Re: people, places, things, and ideas

Robert S. Thau (
Thu, 7 Jan 1999 18:08:29 -0500 (EST)

Mike Masnick writes:
> At 08:28 PM 1/6/99 -0500, Robert S. Thau wrote:
> >The notion that people always minimize their immediate costs (with
> >cost measured in financial terms) is one of the major fallacies
> >underlying most modern economics. It's just not true, and in some
> >domains it isn't close to true. (What's the value of time spent in
> >church?)
> Not an economist, but I have to take exception to the comment above. If
> anything, I'd qualify and say that it's one of the major fallacies that
> many untrained people make about economics. The theories behind economics
> go well beyond minimizing immediate costs. Hell, even introductory
> economics goes beyond that (by a long shot).

Sorry --- I should certainly not have said "immediate", though I'd
still like to know how anyone thinks they can quantify the cost that
people are minimizing by going to church, synagogue, mosque, or
whatever. (Not describe --- quantify).

What was going into this was really two things. First, I have read
about some interesting research where they put people in very
constrained situations where all the costs could in fact be quantified
pretty exactly (they were having people who were total strangers to
each other exchanging dollar bills in various ways), and the peoples'
behavior was not in accord with any reasonable theory of cost
minimization. But (drattit) I can't find a citation right now.

The other, which actually set me off, was my extreme annoyance at a
caller to a talk show featuring Richard Stallman who allowed her
libertarian doctrine to trump common sense, and rather obnoxiously
declared if people were paying the FSF money for tapes of freely
available software, "then your customers are fools".

Better let the adrenalive drain off a bit, next time, I guess.