This article indicates that the researchers were surprised that the participants from “traditional societies” acted in some mode rather than pure self-interest. This isn’t surprising if you accept the notion that true self-interest is that which gives the most overall personal benefit both now and in the foreseeable future. All of the participants acted exactly as you would expect, based on their individual cultures. What is a mystery is that the researchers’ idea of “traditional economic theory” totally ignores Adam Smith, who maintained that in free competitive markets the best result comes from each individual in the group doing what is best for himself. There is nothing “provocative or interesting” about this research except that it further confirms traditional free market economic theory.

Jim Gesick
Montrose, Colo.

The economic experimentalism is interesting but misses the point of the way tribal societies evolved. I spent a year in the Peace Corps among the Tchadian Kanembu and found that sharing is mandatory. It keeps the tribe alive. Sharing during good times is most difficult. The memory of bad times is always there, and it will always modify the results of any economic experiment in ways that those of us from nontribal societies will find troubling.

Jim Adams
Louisa, Va.

Many citizens in advanced economies also appear to be afflicted with what in the Hadza is known as “donor fatigue.” However, when these citizens “have a chance to escape from forced sharing,” their Internal Revenue Service (or equivalent) goes after them for tax evasion.

Todd Campbell
Belton, Texas

From the Nature Index

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