Perpetual waste of talents

Why Iran is in doldrums, scientifically


Perpetual waste of talents
by Fesenjoon

That Iran, with 10% of the world's known oil reserves, 2nd in natural gas reserves, and an intelligent eager workforce, is going through the most dire of circumstances in living memory, is not a secret. Iran's economy is basically in the doldrums. It looks up to countries like Qatar, Emirates, and Turkey for how to get things done, and is ruled by a ruthless religious dictatorship, all while its environment plummets down the drain. It thrives on international tensions, and it loves constantly reminding its people of external threats. In short, life in Iran is pretty shitty for the ordinary citizen, to be frank.

What are the reasons behind such a mess of a country? Who is responsible for such a perpetual waste of talents, resources, and life? Many blame it on the international sanctions. Many others put the blame on a dismal record of mismanagement by the country's anti-technocratic officials, and yet some others blame the nature of the Islamic system itself which by definition functions counter to a free market economy.

But what can be said from a scientific point of view? Can we pinpoint some factors or elements, that might bear some direct influence on the status of the country's social and economic health? Is there a relationship between the degree of poverty in a country, and the amount of how people perceive each other? According to Paul Zak, a neuroeconomist, there is.

According to Zak, one can observe a linear correlation between the amount of Oxytocin in one's body, and the amount of trust that person feels toward others. And what's more interesting is that "high-trust countries are by and large rich countries, or certainly fast-growing countries, and poor countries are countries with low trust". So according to him, "countries in which trust is high have effective governments, they have very tight social structures, people interact very nicely with each other, they don’t have a lot of divisions, and there’s a positive feedback loop. They have higher incomes which further accentuates greater growth. So trust is this kind of great summary measure of a society in which things are working well. And lack of trust therefore is a measure of how things do not work well in society. If trust is too low, it’s just too hard to engage in transactions. There’s too many, what economists call, transaction costs. I need lawyers and judges and the cops to enforce all of these agreements. And so therefore, the number of people I interact with economically gets very small. I am only going to interact with my family or my clan or someone who is really trusted because I can’t count on the government to enforce these contracts. That limits the size of the market and therefore the number of transactions that can occur that increase prosperity."

This becomes critically important for developing countries, according to Zak, where one needs to have solid institutions that will facilitate economic transactions. So trust, for example in China is quite high. China has a very effective government that is market oriented. On the other hand, in sub-Saharan Africa or some South American countries, one sees trust levels that are so low that there is no or little economic growth. In places like Haiti or Venezuela, governments are so corrupt that there’s no reason to even undertake any commercial transactions. One does what one needs to survive, and then most of the money flows out of that country into the United States or into the West, where the money is safer. For example, if we look at his data: 2% of Brazilians said they trust each other, whereas in the United States around 45% of Americans said they trust each other and two-thirds of Norwegians trust each other.

Seeing that countries like Turkey are at the bottom of his plots, one then starts to wonder where Iran would be on his set of data. Considering that Iran sits at 145th on the 2010 Corruption Perception Index, would it be a stretch to expect to see Iran sitting smack in the middle of his linear regression model, at the bottom of the curve? The interesting part is not that Iran is suffering poverty (despite abundant natural resources). The interesting part of it would be that it shows Iranians have utterly no trust for eachother, and for their government, and vice versa.That, is interesting, coming from a government that claims to represent God on Earth, or as they love to repeat: Islam-e Naab-e Mohammadi.

Paul Zak asserted that Oxytocin levels are low in a society with low moral values. But he doesnt seem to tell us which one causes which one: Is morality low because Oxytocin is low in the body, or is it the other way around?

What Paul Zak dared not delve into (and yet hints at in some of his lectures) is the question of whether race and ethnicity have anything to do with Oxytocin. Oooo, touchy subject, aint it. What if I were to claim that Iranians (and Middle Easterners in general) have a low propensity overall towards being moral (which is why weve had the most fucked up govt on the planet for 30 yrs, and yet some of us are still defending it, while others simply live with it)? Are we genetically programmed to be so muleaheadedly stubborn and bezehkaar? Or is it a cultural thing? Or is it the sway and influence of a 7th century incompetent faith on the affairs of the state? Even wikileaks reveals that "ONE SHOULD NOT EXPECT AN IRANIAN READILY TO PERCEIVE THE ADVANTAGES OF A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP BASED ON TRUST. HE WILL ASSUME THAT HIS OPPOSITE NUMBER IS ESSENTIALLY AN ADVERSARY. IN DEALING WITH HIM HE WILL ATTEMPT TO MAXIMIZE THE BENEFITS TO HIMSELF THAT ARE IMMEDIATELY OBTAINABLE. HE WILL BE PREPARED TO GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO ACHIEVE THIS GOAL, INCLUDING RUNNING THE RISK OF SO ALIENATING WHOEVER HE IS DEALING WITH THAT FUTURE BUSINESS WOULD BE UNTHINKABLE, AT LEAST TO THE LATTER". (It's a shame they took Wikileaks offline, but here was the link in case they bring it back)

Regardless, at the end of the day, when there is litterally no trust and mutual respect between people in a society, how can one expect anything positive to come from that society? Not only will they remain the backward country in the face of their neighbor's progress, but they will remain delusionally retarded in seeing things as well. Maybe this is a case for the famous saying "khalaayegh raa har che laayegh".


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People also forget that under

by Cost-of-Progress on

the current regime of the incompetent goons, oil production in iran is 3rd of what it was during the "shah-e khaaen" times.....You people crack me up when you try to put lipstick on the (islamic)  pig....bwa ha ha ha 

Here's one of your funny passages: 

"And still, despite war, sanctions and emigration, Iran's infrastructure and industrial development has improved greatly."





Oil prices

by Shutruk on


People forget that 10 years ago oil was selling for less than $20 a barrel. People also forget that much of the oil revenue has to be re-invested in the industry.People also forget that, in order to preserve reserves, oil production has been reduced in line with the OPEC quota. People also forget that the oil & gas sector has been under sanctions.

And still, despite war, sanctions and emigration, Iran's infrastructure and industrial development has improved greatly.






by Fesenjoon on

shushtari jan,

It's because theyve brainwashed people into a culture that only does 2 things:

1. Hates others (US, Israel, jews, britain, bahais, anybody but ommat-e islam)

2. has made it a crime to question Islam, let alone defy it (even if it means destroying our own identity). As Jannati just said, "dismissing Velayat Faqih is like denying the existence of God".


one must wonder

by shushtari on

where are the figures for the oil export revenues for the past 31 years- why is it that the akhoonds have never repaired the counters at kharg island? why is it that no one has the balls to ask these thieves where is the trillions of dollars of oil revenue during all these years


forget the brain drain, the mullahs are robbing iran blind.....during the shah's reign, all these figures were transparent and in reports for everyone to see!    



by DaRkJaWs on

anytime one brings up "free market economy" it generally means little to no government and no interference of any sort.  So even those that say that regulation should exist(who advocate free market capitalism) always cry when that regulation is too overbearing in their minds.  They try to have it both ways.  Zak is another tool of the system.  



by DaRkJaWs on

You raise important points.  There is a judiciary, and law enforcement, though not the kinds you feel are necessary.  Regulation doesn't have to deal with criminal behavior, but only behavior that regulates(fines, cease and desist orders, etc, or else face some sort of sanction).  This suggests that as a minimum, what is necessary is that law enforcement understand what I am doing and follow through with any sanctions such an agency attempts to use.  With reference to criminal behavior, the regulatory agency can forward information to the judiciary and let them take it from there.  It can work, but the problem is that even my agency is ultimately not responsible to the people(much like taxation without representation, etc etc).  I'll do my best to share everything I can with the public, but being proactive in an authoritarian system can backfire big time(riots and such...liberal programs and institutions already cry of "abuse" in democracies), so the government may not allow me to do this to begin with.  



by Shutruk on


Except that Iran is leading scientific progress:


And is 13 places higher up the Human development index than Turkey


Also, Iran does have the 2nd largest reserves of gas but the United States blocks all attempts to export Iranian gas via pipelines to Europe and India. Also, Iran has to spend almost as much money maintaining production of oil than using it for other purposes. That is true of many "oil-rich" countries.



by Fesenjoon on

Yes. I dont think even Paul Zak himself (a PhD from Wharton @ Penn) even thinks of a free market economy in the unregulated sense. He's talking in general terms.


Of regulations and cronyism

by comrade on

I can only wish you the best, Payam. However, I wonder how you can enforce your regulatory system in the absence of modern judiciary and trained law enforcement agencies.  

Never increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.



Good article BUT

by DaRkJaWs on

Let me inform you of a few errors of judgment in your piece first:

Neuroeconomics is a flawed field to make ultimate judgments(they ignore societal choices and focus only on individual choices).  In this case it's actually very useful when discussing trust in marketplaces...the fact that you brought this up is what makes your article quite useful.

"Free market economy" is not the final type of economy that society should tend towards.  See the inequality in the USA and our current predicament as a glaring example.  You can mention all you want that authoritarian or anti-market systems are bad, but please do not make the answer to those problem to be "free market economics".  

Now to your piece more generally: you raise the most important issue with regards to the marketplace in Iran, which ultimately continues to see a lack of trust.  This prevents people from transacting, and ultimately restricts economic growth.  What you need is regulation of business...but regulation and regulatory agencies generally only develop in republics/democracies.  This insinuates that authoritarian governments are the antithesis of regulation as well as democracy.  Without regulation there is little to no trust in the products being sold and the people selling them.  It's a free for all.  

 I actually plan on opening up a regulatory agency in Iran(despite the lack of democracy) after I get my PhD, so if you have questions you can e-mail me at 




by Fesenjoon on

It's been published in Nature. So I dont think you can dismiss it so easily.




An interesting article, but facts about Oxytocin was rather exaggerated.  Here is some information on Oxytocin:  It is a mammalian hormone generally release in large amounts during child birth.  It is administered by IV to induce labor as Pitocin.  It is released by Pituitary Gland.  The external Oxytocin cannot inter the brain due to tissue brain barrier.  Brain neurons release its own oxytocin as a neurotransmitter with minor questionable functions.  The Major transmitters of the brain are Epinephrine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin.  These three are the ones controlling the psychochemical portion of individual’s behavior such as anxiety, depression, etc.  Some experiments have been done to identify the roll of brain Oxytocin.  Some of which are Orgasm, social recognition, pair bonding, anxiety and maternal behavior.  For this reason some call it the “Love Hormone”.  Most of the experiments are done on Laboratory animals such as rats or dongs and some human.  For instance injection of Oxytocin in into cerebrospinal fluid of a rat caused it to have spontaneous erection.  As for social behavior in an experiment done on dog and human consisting of a petting session of 5-20 minutes, they found an increase in blood oxytocin level.  As for Oxytocin having such significant effect on TRUST, don’t take it too seriously.  Trust is a judgemental learned behavior, not a chemical one.  (I am a Pharmacist).   

Sargord Pirouz

Hey, I don't think you need

by Sargord Pirouz on

Hey, I don't think you need to boycott IC for trashy articles such as these. Just voice your opinion. Yes, of course this article is a piece of trash.

And come on, of course there are many disgruntled self-exiles on this site that are anti-Iran. The site operator even maintains anti-Iran views 

My advice? When you come upon something that's anti-Iran, speak out. Don't run away. 


Kholaseh of article

by Fesenjoon on

before the forum starts spiraling into some dumb tangent (as usual), here's an executive summary of the article, just in case you dont want to read the article:

1. Paul Zak is the founder of the field of NeuroEconomics.

2. His experiments demonstrate that there is a linear relationship between "trust" (and "morality") and the molecule Oxytocin in the body.

3. He postualtes that trust is a founding attribute needed for a healthy free market economy. (trust brings trade)

4. He then observes among 40-50 or so countries that the more people of a country have Oxytocin in their bodies, the more that society seems to be doing well in their economy.

5. His data didnt include Iran. I speculated (extrapolated) where Iran would be on his data based on some indicators, and why.

6. I pose the question: Is Oxytocin high in people because they are moral, or are people moral because they have high Oxytocin levels in their blood? And this begs the question: Can we see a racial/ethnic relationship vs. Oxytocin? (e.g. do Iranians not trust eachother because of low Oxytocin levels as a whole?)


by BaronAvak on

As a longtime reader of this site for almost 15 years, I can attest that has indeed undergone troubling changes.  It is clear there is an anti-Iranian subversion campaign being waged by outsiders, using the blog and comment features of this site.  There are multiple people using multiple fake IDs for the subversion campaign (Fred, Simorgh555, etc.).  It is also clear that this is being done with the consent and knowledge of the operator of this site. 

Their aim is to confuse, distract, re-direct, radicalize, and subvert the Iranian community, posing as Iranians.  And to mislead non-Iranian readers of this site as to what Iranians really think and believe.  Please pass the word before this comment is deleted by whoever it is who is administering the site.


Please warn visitors about this unhealthy site

by BoycottIraniandotcom on

As you can see from the articles, this purportedly Iranian site's content is
anti Iranian and comes largely from an Israeli/AIPAC perspective, which is
offensive to the vast majority of Iranians. The few Iranians who post here are
weird ("ajeeb") or mentally ill (some even admit their mental illness their
moniker.) Please do not engage with this unhealthy site except to warn other
Iranians. .ExternalClass .ecxhmmessage p { padding: 0px; }.ExternalClass body.ecxhmmessage { font-size: 10pt; font-family: Tahoma; }