Sunday, November 22, 2009

Economics @ Home © Volume 1 Issue 13

More is Better

One of the most fundamental assumptions in micro-economics is that having more of a good is always better than less of it, of course assuming that the utility is positive. I mean, who would ever want more of a bad thing, unless they are sadistic or insane, which actually, to them, the utility may or may not be positive. Who knows?

Today, I hope to discuss how this theory of "more is better" is witnessed and applied in our everyday lives, and hopefully, attempt to understand why. One of the most glaring examples of people thinking "more is better" is the rampant occurences of affairs. It is not the case that people want more partners. While having many partners actually has the attractive notion of variety, the amount of trouble that one has to go through to keep one relationship or the other secret may actually offset that very benefit. So, why do people have affairs? How does this tie in to the concept of more is better, if it is not to have more partners?

I read an interesting theory once, that "Men are animals. We always want what we can't have." Wanting what we can't have is basically saying we always want more than what we have. Of course, here, "men" refers to mankind, which inclues both genders, and anything in between. I hope I did not leave out anyone. Herein lies the premise of why more is better.

First, let us think about the theory for a bit more. "We always want what we can't have". While this may seem like the important part of the quote, I beg to differ. I believe the first part is definitely a lot more important, and hence that is why I am saving it for last. The statement implies that when someone has an affair, there is something that they can't get from their current partner. While it is easy to imagine one to be sexually frustrated, believe it or not, there are actually other reasons that people have affairs. For example, it could be something as simple as the husband or wife feels unappreciated at home for everything that he or she does. It could be things like doing the dishes after dinner, taking out the trash, or simply listening to the other person complain on and on about how crazy their day is while having a super tough day on his/her own. The moment we feel unappreciated is the moment we are at our weakest. Usually the cruelty of fate always has a way of finding us when we are at our weakest. We tend to meet someone else whom we happen to make a connection with, and suddenly feel that someone actually understands, and feel somewhat appreciated again. Because of this moment of weakness, we succumb to these temptations of external affection and procede on to have what we term as an affair. All because we couldn't have what we used to have or want (and perhaps lost it, or was taken for granted).

As promised, we shall now discuss the first part of the quote. "Men are animals." Now, one might feel disgusted at being referred to as a beast of the animal kingdom. It is known that what separates us from animals is the ability to think rationally. What this means is the capability to give reason and justify our actions. Of course, being able to justify one's actions does not automatically give one the right to determine what is morally right or wrong. Nonetheless, it is sufficient to separate mankind from animals.

Such abilities usually come with huge responsibilities. The most important of these responsibilities is to use the ability and the next most important one would be to use it wisely. Going back to the topic of having an affair, we all know that animals have a great knack for following their instincts. The assertion that animals have no ability to think may be offensive to some people, so I shall not venture down that road. It suffices to say that most of the time, animals follow their instincts and these instincts usually tell them that more is better. It is built into the nature of animals to ensure survival of the species. So because of this instinct to acquire that which is not ours, men (or women) seek affairs. We seek in others what we cannot find in ourselves, and our partners, in this case. That is why people say, "Opposites attract". Thus, to animals, having affairs is OK. We never snigger at an animal that has multiple partners but we scowl at people who have affairs. What is the big difference?

We then come back to this notion of the ability to reason. Because we were given the ability to reason, we are able to evaluate the costs and benefits of our actions, and consequently, able to choose our actions. Believe it or not, we have the ability to choose whether to have an affair or not. This ability to choose allows us to practice self-restraint and to postpone immediate gratification for future gains. It allows us to tell ourselves that while an affair is all fun and good, in the long run, the benefits of an affair may not seem all that feasible. While more is certainly better in the short run, the outcome of our actions are not so clear when it comes to issues in the longer term.

So, the next time you are faced with an opportunity to acquire more of something, please exercize some of that reasoning capability so that you do not regret your animalistic urges.