is not that the cat wants to be in the cage – but it realizes the futility of railing against the unchangeable facts of existence. So, to an untrained observer, it might seem as though the cat is happy to be in the cage.

  34. PAL says:

    FB: Is it possible that, in *some* cases, people who are constitutionally predisposed to eventually becoming homeless are attracted to the service as a way of *avoiding* homelessness? In such a serious matter as homelessness, are we really doing veterans any favors by taking some questions off the table?

  35. PAL says:

    Are the Homeless Really Homeless?

    If a person has a tarp-like roof over their head, but no electricity or running water, then is it really fair to call them homeless? By that definition, 99% of the world’s population was homeless prior to 1900.

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