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Discovering the Obvious

November 03, 1985

Congratulations are in order for Franco Modigliani of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for winning the Nobel Prize in economics ("Modigliani Wins '85 Nobel in Economics" Oct. 16).

The primary reason for the professor's award was his theory that people save chiefly to have money for their retirement years. This profound discovery must surely rank with that of the little boy who noticed that the Emperor was not wearing any clothes!

There is an old tale about a wealthy family of intellectuals, all of whom were college graduates, who were left without electricity as the result of a storm.

They had only one candle in the house, so when they were retiring early they wanted to make sure that the candle was extinguished and could be used again, if necessary.

Unfortunately, each family member--father, mother and both sons--had an oral deficiency. One's teeth were over-slung and he could blow downward only; another, under-slung, could blow upward only; one could blow only to the left and the other only to the right. Try as they would, none could blow out the candle.

At this point Gussie, the scullery maid, a grammar school student, wetted her thumb and forefinger and snuffed the candle out. Then she said: "Do you have to go to college?! "



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