Friday, October 24, 2008

Because I likes to win

When I'd study about sunk costs in my economics courses, there was always some example about a nonrefundable expense. You pay for something in advance and then some conflict arises. People often decide to keep the (original) commitment because otherwise they'll have wasted their money (so the text reports). In economics you learn that one of the dumb things people who don't study economics do is look to the past to make decisions about the future, incorrectly drawing conclusions about getting their money's worth or believing that if they cut their losses, all will have been for naught. Morons.

So economists came up with a fancy name for teaching their moron friends to make a rational decision at a time when it might be hard to make a rational decision. Mostly they did it because they operate under the impression that people are rational, and when they aren't, it really throws a kink in the works. When other losers act irrationally and negate economists' very existence and basic principles, it gets 'em all worked up. Or they just have a good laugh at lesser humans' feeble minds. Either way, what they named the principle is sunk costs. What I like about sunk costs is that it's simple. In theory. When you can't recover costs you've already incurred, don't get all emotional about it and dwell on what could have been. You have to make your brain forget about the sunk costs you've incurred. Because the cost is sunk. Deciding to pay the cost was a different decision. You have to make a completely independent, different, new, unrelated decision about what to do next. The two decisions aren't linked. Nothing complicated about that idea.

What I don't like about sunk costs is that in practice, it's not always so simple. Isn't that always the way. For me, the problem usually goes like so: I paid for this entire plate (okay, more like this entire bag) of food; I have to eat it all to get my money's worth. It's just going to sit on my plate (fine, more like someone else's plate) if I don't eat it. It's wasted food; therefore, wasted money. Somehow I forget to make an independent decision about when to stop eating, and I also forget about how food has calories. It's true for other decisions I make as well. It's easy not to make a rational decision when money, or some other valuable resource, is involved. But I am hoping to make sunk costs one of the basic principles in MY life, so that's the idear behind the blawg title. I strive to claim victories in the name of sunk costs. And also any other kinds of victories I can claim.

1 comment:

Leighton @ My Best Investments said...

Good post. In The Four Hour Workweek, the author talks about the "art of nonfinishing" as a way of capturing more of your own time.

Don't like the movie you're watching? Get up and walk out. Don't like the book you're reading? Don't finish it.

Starting something doesn't necessarily make finishing worthwhile, he says.