Adam Smith is stuck without Charles Darwin

What would make you happier in 2016?

Charles Darwin (young) & Adam Smith

If you could change one aspect of your life during 2016, what would make you the happiest? Imagine yourself on December 31, 2016 looking back with satisfaction on 2016. What would it be?

Standard economics has an answer. It is illustrated by this anecdote conveyed to me by Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics. Walking through Harvard Square one day Professor Sen asked me, “What should you do if you see a person trying to cut his fingers off with a pair of dull scissors?”

My response: stop him from cutting off his fingers, call the police for help, etc.

“Offer him sharper scissors,” was Professor Sen’s answer. Standard (a.k.a. “neoclassical”) economics assumes that people know what they want. Professor Sen is a critic of some aspects of neoclassical economics, so his question (and answer) was a rhetorical maneuver designed to educate.

Let us to return to your happiness in 2016.  Did you secretly answer ...

Click on Professor Sen to read more

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