Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Category Archives: Quibbles and Bits

Quibbles and Bits: Rationality

I admit I could be missing something. I could be missing many things – in fact, I miss things more often than not – but I just don’t think I’m missing on this one. One of the bases for things like Austrian Economics is that people are “rational.” Ditto with Ayn Rand’s followers. Unfortunately for any hope of understanding how economics and freedom works, “rational,” meaning “based on reason” has apparently come to be conflated with “sensible” or “agreed with by the speaker or writer,” with any reason that the speaker or writer does not agree with thereby being termed “irrational” and thus supporting a contention that people are irrational.

Let’s be clear. People do things for a reason. Unless they have some sort of brain damage or mental illness, every action taken by a human being is for a reason. The reason may not be one that is likeable, agreeable, sensible, or would be undertaken by any other human being – but the actor has a reason for doing whatever it is he did.

It is therefore with sincere respect I must politely disagree with Yves Smith’s assertion that it is counterfactual that people are rational. Even two year olds have reasons for anything they do, let alone forty year olds. While the actor may not have thought his cunning plan all the way through, or may not have been aware of all the possible consequences, nevertheless he did act and he had a reason for choosing that action among all possible alternatives. Letting the question of “why did you do that?” slide by with a two year old’s “I dunno” is simply enabling the thoughtless immaturity that is prevalent in the nation today, and the sooner we get away from that nonsense the more sensible (not rational) we will be.