July 21, 2020


I was already thinking about rationing when I saw this tweet:

Image of a tweet from @TwistedDoodles aka Maria Boyle

Image of a tweet from @TwistedDoodles aka Maria Boyle

Predictably for the time of year, grade inflation was in the news.  It seems that universities are awarding more and more firsts and 2:1s to graduates, which some feel undermines the reputation of the sector.

If you want to make something like ‘intelligence’ scarce, how do you do it?   You can’t make individuals less intelligent, obviously.  The answer is a normal distribution of the evidence of intelligence (Degrees, A levels, GCSEs):


Individuals test results are placed within this distribution.   Those at the top are awarded the highest grades, those at the bottom the lowest.   Most people are somewhere in the middle.

This means of course that grades are dependent on relative position within a given set of individuals.   Someone who would have a got a first in one year will get a 2.1 in another, and vice-versa.

In other words, high (and low) scores are rationed.

Why?  Because, as all marketers know, scarcity is one way to create a perception of value.

Intelligence isn’t the only resource we ration artificially.  Money is another.

The question to ask is ‘are they scarce?’

Followed by (as always) ‘Who benefits if they are?’


HT to @TwistedDoodles for the loan of her tweet.