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Cowen (8:49:59 AM): that's only good advice for fine restaurants. if something sounds bad, why is it on the menu? it probably tastes pretty good. I wouldn't recommend trying the most disgusting item at Burger King, however.
reason (8:50:33 AM): you could be there all day just figuring out what's actually the worst.
Cowen (8:50:45 AM): sometimes I have the problem that to me the sweetbreads have become the norm. If I want to try something disgusting my attention is directed toward the roast chicken.
mostly I wanted to shake people up and get them out of their comfort zones. the chef does know more than most of us! that's meta-rationality, or humility, one of the fundamental themes of the book: admitting what you don't know.
reason (8:52:06 AM): we'll talk more about the limits of knowledge in just a second. first, explain why you're such a lousy tipper. you counsel your readers not to go above 15 percent.
Cowen (8:52:51 AM): give the money away to somebody who really needs it. send it to Haiti! Any waiter working in the U.S. is doing pretty well in the broad scheme of things.
reason (8:53:55 AM): you write of the limits of applying economics to everything. at one point you even call out a couple of fellow economists for being caricatures of utility-maximizing drones applying supply and demand, etc. to every aspect of human life. where do you draw the line in applying econ principles to human activity?
Cowen (8:55:10 AM): economics—properly understood—applies to human choices quite generally. It even seems to apply to other animals, at least mammals. Gordon Tullock wrote a great book on the economics of insect societies. the problem is when people think that everything boils down to money, or buying and selling. I'm still very influenced by [Ludwig von] Mises's notion of economics as a general "logic of choice." [James] Buchanan and Tullock, my colleagues, have promoted much the same.
reason (8:55:55 AM): you love mises but didn't name your book "the inner praxeologist"...
Cowen (8:56:26 AM): my publisher advised against that idea.
reason (8:56:44 AM): besides buchanan and tullock, the creators of the public choice school of thought, who are your heroes in economic thought?
Cowen (8:57:21 AM): Thomas Schelling is a big one. also Adam Smith and his integration of economics, psychology, and a notion of moral sentiments. Milton Friedman on policy. Hayek. He "got" the dynamic virtues of capitalism better than just about anybody. We've yet to fully absorb those insights. It's a long list.
reason (8:59:28 AM): what's the role of human emotion in understanding economics? i agree that mises was on to something when he referred to humans as "choosers"--that our ability to choose is one basic thing that defines us. but we don't do that rationally. or not just rationally.
we're hardwired to have extreme emotional responses. can economic science deal with that?
Cowen (9:00:49 AM): Human emotion is paramount in life and choice. I think of my book, in part, as "economics for the emotional." I'm very influenced by the French moralists, Schopenhauer, and Adam Smith on this point. That's a neglected strand of Western thought among economists and I'd like to bring it back. Schelling has it in his writings, though perhaps not very self consciously. Thomas Schelling that is, not the German Idealist Schelling.