An Ounce of Pleasure, a Gallon of Pain

Lecturing on divorce today, I was reminded of the refrain in Clay Walker‘s song, Then What: “Then what, what you gonna do, when the new wears off and the old shines through, and it ain’t really love and it ain’t really lust, and you ain’t anybody anyone’s gonna trust. … When you can’t turn back for the bridges you burn….” The song is talking, of course, about a man about to engage in an extramarital affair.

The guy in the song is willing to throw over his marriage, even though he may know that in the future, the affair will come to nothing and he will lose his wife and family. He values the present pleasure much, much more than he worries about the future pain. It’s not just that he has a high discount rate; he values pleasure now much more than he is bothered by pain next year — even though, if he were asked today to compare an affair three years from now to the pain it would cause him the following year, he would choose not to have the affair. We economists call this strange valuation of present and future hyperbolic discounting – people overemphasize current pleasure and pain in comparing actions at different points in time.


shope.

Wow. Minions of Satan.

It's funny that people will discount future pain for current pleasure, but in the case of gambling will endure much pain for the unlikely promise of future pleasure.

Kristo

The guy is also hoping he won't get caught and therefore never have the pain. You can liken it to any abusive behavior, stealing, cheating, scamming, drugs... I think that is part of the discount.

And when he does get caught, he will find religon, apologize to America if he is a politician, and move on with his life.

jd

Aaron, as a Christian economist I find the arrogance of your condescension revolting. Jesus did not come down and give you wonderful insight into the hearts of others. You would do well to drop the arrogant pretense... unless you are actually not a Christian and are pretending to be one in order to undermine Christianity by making Christians look like asshats. In that case you did a really wonderful job.

AaronS

You economists call it "hyperbolic discounting"; however, us Christians (of which I am certain that no economists are are or aspire to be) call it "temptation."

I have often wondered about this in my own search for holiness, how some temporary pleasure (or attitude, for that matter) can seem to cause us to forget all about our vows and aspirations.

Someone wisely said that "Temptation causes us to forget God" (at least the temptation to which we succumb), and I am inclined to agree, for I find that I can "justify" the fulfillment of temptation for myself in the beginning, but when it is done, I feel that it was not justified at all.

Maybe that's why the Apostle Paul said, "What I would do, I do not; and what I would not do, those things I do."

In any case, I'm glad the economists (minions of Satan, for certain) have expressed this in a way that expands on this truth.

Doogle

Hyperbolic discounting, indeed. A bit foreshadowing, perhaps, in light of today's big NY news, no?....When will 'George Fox' chime in on Mr. Hamermesh's timely post?

fridge

I once used a Venn diagram to explain to an amorous bloke why I would not cheat on my partner with him. For some reason he wasn't interested after that. :) Reminds me of that old joke: What do economists use for contraception? A: Their personalities.

Carroll Straus

Never mind i am a latecomer to this thread, or by what strange path way I got here(the word "divorce") let me say this, about that... Vis a vis economics, of course humans are irrational. Emotions trump logic almost every time. But humans resist change and those who have made a career of a theory (humans are rational") will seldom admit error.

Vis a vis divorce, that, too is as irrational as everything else. The reasons for it and the methods employed to accomplish it are deeply flawed. "Jasper's" comment it very apt. if we have a deeply held non ego-based purpose for marriage we will divorce rarely. if it is a ergo based gratification we seek, we will divorce often.

Economically, divorce through the courts is a disaster. But no matter what Einstein may have said to the effect that insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results, we humans persist in doing just that.

But let's don't pretend it is "rational."

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ck

relax guys, i'm pretty sure Arron S was being facetious