“Periculo Tuo Uti” Use at Your Own Risk

Some years ago, a great friend and unusually wise person taught me about the homework test. It is well known that guys don’t generally call each other “wise,” but my friend falls into that category especially when it comes to aphorisms.

In this category, the homework test might be rather too long, but I think of it as such because it is definitely pithy and might well include more than a grain of truth.

The homework test has two parts and works like this. The candidate who will win the presidency is the one who will do the best on both parts.

Part one takes place on a Friday afternoon when the teacher has somehow forgotten to assign the weekend’s homework. The student who raises his or her hand to call attention to this oversight fails part one of the homework test and thus will not be elected president.

Part two takes place on a Monday morning following a busy weekend of tomfoolery in which you have failed to complete your own homework. The winning presidential candidate is the one whose work you ask to copy.

Let’s think about how some of the candidates past and present might fare on these measures.

Mike Bloomberg is a tough one. I’d copy his homework in a heartbeat on Monday. Maybe he would have done it himself or maybe he would have commissioned some really smart people to do it for him but, either way, the work would be good.

I don’t have any real reason to know what he might have done on the Friday afternoon. Would he stick with his classmates and keep his mouth shut? If sticking with a political party is any guide, you might have to wonder.

Elizabeth Warren would definitely not be raising her hand on Friday afternoon. She would be standing on her desk raising both hands and waving them about, while screaming for the teacher’s attention. This deeply unpopular performance would offset the fact that her weekend efforts would be well worth copying on Monday.

It is currently fashionable to blame her defeat on being female, but I tend to think it is more related to aspects of her candidacy that were within her control rather than beyond it. Yes, she had a plan for everything, but nobody wanted to hear it.

On Friday afternoon, Bernie Sanders would also be standing on his desk waving his arms in search of the teacher’s (and everyone else’s) attention, but the teacher would not have noticed because Bernie would have spent the entire week standing on his desk waving his arms. We’ll never know whether the Friday antics would have been intended to call attention to the absence of an assignment or an ongoing attempt to call attention to himself.  Whether deserved or not, the class would fail him on the Friday segment of the homework test, if only because he was being such a pain in the tail.

As to Monday, much would depend on the assignment. Nobody would copy economics homework from Bernie, but economics is generally taught in college and the homework test seems more applicable to high school. Convincing Bernie to let you copy his homework would be easy. You would simply describe yourself as oppressed and he would give you his work though he might secretly prefer to give you someone else’s work.

Joe Biden has a keen political sense and it seems most unlikely he would be raising his hand on Friday thus risking the disapproval of his classmates. He gets a win for that. Monday is more of a challenge. Is his work worth copying? His ideas don’t seem especially insightful but that does not mean his work would not be worth copying if all you needed was a C. Let’s give him a “better than nothing” grade for the Monday part of the test.

Well, what if Donald Trump were your classmate? It is hard to picture him calling attention to the absence of a weekend assignment unless, perhaps, he had already scammed the required work from someone whose skills would give him an edge over the rest of the class.

As to Monday, you would have to decide if you thought he had done the work himself or swiped it from a better source. If it was his work, copying it would be both expensive and worthless, but if he had copied it, the work would be twice as expensive albeit worth having. The biggest problem would be worthless work he had done himself being sold as the efforts of someone smarter.

How does the homework test compare to other predictive tools?

The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls has Biden leading Trump by 50% to 44.5% and Sanders leading Trump by a nearly identical 49.6% to 44.9%.

If you were betting in England, where bookmaking is a favored activity, $1.00 bet on Trump would win you about 67¢, the same dollar bet on Biden would win $1.42 and $1.00 bet on Sanders would win $15.

Here is today’s Predict-It chart showing the futures market on the three candidates.

Those willing to talk with pollsters seem to favor the Democrats while those who put their money at risk seem to favor the President

As to the homework test, “Periculo Tuo Uti” Use at Your Own Risk.





5 Responses to ““Periculo Tuo Uti” Use at Your Own Risk”

Dianne Warner, March 07, 2020 at 2:30 pm said:

Congratulations! Glad your subscriptions are up, Haven.


Haven Pell, March 07, 2020 at 2:33 pm said:

Thank you. I hope it’s a trend.


Peter W Bragdon, March 07, 2020 at 3:26 pm said:

Biden must pay back the African-American community, so Klobuchar probably is out. She would be a superb VP.
Who is the most qualified African-American politician? The lady who made such a great run in Georgia?
Peggy Noonan’s Saturday column in today’s Wall Street Journal is a must — a remarkable commentary reaching to the influence of the Black matriarchy in America.


Haven Pell, March 07, 2020 at 9:50 pm said:

As far as I know, there is no data on the applicability of the homework test to vice presidential candidates. Likely there are scholars who will devote considerable attention to this important question. If gratitude is the test and if age were not a factor, House Majority Whip, James Clyburn of South Carolina, would be Biden’s VP nominee. His endorsement turned the race on a dime.


Haven Pell, March 07, 2020 at 9:35 pm said:

Long time readers know that I sometimes post comments for others, in this case “the great and unusually wise” friend who taught me about the homework test. Here are his results for some prior political luminaries.

Great to see the Homework Test getting some coverage. It might be worth pointing out that obvious people who pass the Friday test are: Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, and Trump. Everyone would agree they were “one of the guys”. Obvious folks who fail the test: Carter (1 term) and Bush I (1 term). Others who fail the test: Dan Quail, Gore, Kerry, Romney and Rodham-Clinton.
Arguably, the Friday test is more important than the Monday test. Mighty Joe (formerly Sleepy Joe) will help us see whether that is true.
I don’t have enough data to go back before 1960, but I am working on it.


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