Yes, you read that question correctly.
I’ll explain in a moment, but first a quick Economics lesson.
Economists describe how every person, corporation – and living creature – arranges their affairs in the fashion that best suits them, as part of what is called their Personal Utility Function.
In other words, your purchase decisions, choice of employment, food selections, etc. are based upon your personal tastes and beliefs, your likes and dislikes – what economists would call your Goods and Bads.
You identify your options, weigh them based on your personal preferences, and then decide and act accordingly.
Any time you can’t understand a person’s behavior – like Eddie Murphy “dating” a transvestite – just realize that was the choice he made at the time based upon his Personal Utility Function.
Sounds too obvious to be codified as an economic theory, but it is.
It has been shown that even an amoeba will move from a nutrient-poor environment to a nutrient-rich environment in pursuit of its own Personal Utility Function. But does that mean that animals are capable of engaging in commerce? Read on and decide for yourself.
In this story from Time Magazine’s web site, researchers describe how female Indonesian Long-tailed Macaques engage in prostitution in exchange for grooming services from males. There is even a sliding price scale which reacts to the number of females available and other factors in the immediate environment.
I’ve often said that the Personal Utility Function aspect of Microeconomic Theory is almost a law of Nature. I guess the fact that monkeys are engaging in the world’s oldest profession proves me right.