Today’s Quote of the Day…

…is from Lecture 6 “Rational Behavior” (page 25-26) of Gary Becker’s excellent book Economic Theory (original emphasis):

One basic query is: What is meant by rational behavior?  Consider first what is not meant.  Certainly not that people are necessarily selfish, “economic men” solely concerned with their own well-being.  This would rule out charity and love for children, spouses, relatives, or anyone else, and a model of rational behavior could not be so grossly inconsistant with actual behavior and still be useful.  A viable definition of rationality must not exclude charity and love; indeed, consistent family behavior probably requires love between family members.

Also, rationality should not imply that each household’s decisions are necessarily independent of those made by others.  Different households are linked utltimately by a common cultural inheritance and background, and they may also be linked in a more proximate way.  If household j increases its consumption of X, household i might be led to change its consumption of X.  Such interdependicies commonly occur, and should be consistent with our model of rational behavior.

The essence of this model of rational behavior is contained in just two assumptions: each consumer has an ordered set of preferences, and he chooses the most preferred position avaliable to him.

 

5 thoughts on “Today’s Quote of the Day…

  1. Wait.
    “Certainly not that people are necessarily selfish, “economic men” solely concerned with their own well-being. This would rule out charity and love for children, spouses, relatives, or anyone else,”

    Why does self-interest not include “charity and love for children, spouses, relatives, or anyone else”. I’m not religious but for some reason, all my life, I’ve been surrounded by them and even now my social life includes them and they seem to accept me. And the lesson is clear to me that familial love, agape love, and charity, are deeply deeply self-serving.
    And I will go as far to say if you do not include every act –of what the left would call altruism– as self-interest, then you will have one hell of a time trying justify a libertarian society that includes humans who are failures.

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    • It’s my view that in a narrow sense, everything we do, every act, includes an element of self interest. That’s not a bad thing, and it may be natures way of ensuring survival of the species through genetic hard-wiring that we experience rewards for charity and caring for others, especially our offspring.

      I can say from personal experience that I am generously rewarded by my relationships with my grandchildren, although they do nothing for me of a material nature, in fact quite the opposite, they are damned expensive. (My own fault, I suppose.)

      How else could we explain the pre-programmed maternal instincts in solitary animals who only associate with others of their species to procreate, but spend great amounts of time and resources caring for their young?

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