Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Jewelry, The Child, and The Misleading Question

2013 was a really bad year for my blogging activities. In fact, it is my worst year of blogging within the last 5 years and I am committed to ensure that this will not happen again. Let's start the 2014's first article by analyzing a misleading story.

A couple of days ago I read the following short story: a child asked her/his mom whether the mother would ever leave her precious jewelries and purses full with money with the maid. The mother's answer was no, explaining further that she does not trust the maid. Then the child replied: why do you leave me with the maid then? End of story.

I hate this kind of story, simply because it tends to be misleading most of the time. The quick reaction on the mother would be: how could you leave your child with the maid when you actually don't trust her? Are you saying that the jewelries and money are more valuable than your own child? Typical. But this quick reaction is completely wrong. If you read it further, you will realize that making a comparison between the child and the jewelry is misleading in the first place. Why?

First, from the mother's perspective, when she said that she does not trust the maid, she wasn't talking about the maid's capability to take care of the child. She was basically saying that the probability of the maid to escape the house with her jewelries and money are higher than the probability of the maid to stay at the house, guarding the jewelries.

Second, from the maid perspective, the costs of badly treating the child are generally higher than stealing the jewelries and money. If you treat the child badly, you can be held liable and you may lose your job and salary, or even go to the prison (if it turns out to be a criminal activity). Meanwhile, if you steal the jewelries, although there is also a probability of going to the prison for stealing, at least you gain something to compensate the costs, i.e. jewelries and monies. Ultimately, the maid will need to do cost-benefit analysis: will getting the jewelries and monies be more beneficial compared to the costs of penal sanction multiplied with the probability of getting caught? 

Given the above incentives of the maid, it would really make sense for the mother to trust the child to the maid but not her jewelries. So yes, that's the answer to the child question. If you think that this answer is too long, I have prepared a shorter answer for the child: "nak, pertanyaanmu gak nyambung."  

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