Because I am a big dummy who barely passed economics and can be rendered unconscious through even the briefest application of Wall Street Week, I have to imagine that economics research is deadly dull. How could economists make it more interesting? That's easy. How do you make anything more interesting? Add more monkeys.
Cécile Fruteau placed food containers with highly-desired pieces of apple in two groups of South African vervet monkeys. For the monkeys there was just one problem: only one in each group could open the food container. This monkey had a low position in the rank order and was therefore scarcely groomed. However, as soon as she acquired the power to hand out apples she was valued more and was groomed a lot by the rest of the group.
At that point the monkey had, in effect, a monopoly power granted by the government. What would happen if the researchers introduced competition?
Yet she could only enjoy that privilege briefly; the researchers placed a second food container that could be opened by another low-ranking female. From that moment onwards the market value of the first monkey was halved, and she was therefore groomed half as often.
Presumably the first monkey could regain her monopoly at the whim of the government, or if the second monkey decided to go Cheeta Galt or something.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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