Life presents us with some very large decisions: where to live, whom to marry, whether to have children. Is there any reason to believe that we make these choices wisely?
Don’t come to an economist for the answers. When it comes to choice, classical economics leaps to the punch line and works backwards: if both Betty Sue and Sally Ann are willing to marry you and you chose Betty Sue, the economist can only conclude that you preferred Betty Sue. Whether the marriage made you happy, or you were right to choose her, is none of the economist’s business. Game theory, for instance, may tell you how to get what you choose, but not how to choose.
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I have inherited six bottles of excellent wine, which I plan to consume, over time, on special occasions. But how do I know when to open a bottle when I don’t know what occasions lie ahead? I don’t want to use up all the bottles within a few months on mediocre occasions, but neither do I still want to be hoarding them until I die.
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FT Comment – 4 August 2010
Anniversaries are a time for reflection and, as the third anniversary of the credit crunch approaches, I have been doing some reflecting on where I went wrong as an economist. My own errors, of course, are of particular interest only to me, but I fear that they are fairly representative of the economics profession…
Continued on ft.com
From 25th March, 2006.
The British edition of my book, The Undercover Economist, is out soon, so I won’t be able to keep my eyes off Amazon.co.uk. The function of Amazon is to allow people to buy your book, but it also provides a “sales rank” showing how many books are selling, and it collects readers’ reviews. The sales rank changes every hour and it’s a drug. The reviews, whether good, bad or crushingly indifferent, are nearly as addictive.
The Undercover Economist in me wonders why anyone would write a review and, given that people do write reviews, why anyone would pay attention to one. Writing a review takes time and effort and appears to offer no reward. At the time of writing, about one in 500 buyers of the American edition of my book had left a review. The other 499 hadn’t bothered. This is as economic theory would predict.
Continued at timharford.com.