In yesterday’s Post, philosopher Martin Bunzl says:
I spend most of my waking hours worrying about how to reduce my output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Yet my behavior seems to march to a different drummer. I need to get the best deal. For me, not the world. When it comes to what counts as the best deal, my values don’t get incorporated into the calculation. I am attuned only to price. And I don’t think I am alone in this.
Fine, you say. Big deal. The solution is obvious: We adjust the price to make the "right thing" priced right for me. But here is another problem — when it comes to pricing I am totally irrational. Offer me two washing machines, one that is more expensive now but more efficient over its lifetime, and hence cheaper in the long run, and I’ll choose the one that is cheaper now. …
There is another problem. I like Hummers. … I like its boxy design and its commanding presence on the road. I secretly desire to command the road. Here I am not irrational, just retrograde when it comes to my preferences. And if my preferences are strong enough and my wallet is large enough, no tax is going to make me give up my Hummer for a Prius. …
I say: Better not to tempt me in the first place. Take the Hummers away. Don’t clutter my world with things I should not have. Don’t dangle them in front of me, creating desire, only to then try to have me renounce them. Just ban the damn two-cycle hedge trimmer and let me be done with the matter.
Bunzl should consider private ways to commit himself to change:
StickK.com, scheduled to launch in December 2007, will provide "commitment contracts" that let individuals set a goal, choose consequences for failing to comply, and decide how to verify their progress. With the options of choosing to lose money every time they fail and designating third-party verifiers to check their success, users will face powerful incentives to meet their goals.
I doubt Bunzi will try StickK though, because like Tyler I doubt he really wants to change. I conclude Bunzi cares mainly about changing the rest of us, but was unwilling to admit this directly. Why, I wonder?
Added 17Jan: StickK.com is now ready for business.