Monday, June 30, 2014

Aggregate football (soccer)

When you follow a blog,you tend to hear what is mulling around in the brain of the writer.  So typically for me it is issues relating to the work in Kenya (development and church growth), family or faith.  Of late, it has been wedding and health.  And every now and then the economics classes that I am taking make an appearance.

The last couple of weeks have found much of the world focused on Brazil as the FIFA World Cup is in progress.  To my surprise, even the US seems to be paying a bit more attention to this series as well.  My living room had been the source of competing allegiances especially during the Ghana/USA game (you guessed it - my children and I rooted for Ghana!).  In my weekly staff meeting this past week with Kitale, Jeff Bloem pointed me to an article on how development economists have ascertained how to determine who to cheer for based on aggregate happiness.  The article at first made me smile as I thought, really?  Economists even have something to say about who to cheer for in FIFA?  But the answer makes sense.

The idea is taken from a utilitarian principle (making decisions based on usefulness), that we would choose a team (assuming our own country is not in or has been eliminated) that would bring the most amount of happiness. They did this by studying three variables:  population, passion for football (soccer), and poverty.  Population makes sense - the higher the population, the more happiness simply due to the sheer volume of people.  The passion for football also makes sense - the more passionate, the greater the amount of happiness as well.  In much of the world, football is the most important sport; in each country in Africa where we have lived, people (men in particular) following football leagues year round.  But why poverty?  Why include that variable?  The economist explains by saying, "First, happiness and wealth are correlated, and all else being equal, a utilitarian would prefer to help the person who is worst off. Second, the wealthy have more outlets for dealing with sports disappointments — such as going out to a nice meal — and can bounce back faster." (

I finished a paper this past week on the book Modern Economic Issues where the author concluded by reflecting on whether or not changing economic policies to allow for greater distribution of wealth can actually have a positive impact on people - will it make people happier.  Which then begs the question, what causes happiness?  Certainly the happiness in winning a FIFA title is temporary- so what brings long term happiness?  We know that money can't buy happiness, so raising income levels too will bring temporary happiness, until people settle into their new income range.   I love the fact that research (from both scientists and people of faith) tell us that true happiness is found when we find meaning in our lives outside of ourselves.  In fact the Dalai Lama says, “We are visitors on this planet. We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”  Finding happiness outside of ourselves - not the popular themes of finding happiness by "looking inside yourself" or navel gazing...but finding it outside of yourself by contributing.  For most of us, that happens in our place of work and this confirms the work that we do with Marketplace Ministry - helping people find their sense of calling within their work.  True joy and contentment comes when we discover what we were created to do, as sons and daughters made in the image of God, serving as He has designed.

Unfortunately, both Kenya and Nigeria, two countries who have high levels of poverty and high levels of passion for football, were told not to watch the football games in public places due to threats from Islamist militant groups performing terrorist acts in group settings.   In Kenya, groups watching the game were actually attacked and killed.  In most African countries where I live, people don't watch these games independently in their own living rooms; they watch in large groups settings, often with a very small TV.  The social aspect of this is so very important, which makes this all the more sad.

Unfortunately, Ghana is out but Nigeria, Mexico and Brazil are still in, so if you haven't picked a team yet, consider one of these!

And now a few more random wedding pictures...because...well, that's still where my brain is.  :)  This week's pictures are of family; next week, pictures of friends.

My daughter, Hannah, the maid of honor.
My son, Noah, walked me down the aisle...then negotiated the bride price. :)
The groomsmen...a little jump of joy! L to R, Noah, Michel, Michael, Benjamin, Jonathan

Noah...always loving his suit and ties!  Oh yeah...and his mom!
L to R, my Mom, Hannah, me, Michael's mom, Michael's sister Mary Ellen
The Kranenburg clan (L to R):  Janette and Dale VanderVeen, Liz and Rob Bronsveld, Mom, Renita and Michael, Brian and Yvonne Schenk, Henry and Marnie Kranenburg, Karin Kranenburg
 Oh, and by the way, in case you weren't at the reception: from the last picture, my one and only brother Henry, during the toast at the reception, gave the bride price that Noah had negotiated back to Michael, stating, "I know my sister well....let me give this back to you."  This, of course, brought a round of laughter from everyone.  Michael didn't miss a beat, said he knew the value of his bride, and gave the money back to Noah and this time added his credit cards and debit cards.  Noah then, didn't miss a beat, and turned right around to head out the door to do some shopping!  A bit of humor that added to the fun of the day.