To answer a question

From BiS:

One despairs. I have a Bolivian friend here & yes, she’s in favour of MaS despite not having an atom of actual socialism in her. It’s a something for nothing culture. Like all of Latin America. And they’re not a stranger to it here, either.
Question for Tim. The entire culture is riddled with Catholicism & it’s moral teaching. So why does it fail to instil some actual morality into its flock? Anyone who gets themselves into any position with power immediately starts enriching themselves & their cronies at the expense of the people they’re supposed to be serving. Lying is virtually automatic. The truth is whatever they want it to be. And they have no shame when found out. It’s your fault for discovering it. With their politics, the best you can hope for is ones get in are a little less venal than the ones who didn’t. And the other side of the coin, why are they so gullible? They must know they lie. So why do they believe these assholes? Or do they not actually believe they themselves are lying? That somehow reality will rearrange itself in-line with their promises? So it might for others. Whatever, there seems to be an enormous disconnect with the real world.

We can approach this from the other end, the ultimatum game. That foundation of behavioural economics.

We’ve $100 and two players. The first player gets to decide how much of the $100 he keeps, the second gets to decide whether the deal happens or not. If it doesn’t happen then neither gets anything.

We find out that deals offering less than $30 – maybe $40 – to the second player get rejected and thus no one keeps anything. This is taken as evidence of a sense of innate fairness in human beings. Also of our willingness to undergo personal pain – the loss of $30 – in order to teach someone a wider social lesson – don’t be an unfair and mean git.

A Nobel was gained on this insight.

Then someone thought hmmm. This game was played with upper middle class American university students – the sort of subjects that a US professor with multiple $100 stashes for experiments would have access to at Yale, Harvard, Princeton. What happens if we play this with other people?

One such was – I think I’m right here – with Peruvians over the other side of the Andes. Not sure if on the slope down into the Amazon or still up in the mountains but really, very close indeed in culture to those Bolivians who have been screwed over for the past thousand years. Yes, thousand, because the Incas weren’t exactly democratically inclined free market capitalists when they expanded – that was closer to what Pol Pot tried to bring in than anything else in this modern world.

So, different people, different culture – different results. The second party in the game would accept pretty much anything. Hey, a $’s a $. And the first parties would offer $99 for me and $ for you and expect the split to be accepted.

It is a very different economic culture.

The next question, something where the answer is not as yet known, is how this works. Is that “fairness” and so on a result of seeing that something akin to a free market capitalism works and that this don’t fuck me over response is behaviour learnt from that? Or, perhaps, is it necessary for the belief to exist first before anything close to a modern economy works?

Dunno, no one does, but it’s sure an interesting question.

46 thoughts on “To answer a question”

  1. I remember reading about this experiment and in one culture the 1st party would offer more than 50% and the 2nd would refuse it because it implied there would be a favour owed in future.

  2. Anyone who gets themselves into any position with power immediately starts enriching themselves & their cronies at the expense of the people they’re supposed to be serving. Lying is virtually automatic. The truth is whatever they want it to be.

    That historically describes Catholicism. Authoritarian, rich clergy hand in glove with the secular authorities selling indulgences and services such as praying for the dead, collection plates… all those pennines add up… control of information and defining morality – everything in Latin so nobody could challenge the Church’s interpretations, which is why they burnt translations of the Bible in local languages and the translators – any disagreement with the Church was punished.

  3. There’s a reason why modern capitalism started in cold Protestant northern European countries and why there’s the old joke amongst fund managers that one should not invest in hot Catholic countries. The Catholic church is not a force for progress.

    Problem is made worse by the liberation theologists who espoused Marxism.

  4. The result is also dependent on whether the game is iterative (people accept less unfairness, or perhaps just have less unfairness imposed on them if it is iterative), and whether you can choose to play the game with different people which might give you a bigger return irrespective of fairness (capitalism, big cities, internet).

    One awaits with baited breath the result of the next iteration of the game between us and our rulers, with the overwhelming majority now clamouring for the imposition of tyranny and approval ratings of most of the current overlords skyrocketing. When most people believe their best return comes from the complete obliteration of the western way of life because their hazard for death this year has increased by 0.01, what happens next?

  5. I don’t think it’s kindness, it’s status. You have done nothing to earn the cash and you can’t get it without my help. We are therefore equal players and the payoff must reflect that. If you get the larger share, your status has increased relative to mine. Unacceptable. You get hookers and cocaine, I get half of shandy. 50 50 or fuck off.

    The more interesting variant is where I have painstakingly concocted a brilliant scam but I need an accomplice. You part is small but essential. I’ve done all the work, so I offer you 10%. Do you take it?

  6. Real world example: Brexit talks on fishing.
    Britain offers a transition deal.
    France rejects it.
    No deal.
    France loses 100%.
    In order to punish us for leaving?

  7. IIRC There have been experiments with chimps and such-like, which indicate a feeling of fairness, or more accurately, awareness of mutual advantage and a dislike of being ripped off.

  8. The entire culture is riddled with Catholicism & it’s moral teaching. So why does it fail to instil some actual morality into its flock?

    Imagine how much more frightful dagos would be without Catholicism.

    Authoritarian, rich clergy hand in glove with the secular authorities selling indulgences and services such as praying for the dead, collection plates… all those pennines add up… control of information and defining morality – everything in Latin so nobody could challenge the Church’s interpretations, which is why they burnt translations of the Bible in local languages and the translators – any disagreement with the Church was punished.

    We’re so lucky to live in an honest, secular society with its light taxation and where you can say whatever you want about Mohammed-Jihad, Black Lives Matters, or Hunter Biden without fear of punishment or censorship.

    The Catholic church is not a force for progress.

    Progress has brought us to a situation where women are refusing to breed and the authorities openly congratulate themselves on how many illiterate desert tribesmen they’re resettling in England.

    A pox on Progress and its sterile materialism, we need Romance, Kate Bush and King Arthur.

  9. Steve,

    Women refusing to breed

    Which is where we came in. Civilization benefits men and women but men gain more because women are still lumbered with producing the next generation. So women say if they can’t be as free as men no deal.

  10. “Why do Catholics always lie”

    Ignoring pendancy, isn’t there a flavour of Prots spending eternity in the hell fires, whereas for the Cats it’s 3 hail maries, a quick swig and they’re good? Broadly?

  11. Roue – that’s an interesting perspective which I’m sure is wrong.

    Women don’t want equality, and umpteen decades of feminism has only made them more confused and miserable. Revealed preferences from women’s fiction: they want to be sensually dominated (preferably by smouldering, hunky billionaire-firemen who look like Henry Cavill or Tom Hardy. In kilts.)

    isn’t there a flavour of Prots spending eternity in the hell fires, whereas for the Cats it’s 3 hail maries, a quick swig and they’re good? Broadly?

    Dunno, the obverse is that papists have generally believed that it’s not enough to believe in Christ to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, you have to do good deeds here on Earth too. Protesters have generally held that, narp, faith alone will do.

    Though in practice pretty much every flavour of Christianity is philanthropic.

  12. As I understand it, according to the Christian faith, Jesus is said to have died for our sins to be forgiven. That’s the sins we have committed, are committing, and will commit. So, you can be the biggest monster or toe rag in the world, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Blair, but you will still get into heaven as your sins will have been forgiven. So why behave yourself?
    Anyway, who would want to go to heaven? If it’s perfection, then that means it can’t be improved upon. There will then be no progress or suggestions of change or improvement, just stagnation, for ever. Perhaps that’s why Satan was cast out? Because he challenged, or questioned, “What if?”. Funny thing, religion.

  13. It’s a fair answer, Tim. But then how do you account for Argentinians? Who never saw an Inca & are about 96% Europeans anyway. Or the rest of Gran Colombia? Venezuela was never Incan. Actually had some advanced cultures until the Spanish came & screwed it over. Or CO? Paraguay? Lost half it’s population in a pointless war over which bunch of hidalgos got their snouts in the national trough? Spain’s hardly much better.
    There’s definitely something strange about the culture. I just paid for a funeral in Colombia. Father of a close amiga. Poor family out in the boonies in the poorest bario of a poor town. Yes they’re thankful. But I get a load of Whatsappery thanking Dios. It wasn’t Dios. It was the bank account of an atheist Brit would spit on their Christ if he ever met him. I’d like to go to Colombia to see them. But would I actually be safe, if I did? One thing the Latin world seems to be incapable of understanding is obligations. The idea that when someone helps you, you acquire a debt that you should repay in some way or other. Maybe by helping someone else. That’s how our society functions, isn’t it? We feel uncomfortable being indebted to other people. It just isn’t in the Latin culture. They’ll take everything you’ve got & more. Doesn’t bother them in the slightest. And not show the slightest obligation in return.

  14. Steve,
    There are different kinds of equality. Women want to be as free as they perceive men to be so they can spend their lives chasing hunks instead of raising a couple of screaming brats.

  15. john B

    “…..everything in Latin so nobody could challenge the Church’s interpretations, which is why they burnt translations of the Bible in local languages and the translators..”

    Is this from Horrible Histories or some other such learned tome?

    The Catholic church in the Middle Ages allowed translations into the vernacular, they just needed to get the proper Imprimatur to verify their accuracy. What you weren’t allowed to do was your own translation, as that might not necessarily be accurately done and, before you know it, you have something completely different (any a different sect for each translation). Not to omit the fact that any sort of Bible before printing was going to be rare and very expensive; the current price of a family car expensive.

    As to the Latin. It was the lingua franca, for goodness sakes. Every scholar, diplomat, courtier and cleric, etc. used it. Do you criticise Isaac Newton for writing in Latin and thus making himself ‘unchallengeable’?

  16. Part of the difference could be how badly you need the money. Turning down $1 is a lot more expensive to a Peruvian than an American.

    I’ve always wondered how different the results might be if the money involved were significantly higher. Let’s say you’re offered $100,000 out of $1,000,000 – you pay a much higher price to teach the lesson.

    Re: the cultural differences, I wonder if some of this is a reflection of corruption & distrust, once your society is widely infected it may nearly impossible to reverse. In the U.S. there was a black congresswoman from Florida – elected from a district designed to elect a black person. She was notoriously corrupt, when asked about it her constituents shrugged, some even said it was good that “we” were getting our share.

  17. The Incan bit is my supposition after not much thought about what I’m supposing. I mean a society that has never seen any benefit from these capitalist and market wonders. The ultimatum game is there in the peer reviewed journals and stands up rather better perhaps.

    “But then how do you account for Argentinians?”

    Well, they’re Italians who think they’re English which is never going to work out well.

  18. And the last bit, yes, that’s roughly the same thing the ultimatum game is testing…..very roughly. Reciprocation…..

  19. What happens if the first player (the one who sets the divi) is very much poorer and lowly than the player with the veto?
    Prior relative status as well as the relative value of the amount in play.

  20. “Why do they believe these assholes?”

    Is that really unique to South America? In every US election, and likley in most countries, some portion of the population goes gaga for some wing nut politician. We saw it for Trump but that appears to be fading fast (though a recent drive through some rural states suggests he may do better than the polls suggest). We saw it for Bernie Sanders. We saw it in loads for Obama who was supposed to “transform” us all but since leaving office has now milked it to become richer than Romney. To a lesser extent we saw it for Ross Perot in the ‘90s. There is regularly enough some creep whom some chunk of the population latches on to thinking this person will save us – from what I often don’t know.

  21. Dennis, Meat Eating Theologian

    The entire culture is riddled with Catholicism & it’s moral teaching. So why does it fail to instill some actual morality into its flock?d

    You could ask the same question of the Church of England and the British, and I’m pretty sure the answer would be about the same.

  22. ” I mean a society that has never seen any benefit from these capitalist and market wonders.”
    Now that’s something I recognise. I find myself with people who have no experience of working towards anything that pays a dividend of improvement at the end. They try to better themselves & someone will take it away from them. Is it surprising they don’t bother?

    What worries me is in the Latin world I see the end point to which our own culture is headed. We might not be quite there yet but we’re working very hard to get there.

  23. Game Theory riddles share a characteristic, they all presume a single one-off interaction.
    So not at all like real life, unless you consider that marriage, nepotism, brands, advertising, reputation, mortgages, after-sales service and so on don’t really exist.
    Pace that imbecile David Graeber, debt is good. It is a social glue.

  24. “I mean a society that has never seen any benefit from these capitalist and market wonders.”

    But this is the west isn’t it. At least the current woke millenialist view. The world born in to is assumed to be the one that has already been there, so you see the challenges it presents you with, but have no idea of how much more incredible this is than 1990, or 2000 even. Not to mention the much lower standard of living for most humans today, and almost all humans throughout almost all of history.

    The richness of our existence is our birthright, wealth springs naturally from the earth, and is distributed unequally in a zero-sum manner. That’s the stunted viewpoint you are up against.

  25. “Well, they’re Italians who think they’re English…” Descended from French tarts (just to complete that old saying).

  26. BiS. You’re absolutely right. In forty years of living in Peru the country’s become easier, more efficient and more modern to live in (no less corrupt though). Every time I went back to England the place was more bureaucratic, the people less helpful and more violent. The southamericanisation of what was once a decent country.

  27. @
    Re: the cultural differences, I wonder if some of this is a reflection of corruption & distrust, once your society is widely infected it may nearly impossible to reverse

    That’s something I was discussing with the English guy looks after my cars whilst he was doing a service for me. We’re both Londoners & come from the same sort of background. We both belong to trust circles that overlap with us. I know people who might need their car fixed, so I point them in his direction. I can be confident he’ll give them a good service & won’t rip them off. He knows, as long as he does so, they won’t demure from paying what he asks. He’s let cars go with money owing because he can be confident they’ll come back & clear the balance. In turn. he sends people in my direction. Knowing they’ll be looked after the same way he looks after the people I send him. I enhance his reputation & he enhances mine. That’s how these trust circles work. Everyone within the circle knows they benefit from maintaining a good reputation. Makes things possible would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Let someone down & word rapidly goes round. That person’s out, not to have business done with except on hostile terms. Because it’s not only their reputation’s suffered but those who vouched for them.
    This isn’t Christian morality. Not a whiff of it. This is naked self interest. But it seems to work a lot better.

  28. ” We both belong to trust circles that overlap with us. ”

    Scale this up and you have what England, as well as most other Northwest European and Scandinavian countries, used to be like.

    Also what Japan still is.

    What could have changed to make them worse?

  29. @Tim
    I’ve been thinking over your game theory explanation. But behavioural science is based on the idea that people are rational & make rational decisions. What about the religious? By definition, there’s nothing rational about religion. Faith is a rejection of rational thought. You end up with fatalism. A disconnect between cause & effect because you interpose a supreme being can influence the fall of the fatal dice. It makes it impossible to learn by experience because the religious aren’t looking for the lessons to be learned in the experience.
    Maybe your Peruvian accepts the dollar because his priest tells him he’s not worthy of anything better.
    To me greed, avarice, jealousy aren’t vices. They’re virtues. To accumulate wealth. To covet your neighbour’s ox & want a bigger better ox of your own. That’s how we all cumulatively get wealthier. Competition. Or people’d be content to sit on their arses in shit.

  30. By definition, there’s nothing rational about religion. Faith is a rejection of rational thought.

    That demonstrates almost Dawkins-level ignorance. Do you imagine that nobody in the last few thousands of years has thought rationally about faith? Without faith in something (which need not be a creator god(s)), morality isn’t possible. So you can work to make yourself (and society) wealthy until someone bigger comes along and beats you over the head while taking your wealth.

    Disclaimer: I’m as thorough an atheist as you’re likely to meet, maybe nearly a Taoist on a good day. But I was brought up on Judaeo-Christian morality, and despite some searching haven’t identified a better alternative.

  31. Steve said:
    “ A pox on Progress and its sterile materialism, we need Romance, Kate Bush and King Arthur.”

    Huzzah!

  32. @philip

    “Game Theory riddles share a characteristic, they all presume a single one-off interaction.”

    This seems unfair on Game Theory, both the theoretical and observational-empirical literature (definitely) and the experimental work (bit harder to do long-term interactions, but it doesn’t mean the issue gets swept under the carpet entirely by everybody). Perhaps there’s an issue in that Cliff’s Notes Basic Introduction to Game Theory For Dummies might spend a lot of time on introducing one-off interactions that are easy to analyse, but it’s not as if that reflects where the research is.

    @bis

    “But behavioural science is based on the idea that people are rational & make rational decisions”

    Don’t think this is right either. Behavioural economics is so interesting – and has spent recent years so “on trend” – partly because it’s one of the areas of economics where the extent of “rationality” in decision-making is most thoroughly questioned.

  33. Do you imagine that nobody in the last few thousands of years has thought rationally about faith? Without faith in something (which need not be a creator god(s)), morality isn’t possible

    How can you think rationally about faith without dismissing it? Faith is believing something in the absence of proof. If you have proof, faith is superfluous. And what is labelled ‘morality’ is simply optimal behaviour for the time & place. Which is why it’s impossible to define without those reference points. It’s deducible, so why would faith be needed. In what?

  34. Modern day end of world Christian sects running into African fatalism has not had the effect those churches wanted when they sent missionaries

  35. So Much For Subtlety

    And what is labelled ‘morality’ is simply optimal behaviour for the time & place. Which is why it’s impossible to define without those reference points.

    You keep saying this and I keep pointing out that it is a logical fallacy. It is simply not obvious that morality is optimal at any time. Plenty of people do non-optimal things. This fallacy comes from the world of anthropology that insists that everything is an adaptation. There is no reason to think that is true.

    But by assuming that morality comes from a time and place, you assume what you need to prove. You need to show that there are no firm permanent rules. Which would be hard. But you do not even try

  36. @SMfS
    FFS! We’ve actually been talking about a part of the world proves my contention. The optimal morality for current day S. America is to lie cheat & steal. Honesty is not rewarded. That was the whole point of my question to Tim. Why is the Catholic church so poor at instilling the morality it professes to preach into its adherents?
    And of course there are no permanent rules. Morality can be anything you want it to be. We’re going through exactly this now with the SJWs, cancel culture, BLM, trannie rights & the rest of it. They are all moral issues? What else could they be?

  37. Chris Miller 06-57.
    Apes, chimps, dolphins, meerkats et al all display behavior which we may call ‘moral’ without, to my knowledge anyway, any ‘faith’.

  38. I don’t consider myself a true believer, but I see a value in tradition, ritual, the basis of a moral compass.
    This year we have seen what happens when ‘optimal morality for current day’ is no more than the consensus of mass hysteria. To make a map you need to have a datum, a point of reference; a no-place-in-particular that is now particular. The map is built up from that, and when you have painstakingly built your map you may not need to bother with it very much, even discard it for a better, but it is the origin — the rock on which to build.

  39. Apes, chimps, dolphins, meerkats et al all display behavior which we may call ‘moral’ without, to my knowledge anyway, any ‘faith’.

    In small groups and family units, not in societies of a million+ individuals. And I’m not convinced that the fact that some might call it ‘moral’ means there’s morality there.

  40. Finally found it on Amazon
    Without reading it but looking through the reviews- Yeah, OK, poor countries the elites extract all the wealth. That describes the end. What one needs to know is how the elites are permitted to extract all the wealth? Or conversely, what restricts the elites in rich countries. I don’t think you’re going to find that in economics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *