Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, December 10, 2004

Freedom from Surprises and Hassles

One of the reasons that nation-wide brands and chains have been so successful is that customers know what to expect from each of them. A Big Mac is a Big Mac everywhere; a Whopper is a Whopper everywhere. We are willing to sacrifice the possibility of a pleasant surprise that we might get if we have a wonderful dining experience at a local, non-chain, restaurant in order to avoid the possibility that eating there might be a truly unpleasant event. We often like stability and certainty. As the old Holiday Inn advertisement used to say, "the best suprise is no suprises."

Cafe Hayek quotes from a forthcoming paper by Nobel Prize winning economist, James Buchanan, which extends this concept to people's preferences about political and economic systems:

...Almost subconsciously, those scientists-scholars-academics who have tried to look at the “big picture” have assumed that, other things being equal, persons want to be at liberty to make their own choices, to be free from coercion by others, including indirect coercion through means of persuasion. They have failed to emphasize sufficiently, and to examine the implications of, the fact that liberty carries with it responsibility. And it seems evident that many persons do not want to shoulder the final responsibility for their own actions. Many persons are, indeed, afraid to be free.
I can understand this from another perspective. There are times I just don't want to be bothered searching for information or products. Life would be so much easier if I didn't have to worry about things, wouldn't it?

Unfortunately, this attitude is what gives us Big Brother, with all the downside of paternalism and parentalism.
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