Stanford, CA — How valuable are the things that money cannot buy? Dr. Tim Kane, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is running a week-long research survey to find out. This survey, in the format of an “economic beauty contest,” as described by economist John Maynard Keynes, is open to all American adults during the first full week of September. One hundred dollars in Amazon gift certificates will be awarded to each of one hundred people judged to have the most insightful answers.

Kane’s questions aim to determine how much things are really worth that cannot be simply priced in the market, including national parks, advanced technology, free speech, and police protection. The online survey and contest takes about fifteen minutes to complete, and it promises to provide a deeper understanding of the value of things that are ignored in government figures such as gross domestic product (GDP). 

“Political debates today are so polarized that people often forget how much progress has been made over the past hundred years,” says Kane. “From the internet to lowered children’s mortality, we are taking for granted the fruits of civilization and may be neglecting how much work remains to be done. I’m confident this study is going to really make politicians think differently about what matters.”

Any American aged 18 and above can participate simply by visiting the link at www.hoover.org/KaneStudy and completing the fifty questions. Submissions are due before 11:59 pm on Monday, September 9.

The notion of an “economic beauty contest” comes from a popular British newspaper guessing game that Keynes described in his famous 1936 book The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. Kane’s contest, like the British version, asks participants to select a subset of the most beautiful photos then identifies the most common responses. Kane is testing for the worth of intangible things such as freedom, health, and security.

Rules for winning the one hundred cash prizes can only be described to participants after they visit and begin the contest. To incentivize honest responses, Kane turned to psychological studies that suggest cash prizes encourage accuracy in guessing games.

Dr. Tim Kane will be available for print, radio, and television interviews during the week of the contest as well as after its results are published in early October.

Jeff Marschner, jmarsch@stanford.edu, 202-760-3300

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