Egonomics

Choice and consequence
by T. C. Schelling
“Economics” comes through the Latin oeconamia from the Greek oikonomia, meaning household management (oikos, house, and nomos, managing) and still has some of that meaning in its variant, “economical.” My suggestion is to recognize a comparable art or science of “self-management” possibly as part of economics-or possibly not, but related. Maybe we could attach the Latin ego to the Greek nomos, and make egonomics. What scope such a discipline would have I don’t know. I am interested only in the part that might be called strategic egonomics, consciously coping with one’s own behavior, especially one’s conscious behavior. As a motto, my colleague David Hemenway has suggested, “No Thyself!” My suggestion is that we get help from comparing self-management with the way one tries to manage another, another who is in a special relation to one’s self. Many of the skills and maxims and stratagems for coping with one’s own behavior become less mystifying and more familiar if we can recognize them as the same principles and stratagems that apply to managing someone else someone in a close relation, with a paternalist or senior-junior quality like that between parent and child, teacher and pupil, missionary and convert, master and apprentice, or guide and follower.

Precommitment

The term precommitment was first introduced by a Nobel-prize winning economist named Thomas Schelling as part of a self-management system called Egonomics.  Calling Egonomics a “system” may not be entirely accurate since it was originally described as “the art of self-management” in a research paper.  At the core of Egonomics is the idea that within …

View page »

Procrastination

Everyone procrastinates. We put things off because we don’t want to do them, or because we have too many other things on our plates. Putting things off—big or small—is part of being human. We can tell whether or not you need to do something about our procrastination by examining its consequences. If you put off …

View page »

Hyperbolic discounting

The tendency for people to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs, where the tendency increases the closer to the present both payoffs are. Given two similar rewards, humans show a preference for one that arrives sooner rather than later. Humans are said to discount the value of the later …

View page »

Picoeconomics

According to George Ainslie “Picoeconomics (micro-micro-economics) explores the implications of an experimental discovery: that people (often) and lower animals (always) discount the prospect of future rewards in a curve that is more deeply bowed than a “rational,” exponential curve. Over a range of delays from seconds to decades, there are pairs of alternative rewards such …

View page »