Re: Market failure to sufficently weigh the future

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Thu Nov 02 2000 - 02:34:16 MST wrote:
> Robin writes:
> > I can't follow your argument. Yes of course our preferences evolved to
> > be adaptive to our ancestors' environment. And if so then artificially
> > changing our actions, relative to those we prefer, would make us less
> > adaptive if we were still in our ancestors' environment.
> >
> > But you seem to accept that our environment has changed greatly since
> > our preferences evolved.

The natural world has not changed much. But our intellectual and social
world has changed greatly. Perhaps enough that what we were evolved for
is simply inadequate to the world we now inhabit. And of course the
forces of technology and knowledge are accelerating us further from that
original environment.

> But isn't it relevant that changing society's discount rates may be
> harmful? Or is that simply off topic for this paper?
> What if someone wrote a paper proposing to change prices. Let's lower
> the price of gasoline to 10 cents a gallon. That would improve social
> welfare because there are more consumers than producers. Is it reasonable
> to neglect the impact of that change on the supply of gasoline, and to
> look only at how this satisfies our preferences?

No, and mandatory unilateral manipulations of this kind are almost
always a bad idea. But a deeper appreciation of the changes of basic
assumptions and environment that are present and increasing might lead
to multilateral changes in the way we look at and run our economies and
in what we value. This of course will not happen overnight.

- samantha

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