Friday, 14 January 2011

Desperate neighbours

Just follow the arrow(s?)
In some of the recent episodes of Desperate Housewives Paul Young has created a social dilemma: a "bank run" for the neighbours on Wisteria Lane. Read on to see the details of his cunning plan. (Spoiler!)
Paul Young has been put to jail for a murder he did not commit and now wants to punish his neighbours for not supporting him in the trials. For a start he rented a house on the street and eventually bought his old home back. Then with some rather aggressive bargaining (what you might sometimes call blackmailing), he purchased six other houses on the street. Then on one day he announced that he will convert his house into a rehab centre for ex-convicts. The neighbours are not exactly happy and threaten to vote his plan down at the meeting of the homeowners' association - only to realise that they have just enough houses to do that. And Paul's plan goes further.

He tells his neighbours the following: He (from his money from his unjust prison sentence) offers well above the market price for any of the houses. Anyone who sells will get a healthy bonus on the house. If, however, one of the owners sell, the half-way home opens, the streets will be full of ex-criminals and the rest of the homes lose most of their value. A beautiful example of a social dilemma: If you cheat on others, you get a good profit (but lose your friends!). If you expect that anyone else will cheat, you should also sell, or rather: you should sell first. On the other hand, if no-one sells, Paul cannot do anything.

This is just like a bank run: In a bank run the deposits at a bank are at (true or perceived) risk. As long as you are among the first to get your money, the bank can pay alright, but those not quick enough might lose their money. Often it would be the best for all to keep their money in the bank.

Back to Wisterial Lane: the homeowners stick together and refuse to sell. So Paul must use a little extra trick. He pretends to have bought the house of an elderly woman, Mitzi, and suggests his real estate agent, Lee - one of the neighbours - to get out of the place for a while, and also offers to buy his house. I am not sure what Lee thought, but clearly Paul is not the nice guy here, so if he had the necessary number of houses, he would not make such an offer. Still, Bob and Lee accept the offer and so Paul's plan is complete.

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