Goolie Chits

A goolie chit, also known as a blood chit, is a notice addressed to whoever, promising a reward for giving assistance to the bearer, payable when he shows up somewhere safe. For example, in World War I, RAF pilots in India and Mesopotamia carried a goolie chit, printed in four local languages, that promised a reward for anyone that would bring an unharmed British aviator back to British lines. Some US service members serving in various dirty sandpiles have been issued chits that guarantee $500,000 for aid and safe return.

It strikes me that there might be a larger market for goolie chits – people working for aid organizations in various pestholes, oil and gas workers, extreme tourists [ the sort of people that insist on seeing Palmyra right now ], people visiting Europe on any national holiday, those running liquor stores in inner Baltimore, etc. With the proper QR code blazoned on your shirt, the more sophisticated terrorists would swerve to miss you while mowing down chitless bystanders. In order to make this startup into a unicorn, you need to hire top-notch modern actuaries, and, of course, do all the usual things to get an efficient website, get away with violating numerous local and state laws simply by being really cool, etc. You can get favorable coverage from reporters just by giving them stock [ and, for the more adventurous, discount goolie chits.] Bitcoin rewards will be an option for those threatened by future AI.

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35 Responses to Goolie Chits

  1. pyrrhus says:

    Fascinating…It’s essentially a “Wanted…Alive” reward, payable to bearer.

  2. AppSocRes says:

    Thanks for the addition to my vocabulary. I vaguely remember this from the history books. Might this create adverse incentives for kidnapping? For example, an otherwise unobtrusive journalist might be targeted for kidnapping and “rescue” precisely because otherwise uninterested parties become aware he has a ghoolie chit.

    Only slightly off-topic: IIRC various troops and travelers in the middle east often carried quantities of 18th century Maria-Theresa Thalers because these were widely recognized as one of the few un-debased currencies circulating in the region. Having the coins was often a good way of ensuring one could pay a necessary bribe or buy one’ sway out of a sticky situation.

  3. Kylind says:

    The obvious issue is that criminals might start hunting these people specifically to get that reward.
    It wasn’t really possible to shoot down an airplane just to get a reward, but if it’s just someone doing business on the ground or being a tourist?

    AFAIK that is also one big reason why the US does not negotiate with terrorists – to avoid encouraging it. European tourists get abducted pretty often because their governments will generally buy their freedom.

    • dearieme says:

      “one big reason why the US does not negotiate with terrorists”: oh bless you; really? The US paid off various Iraqi warlords so that it could withdraw its troops from Iraq without excessive losses. Doesn’t that count?

      • gcochran9 says:

        The US was in no danger of any noticeable losses in that situation.

        • dearieme says:

          And yet it paid.

          • gcochran9 says:

            Trying to make sense out of US Iraq policy is a mug’s game. But here’s what happened. The Sunni Arabs thought that if they could drive out the US, they would immediately be restored to power, even though Shi’ites greatly outnumbered them (more than 2 to 1). They thought that creating chaos would make the US leave, and tried to do this by terrorizing the Shi’ites, blowing up their shrines and such.

            For some time the Shi’ites refrained from retaliating, largely due to Sistani. But eventually they had had enough, and started killing/expelling the Sunni Arabs, drilling holes in their head with power drills and so on, driving most of them out of Baghdad. Half or more of the Arab Sunnis in Iraq ended up in Syria and Jordan, mostly Syria [ see Isis] . Realizing that they were in deep shit, the Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar decided that they needed to cooperate with the Americans, who would not drill holes in their heads. Also Al Qaeda, although a useful source of suicide bombers, was a pain. Thus the Sunni Awakening.

            Why did we pay those tribal leaders? Considering they had to cooperate in any event? I have no idea. Maybe it made it look as if we were in control. Back in the late 70s, we paid Israel and Egypt to stop fighting each other after they had already come to a reasonable place: Carter wanted a foreign policy success, while Egypt and Israel were naturally happy to take our money. Sense? What’s that?

          • William O. B'Livion says:

            (late to the party, but hey)

            I spent a year in Iraq as a contractor (not PMC, computers). There are several things that need to be kept in mind when discussing US Policy “Over There”:

            1) There were competing policy positions within the US. The President had very different policy goals than State Department lifers, and different ways of seeking to achieve them. This often made US policy look dumber than it was because the US Military would follow the Presidents lead unless directly instructed to listen to State, who very, very often had their head in a warm, dark and smelly place.

            2) One needs to understand that Iraqi culture is VERY different than US culture at almost any level. Paying off the “Iraqi Warlords” could (depending on which payments you’re referring to) could be very similar to the way the US Federal Government gives money to US State Governments to disburse. Some experts (see #3) would maintain that all financial arrangements in that part of the world would have to go through tribal leaders/warlords. Other experts would disagree.

            3) There is general agreement among those smart enough to put their toilets and their cooking equipment in different rooms that Iraqi (and all of middle eastern) culture is very different from the US, but that is where the agreement ends. Dozens of experts and Grosses of opinions. Pick any three and you look confused.

  4. albatross says:

    This won’t truly take off till enemies can engage in a bidding war over who gets the prisoner, with the website (Goober? Eransom?) taking a cut of every bid.

  5. albatross says:

    The alternative would be a kind of revenge insurance–we will pay for the head of anyone who kills one of our clients.

    C’mon, guys. This cyberpunk dystopia ain’t gonna build itself!

  6. j says:

    It is a very wrong and counterproductive policy to emit those chits. America, when it was young and potent, refused to pay ransom to the Beys of North Africa like the Brits and other European nations – President John Adams sent the marines and finished the practice. The most effective system to avoid kidnappings was devised by the Mongols: They never negotiated but sent in a force and razed the nearest town. After three days they came back and killed off all the survivors. The records say that a virgin could walk the Mongol empire from end to end without being molested.

    • ursiform says:

      There is a difference between paying ransom for victims of piracy or kidnapping and offering a reward for the safe return of an airman downed behind enemy lines. The former case involves people undertaking illegal pursuits and the latter case involves someone who happens, unexpectedly, on a foreign person.

      • j says:

        Marooned sailors were enslaved before the landing of the Marines in North Africa, and honored and escorted to the American Consul’s home afterwards.

        “Illegal pursuits”? An airman in bombing mission over enemy territory is automatically a war criminal for the people below, don’t you think?

        • ursiform says:

          It’s not that simple. A lot of bombing has taken place over occupied lands. The people below may consider the occupiers to be the war criminals, not the airman.

  7. drytreemadonna says:

    Extremely unrelated but have you seen this study re: gay facial morphology? I wonder if this could support the germ theory in some way. Especially if it exists between straight/gay twins

  8. The Z Blog says:

    Merry Christmas All.

  9. tgcyrus says:

    Dr Cochrane, this is a tangent but I would very much like to hear your opinions on the matter.

    What do you make of the decline of western civilization (fertility, economy, etc)? As a biologist, I can only see it as a shift in the war of the sexes, in that any society which enters a state of extreme resource abundance transitions from a K-selected to an r-selected strategy, with all of its inherent pathologies.

    We know that humans are the most K-selected mammal in existence, and that western civilization is the result of most K-selected group within humans, i.e. descendants of Indo-Europeans, who developed agriculture in response to winter.

    So when the west became absolutely dominant, with no existential threats, it began a shift towards a matriarchal society. Thus, we went from a chimpanzee mating system to a bonobo one. From males controlling female reproductive choices while fighting for status and warring with enemy tribes, to full female control of reproductive choice via promiscuity based on r-selected fitness cues (muscularity, facial symmetry, etc).

    What are the ramifications of this massive shift in society for men whose evolutionary environments shaped them to compete in a K-selected playing field? The huge drop in western birth/marriage rates combined with a massive increase in female promiscuity must be jarring to most western men on a subconscious level.

    Could recent political shifts be a response to this phenomenon? How about the rise of Islamic sentiment and conversion rates?

    • M. M. says:

      I’m not a scientist, seems plausible to me except for this detail:

      Indo-Europeans, who developed agriculture in response to winter.

      Seems that agriculture developed independently in different parts of the world.

      • Jim says:

        Indo-Europeans certainly did not develop agriculture in the sense of inventing it. I don’t understand what tgcyrus is referring to.

    • Garr says:

      We losers experience the situation as matriarchy, but the people at the top are men. Bezos and Musk can have harems if they want to. The top third of any corporation is almost entirely male. Women are stuck into the HR departments, where they can be easily located and made use of by the powerful men from the upper floors. We losers, on the other hand, can’t keep those women whose self-esteem is low enough that they elect to temporarily associate themselves with us — or, rather, THEY prefer not to keep US. Their contempt for us is obvious in the hallways of any 5th rate college. And below us there is indeed a slush of bonobos; perhaps the women down there are more powerful than the men in that they have more stable social-networks.

  10. Greying Wanderer says:


    iodine desert in Siberia + iodine in fat + archaic fat processing genes = ?

    • Greying Wanderer says:


      iodine as fuel for thyroid
      need more iodine as a cold adaptation?
      evolve more efficient iodine extraction genes?
      effect on brain development secondary?

  11. says:

    It is interesting that there is an unrelated person willing to offer six figure bounty, and people who have strong opinions against reverse ransom.
    “Kidnapping, reverse ransom and a bounty”

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  13. Surge says:

    Except that it would probably incentivise arranged kidnappings. Tsk tsk that’s why you need a good economist working for you in this new start-up please leave a message.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I was once selling a house ( for the first time) , and the real-estate agent recommended taking the first offer, even though we had heavily researched the question and were sure we could get more. While she was in the middle of that sentence, I realized that she much preferred getting 6% of 90% of max in two weeks, rather than 6% of 100% of the maximum selling price in six weeks, and I started yelling at her. Judging from the treatment in Freakonomics, economists can figure this out too, but perhaps not as rapidly.

  14. Steven C. says:

    I recall an incident some decades ago when some Soviet technicians in Syria were kidnapped and held for ransom. The Soviets reacted by detaining the relatives of the kidnappers and their associates. The technicians were quickly released; probably because of the sudden realization that you don’t dick around with the Soviets. More recently, the Russian Navy (post-Soviet) captured some Somali pirates and, rather than turn them over to a piracy court set up in Kenya that would probably just punish them lightly or not at all, released them in their own boat that somehow didn’t make it back to shore. Perhaps their boat had gotten a bit leaky?

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