Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Economics of Fun: How to Measure Success in Life

"PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES"

Today's post is just because I don't want to forget this idea and I don't know where else to put it for now. It is a quote from Steven E. Landsburg's book, "The Armchair Economist." The idea links with the rest of these quotes from pages 42 and 43:

"The question arises, How should you measure success in this Game of Economic Life? My idea is to measure it the same way economists measure success in the Game of Life Itself, not by asset holdings or productivity but by the amount of fun you have along the way.

"Let the computer reward profitable trades by printing counpons that students can exchange for consumption goods of real value: movie tickets, pizza, a kiss from the graduate student of their choice. Students can spend coupons as they arrive, or save them for the future, or borrw them from other students who are willing to lend. For each student, there comes a randomly selected day when his terminal informs him that his character has died; his savings are transferred to a designated heir and his own consumption opportunities come to an end.

"That's it. You receive no grade for playing this game. There is no instructor looking over your shoulder. Nobody ever tells you that you did well or did poorly. You live and you die, and if you play well you collect rewards. If you decide it's not worth the trouble to play well, that's fine too.

"Students would learn a lot from this game. They would learn that your success in life is meaured not by comparison with others' accomplishments but by your private satisfaction with your own. They would learn that hard work has its rewards, but that it also takes time away from other activities, and that different people will make different judgements about what to strive for. Most important, they would learn that consumption and leisure, not accumulation and hard work, are what Life is really all about."

I wonder what my parents would think of this idea? I contemplate it on the anniversary of my mother's birth (b. 1918; d. 2007) who would have been 92 today, which is of course an Alice in Wonderland thought. But I like imagining the impossible if not the improbable.

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