Who said Finns don’t have a sense of humor? One of Finland’s very own has produced the second biggest joke of the year (the first obviously being our president and congress negotiating about how much more of our money to spend).
Somebody calling himself Tatu Westling, a doctoral student in economics from the University of Helsinki, has written “Male Organ and Economic Growth: Does Size Matter?“, a paper meant, in his own words, “to fill [a] scholarly gap with the male organ.”
Westling’s paper joins the comedy trend started by the Korean team of Choi, Kim, Jung, Yoon, Kim, & Kim— sounds more like a law firm than a collective of scientists—in their masterwork, “Second to fourth digit ratio: a predictor of adult penile length.”
This new work is only a discussion paper on the Helsinki department’s web site, so if it really was written in earnest, it is unlikely to be exposed to a more general audience. And it wasn’t—written in earnest, that is. It is almost certainly a prank by a punchy graduate student.1 There’s not a lot of sun and fun in Finland in the winter, and when you haven’t seen daylight in the last four weeks, strange things begin to seem hilarious.
The best indication that this is a spoof comes from the opening sentences of the abstract:
This paper explores the link between economic development and penile length between 1960 and 1985. It estimates an augmented Solow model utilizing the Mankiw-Romer-Weil 121 country dataset. The size of male organ is found to have an inverse U-shaped relationship with the level of GDP in 1985.
An augmented Solow model, eh? Westling purports to show that “Economic growth between 1960 and 1985 is negatively associated with the size of male organ…With due reservations it is also found to be more important determinant of GDP growth than country’s political regime type.”
Put into plain English, this implies countries filled with men sporting flat underwear do better on the markets than do countries filled with men who have something to boast about. Translated yet again, and using the Choi, Kim, Jung, etc. paper as a baseline, it means Asians are besting Westerns, but only economically speaking.
Considering penile length and the economy, Westling says, “Injections of capital result in higher growth rates in developing countries and convergence should ensue.” This confirms the work of population biologists. As are his next words:
It is argued here that the average size — the erect length, to be precise — of male organ in population has a strong predictive power of economic development during the period. The exact causality can only be speculated at this point but the correlations are robust.
Somehow, Westling got his hands on the erect lengths—to be precise—of men of varying nationalities, from some mysterious database “augmented” by Mankiw. This database confirms “the ‘male organ hypothesis’ put forward here suggests that penises carry economic significance. Quite remarkably, the statistical endurance of the male organ is also found very formidable.”
You bet it is, baby! Just don’t get me started on statistical endurance.
Which sizes produces the heftiest bank balances? “GDP-maximizing length can be identified at around 13.5 centimetres [5.3 inches]. One striking result is the collapse in GDP after male organ exceeds the length of 16 centimetres [6.3 inches].”
But it is “also noteworthy that countries with below 12 centimetre [4.7 inches] male organs are generally less developed.” Poor things.
Westling concludes: “Taken at face value the findings suggest that the ‘male organ hypothesis’ put forward here is quite penetrating an argument. Yet for the best of author’s knowledge, male organ has not been touched in the growth literature before.” And for good reason: who wants to dirty their hands on this topic?
We could discuss the hard-core statistical results of the paper—such as the regression equation which includes both the term Organ and Organ-squared—but we would not learn much, except that, “If standard of living and penile length covary positively, the latter’s coefficient would be biased upwards.”
He also surmises “an evidently Freudian line of thought the notion of self-esteem might be at play” to explain why small size produces vigorous economic activity.
The tables, charts, models, and pictures Westling uses are all nonsense, of course, but they are sufficiently scientific looking to fool reporters. My guess is that he put this paper up for the benefit of his fellow students as a way to pass the time until the sun returns. He probably had no idea that it would be picked up so widely in the press (just one source, of many, here).
Westling will see who has a real sense of humor come Monday morning when all the regular dons return to work.
1When a student, your own author used to try to slip fake papers into the bibliography authored by “Christ, J.H. (33)…” My advisor always caught them.
Thanks to readers Ray Futrell and Bob Ludwick for the head’s up on this story.