Rational Irrationality

Rational Irrationality

Dumb enough to land 20 seasons of prime time international fame and oodles of money.

Rational irrationality is an interesting concept that I have been thinking of lately. I believe that the concept of irrationality is nothing more than a label to describe behavior or thought which is too difficult or complex to easily and quickly understand. As that implies, every thought and action that is carried out is in fact rational. Take for example, the irrational act of sacrificing a valuable asset, such as a lot of money, for a less valuable product, such as a wrist watch, when the irrational person knows that the same product could be had at half the cost across the street, and from a seller that they trust and want to do business with just as much. Very few examples could better illustrate the meaning of irrationality. What the observer doesn’t know is his motives. He may be buying the more expensive watch to display his indifference to money, and thereby serve a more valuable goal of gaining social acceptance, or at least the kind of social recognition that he desires. Let’s suppose this is the case, then one must ask, is it rational to pay for social acceptance or status? It most certainly is, only that the mechanisms by which we do are convoluted and indirect, by necessity of our culture. One might point out, this suggests that our culture, necessitating this, is a product of collective irrationality in the expectations of its members. We must then bear in mind that a culture is nothing more than a tenuous equilibrium of interests, working together and conflicting to pave direct links to the most common interests, or those interests held by its most influential members, and indirect links to the less common interests, or those interests held by its least influential members, and to attempt to close off completely, typically by law or social ostracism, any interests which are fully outweighed by the counter-interest. For example, for most of the 20th century, the dominant culture of the US attempted to close off completely the ability to gamble, do drugs, and engage in illicit sex, invoking the moral and rational high ground on these issues. Reality always wins in the end, and since the rational interests of enough people create a market for these things, the dominant culture is gradually weakened to accept them. That example serves to illustrate how today’s market is the arbiter of tomorrow’s culture and moralities. In policy, this is especially important in that any law which is passed on the grounds of morality above all other considerations, but which is consistently broken, will eventually be overturned or rendered unenforceable.


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