Thursday, January 1, 2009

Pretty sad stuff

If you have (or, had) me in class you all know how upset I am about certain facets in our (greek) society and how disillusioned I get when some of these work their way through into school and manifest themselves not (only) in the behavior of 30 and 40 and 50 year old teachers but in the behavior of 16 or 17 year old kids.

Read this:
......One suggestive finding comes from a cross-cultural study carried out by three economists and published earlier this year in the journal Science. Simon Gächter, Benedikt Herrmann and Christian Thöni invited subjects in 16 cities across the world to play a “public goods” game, in which players had to choose, repeatedly, between contributing to a pot for the benefit of all or selfishly hoarding their own resources.

Earlier research had found that if players were given the option of punishing the selfish by removing their resources, they did so and near-full co-operation quickly emerged. Gächter and his colleagues found that, in many societies, the opposite occurred: rather than accepting their punishment and co-operating, those who had been punished tended instead to take revenge.

The results were striking: co-operative behaviour seemed to flourish in countries where market democracies were long established.

The Americans, Australians, Britons and Swiss were the least likely to inflict recriminatory punishment. Russians, Greeks and Saudis were most prone to reprisals. Co-operation was best sustained in the US, Denmark and Switzerland, and fell apart in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Greece.

Cooperation requires trust. Remember what Dasgupta writes about trust in his 'Very Short Introduction to Economics'?

I wrote earlier in a post that you (the kids) are the future. Please change it and trasform this society to the better. You can start today.

The full article can be found here.

PS1: I just read this on that little 'text':
Dasgupta is supremely well qualified to write an overview of economics for the layman. Originally, he says, he had it in mind to lay out what he understood to be the research frontier. "But even though the analytical and empirical core of economics had growth from strength to strength over the decades," he writes, "I haven't been at ease with the selection of topics that textbooks offer for discussion (rural life in poor regions -- that is the economic life of some 2.5 billion people -- doesn't get mentioned at all, nor with the subjects that are emphasized in leading economic journals (Nature rarely appears there as an active player)." The result is a serious textbook treatment shaped around the lives of two ten-year-old "literary grandchildren," Becky in a small Midwestern suburb where her father works for a firm specializing in property law, Desta in a village in southwestern Ethiopia, where her father farms half a hectare of land.

Photographs depicting the wealth of a typical European or American family, laid out in the driveway of a two-car garage, contrasted with the meager personal belongings of a family arrayed before their thatch-roofed hut, have become common enough in introductory texts in recent years, but Dagupta follows his conceit throughout his book, demonstrating with particular force the extent to which institutional arrangements are at the heart of the differences between both places.

He concludes, "Perhaps the best that Becky's world can do for Desta's is to offer financial and technical assistance so as to promote and support local enterprises -- including those involving education and primary health care -- that people there are all too keen to create even as they see from a distance how people elsewhere have been able to improve their conditions of living. And perhaps the best that Desta's world can do for Becky's is to alert it to the enormous stresses economic growth there has put on Nature. There is, alas, no magic potion for bringing about economic progress in either world."

PS2: The above reminded me of a paper by PD. Read this:
I will be using the word "trust" in the context of someone forming expectations about those actions of others which have a bearing on her choice of action, when that action must be chosen before she can observe the actions of those others. Trust is of importance because its presence or absence can have a bearing on what we choose to do, and in many cases what we can do.

The clause concerning the inability to observe others’ actions at the time one chooses one’s own action is central. But it should be noted that this inability need not be due to one’s choice of action temporally preceding those of others. For example, it could be that what I ought now to do depends on whether you have done what you said you would do, in circumstances where I cannot now, or possibly ever, verify whether you have actually done it.
The paper is not the easiest to read but important parts are accessible and those of you who are a bit more socially sensitive and are willing to read (or, at least skim through) papers / books outside the 'required' may find the paper here. The 1 through 10 list in pp 9-11 is interesting - think about this country while reading it.

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