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Bilingual Border Bandits, Or Lost In Translation
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November 04, 2005, 11:35 PM
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Here`s an old joke about the pitfalls of working with translators, for your entertainment pleasure:

Economics Joke #4: Incentive Incompatibility.

Jose robbed a bank and fled south across the Rio Grande, with the Texas Rangers in hot pursuit. They caught up with him in a small Mexican town; since Jose knew no English and none of them spoke Spanish, they found a local resident willing to act as translator, and began their questioning.

"Where did you hide the money?"

"The Gringos want to know where you hid the money."

"Tell the Gringos I will never tell them."

"Jose says he will never tell you."

The rangers all cock their pistols and point them at Jose.

"Tell him that if he does not tell us where he hid the money, we will shoot him."

"The Gringos say that if you do not tell them, they will shoot you."

Jose begins to shake with fear.

"Tell the Gringos that I hid the money by the bridge over the river."

"Jose says that he is not afraid to die."

[Story via the economist David Friedman, [Hidden Order: Chapter 20] who knows the value of a good story.