(some in-progress ideas on rational choice theory)

Reification, seeing like a state, reductionism – is it inevitable?

The primary idea behind econs – optimization within constraints – can we ever do that? Can we demarcated a particular variable as the goal I wish to optimize towards and treat everything else (other variables) as constraints? It seems significantly more complex than that, and the complexity is non-trivial – variables are tied into a web of inter-relationships where any one variable affects the others in a myraid of possible ways. For instance, the idea that I can optimize my grades within constraints of time, nutrition, need of social support oversimplifies. We often never decide whether we want to optimize towards friendship or grades, and one need not come at the expense of the other. Instead, our preferences (to use the jargon) are context/mood-dependent, constantly changing in one time frame to the next, or transforming/evolving. In fact, it is so complex that using an optimization-within-constraints is hardly useful (arrow’s impossibility theorem): If preferences are never the same in any two time frames, why set it as a variable to be optimized in the first place?

This is all the more so when we are constantly redefining our preferences aa we gather more information.

The problem is that anything can be rational – but measuring some variables like “culture” merely become the residual of what cannot be measured – in which case, is it not just describing?

Given that people change what the preferences they are optimizing towards all the time, is it not too complicated to keep changing their preferences? Would it not be simpler to use a logic of appropriateness rather than a logic of consequences?

If we are allowed to keep changing people’s preferences in different time frames, is that even falsifiable? How do we know what people are optimizing towards except retrospectively? We can’t get into people’s heads.

Is there not an aggregation problem with simply aggregating microfoundations?

TO economists, being rational is not merely explanatory – it is normatively superior.


~ by moz on January 6, 2014.

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