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  March 11, 2016
The Lesser of Two Evils...


There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.

                                          ~Denis Waitley

In today’s blog I’m going to ask my readers to try and stay with me today... the first part is a bit dry and somewhat confusing... but I need this background to draw some conclusions toward the end... so I beg your pardon and ask for your patience this week.

Anyone who has ever studied statistics in high school or college is probably familiar with the concept of the "bell-shaped" normal distribution curve (sometimes known as the Gaussian distribution).

The bell-shaped curve describes a probability distribution incredibly important in the study of statistics.

At the highest point of the curve lies the average or is sometimes called the mean of a certain population.

The population could be the weight of a certain species of fish caught in a lake during a particular time frame; it could be the total points scored by the various teams in the NFL; it could be the annual snowfall in Buffalo, NY since 1900.

In theory, the more independent data points, the better the average will be to reflecting the population being studied.

The mathematics describing the bell-shaped curve is a very complex differential equation and very much outside the scope of the blog today, however the math has been tested and proven, so I’m going to ask you to believe for a moment that it is correct.

The purpose of the bell-shaped curve is to find the average, and then use the curve to determine how far from the average one must be to be considered "normal" to a certain percentage.

bell curve

The distance from the center (each way) is called a standard deviation. The standard deviation is the variance away from the average that will include a certain percentage of the population.

Standard deviations are measured in whole numbers (i.e. 1, 2, 3...).

Based on the math (and the curve), when the standard deviation is 1, then 68.3% of the population will fall under that portion of the curve. When the standard deviation is 2, then the population under the curve will grow to include 95.5% of the population

By the time that the standard deviation grows to 6 (sometimes known as 6 Sigma), the population under the curve is now 99.999998%

This means that for every 1 billion events, only 2 falls outside the norm.

Statistics can be somewhat confusing... so let me use a simple example to illustrate the point.

Let’s say that we want to try and determine the average height of 10,000 men (our population).

First we need to determine our average so we add all the heights of all the 10,000 men together and divide by 10,000. Simple enough... and for purposes of our study let’s say that we calculate the average to be 72 inches (6 feet),

The center of our curve would now be labeled 72 inches.

Now we want to calculate the heights where 99.7% of the men in our study are within (three standard deviations)

In doing this we calculate that in order to be within three deviations (99.7%), the man needs to be between 64 inches (5’4) and 78 inches (6’8").

But remember, there were 10,000 men in our study, so this means that there are still 30 men outside the limits of 3 standard deviations. These 30 men are within the tails of the curve but not within the 99.5%.

So you might be asking yourself just about now, "although this is somewhat interesting... what the heck does it have to do with me or my life?"

This year, 2016, is a presidential election year in the United States.

The U.S. President is the theoretical leader of the "Free World"... a very important position globally as well as domestically.

Americans are a very large population (there are 320 million people to be exact) and because we are such, we can generally be described as normal distribution.

The central idea with the bell-shaped curve is that an average can be calculated giving us an "Average American"... average age, income, ethnicity, etc...

For years (at least the years during my lifetime) this central idea was true... there was indeed an "Average American" and that within 3 standard deviations, 99.7% of all Americans could be found under the curve.

Although very few of us are exactly the "average" American... 99.5% of us could be found within our three standard deviation rule.

Over the last 30-40 years or so... something strange and troubling seems to be occurring. The "average" seems to be splitting into two separate bell-shaped curves... one to the right and one to the left...

two bell curves


The figure above shows one of the bell-shaped curves having an average to the far left... and one bell-shaped curve has an average far to the right... each with their own standard deviations... or variations away from their centers.

As the two curves continue to separate... notice that the total number of people in the center is decreasing while the number of people in the "tails" continues to increase.

As of today, there are currently 6 candidates, 2 Democrats and 4 Republicans (I will ignore 3-party candidates for the moment) still in the running to become our President.

All of these candidates are continuing to push their constituencies further to right or left... so those Americans who find themselves in the middle are left with no real viable candidate to choose from.

When I query many of my friends and associates as to which candidate they might be leaning towards, I generally get the same response, "I’m afraid of all 6 of the candidates... but I’m probably going to vote for (fill in the blank)... because he/she is the lesser of the two evils... ".

People are frustrated with the polarization of American politics... the idea of governing through compromise is dead and those who do seek to compromise are branded as traitors by their political base.

The advent of 24-hour news, social media, and talk radio has only fueled the fire of this political discontent among the citizens.

I am deeply saddened that the idea of the "average American"... the American that falls with the 3rd standard deviation (99.5%)... is being eliminated and replaced with a two curve model.

I believe that in the end we all strive for the same things in life... safety and security, freedoms and liberties, meaningful work and purpose, continued learning, and a sustainable world... this should be our "average"...  

The rhetoric of "us" against "them" only helps to divide us as Americans...

It would be nice to have a better choice... a person who governs from the center... but alas... we are only left with the lesser of two evils...

2020 can’t come soon enough...

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we are pleased to support unity rather separation... 

Jim Kalb

Jim Kalb President

Email - jimk@optifuse.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Twitter - @OptiFuse

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