Wednesday 21 January 2009

Perils of queueing + debut of a mass murderer

An Australian behavioural economist (!), David Savage has analysed the figures for those who died when the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, and discovered that American passengers were 8.5% more likely to survive than those from other countries, and British passengers 7% less likely. He seems to put this down to the idea that the British formed orderly queues to get into the lifeboats (which did not have enough space for everyone on board) while the Americans behaved, as one newspaper delicately put it, in a “brasher” way. The study concludes that even the Americans, though, were not beastly to female passengers. Women were, on the whole, allowed to get into the boats first, and there was little difference between the survival prospects for Britons and Americans.

Mr Savage concedes, however, that there might be another explanation for the figures. We know that passengers in first and second class had a much better chance of getting away than those in steerage. Only one child in first and second class died, while two out of three of those in steerage perished. Maybe there were just fewer Americans travelling steerage. Overall, after analysing four disasters, the behavioural economist comes up with the reassuring thought that "the whole concept of mass panic – everyone looking after themselves – doesn't hold that strong."

On this day......85 years ago, the creator of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, died. Although he tried to prevent it, he was succeeded by Josef Stalin, who, through doctrinaire economic policies, purges, reigns of terror and fearsome labour camps, was responsible for the deaths of perhaps 30 million people, making him one of the greatest mass murderers in history.


  1. So those Wildebeest would have got out ok, then. The zebs, teetering on their patent leather hoofs, holding back, waiting for a slightly more stylish lifeboat to appear, would have been history. Come to think of it, I don't think any of them did get away.

  2. The witty response that this comment calls for has been unavoidably delayed.