Getting the logic of choice wrong

So here is a perhaps left-of-center economist getting this topic all wrong:

"If I can choose how much I work, and my wage stays the same, and I work more and my income rises, then I must be better off. Because if I was not better off, then I wouldn't have chosen to work more and earn more income."

Here is the correct version of this statement:

"If I can choose how much I work, and my wage stays the same, and I work more and my income rises, then I must have thought, at the time of choosing, that I would be be better off working more. Because if I had not thought I would be better off, then I wouldn't have chosen to work more and earn more income."

This distinction is not a matter of quibbling over words! The context in which our choices are made can be essential in determining what we choose. For instance, if the culture praises work over family life, many people might choose to work more even though they would be happier spending more time with their family. And I say this taking into account the disutility of social censure: akrasia is real!

People make mistakes. A lot of mistakes.

1 comment:

  1. Noah Smith is entitled to his opinion and your correction is aggression against his property rights in his own beliefs!

    Oops.
    Sorry.
    Took the 'Major Freedom' pill by accident. Must remember to flush those.

    ReplyDelete