Friday, August 30, 2013

The root of all evil? Money fosters a spirit of COOPERATION by encouraging strangers to trust each other, claim experts

Academic economists discover what market advocates have long said

Money may be considered the root of all evil, but it fosters a spirit of cooperation in modern society, according to new research.

Scientists conducted experiments which showed how spontaneous cooperation ebbs away as societies get larger.  Money overcomes this tendency by encouraging anonymous strangers to trust each other.

Without it, large industrialised societies may never have evolved, the research suggests.

The team, led by Professor Gabriele Camera, from the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University in Orange, California, wrote: ‘This study has identified a behavioural reason for the existence of money.

‘Our research suggests that norms of voluntary co-operation are difficult to use in a society of strangers, unless they are mediated by some institution.'

Historically, humans have only survived by binding together in close-knit groups - yet modern society depends on the cooperation of complete strangers.

The U.S. study involved 448 volunteers playing a ‘helping game’ designed to examine the impact of money.

In one of a series of experiments, participants could choose whether or not to offer ‘help’ to fellow players in the form of gifts of ‘consumption units’ (CUs).  Later the CUs were swapped for real money, providing an incentive to acquire more of them.

Being generous increased the chances of receiving reciprocal help and units in the future.

But this voluntary ‘give and take’ system only worked when groups were small and individuals dealt personally with each other.

Co-operation fell from almost 80 per cent in groups of two to 49.1 per cent in groups of four, 34.2 per cent in groups of eight and 28.5 per cent in groups of 32.

The introduction of worthless tokens brought about a dramatic change.  Volunteers instinctively started using the tokens as ‘money’ - rewarding help with a token or demanding one in exchange for help.

With tokens included in the game, the average rate of co-operation remained a constant 52.1 per cent even when groups increased in size, the scientists reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Camera said: 'In the experiment, monetary exchange, one of the most basic economic institutions, emerged endogenously and supported a stable level of co-operation in small as well as large groups.

‘Inherently worthless tokens acted as a catalyst for co-operation, acquiring value because of a self-sustaining belief that they could be exchanged for future co-operation.’

But the study also exposed the dark side of money, showing how it led to a social cost. Voluntary helpfulness was replaced by mercenary values.

‘Once the convention of money took hold, participants replaced norms of voluntary co-operation with a norm of exchange, i.e. trading co-operation for a token, quid pro quo,’ said the researchers.  ‘This damaged co-operation whenever monetary trade was unavailable.’



When 'never again' turns into 'yet again'

DURING A VISIT last week to Dachau, the former concentration camp near Munich, German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid a wreath in memory of the tens of thousands the Nazis murdered there. The memory of their fate, she said, "fills me with deep sadness and shame."

Dachau — the original concentration camp, established in March 1933 — radiates a constant reminder about the bottomless human capacity to commit evil, or to look away when evil is committed. "How could Germans go so far as to deny people human dignity and the right to live?" Merkel asked. "Places such as this warn each one of us to help ensure that such things never happen again."


As Merkel spoke, Copts and other Christians in Egypt were reeling from a wave of attacks more savage than any in modern Egyptian history. Islamist mobs across the country torched scores of churches — some more than 1,000 years old — along with convents, monasteries, and Christian-owned homes and businesses. A Franciscan school near Cairo was looted and burned, said Sister Manal, the principal; then she and other nuns were paraded through the streets "like prisoners of war" to the jeers and abuse of the mob.

Shades of Kristallnacht.

Merkel's speech also coincided with the latest evidence of a chemical-weapons attack by the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Graphic video clips posted online by anti-Assad rebels east of Damascus showed rows of corpses, including those of women, children, and babies. Hospitals in the area described a sudden influx of patients gasping for breath and suffering from convulsions, nausea, and vomiting — symptoms consistent with chemical-weapons poisoning. The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders put the death toll at 355; other estimates ranged far higher. The massacre took place one year to the week after President Obama's warning that any use of chemical weapons by Assad would be a red line. In fact, as even the Obama administration has conceded, Assad crossed that line months ago. Last week's attack was not the first, only the most brazen.

Shades of Halabja.

While Merkel was recalling the lessons of history in Dachau, a United Nations commission of inquiry was holding hearings on human rights abuses in North Korea. Survivors of Pyongyang's ghastly network of slave-labor camps recounted the horrors that take place there: starvation, torture, rape, public executions. There is nothing secret about the camps' existence or location; detailed satellite images have long been available in the West. So have accounts of unspeakable atrocities the North Korean regime inflicts on its victims. Among those testifying before the UN panel was Shin Dong-hyuk, who spent the first 22 years of his life in the North Korea's notorious Camp 14 before a miraculous escape in 2005. Shin told the harrowing story of a six-year-old girl, a classmate, who was publicly beaten to death by her teacher for stealing five kernels of corn. Other witnesses testified to other savageries, from forced abortions to medical experiments performed on dwarfs.

Shades of Auschwitz. Of the Gulag. Of the Cambodian killing fields.

"Can this really be happening? In the 21st century?" exclaimed the Israeli columnist Ari Shavit as news broke last week of the latest chemical-weapons attack in Syria. "No decent person can ignore what's happening."

That's what we always tell ourselves when "never again" turns into "yet again." But man's inhumanity to man is no more unthinkable in the 21st century than it was in the 20th. Decent people can and usually will ignore what's happening, and the indecent count on their apathy.

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Adolf Hitler is said to have remarked in 1939.

There are always reasons not to act in the face of a growing evil. There are always reasons to believe that atrocities are being overstated, or that tyrants can be persuaded to reform, or that common sense will prevail, or that meddling in the "internal affairs" of others will only make things worse. Then we are shocked to find we have enabled monsters.

The burning of houses of worship didn't end with Kristallnacht, nor the gassing of civilians with Halabja, nor concentration-camp butchery with Dachau. And we aren't finished building memorials to the dead, and solemnly declaring, as we lay our wreaths, that next time we won't forget the lessons of history.



Judge Strikes Down Obama’s ‘Improper’ NLRB Recess Appointment

A federal judge struck down one of President Obama’s highly controversial recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled in a case involving a Washington State firm charged with unfair labor practices that that “the Board is without power to act because it lacks a properly appointed quorum.”

On August 12, four new NRLB members appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate were sworn-in, but Settles' August 13th decision invalidates all previous actions taken by Obama’s recess appointees.

In July, Obama was forced to withdrew his 2012 “recess” appointees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, because they were named to the NLRB while the Senate was still in session and their appointments were subsequently ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

Obama named Lafe Solomon acting general counsel in 2010, then re-nominated him as the agency’s top lawyer in 2011 and 2013, although he was never confirmed by the Senate. (See NLRB press release.pdf)

But Settle ruled that Solomon’s appointment was invalid because the Federal Vacancies Reform Act requires that the appointee serve “as a personal assistant to the departing officer” within the year prior to the appointment, which  Solomon did not do.

The ruling “recognizes what the NLRB has failed to acknowledge: that former acting general counsel Lafe Solomon’s authority was questionable and came at an extreme cost to America’s job creators, like Boeing and Wal-Mart,” Dan Epstein, executive director of government accountability organization Cause of Action, commented.

Solomon came under fire by business groups after filing a 2011 complaint against Boeing, claiming that the aviation giant’s opening of a production plant in right-to-work South Carolina was an improper response to threats of a strike by its unionized employees in Washington State.

Judicial Watch released documents revealing emails about a deal the NLRB offered Boeing, in which it would drop the complaint if Boeing agreed not to lay off unionized workers. The union employees were later granted a contract extension and the complaint was formally withdrawn.

Last year, the NLRB’s Office of the Inspector General reported on a conflict of interest case involving Solomon, who held a substantial amount of Wal-Mart stock but participated in a decision on whether to file a complaint against Wal-Mart’s social media policy.

NLRB personnel polices prohibit individuals “from participating personally and substantially” in matters in which they have a financial interest.

Noting that “The DOJ can bring criminal or civil actions against Solomon,” Cause of Action condemned the OIG’s decision not to hold Solomon accountable because of “defects in the ethics process at the NLRB."




Are you a “potential terrorist?”:  "Are you a conservative, a libertarian, a Christian or a gun owner? Are you opposed to abortion, globalism, Communism, illegal immigration, the United Nations or the New World Order? Do you believe in conspiracy theories, do you believe that we are living in the 'end times' or do you ever visit alternative news websites (such as this one)? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are a 'potential terrorist' according to official U.S. government documents."

The French model:  "Sometimes the impact of a set of policies is not obvious immediately. When Japan was riding high in the late 1980′s, a lot of people suggested that their model was one to emulate. Their public/private partnership with lifetime employment seemed to be working well. Japan had high growth rates and their future seemed limitless. It was only a matter of time before their economy surpassed America’s. It didn’t turn out that way. France is another example."

FL: Zimmerman will seek to recover legal fees from state:  "George Zimmerman's attorney said Tuesday that he is going to ask the state of Florida to pay for some of his client's non-lawyer legal bills, including for experts, printing and court reporters, and that the price tag could reach $300,000. Zimmerman was acquitted last month of all charges in the 2012 fatal shooting of Miami teenager Trayvon Martin. The decision in the nationally televised trial touched off protests across the country. Since he was found not guilty, Zimmerman is entitled under a Florida law to recoup the defense costs, minus private attorney fees, said his lawyer Mark O'Mara. It also says that any costs already paid can be refunded with the approval of a judge, he said."


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