Quotes and food for thought

In Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely points out a basic flaw in the rational consumer model - for every good and every price, we'd either want to buy or sell that good (we'd value the money more than the good, or the good more than the money). However, there's something called the endowment effect - we place an irrationally high value on things we own, which skews this principle. Let's say we have a very nice bottle of wine and someone offers us $75 for the bottle - most people would refuse the offer. But presented with the opportunity to buy a bottle of the same wine for $75 we refuse to buy it. But we must either prefer $75 in pocket or the wine. So, know that you are likely to put too high a value on items you own relative to things in the world.

From Tim Harford's Logic of Life, an input-output theory of legislation: "Here's a surefire vote-winner: Take $1.9 billion from a large number of voters, distribute $1 billion to a small number of voters and throw away the rest." When you put it that way it really sounds silly. But this particular bill, a subsidy for the sugar industry, passes year after year. This is an example of a big problem with representative government - a small focused interest beats a widespread, unfocused one every time, to the detriment of the widespread. The arguments used are rarely logical, and largely irrelevant.

I went to Carmel last weekend, and saw a woman feeding squirrels literally one foot away from a sign begging visitors not to feed the squirrels and to let them find their own food. My brother asked her why she was feeding the squirrels. Her response: "Oh - well this food is from Whole Foods, so it's okay."

Finally, from the latest Battlestar Galactica episode title, from Ken Kesey's book Sometimes a Great Notion, from the song "Goodnight, Irene:"

Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in town,
Sometimes I have a great notion;
To jump in into the river and drown

The singer goes on to say, "Go home to your wife and your family" - focus on your relations with those that matter, and avoid vice where you can.

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