Rational Man Exposed


I’ve lurked on the Econ-Dev mailing list for many years.  Chris Gibbons runs the ground-breaking economic gardening program for Littleton, Colorado.  In an exchange yesterday, a list member (the list actually migrated to Google Groups awhile ago, but anyway…) recommended a new book called Econned, by Yves Smith.  I have no idea if the book is any good, but Chris’ reply is golden:

All the NT’s that put the science of Economics together have been working for 300 years out of their pre-frontal cortex with rational man making rational decisions….which completely ignores the limbic system where fear, greed, status, sloth, immediate gratification, love and all those other factors used to make decisions resides.

So on the way home from the conference my wife buys gifts for the granddaughter at outrageous prices, little long term value and which could have been bought at a number of other stores cheaper. I doubt if she calculated returns on investment, opportunity costs or comparative value. In fact, I’m pretty sure she didn’t.

This is what she calculated: “Sasha would love this.”

Chris is not a PhD economist, but is certainly learned in the School of Hard Knocks.  He works with people everyday who are trying to grow their businesses and create value where there was none before.  Chris is increasingly working with other cities, counties, states, non-profits, etc to implement economic gardening across the US and beyond.  They had a conference last week in Florida to talk about how things are going.

As economists rely on Rational Man, planners rely on Rational Planning theory.  We examine the issues, present the advantages & disadvantages of decisions, and conduct a rational debate to determine the highest & best use of land and resources.  It’s the basis of everything I do….

Increasingly, I suspect that Chris’ un-common common sense is more grounded in reality than all of the economic & urban theorists combined.




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