Monday, August 10, 2009
It was a hot Saturday out in the high desert at the resort where I venture out to play water volleyball. We were chilling out between games beneath a canopy, enjoying a communal luncheon spread. (My pasta salad featuring my home-grown cherry tomatoes was a big hit.)
Suddenly “Bill” piped up: “Government can’t even deliver the mail. I hate to think what they’ll do to health care.”
I don’t know about you, but the government does a great job delivering my mail. Too much of it, in fact, way too much. Bills, junk mail, jury summonses. Why can’t they lose some of it?
Bill takes pride in being a former Marine - a government employee in a government service, in other words. Does he see the contradiction?
My volleyball associates have been very gracious and welcoming to me, and I very much enjoy their company, so I tend to let their random Limbaughisms go uncontested. What is weird is that many of them have taken a far bigger financial hit this past year than I have, yet they remain true blue.
Last week, while in LA, I raised this issue with a good friend of mine. “These individuals are acting against their own rational self-interest,” I told her, or words to that effect. It made no sense.
Back in a previous life I was a financial journalist, so this behavior comes as no surprise to me. Classical economics assumes that people and markets behave rationally with regard to money, but every day on the job I witnessed the world blithely contradict this notion.
Time to ‘fess up: Last week, I popped into an AT&T store to update my cell phone account. Here is my non-negotiable stand on cell phones: I use cell phones to make and receive calls on the road. At home, I use my cell phone as a paper weight. I am not interested in using a phone as a camera or a music player or as a personal planner or storing photos or text messaging or video games or cool ringtones ...
A phone is a phone. I have boundaries, and I will never change. I’m adamant about that.
“Why don’t you show me the iPhone?” I said to the sales clerk. It just popped out of me.
Then: “Never mind. Just sign me up for the thing.”
I swear, this is a true account.
I got my iPhone home and downloaded every conceivable app under the sun: Music, photos, games, GPS tracker, restaurant guide, a bubble level, even something called iFart. Then I broke into my iTunes collection and made a great ringtone out of the opening to Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues.”
Right now, I’m composing this piece on a laptop while listening to Alison Krause via a “smart” radio station iPhone app.
Moral: Anyone who believes we are rational beings governed by rational decisions is sorely delusional. Likewise, any social or political or economic theory predicated even remotely on the concept of human rationality is fundamentally flawed.
In the final analysis, we’re apes with iPhones. I’m cool with that.
More to come ...