Monday, April 18, 2005


There's a battle royale between the two heavy weights that power Econlog. On the one side is Arnold Kling who favors behaviorism. On the other side is Bryan Caplan who believes that behaviorism is dead.

As someone who tends to think that actions speak louder than words, I tend to fall on the bahviorist side. At the same time, you can't discount the words of people to color their behavior. Unfortunately, I don't really understand the argument in the language of the two fighters. The third party commentary, however, is where I started to get a better understanding.

It comes down to this: do we believe what people actually do or do we believe what they say about what they do? And the example paradox is happiness research as related to salaries. There's lots of research that says that people who earn $50,000 per year are not much happier than those who earn $20,000 per year. Which means that the additional $30,000 doesn't provide much happiness. This is good news for a Christian. However, it conflicts with the fact that even though people say that the additional money doesn't provide much additional happiness, they universally seek it. If we're to believe what they say (that it won't provide much additional happiness) then why do they pursue it as if they think it will? Aren't they either lying or deluded? And if those are the only two choices, how much trust can you place on what people say in comparison to what they do?

That is, of course, the behaviorist argument. It's the only one that I understand. I'd like to present the other side, but I don't really understand it enough to present it. That being said, if the behaviorist argument is that you can *only* use behavior, then I'm not convinced. If the non-behaviorist argument tries to integrate what is said as data to color what is done, then I'd fall in the non-behaviorist camp. However, I'd need to understand what the rules are when words and actions conflict.

Just a question from an economics wannabe.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I've been getting a lot of friends from facebook starting to read my blog. I'm glad of that. I look forward to comments, critiques, etc. But please do not reference me or any of my family and friends by name. Here's why.