Monday, August 31, 2009

Real Life

As an expert witness, I once had to estimate the dollar loss to a couple suing for a possible malpractice that resulted in the death of their three day old child.

So I had to find an estimate of the cost of raising a kid in terms of money spent and in terms of the market value of the service provided by parents (maid, cook, chauffer, babysiter, etc.). The estimate was around $400,000 per kid.

Kids are the costliest little decisions in the world. The time and effort that one must take to raise a kid is huge.

So my three kids cost something less than $1.2 million dollars. I say less because some services do not multiply exactly--for example, hiring a cook for three is not three times as expensive as hiring a cook for one.

When I teach economics I tell my students that we undertake decisions for which the benefits outweight the costs. And I say that the benefits of each of my kids outweigh the costs. Overall, having a family is the best thing that one can do with one's life.

This idea is at the heart of economics. Perhaps we would rather dwell on benefits of things that we favor. But there are always costs. Since I can be happy, even with this perspective, perhaps I am fortunate I found my profession.

I wrote a haiku in which I attempted to express the essence of choice: we take one option, and we give up another. Whether we consider any of our options "good" or whether we consider all options "good," the getting, as well as the giving up, is the nature of choice.

Choice is all about living in the moment. All action takes place, as Pirsig said in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence, on the present's knife edge, cutting through a boundless, undefined future, and leaving a decided past. Here is my haiku.

Tender shoots encased
in an age of ice. The hare
Picks the best bait's trap.

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