Is precommitment the solution to the weakness of will?


The Ulysses Strategy

As the University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler tells the story, a group of fellow-graduate students in economics were at his house one night in the late nineteen-seventies, socializing before the dinner hour. Thaler saw how much they were snacking, and decided to remove the nut bowls from the living room. His colleagues—almost all of whom were ardent proponents of the idea that humans are rational decision-makers, optimizing their best interests through freely made choices—thanked him for removing the tempting snacks. Thaler took mental note of the moment, one of many notes on human irrationality that he would gather in the ensuing years. That night at his house, Thaler’s colleagues were acknowledging a phenomenon long recognized by people not under the sway of rational-choice theory: that, will power being limited, it is sometimes good to have our freedoms restricted if we’re to act in our own best interests. ….[READ]


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