[Air-l] when more is too much

Bernie Hogan bernie.hogan at utoronto.ca
Mon Apr 4 18:25:18 PDT 2005

> As usual, Yiddish has a word for it:
..as does economics, ironically enough.

"Negative returns."
At first one gets *positive returns* on one's investment, more water =
healthy plant. These returns usually have less of an impact the more one
gives = *diminishing returns* (which are still positive only not as
significant), but after some point one might actually over-invest, yielding
*negative returns*. In fact watering a plant to death is one of the textbook
examples of this. And yes, it can be considered "overkill". And if the plant
was supposed to be for your mother...oy-yoy-yoy is probably also

Another example of diminishing then negative returns is hiring more workers
in a plant. At first they might lead to increased division of labor and
enhanced productivity, but after a while those gains decrease PER worker.
But if you hire many workers there might actually be too many there, they
start tripping over each other, or develop a culture of laziness or there is
more time spent training new workers than actually working.

Diminishing returns were mentioned earlier, but they are still positive.
They don't actually have the opposite effect, just less of the desired

Pushing the string refers not to having either the opposite or desired
effect but having either a useless/irrelevant effect or no effect.

While sociology doesn't have a word for this phenomenon, some might argue
that unintended consequences might be appropriate, since they often refer to
causes having the opposite effect. For example, people buy guns for safety
and end up more likely to fall victim to a violent crime. But it is not a
measure of relative volume, only causality. (one act = one effect, good or

Take Care,

P.S. If there are any economists on the list (of which I am not one), feel
free to correct me.

> ONGEPOTCHKET: Messed up, slapped together without form, excessively and
> unesthetically decorated. OY-YOY-YOY: An exclamation of sorrow and
> lamentation. ...
> www.sbjf.org/sbjco/schmaltz/yiddish_phrases.htm
> If you don't like that, what about hyper-baroque
>  Barry
>  _____________________________________________________________________
>   Barry Wellman         Professor of Sociology        NetLab Director
>   wellman at chass.utoronto.ca  http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman
>   Centre for Urban & Community Studies          University of Toronto
>   455 Spadina Avenue    Toronto Canada M5S 2G8    fax:+1-416-978-7162
>     To network is to live; to live is to network
>  _____________________________________________________________________
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