Where does the negative attitude towards recreational drugs come from?

This is a great mystery, especially for the US situation: in terms of health dangers most drugs-takers run less risk of getting killed than those driving a car or those taking up dangerous sports. In terms of disruption to society the immense amount of money earned with drugs trafficking would seem to corrupt many societies [...] [...]

Military leaders everywhere would gain significant wealth by taking over, so why have there been military coups in some countries but not in others?

Why the military always seem under political control in some countries (whilst in terms of firepower they could immediately crush all opposition) and in others the military can organise a coup at will, is puzzling. Given that the US army could easily crush all opposition and give its leaders immense wealth and power, it seems [...] [...]

Why do we punish the messenger of bad news?

Historically, and in many cases today, messengers of bad news are often punished instead of the creators of the bad news. Assuming it is true that we often ‘shoot the messenger’ when we receive bad news, the questions arises as to why this is the case. A naive first-thought would be to see this as [...] [...]

Why do so many of us want others to conform to a set of norms that have no productive rationale?

This is a mystery that comes in many guises. It arises when we ask of others not to harm their own health. It arises when we ask of others to follow the same religion as we do. It arises when we ask of others to appreciate the same art, food, rituals, mindset and sense of [...] [...]

Why do Western societies spend such large amounts of resources and time on unlikely fears?

Again, this is a tricky mystery to nail down as an empirical stylised fact, but let me hide behind Tony Blair who told his civil service to stop making life difficult for everyone by continuing an avalanche of red tape designed against miniscule threats at the expense of more real threats and better ways to [...] [...]

Why has the number of religious people decreased in Europe but not in the US over the last 50 years?

In the middle of the 20th century virtually everyone in the US and Europe was deeply religious in the sense of attending church often and leading their lives within religious rituals and doctrine. In the ensuing 50 years the level of church-going and adherence to religious beliefs dropped dramatically in Europe, such that only a [...] [...]

Why is the climate change debate in the media and UN forums dominated by the search for solutions that can’t be implemented by individual countries?

This is a particularly important puzzle. The International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) sponsored by the UN has managed to convince the scientific community that the earth’s climate is changing and that we’ve seen an increase in temperature of about .6 degrees in the last 150 years. It says we can expect further increases ranging [...] [...]

Why are people in modern society so ashamed of the human body?

In all Anglo-Saxon countries, but also in most Eurasian rich countries, there are many customs and laws pertaining to the hiding of bodily elements. Not only are there sometimes quite strict clothing restrictions telling us what to hide, but even non-titillating aspects of the human body are stowed away. Toilets lack glass doors; blood and [...] [...]