Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Miss Haribo again,


I realised a terrible oversight from yesterday: I forgot the great Gary Becker aged 81 who still maintains a very interesting blog.


Becker's Nobel prize winning lecture "The economic way of looking at behaviour"  is well worth a read. (link but may be gated: http://faculty.smu.edu/Millimet/classes/eco4361/readings/quantity%20section/becker.pdf )


But despite him inspiring my life of crime, today I'm going to talk about addiction. Becker is well known for his work on "rational addiction". To me this is really interesting because it means that we have more control over our addictions (sugar, Grazia, cigarettes) than the word "addiction" would imply and we have the power to shake them.

Addiction occurs because consuming the addictive thing now means we get happier from consuming it in the future, in other words eating a krispy kreme today makes you love them even more in the future, meaning you want to eat more of them. Even small increases in consumption today can lead to large increases in future consumption. We really need to remember the effects that "one delicious doughnut" will have on our future selves and our desire to eat more. It's not just my waistline today that will thank me for passing on sugar laden stuff but my future waistline.

Becker's work gives us some excellent strategies for dealing with our addictions:

First: sharply cutting consumption now can be very successful in giving up our krispy kreme habit

Second: even events in the future, such as a tax increase next year on alcohol, can make us cut down our drinking today.

Third: There are two stable situations: one where we consume a lot of the addictive good and another when we don't. We can keep the "good" state forever.

But to me the most useful thing is to really remember that we have control over our addictions and often there really are things (often with the help of others) that we can do to get rid of them.

Don't forget that addiction can be positive as well as negative such as exercise and that warm fuzzy glow when you do something nice. Just doing a bit of exercise today can set off a virtuous cycle of happy healthiness.

Miss Haribo

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