Short Cuts

Survival of the Fittest
Or Excuse for Exclusion?

So how much of being short can get in the way of personal success? Do tall people achieve more in life, date more often, make more money?
Two divergent views are trying to tackle this issue, without quite resolving it.

Writer John Schwartz claims, on “Short: Walking Tall When You’re Not Tall At All,” that being short is no excuse not to excel in life, while economist Gregory N. Price and others argue on an academic paper that height indeed plays a part on whether one becomes a criminal or not.

Who to believe?
Did Napoleon, Hitler, Gandhi and the mayor of New York City have to fight prejudice for not being tall? Or was Lincoln’s leadership and vision in any way connected to his height?
The point is obviously moot. Belonging to the so-called “height challenge” bunch myself, I can’t hardly say I’ll left such an imprint on this world like those mentioned above did. And considering how the first two singed their mark on their times, I’m not even interested.
But keep in mind that many still blame critics of Hitler’s time, who didn’t appreciate his ability as a painter, for the mass extermination brought about by the Nazism. Regardless the oversimplification, the point of someone pursuing power and absolute control out of personal revenge can’t be amiss in this equation.
To Schwartz, being short is definitely not a prediction for a second-rate life for us (he says he’s also short). But to Price and economists in the growing field known as anthropometric economics or history, every inch of additional height is associated with a nearly two percent increase in earnings.
It’s way beyond my reach to determine where both points of view may meet of if they ever do. For sure is that the so-called biological determinism of the 19th century is at the root of mad and cruel experiments, the kind performed with glee by the likes of Joseph Mengele. The study of physical appearance and its relation with fate is, thank goodness, viewed with suspicion by solid science and decent people alike.
And let’s please not endorse some economic historians who lament the fact that Americans were the tallest in the world up to the middle of the 20th century, but now are shorter (and fatter) than Western and Northern Europeans. Big deal. No doubt, another thing that Glenn Beck would love to blame on poor Latinos.
While records of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries show evidence that shorter men are 20 to 30 percent more likely to end up in prison than their taller counterparts, some studies of hundreds of children in the Buffalo area, for example, concluded that there’s little benefit to being tall at all.
So what gives?
Would events of his time have been radically different if Hitler had been appreciated as a promising artist and not as a frightful leader? If Churchill had been a sick and skinny kid, would have he grown to become the right Shepard of a falling apart England? What about those tall Americans of the first half of the 20th century? Could they have decided to wait a bit longer before joining the European wars if they were 5’ in average?
The gap between the views of Schwartz and the economics historians may seem wide, but in the end, both sides find few arguments to support their initial propositions. Schwartz, as a shorty and successful person, sees no reasons for others like him not to succeed as well. And the researchers are the first ones to admit that their possible interpretations raise more questions than answer them.

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