Arnold Kling  

A Thought to Ponder

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from Timothy Taylor.

Behind Hornbeck's estimates seems to me a deeper pattern of human behavior. When confronted with difficulties, leaving to try somewhere else is hard, but do-able. Staying and continuing with the same behavior is unpleasant, but do-able. But staying and dramatically altering one's behavior seems somehow hardest of all.

When Nick Schulz suggested I chew on that thought, I fished the June issue of the AER out of my recycling bin to read the Hornbeck paper. Boy, Taylor's observation sure did not jump out at me from the paper. It might very well be true, though.

The SEED school, a charter school in DC, is a boarding school. They take students out of their home environment, which is consistent with the theory that "staying and dramatically altering one's behavior seems somehow hardest of all."

As Nick says, there are PSST implications to consider. I have noted that my father thought that his St. Louis high school classmates got shaken into new patterns during WWII by being shipped overseas. My father's view was that had they stayed put, their lives would have been much more limited. This in turn led me to hypothesize that the exogenous shock to mobility that the war produced helped to speed the creation of new patterns of specialization and trade.

Many economists have noted that the freeze-up in the housing market has an adverse effect on mobility. That in turn would impede the creation of new patterns of specialization and trade.

I often say that the best way to change your luck is to meet new people. So, if you are an entrepreneur and something is not working right, try to meet some new people. If you are unemployed or stuck in a job you do not like, try to meet some new people.

Familiar people in familiar places are part of what makes up one's identity. But if your identity is not working for you, improvement may require breaking away from the familiar.

COMMENTS (8 to date)
gwern writes:

One of the striking results from psychological investigations into habit-formation is that the more your environment changes, the easier it is to form a new habit (like a diet or regular exercise). Moving somewhere new is one of the best ways in general.

joshua writes:

Sometimes I wonder why more people aren't moving to North Dakota to find work. Clearly there are all kinds of inhibiting factors. But, still, everyone can't be underwater...

collin writes:

I know you recommending change jobs and get out of your house but would not increased divorce also work here?

Grant Gould writes:

A clearer argument for broken windows could not be made!

Joe Cushing writes:


"inhibiting factors" You mean like a cold so miserable that you can't even truly remember it from year to year. You have to be re-introduced to it each October in order to remember just how it feels. You remember in theory how nasty it is but you have to re-experience it to truly appreciate it.

Of course if you get a desk job in town, you don't get to really experience the cold either. If you live in ND and work indoors and live in town try this: next time a blizzard comes through, drive out to the country before or after the temperature spikes for the snow fall (yes it has to warm up to snow) when the wind chill hits -80, put your car on jack stands and do a brake job.

Some tips: You can have a friend point a heater at your hands for those moments when you have to take your gloves off for a few seconds. When you blink, blink fast because your eyes can freeze shut in less than a fraction of a second. I recommend a neoprene face mask with two ski hats and a hood on top. If you are a smoker, you can cut a whole the size of a cigarette in your mask. That way you don't have to take it off to smoke. Before you go outside make sure coats and pants are sealed at all openings. Even the tiniest draft can rob you of much needed body heat and when the wind is blowing 40mph it has a way of finding the cracks. Never shut the car off and put a block on the gas peddle to keep the RPMs up. It won't keep the car warm but it will help when you go to leave. To warm the car for warm up breaks, point your heater through the window.

The reason you have to drive to the country is because blizzards don't come to town. The city blocks them. You can drive around all day in town during a blizzard but you can't see past the hood of your car in the country. They have gates on the highway to prevent you from leaving town during a blizzard.

I say screw that place. I don't care if I'm starving, I never want to experience that again.

Jeremy, Alabama writes:

In my high-school economics, I was taught that booms turn to bust because when things are going great, they can only get worse, so they do. Similarly, busts turn to booms because when things are bad, they can only get better so they do.

PSST and the reasoning in your post imply totally the opposite. During booms, things are going great and, because you don't want to rock the boat, you get stuck in a rut, and you stop responding to the market. Similarly, during busts, you get shaken out of your comfort zone and form new PSST webs.

sourcreamus writes:

I think the reason that WW2 took the US from the Great Depression to the prosperity of the 1950s was not the money spent by the government as the Keynesians believe, but the experience of the working age population being drafted into the army, sorted according to ability, trained, and then put together with other people from around the country. It gave them confidence to take risks, a broader horizon of what is possible, and the willingness to change.

Steve Sailer writes:

"The SEED school, a charter school in DC, is a boarding school."

The long NYT article on that school that costs taxpayers $35,000 per year was very worried that students only spent five nights per week at the school and thus regressed to their home culture over the weekend.

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