I heard a great discussion via NPR that was meant to be an economics lesson, but was also a great lesson in how to serve your own interests by serving the greater good. In the late 1700s the UK was sending its prisoners to Australia -- which was happy to have them. So much so that the government paid a tidy sum for each convict. Unfortunately, the survival rate wasn’t great. In fact, on one ship, 1/3 of the UK prisoners arrived DOA and those who did survive were in rough shape. This meant that the Australian government wasn’t getting what it paid for. And the poor convicts didn't have a chance. How to up the survival rate? Lemons for scurvy; better pay for ship captains; faster shipping routes? None of these made a difference. What did? It turned out that what was needed was a different incentive. Instead of being paid for each prisoner who got on the ship, the captains were paid for each prisoner who got off. Lesson learned: when you align your self interest with the social interest, everybody wins.
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