A cash shaped world

Sep 15th, 2012 | By | Category: International

Courtesy of someone’s trip to Krakow, the theory can be tested.

In the Saturday edition of the Daily Telegraph about twenty years ago there used to appear readers’ tips for the resolution of problems at home and away; some were sensible, some were odd, some were bizarre. There was one about shopping at French supermarkets which suggested that if one arrived at the supermarket and hadn’t a ten franc coin to get a trolley a Polish one Zloty coin would do just as well. Perhaps it was intended as serious advice, but the likelihood of finding oneself in a car park in a French holiday town and discovering that, although one lacked the necessary French coin, there just happened to be a Polish Zloty in one’s pocket seemed pretty remote.

There have been ten franc coins in the house since our failure to get rid of our remaining French change on a pre-Euro holiday, but only during the past summer did Polish change appear. Now we should be able to pull into the car park of the Leclerc supermarket at Saint-Vincent-de-Tyrosse next Monday evening and carry out empirical testing of the franc-Zloty theory.

Of course, it is a pointless experiment. Coming from a Eurozone country and travelling to a Eurozone country, no other coins are needed. But the theory does still have validity for those coming from Poland to the supermarkets of Eurozone countries; if the Zloty coin will fill the place of a 10 franc coin, then it should release a trolley as readily as a Euro coin. Just because the results of an experiment are not relevant to one group of people does not mean they might not have significance for others.

Experiments that affect only a small number of people are often difficult. In a world where few major decisions are taken without regard for market forces, budgets become the chief determining factor in research. One need only compare the researchers and facilities available to those who have huge defence budgets to spend with what is available to those who strive for breakthroughs in medical research that is funded by charity collections. Rarer illnesses can be almost overlooked in a cash shaped research economy; resources available are few and, without the prospect of significant profits, drugs companies are not inclined to make significant investments.

But because the group affected is small, does that mean the research should not be undertaken? It is a matter of no importance whatsoever whether one can get a French shopping trolley with a one Zloty coin, one can simply go into the supermarket inquiry desk and get the necessary change, but it makes all the difference in the world to someone suffering a rare illness whether research is undertaken into that illness. Can we not progress beyond a world where cash is king, where the bottom line is what determines whether someone lives or dies?



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