Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Starting a New Series: What Would Homo Economicus Do About...?

Over the past two years, I have written at great length about economics and I have been a tireless defender of the free market for both its moral and practical virtues.

However, what is undeniable is that my blog is not very unique. Perhaps it might be considered unique when we look at the types of blogs that exist within the narrow confines of the K-blogosphere. However, when we look at the Internet in its totality, there are many bloggers – many of whom are actual economists who teach economics for a living (which, sadly, I do not) – who do the same thing that I do, except they do it much better.

For example, some of the blogs that I enjoy reading and I think are FAR superior to mine are Cafe Hayek, Library of Economics and Liberty, Marginal Revolution, and The Rational Optimist.

So what am I going to bring to the table that others have not already done before me? That is a question that I have been mulling in my head over the past few weeks.

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A few days ago, Chance Dorland invited me to participate in one podcast episode of “This Week Korea” along with Steve Miller, Teresa Chien, and Robert Koehler (who, unfortunately was not able to make it) where we talked about various topics such as the police filing suit against the organizers of the Sewol protest for damages, the NIS and its most recent scandal that involves hacking and allegedly illegal spying on Korean citizens, and Heather Cho's request that a New York court dismiss a suit against her for her “nut rage” episode.

Despite the fact that most of the show was spent talking about decidedly non-economic topics (and especially considering the fact that I sound like an imbecile when I do not have ready access to spell-check), it was a fun experience nonetheless.

Having a decidedly one-track mind, however, while we were recording the show, I could not help but think about how some of the real-life problems we were discussing could be “solved” by economics.

So, I began to flirt with the idea of creating a new series for this blog – What Would Homo Economicus Do? (The name is still tentative.)

We have to remember that, with the possible exception of genuine sociopaths, no one in the world actually lives like a Homo Economicus – the purely rational and self-interested person who seeks solely to maximize his utility at all times. Think of your typical Vulcan as the perfect example of Homo Economicus. No, not even Spock possesses the necessary qualities to be considered as an example of Homo Economicus as he is still partly human. Only a full-on Vulcan would qualify.

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In other words, Homo Economicus is not a pleasant person to be around. He is devoid of human follies or emotion or compassion or fancies and a proud free rider. He is the type of person who would need to do an objective cost-benefit analysis before deciding to rescue his own mother from a burning building.

However, Homo Economicus is not immoral. Far from it. He is simply amoral. Therefore, by using Homo Economicus as a vehicle, I think it would be possible to talk about things that normal people, with our sense of right and wrong, would not normally talk about when it comes to dealing with some of the world's most pressing problems – but more importantly, perhaps spark a debate about different and novel ideas that people would not normally talk about.

With that in mind, in the coming days, I will write and upload my first post for this new series – “What Would Homo Economicus Do About North Korea?”

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