Freeman

ARTICLE

How to Pick a Pocket or Two

JUNE 01, 1963 by THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

From The Wall Street Journal, March 13, 1963.

To a small-town fellow come to the big city it was bound to happen sooner or later, and finally it did. On the way to Wall Street, that den of iniquity, our pocket was picked in the subway, that haunt of the huddled masses.

Along with a couple of credit cards, an unfilled prescription for the drugstore, and a shopping list from the lady of the house, this skillful disciple of Fagin made off with $100, which for years we’ve kept secreted in the back of our wallet against such grave emergencies as running out of expense-account money in San Antonio or St. Paul.

Now being imbued with a Puri­tan ethic, we do not approve of pickpockets, especially those who pick our own. But in all honesty we must confess that purely from the standpoint of the nation’s eco­nomic balance sheet there was no net loss to the country. Indeed, if some of the economic theories bruited about today are correct, it could be argued that the nation’s economy had been helped thereby. For our loss of $100 was some­body else’s gain of $100, the one

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June 1963

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Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
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