January 21, 2008

Forgotten Life Lessons

Tyler Cowen sums up his book Discover Your Inner Economist with a lesson that is completely forgotten in todays society. Cowen says “ It is not about grabbing as much as possible as quickly as possible”( 221). This is opposite of the teachings and values that exist in todays society. It seems as though the idea is to make as much money as possible, consume as much as possible, and work as hard as possible while able. However the concept of taking time to enjoy life, understand culture and appreciate both are so simple yet profound. The illustration of corruption that exist throughout the world is almost like a slap in the face to Americans who's lives are completely consumed by greed. He makes an example of people in India paying bribes in order to keep the babies they gave birth to, and through this example he demonstrates the lack of law, government and individual rights that are taken for granted everyday by people living in the U.S.

This is a sad reality that Cowen emphasizes throughout his book. He illustrates the ridiculous way people view life and work with a comedic voice that allows people to connect. Chapter 10 is short, simple, and concrete. Life is not about how much you get, but how you spend and appreciate what you have!


w atkinson said...

I would definitely think that Cowen is more a subscriber of the substitute effect as opposed to the income effect when faced with a pay raise.

That is, work less and make the same money, as opposed to working as much (or more) and make more money.

This is a place few economists are brave enough to go, as you cannot calculate "free time hours" as easily as dollars.

Alan C. Earing said...

Bravo to the poster and I agree with Atkinson; MY personal agenda would be to come up with a good simple income level, maintain it, while increasing my time AWAY from work.

Douglas Loeper said...

Isn't there an assumption made here by Cowen? That his personal valuation of "free time hours" is the same as others and/or should be? Some people have a real passion and get real enjoyment from work and achievement (I'm not saying that I'm one of those but they certainly do exist, I know many of them and I believe they are as genuinely happy as anyone can admit to themselves they are). And that's okay. I just think there should be a lesson taken from Cowen earlier in his book, that incentives are different for each person.

People of this sort are labeled as greedy, but aren't they just motivated by their own self interest? And are the people who work a few days and spend all their own time pursuing their own interest being greedy about their time? Maybe just not in the traditional sense? I'm just trying to play devil's advocate here. I think it would be more appropriate to say "Life is about appreciating what you achieve not what other people say you should achieve". We enjoy what is important to us but don't begrudge others for enjoying what is important to them. This of course doesn't include achievements with unacceptable negative externalities but that's a whole other converstaion.