There Never Was a Real Tulip Fever | History | SmithsonianThe Dutch learned that tulips could be grown from seeds or buds that grew on the mother bulb; a bulb that grows from seed would take 7 to 12 years before flowering, but a bulb itself could flower the very next year. Of particular interest to Clusius and other tulip traders were “broken bulbs”—tulips whose petals showed a striped, multicolor pattern rather than a single solid color. The effect was unpredictable, but the growing demand for these rare, “broken bulb” tulips led naturalists to study ways to reproduce them. (The pattern was later discovered to be the result of a mosaic virus that actually makes the bulbs sickly and less likely to reproduce.) “The high market price for tulips to which the current version of tulipmania refers were prices for particularly beautiful broken bulbs,” writes economist Peter Garber. “Since breaking was unpredictable, some have characterized tulipmania among growers as a gamble, with growers vying to produce better and more bizarre variegations and feathering.” After all the money Dutch speculators spent on the bulbs, they only produced flowers for about a week—but for tulip lovers, that week was a glorious one. “As luxury objects, tulips fit well into a culture of both abundant capital and new cosmopolitanism,” Goldgar writes. Tulips required expertise, an appreciation of beauty and the exotic, and, of course, an abundance of money.
Even with a joke, anchoring moves an offer up 10%As expected, participants did anchor on the first number presented during the salary negotiation — even when that number was intended as a joke. When the bidding started off with the mention of $100,000 the average offer was $35,385 compared to an offer of $32,463 for the control group. That is, the high salary joke actually paid off with an extra $3,000 a year.
Animals and fairnessAt a canine research centre at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, for example, dogs frequently chosen to take part in tests are shunned by other dogs. It turns out that all the dogs want to take part in these tests because they receive human attention; those which are chosen too often are seen as having got unfair advantage. Capuchin monkeys taking part in experiments keep track of the rewards they are getting. If one is offered a poor reward (such as a slice of cucumber), while another gets a tasty grape, the first will refuse to continue the test. Chimpanzees do this, too.
Hedge funds are clunkersSpecifically, only one-fifth of more than 5,500 hedge funds from 1994 to 2010 had nonlinear exposures to risk factors that drive hedge funds returns, the study found. An overwhelming two-thirds of the funds exhibited only linear risk exposures—or were passive. “These results mean that while in the short term hedge funds may engage in dynamic trading strategies involving complex securities, over the long run many of them behave like alternative beta portfolios,” the authors wrote.
Russia's reverse money launderingEssentially, obnal is a way for a business to take a portion of cash off the books. The shadow economy’s demand for obnal is likely tens of billions of dollars a year—driven by the incentive to avoid high taxes on business operations and profits, and the need to pay bribes and kickbacks. Maxim Osadchiy, the head of the analytical department at Moscow’s C.F.B. bank, explained the underlying logic of obnal: “Normally, money laundering is about making dirty money clean. But this market, you could say, takes clean money and makes it dirty.” The basic idea is that a firm, operating officially and legally, purchases some service—it could be consulting advice, or roof cleaning—from a company that exists only on paper and doesn’t, in fact, deliver anything. The firm transfers money to a bank, ostensibly to process the transaction for this service, and the money returns as obnal, minus a fee.
Pro-social bonuses FTWWe gave cash to some members of dodgeball teams in Canada and pharmaceutical sales teams in Belgium and asked them to spend on each other. When asked to give gifts to one another, team members reported indulging in a box of chocolate or bottle of wine, and one team even reported buying a piñata, which they gladly bashed together. Prosocial bonuses appeared to change the way team members thought of their interactions with one another, resulting in gifts that increased shared experiences. Most importantly, we found that teams that received prosocial bonuses performed better after receiving the bonuses than teams that received money to spend on themselves. Earlier, we mentioned that it is nearly impossible to measure the return on investment in corporate social responsibility. With prosocial bonuses, however, we were able to measure the dollar impact on the bottom line. On sports teams, every $10 spent prosocially led to an 11% increase in winning percentage compared to a two percent decrease in winning for teams where members spent on themselves. On sales teams, for every $10 spent prosocially, the firm gained $52.
Marina Abramovic Tries to Monetize Performance Art“There is this contradiction,” says Abramovic, who has a pronounced Serbian accent. “I’m very high on every art list or whatever, but as for market value, I’m less than any mediocre, how do you call it, young art.”
Growing Up on Easy Street Has Its Own DangersUsing a variety of data that included families with median household incomes of about $150,000, she found that the adolescents in higher-income families had higher rates of substance abuse of all kinds than those in lower-income ones. This makes a certain amount of sense, since they can afford the drugs, the vehicles to go buy them and the fake IDs that help with the procurement of Stoli and Jägermeister.But there was more. The more affluent suburban youth stole from their parents more often than city youth with less money and were more likely to experience clinically significant levels of depression, anxiety and physical ailments that seemed to stem from those mental conditions. These things began emerging as early as seventh grade.
Meet the .001%, the UNHWThe explosion of wealth among ultra high net worth (UNHW) individuals around the world has made all of this possible. According to a new study from UBS and Wealth-X, there are 211,275 people in the world who could be considered ultra high net worth, with assets totaling north of $30 million. The approximate amount of wealth controlled by this group is estimated at just under $30 trillion. And while the number of UHNW people grew by 6% since 2013, their assets grew by 7%.
Popularity is self-fulfilling“Saying that cultural objects have value,” Brian Eno once wrote, “is like saying that telephones have conversations.” Nearly all the cultural objects we consume arrive wrapped in inherited opinion; our preferences are always, to some extent, someone else’s. Visitors to the “Mona Lisa” know they are about to visit the greatest work of art ever and come away appropriately awed—or let down. An audience at a performance of “Hamlet” know it is regarded as a work of genius, so that is what they mostly see. Watts even calls the pre-eminence of Shakespeare a “historical fluke”.
Before I wrote my first book in 1989, the sum total of my earnings as a writer, over four years of freelancing, was about three thousand bucks. So it did appear to be financial suicide when I quit my job at Salomon Brothers – where I’d been working for a couple of years, and where I’d just gotten a bonus of $225,000, which they promised they’d double the following year—to take a $40,000 book advance for a book that took a year and a half to write. My father thought I was crazy. I was twenty-seven years old, and they were throwing all this money at me, and it was going to be an easy career. He said, “Do it another ten years, then you can be a writer.” But I looked around at the people on Wall Street who were ten years older than me, and I didn’t see anyone who could have left. You get trapped by the money. Something dies inside. It’s very hard to preserve the quality in a kid that makes him jump out of a high-paying job to go write a book.