Convenience vs. Social Desirability Bias

Convenience has a massive effect on your behavior.  You rarely shop in your favorite store, eat in your favorite restaurant, or visit your favorite place.  Why not?  Because doing so is typically inconvenient.  They’re too far away, or not open at the right hours, so you settle for second-best or third-best or tenth-best.  You usually don’t switch your cell phone company, your streaming service, or your credit card just because a better option comes along.  Why not?  Because switching is not convenient.  Students even pass up financial aid because they don’t feel like filling out the paperwork.  Why not?  You guessed it: Because paperwork is inconvenient.

My Hands Are Clean

Suppose someone accuses me of being a pickpocket.  I respond, “I have picked no pockets, therefore I am not a pickpocket.”  My accuser could naturally retort, “Oh yes you are, I have video evidence of you picking pockets on three separate occasions.” What would you think, though, if my accuser instead declared, “There’s a lot of pickpocketing in the world.  You’ve personally done nothing to stop it.  That makes you a pickpocket!”

Social Desirability Bias vs. Tourism

Economically speaking, there’s a straightforward win-win case for these Mexican resorts: Not only do they make the tourists happier; they make the Mexicans happier by providing them with better opportunities than they have elsewhere in the Mexican economy. If you reconsider this verdict through the distorted lens of Social Desirability Bias, though, a radically different picture appears before your eyes.  Once you forget economics, you could easily describe the resort experience in the following sordid way.

Homeless Camping in Austin: A Modest Proposal

This winter, I’m a visiting scholar at the University of Texas.  Though Austin is gorgeous, visitors can’t help but notice vast homeless villages scattered throughout the city.  Local sources tell me that this is driven by Austin’s repeal of the ban on homeless camping.  One of the economists I’ve met here has written a Swiftian proposal for reforming Austin’s approach.  The author prefers to remain anonymous, but this is printed with his permission.  Engage your sense of satire, and enjoy!

Reflections on the Yucatan

Socialist and nationalist revolutionaries are Latin America’s most successful criminal gangs, augmenting sheer brutality with fanatical ideology.  The average person in these countries, however, craves tranquility and opportunity.  Revolutionaries are a handful of wolves who make daily life hell, all the while vainly promising a heaven-on-earth that never comes.