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Numbers Games

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“Money stands ruinously at the center of every human affair.” “Put your money where your mouth is, or shut up.”

Epigrammatic quotes about filthy lucre or, alternately, precious mammon, are almost as numerous as pennies, but not quite as worthless.

As reported early this week by Salt Lake Tribune columnist Lisa Carricaburu, University of Utah economics professor E.K. Hunt was one of a select few to have his 1978 essay on the utilitarian basis of capitalism selected by the elite academic publication, Review of Social Economics. A decidedly left-leaning economist, and therefore an eternal optimist when it comes to human nature, Hunt apparently puts more stock in society’s power to change human evolution than he does in the individual’s drive for “calculating utility maximization.” That could be a fancy way of saying that Hunt, unlike your securities broker, doesn’t see why people should forever remain selfish bastards. Touching as that notion may be, the society Hunt invests so much hope in when it comes to influencing human behavior is made up of precisely that—selfish bastards. But at least now we know why conservatives get so defensive about Hillary Clinton’s famous catchphrase. It takes a village to raise a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but it’s more likely to raise an army of sales analysts instead.

That’s not to say that money doesn’t manifest itself in surprising ways. In some cases, it hardly manifests itself at all ...

& ull; After University of Chicago researchers pored over the data of 16,000 Americans over the course of 14 years, they found that there is no identifiable link between the quality of a person’s sex life and the quantity in their bank account. In fact, according to a write-up of the report by CNN/Money, people without jobs have more sexual partners. They also have a hell of a lot more free time.

& ull; Danish economist and statistician Bjorn Lomborg is the enemy of overearnest environmentalists everywhere, according to a report in The New York Times. He also asks all the right questions. To whit, given a finite amount of money to spend on world problems, say $50 billion, how could it best be spent for maximum effectiveness given the most rigorous of cost-benefit analysis? Damn environmental problems such as global warming, says Lomborg. Combating AIDS, malnutrition and malaria would give the world the best bang for its global buck, according to the Times article. That was also the decision of eight other economists at a special summit hosted by Lomborg last month in Copenhagen. Incidentally, writers of the many letters to the editor in response to our recent cover story, “Borderline Bigotry,” might be incensed to discover that Lomborg sees no evidence that immigrants to the United States pose any threat to our welfare system. In fact, the group of economists, three of them Nobel Prize winners, “wanted to see immigration barriers reduced,” the article stated. Send those letters on to Denmark, folks.

& ull; An article by CareerBuilder.com Editor Kate Lorenz summarizes completely and oh-so-neatly the findings of a report by two U.S. university professors titled “Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers’ Looks and Lucre.” In short, tall, thin and attractive people get paid better at their jobs, receive lesser sentences for their crimes and get better care from their doctors than do short, average-looking Americans with pot bellies. Never mind Karl Marx and the scourge of “utility maximization,” folks. Read Darwin, and choose your reproductive mate carefully.

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