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February 24, 2007

Tsk Mr. Leith, I mean Tsk!


It is curiosity that Doctor Who, who is right about more or less everything, identifies as what he really loves about humans. We go to the moon, and climb mountains, and prove theorems, and haul tentacled beasts from the deep ocean with cries of "yeurggh!" and "wow!", and set CCTV cameras to catch extinct woodpeckers. Almost all the best things we do as a race are slightly or completely pointless.

It's that that raises us above Economic Man, who knows the price of everything. And is something - there is a vague point to this article, I regret to say - that we'd benefit from recognising, and defending in our education system.

Economists talk about utility, not money, in this area. Not one of the strange breed think that people are motivated solely by lucre or profit: rather, by any number of different incentives, for fame, power, glory, respect, and yes, even satisfying simple curiosity. No one, would, for example, say that you'll get better people applying to CERN if you raise the wages, or that you'll get more effort out of those there if you did. But if you raised the equipment budget, or bought some more shiny gew gaws for them to play with, you might well do.

Much of the subject is, in fact, about teasing out of the data just what it is that makes up the incentives, what is it that individuals (and groups of them) see as increasing their utility: and very few think that there are more than a very few solely motivated by dosh.

February 24, 2007 in Economics | Permalink


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"very few think that there are more than a very few solely motivated by dosh."

I am one of them.

Posted by: Martin | Feb 25, 2007 9:43:59 AM