On Thursday I was in the supermarket after a long day of reading – with a long night of reading ahead. Next to me was a deal, dark chocolate Tim Tam’s, two packets for $5. They are great with coffee and so I reached to grab them – however, then the barrage of health related stories I’ve seen at the moment came into my head.
These are empty calories, fake food, there is no nutritional value, they are not good for me. I could do with losing a couple of kgs, and my weak willpower ensures that future me will find it just that little harder to get to the size I want to be!
Then I thought, blah blah blah. Information is great, but looking solely at the cost of “empty calories” without thinking of the subjective benefit I get is as dumb as Boris Johnson presuming that maximising the GDPs is all we want. Yes there is a time inconsistency issue, but as I am aware of it, and surprisingly active at trying to deal with it, I am pretty comfortable that I can make my own choices …
In my view economists, and other forms of social informers, have a role to provide information and help describe trade-offs for the public. But lets not get on people’s back because they enjoy action that has a corresponding cost to themselves. Analysts that go too far in telling other people how to act have moved past acting in the public interest, and are starting to act more in terms of ego or an inflated sense of confidence about their own understanding [to be clear this comment is NOT pointed at anyone, it is a hypothetical - accusing anyone in NZ of this would be strawmaning them].
In this case I purchased the Tim Tams and had a few with a coffee. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading about economics and many utils were gained. I have no doubt that other people, with different preferences, would not have gained the utils in this case – but that is completely irrelevant, these are my preferences, which are revealed by my action. Not your preferences.