Posts Tagged ‘transaction costs’

On Travel

A former professor of mine once exclaimed that he did not like travel. Student reaction was quite negative. The students who liked this professor then felt a need to defend him; interestingly, their defense wasn’t that it is okay to dislike travel, but that he misspoke, that he didn’t really mean that he disliked travel. This is reflective of a larger and unfair stigma against disliking travel. I say unfair since while most people love the idea of travel, traveling itself is much less pleasant for them for a variety of reasons I’ll explore in this post.

People tend to “fake” traits that are socially desirable if the cost of faking is relatively low. Travel encourages this faking more than most characteristics. It’s easy to see why travel is socially desirable. First, it signals activity, and activity is preferable to inactivity. Travelers backpack, hike, climb, and explore. Second, it signals openness and curiosity. The traveler is interested in cultures other than his own. Third, a love of travel indicates a love of novelty. The traveler has eaten exotic foods or seen exotic animals. Fourth, travel perpetuates the feelings of being in an elite in-group, which is nauseatingly manifested in tired conversations about cities that both travelers have visited*: “Wasn’t Prague beautiful?!” “It was!” and then there is the obligatory listing of the mutual places that each of the travelers visited in said city.** This conversation generally will give both participants a lot of pleasure, sometimes even generating a sort of insular arrogance. People who don’t engage in this self-congratulatory ritual—like my former professor—will be greeted with condescension, the result being that these anti-travel individuals are hesitant to express their preferences in public settings.

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Matt Bai Should Concede Logical Defeat

Matt Bai argues in New York Times Magazine that the art of conceding defeat is lost. He posits that Norm Coleman’s extended challenge of his Senate loss to Al Franken is just a microcosm of a broader cultural trend towards resisting defeat. Bai claims:

What happens in politics, however, can almost never be extricated from the culture at large, and the lost art of losing nobly is by no means an exclusively political phenomenon. At the upper reaches of society, we litigate ever more readily and accept misfortune with ever less stoicism. Being fired from a job becomes the beginning of a negotiation, while a routine school suspension instantly goes to appeal. In part, this is probably the inevitable reckoning for a culture that gives trophies to every Little Leaguer because, as the saying goes, we’re all winners. Shouldering defeat is, after all, a skill that has to be learned early, like speaking Mandarin or sleeping through the night. Then, too, we are guided by an unflagging faith in modern technology — a sense that no discrepancy is small enough to defy absolute quantification. A blown call on a home run hooking foul used to be part of the game, a generations-old lesson in the randomness of adversity. Now the crowd breaks for hot dogs while the instant replay delivers its verdict and the homer is revoked. There are no more bad breaks in life — only bad umps.”

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