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Home / Tag Archives: Behavioral Economics and Rationality

Tag Archives: Behavioral Economics and Rationality

Mentoring: The Rationality of Fear

A few months ago, Lean In published the results of a survey by Sandberg and Pritchard showing a dramatic increase in the share of male managers who fear close interaction with female coworkers.  Specifically: 60% of managers who are men are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together. That’s a 32% jump from a year ago. The survey’s creators were dismayed: This is disastrous. The vast...

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Why Would a Rational Being Say That?

A few months ago, the New Republic reported on a conference, the Third Modern Monetary Theory Conference, of which it was a sponsor (Osita Nwanevu, “Spreading the Gospel of Modern Monetary Theory,” October 3, 2019). One of the participants, affiliated with the Real Progressives website, declared: Wages are the way they are because corporations have control. She probably did not mean to opine that wages are too high. But then, if corporations set wages, why aren’t they...

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Trump, Behavioral Economics, and Public Choice

As President Trump’s impeachment trial plays out in the U.S. Senate, it’s striking that such a grave situation has resulted from such a trivial cause. By that I don’t mean the allegations against him are trivial, but rather that the gains he allegedly sought from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seem meager when compared to the legal and reputational risks he and several of his adjutants appear to have taken. A Ukrainian announcement of an investigation into...

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My Social Media Hiatus

I’ll be travelling most of the next month, so this is a fine time to officially announce my election-year hiatus from social media. Never fear, I will continue blogging for EconLog.  I will continue promoting my work on Facebook and Twitter.  I’ll still use social media to publicize social events, especially Capla-Con 2020.  However, from today until March 1, 2021, I will not participate in intellectual discussions on Facebook or Twitter. My reason is simple: People...

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If the Only Way You Can Get Your Great Idea Implemented…

Notice the pattern. Step 1: Economics textbooks offer a clever-and-appealing policy proposal: Let’s tax carbon emissions to curtail the serious negative externalities of fossil fuels.  It’s cheap, it’s effective, it provides great static and dynamic incentives.  Public choice problems?  Don’t listen to those naysayers. Step 2: Argh, Pigovian taxes are going nowhere. Step 3: Let’s have a trendy-but-awful populist infrastructure program to get the masses on board. So what?  For starters, any...

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Don’t Be a Modal Weasel

I often hear academics say things like: “It is not necessarily the case that the evidence would support that.” Is this sentence meaningless or just trivial?  I don’t know, but I am still surprised by how many otherwise reasonable people hide behind such verbiage.  Other common examples of the defensive use of modal diction: 1. “It could be impossible.” 2. “It’s certainly possible.” 3. “It mustn’t be inherently so.” 4. “It must indeed be admitted both that it would...

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Say “Can’t” With Care

Suppose a student fails a math test.  Casual observers will often announce, “He can’t do the math.” Or suppose a country has a horrible corruption problem.  Casual observers will often announce, “The government can’t solve this corruption problem.” In each case, I detect a casual logical fallacy. Namely: If person X actually does Y, we can legitimately infer, “X can do Y.”  But if person X does not do Y, you cannot legitimately infer that they can’t.  Maybe they don’t...

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The Speech of Heroes

Almost everyone loves the idea of “speaking truth to power.”  Standing tall, talking boldly, consequences be damned – how heroic! Yet on reflection, this Speech of Heroes takes two radically different forms. The most common Speech of Heroes, by far, upholds Social Desirability Bias.  Example: “Everyone should be completely equal” sounds wonderful, but no actual society follows through.  Many self-styled heroic orators respond along these lines: Equality!  We all say...

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Psychiatry and Radical Forgiveness

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. – Matthew 5: 34 I’ve been reflecting further on this passage in Scott Alexander’s critique of my perspective on mental illness: And the others? The alcoholic who says “Yup, I’m drinking myself to death and you can’t stop me?” I agree that it is in some sense rational. It is rational because that person has so...

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Scott Alexander on Mental Illness: A Belated Reply

Back in 2015, Scott Alexander wrote this reply to my 2006 Rationality and Society piece on the economics of mental illness.  I never replied; to be honest, I never read it.  The reason, though, is not because I do not respect Scott, but because I respect him too much.  I didn’t read his critique because I knew that if I read it, I could easily spend a week reflecting – and composing a reply.  I knew, moreover, that until I wrote my reply, I would think of little...

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