Saturday, April 24, 2010

Game Theory of Painting the Fence

Tom Sawyer's story of whitewashing the fence is a story in Economics. Tom, left with an unenviable task, makes it enticing so his buddies pay him for a turn at the task. At the end, "He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while – plenty of company – and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village. Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain."


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