A pastor, a doctor and an economist were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.
Economist: What’s with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!
Doctor: I don’t know, but I’ve never seen such ineptitude!
Pastor: Hey, here comes the greens keeper. Let’s have a word with him. [dramatic pause] Hi George. Say, what’s with that group ahead of us? They’re rather slow, aren’t they?
George: Oh, yes, that’s a group of blind fire fighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.
The group was silent for a moment.
Pastor: That’s so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight.
Doctor: Good idea. And I’m going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there’s anything he can do for them.
Economist: Why can’t these guys play at night?
In India, the most impressive engines for economic development we observed were NGOs, non-governmental organizations. In America, we’re more likely to call them “non-profits.” We observed schools, orphanages, women’s centers – lots of types of NGOs making a difference. In many cases, they weren’t big organizations, but they made a difference, which if allowed to grow and expand could someday make a big difference in India’s development.
Here’s another side of NGOs. India’s Prime Minister is blaming American and Scandinavian NGOs for interfering with India’s attempts to build nuclear power plants, particularly in Tamil Nadu.
“You know what’s happening in Koodankulam,” Mr Singh said, referring to months of protests which have stalled the commissioning of two 1,000-MW nuclear reactors at the plant in Tirunalveli district.
“The atomic energy programme has gone into difficulties because these NGOs [non-governmental organisations], mostly I think based in the United States, don’t appreciate the need for our country to increase the energy supply.”
Referring to a 2010 government decision to defer the commercial cultivation of the genetically modified vegetable BT brinjal, Mr Singh said biotechnology had enormous potential and India must make use of it to increase agricultural produce.
“But there are controversies. There are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces.
I guess I should revise my opinion – pro-growth NGOs are a key to development, but anti-growth NGOs are a problem in any country.
Monkeys understand money. Maybe better than some of my students. Here’s a story about a pretty interesting experiment designed to see if monkeys would understand and use the concept of money (which we’ve already discussed is pretty much an imaginary concept). I don’t think it’s surprising that monkeys understood money and how to use it. But the insights about the “mindless altruist” and the “ego monkey” are fascinating. And the quick development of monkey prostitution!
You may have thought things like currency or money are concepts known solely to man. Some might have a sense of ownership, besides of course territory, but trading and the likes haven’t been observed in any other species besides homo sapiens. An economist/psychologist duo from Yale back in 2005, however, managed to train seven capuchin monkeys how to use money, and I’m pretty sure from here on some of you might be able to guess what happened from there on.
‘The capuchin has a small brain, and it’s pretty much focused on food and sex,” said Keith Chen, a Yale economist who along with Laurie Santos, a psychologist, are the two researchers who have had made the study. ”You should really think of a capuchin as a bottomless stomach of want,” Chen says. ”You can feed them marshmallows all day, they’ll throw up and then come back for more.”
It’s exactly this selfish desires that they tried to exploit and experiment with great success after teaching capuchins to buy grapes, apples and Jell-O. The economist wanted to study the incentives that motivated specimens to behave in a way, while the psychologist analyzed the behavior itself.
Chen’s monkey correlations to human economics attempts go from farther back when he was a Harvard graduate, and additionally shows some more interesting facts. He worked there with Marc Hauser, a psychologist, on a project which studied altruism behaviors in monkeys. They chose cotton-top tamarins for this. At first they put two in different cages, each with a lever. When the lever was pulled, the neighboring monkey would receive food. If not altruism, it was still a form of cooperation which was put to the test – the typical tamarin pulled the lever about 40 percent of the time.
The most interesting part comes about at the time when researchers paced the game a bit harder. Now, they instructed a monkey to always pull the lever (mindless altruist), and an other to never pull it (ego-monkey). The two were then inserted in the game with other monkeys. At first, the mindless altruist was pulling the lever every time, never missing a cage for its food, while the other tamarins responded in the same way 50 percent of the time. The other monkeys soon understood, though, that the mindless altruist was just pulling the lever anyway, indifferently of whether it was reciprocated or not – their response dropped to 30 percent of the time. The ego-monkey was exposed to the harshest treatment, as expected – very harshly. “[The other tamarins] would just go nuts,” Chen recalls when she was introduced with all the other. ”They’d throw their feces at the wall, walk into the corner and sit on their hands, kind of sulk.”
When Chen and Santos first started their study, they didn’t have a particular goal in mind. It was just as simple as giving a monkey a dollar and see what would happen, which was exactly the case, instead of the dollar, however, a silver disc with a hole in its center was employed a means of currency for the capuchins. It took several months of repetition for the capuchins to learn that they could exchange such a token for fruit. After they understood this, each monkey was given 12 tokens to decide on how to spend it in her best interest on food valued at different prices. Researchers observed that the monkeys could very well budget. Researchers then changed the market and put Jell-O at a lower price, to see if monkeys would buy less grapes and more Jell-O. They acted exactly like the current laws of economics dictate for humans as well.
They then taught them how to gamble, and saw they made the same irrational decisions a human gambler would make as well. The data generated by the capuchin monkeys, Chen says, ”make them statistically indistinguishable from most stock-market investors.”
Do they understand the value of money or do the monkeys just follow nice treats? Well, on a particular day, a researcher cut circular slices of cucumber, similar to the discs that were handed out to the capuchin as money, and fed them to the monkeys instead of the usual cube-like shape. One of the monkeys took a slice, chewed a bit on it, and then immediately went to one of the researchers to see if she could buy something tastier with it. Oh, and then again there’s stealing too. Not a single monkey saved any of the tokens, but most of them tried to substrate a few more tokens when they were handed out. The monkeys were given tokens one at a time by inserting them in a separate chamber from that of their living quarters, but on one occasion everything sprung into chaos when a capuchin tried to make a run for it with a tray filled with tokens and ended up back with all the other monkeys. That was a tough time for researchers.
Something else happened then too, tough , in what’s maybe the most evident form of one’s grasp upon currency. The idea is that you can use money as a form of currency to exchange for goods or services, as in not just food. Well, one of the researchers, during the chaos event, observed how one of the monkeys exchanged money to another for sex. After the act was over, the monkey which was paid immediately used it to buy a grape…
There you have it folks, sounds familiar? In almost all aspects, capuchins manage to understand money and use it in a manner not too different from a plain old homo sapiens.
History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
Here’s more from his first Inaugural Address:
At such a time in history, we who are free must proclaim anew our faith. This faith is the abiding creed of our fathers. It is our faith in the deathless dignity of man, governed by eternal moral and natural laws.
This faith defines our full view of life. It establishes, beyond debate, those gifts of the Creator that are man’s inalienable rights, and that make all men equal in His sight.
In the light of this equality, we know that the virtues most cherished by free people—love of truth, pride of work, devotion to country—all are treasures equally precious in the lives of the most humble and of the most exalted. The men who mine coal and fire furnaces and balance ledgers and turn lathes and pick cotton and heal the sick and plant corn—all serve as proudly, and as profitably, for America as the statesmen who draft treaties and the legislators who enact laws.
This faith rules our whole way of life. It decrees that we, the people, elect leaders not to rule but to serve. It asserts that we have the right to choice of our own work and to the reward of our own toil. It inspires the initiative that makes our productivity the wonder of the world. And it warns that any man who seeks to deny equality among all his brothers betrays the spirit of the free and invites the mockery of the tyrant.