Waylaid Dialectic

December 10, 2012

Free to Choose but will Choice Set You Free

Filed under: Random Musings — terence @ 6:31 pm

Over at the Boston Review Claude S. Fisher has a nice little essay on the economics of happiness. And in another essay he has this to offer:

Psychologists’ skepticism toward choice connects with the rise of “behavioral economics.” Behavioral economists challenge the standard view in American economics, reflected by Summers’s comments, that homo economicus will make the best decisions if given more choice and more information. Instead, the behaviorists show that all sorts of cognitive quirks and failures make us much less than rational maximizers.

From fans of free market fairy tales like William Easterly, to participatory development types, to post development thinkers who appear to think that if an idea comes out of the developing world it is good per se, a surprising amount of development thinking appears predicated on the belief that people living in poverty don’t get shit wrong.

This, as I argue, in a blog post at Dev Policy is mistaken.

Of course, admitting the poor make mistakes doesn’t mean that mistakes are a distinguishing feature that separates them from us worthy rich folks. That’s nonsense. Everyone, rich and poor, makes bad choices. Likewise, the fact that people living in poverty make mistakes doesn’t necessarily mean others should be making choices on their behalf. Or, that we should forsake participatory development or markets. On the other hand it’s a good reminder that development is messy, and all about least worst options…



1 Comment

  1. […] also some related thoughts from Terence at Waylaid Dialectic that I saw after writing the initial version of this […]

    Pingback by Brett Keller – global health & development » Defaults — December 13, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

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