Miserable professors

In: Uncategorized

2 Dec 2009

I always find it amusing when academic types write scholarly pieces advising people on how best to shop or consume goods. It is an area where there are guaranteed to be many millions of people more knowledgeable and expert than them.

Sadly they do not usually confine themselves to practical advice but usually tell people how to consume less. In other words they end up playing more the priest than the objective academic.

Barry Schwartz, a professor at Swathmore College in Pennsylvania, helped set the tone when he opened The Paradox of Choice (2004) with a description of how difficult it is to buy a pair of jeans. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein followed his lead when he explained how to use behavioural economics to encourage people to consume less at Thanksgiving (see 26 November post).

Now there is Scroogenomics (Princeton University Press) by Joel Waldfogel, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who rails against gift giving during the holidays. For him Christmas is: “An orgy of value destruction and misallocated resources”.

Those of you who live in or close to London tomorrow can catch him giving public lectures at the RSA at lunchtime or the London School of Economics in the evening. I would rather go shopping.

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