A basic economic principle states that we are rational beings who make decisions based on a rational process that serves our particular needs. This assumption is something I have always taken issue with. I believe we make decision based on many things but being rational is down very low on the list. Our decision making process is often a direct result of something much more immediate or even something more aspirational. I believe we make decisions based on some emotional construct that we don’t often understand.
If you look at the number of people who are overweight or who smoke the whole rationality thing goes out the window. We know based on all kinds of scientific data as well as our own personal observations about how we feel and what we physically can do that smoking or being overweight has a detrimental effect on our daily lives. Yet the US is one of the most obese countries in the world and the health care costs of treating obesity is rising exponentially. The rational thing to do would be to take some personal as well as community action to address the problem. But rather than creating better public transportation, so we might walk more, or adding better bike paths, so we might ride more, we build more highways, so we can sit more! It is easier and requires less personal as well as community change to maintain our same approach.
Politics is another place where rationality challenges us. We often choose a political candidate who may have some shared interest but if we dig deeper we would find that voting for this candidate would be a vote against our own best interests. While the candidate might share a few of our own personal beliefs many more of her/his beliefs will cost us money or security or quality of life. Yet we choose the easy way and rather than doing our own research into a candidate, we believe the sound bites that flood the media.
In this new year and this election year take a moment to be more rational. Do some research into your own behavior. Think rationally about what you can do for your health. And, think rationally about what you can do for your community and country.