Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is There a "Laffer Curve" for Po?

That's 'po' as in 'po-faced'. Virtuous dullness. Not quite causally the same as cretinous over-politically correct but practically indistinguishable in effect.

Hat-tip to Julia in her comment on one of Leg-iron's posts. Which led me to the not-particularly-strange-for-there post on il-Liberal Conspiracy. A bit of sincere irritation by a militant feminist after a particularly antediluvian example of the breed Councilor Uselessus, sub-speechies Fossilus Tori - rape jokes just aren't funny. Not, 'shouldn't be' - just 'aren't':

Because they’re not. Ever. They never have been and they never will be.

Probably leading to a bit of mild bansturbation. Which led to the most hilarious comment thread - made even more so by the inevitable trashing of it by Mr Sunny 'Dissenters Delendum Est' Hundal.

She's wrong of course. Rape jokes might be 'usually inappropriate' and even 'usually unfunny' - but some of them are and in some contexts, they may even be appropriate. Anyway, it got me thinking. Away from LC and Tax Research UK, we understand the Laffer Curve for taxation - like most great explanations, it is actually quite trite. (Explanation for those who haven't heard of it: If you (the govt or who-ever - the local baron even) levy no tax, you have no income. If you levy 100% tax, then no-one works in the formal economy, there is no point, no income. Some tax, some income. There are lots of distinguished arguments about the shape of the curve, where the maxima might be, and how human behaviours work dynamically around the underlying end-point curve - it can take a couple of years to arrange a migrants visa to Australia or New Zealand for example, so even if you decided to leave because of a swinging tax rate, you may need to keep working for a while ...)

Is there an equivalent for humour? You insult everybody - they get up and leave (or never buy a ticket to another of your shows). You insult nobody (and most jokes have a butt - even if it is the teller or their stereotype) and you are so ridiculously po-faced even Sunny would think you are boring. Where is the Laffer maxima for humour? How can you estimate it? And it's not a Laffer curve for humour - it's the opposite - a Laffer curve for anti-humour, 'po', if you will allow me to abuse the language so.

  • It clearly varies per audience - jokes that are acceptable amongst friends may be more acceptable in the pub than in the workplace. Unacceptability makes people squirm - even ones who actually found it funny.
  • Amongst a group of new acquaintances, more care is needed until the most uptight ones have gone to bed (or had half a Babycham and turned into wibbling heaps.)
  • On the interwebby thing - well, you can find somebody who will be offended by almost anything (Youtube user kenjosmes commenting on this video, for example.)

Anyway, some pontificating - I'd rather have Anjem Choudry and Pat Condell, Ben Elton and Jim Davis, Peter Tatchell and Iris Robinson, even Sunny Hundal and, well, I can't think of anything vile enough to be his opposite - than I would having them banned.

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