They got grubby little fingers and dirty little minds


New at Reason: Do short people have the right to reach for the stars? Ron Bailey stands up for human growth hormone.


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  1. what’s a sigma?

    i sympathize…at 6’5″ i’ve smacked and broken more lightbulbs, overhangs, plant potters, car doors and subway signs than i’d care to remember. or are able to remember, probably, because everything’s built for some 5’10” grow-nuthin’.

  2. Perhaps this has national security implications that have not been thoguht out, in regards to the war on terror.

    Terrorists are superstitious folk, and everything is OK if it’s done to the children, so we should put this in the water supply and have all the children GROW INTO GIANTS AND KILL THE TERRORISTS!


  3. We need the Human Diminution Hormone, and we need it now!

    Doesn’t Vonnegut have a book about the economy of miniature people?

  4. The question that needs to be debated is – why are all short white men so rotten? And – if all men were at least 5’10” would the 6 foot and under crowd be the same lousy human beings that the sub 5’8″ set is now? I’ve always wondered if it’s because of relative shortness, or if it’s simply inherent in the nature of being a short white guy.

    Personally, I think this artificial HGH will make the world a better place.

  5. Vonnegut wrote “Hocus Pocus,” in which the Chinese discover how to shrink people to microscopic size, in order to reduce the total physical needs of their population. Lots of upside.

    The downside is, inhaling these particulate-people causes a worldwide plague called Green Fever.

    This was probably his worse book, but it’s still better than 99% of the fiction being published.

  6. dhex,

    sigma = standard deviation. At 6’5″, you too are in the 3 sigma club.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of being asked:

    a) So, just how tall are you?

    b) Did you play any basketball?

    c) How’s the weather up there?


    To me, there are two sizes of people — normal and short. If you’re under 6′, you’re short. I usually don’t notice that someone is shorter than everyone else unless it is pointed out to me, usually by the person in question (in my experience, usually a guy). The Napoleonic complex you allude to seems to arise from concerns about how short people think they are being perceived. News for those of you who are shorter than most other folks: a lot of us don’t really notice, or care, that you feel vertically-challenged. It’s all right, truly it is (most folks are short as far as I’m concerned [see the first two sentences of this paragraph]).

  7. That’s not the plot of Hocus Pocus at all…. Hocus Pocus was a Vietnam War allegory.

    And I’m 5’9″, exactly. Hooray for being average. I can always find 32 x 30 pants, 40R jackets, and the doors on a locomotive are built for someone exactly my size.

  8. No, it’s not the plot, just a detail in the setup for the plot. I didn’t want to give everything away.

    Re: Napoleon Complex. I’m 5’8″ in workboots. On a few occasions, when my height has come up for some reason, people have expressed surprise that I’m that short (no, I’m not on TV). One co-worker told me, “Really? Hey, yeah, you are short. I never really thought of you as a short person.” I’m not really sure what this means. How does one look taller?

  9. Curse you, Steven Crane! I envy your comfort in our modern industrial consumerist society!

    Joe, your co-worker probably just never considered your height as salient to your Joe-ness.

  10. That’s very nice, actually. Thank you.

  11. I have a theory that Ron has a split personality, one hero the other goat. This one started out looking like the latter, but he pulled it out in the end. The last paragraph hits it dead on. Good job Ron, stay on the medication 😛

  12. I’m 6’3″, which seems to be a pretty good height. I don’t hit my head or trip on things too often, I fit in most cars and chairs. Desks are a little too small for my liking though, but at least good office chairs can be adjusted right. I don’t really notice people’s height unless they’re taller than me by more than an inch or two. I’ve also noticed that about half the girls i’ve been with have been 5’2″ or less, so that says something odd about me, maybe a subconscious desire to balance out my height in my offspring?

    As for an idea height, it’s hard to say. Having shorter people would probably be more efficient. It’s probably desireable for most people to fall within a few inches of each other, though there will allways be a few who want to be different. If it was up to central planners, I’d say the human height would be set around 5’6″ for both men and women. Left up to the market, it would probably be around 6’6″ for men and 5’8″ or so for women.

  13. Mark,

    I have four categories myself:
    “Too short” -> 6’3″ – 5’9″
    “Too tall” -> 6’5″ and over
    “Correct male height” -> 6’4″
    Women -> under 5’9″

    Usually, when I first meet a short man, I laugh in his face and say “I bet you wish you were tall like me.” Then I ignore him, since no one so physically inconsequential could possibly have anything worthwhile to say. When I see someone in the “too tall” category, I usually run and hide, mistaking him for a gangling monster.

  14. So when can I start giving this stuff to my son? He’s six months old and will likely end up at around 6’4″ to 6’6″ without HGH. An extra 3 inches could very well mean the difference between a $5m a year basketball career and just getting a college scholarship.

    Is this the kind of thing you can travel to Canada to get? Hell, I’d fly him to Switzerland every few months if it meant an extra few inches.

  15. This thread will probably be flooded with posts saying “Why does this matter? It’s up to individuals to decide.”

    I don’t think Ron is saying anybody should be barred from doing it. However, when new things come along many people talk about what the best choices would be in regard to that new thing. There’s nothing wrong with talking about it until we’re blue in the face and coming up with all sorts of pro- or con- ethnical arguments if we’re not coercing anybody.

    That said, I have no opinion whatsoever on this. But I thought I’d stick up for Ron because I enjoy his articles, even when I disagree with him (gasp!).

  16. Isn’t the headline from a 1970s song?

  17. I am more than 3 sigmas above average height. What I want to know is whether there is a Human Diminution Hormone. I’m pretty damn tired of smacking my head on things built by short-sighted little people, or having to shop for a car that ‘fits’ me. Not to mention the fact that my kids and their friends all seem to be utterly incapable of correctly estimating their heights relative to the length of my inseam….


  18. Yes! Short People. A great Randy Newman song from the album “Little Criminals” (1977).

    Newman was interviewed by Bob Edwards on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning and will also be on tomorrow morn.


  19. Chris,

    Thanks! (maybe I can get the song out of my head now)

  20. Geotech,
    There, there sub-man.

    Maddog and Mark,
    This is a little creepy. I have one bad knee and a 5’3″ fiancee.

  21. But will HGH turn people who are ectomorphs into mesomorphs? Let the short-asses become tall beanpoles. At 6’4″ and 250lbs, I’ll take my chances. And yes I know that’s high according to the BMI, but BMI is too general anyway.

  22. nm156, I think BMI works for heights from about 5’1″ to 6’0″, i.e., from about 1 sigma below mean female height to about 1 sigma above average male height. And I too will take my chances at 6’5″, 240. Sadly, however, we have a shorter life expectancy and a greatly increased likelihood for knee problems (I will attest to the latter, as will my big brother!).

    JDM, that’s funny. Interestingly, I only notice people who are clearly taller than myself as well.

    Madog, I too have always had a thing for short women — in theory. In practice, the shortest woman I ever dated was 5’4″ (average).

    Joe, you’re welcome, ya pipsqeak! 🙂

  23. I’m 5’9 177, and I’m stronger than almost every tall guy I know. Short guys tend to have better strength than tall guys, so you beanpoles can have your long legs and arms, I’ll knock you over like a bowling pin if you give me any lip.

  24. More creepiness: Wife is 5’1″, three scopes to the left knee, and a replacement in the works for the right.
    Where’s Rod Serling?

  25. i fuckin hate being tall. When go to see my family they treat me like a giant. They are all average except ME. I will trade my sight to be normal. Does anyone know how i can shrink please reply. I HATE MY FUCKING LIFE WHY NOT END IT?

  26. hello everyone im 5 10 and 16 can some tell me how to decrease my height if you could please or maybe stop it

  27. I’m 5’6” on a good day and weigh 185 pounds I workout on all the time and can lift more then all my friends who are alot taller then me another thing i’ve noticed is it’s alot easier for short guys to build muscle and have it show my friend is 6’2” and 190 he’s been working out just as long as I have he still looks like a beanpole to me and I’ve beaten his ass on more then one occasion when it comes to powerlift competitions.

  28. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/26/2004 07:21:13
    Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.

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