- Hero image by Matt Parsons

Crossing the Dreampoint

1y ago

6.3K

Let me begin with an anecdote. Imagine a driving school. Instructor asks a young driver:

– You see a girl and an old lady suddenly appearing on the roadway in front of you. What will you hit?

The young driver gives this a thought and decides that the old lady is at a dusk of her life while the girl has years and years ahead of her, so:

– I will hit the old lady.

Instructor looks shocked and confused:

– You should hit the brakes!

As paradoxically as this may sound, both answers are rational. Both are rational from the individual perspectives of the driver and the instructor. This does not mean, though, that both are ethical. To develop this argument further, the young driver seems to expect that his / her answer will be approved by the instructor. Above all, the driver’s incentive resides in gaining the instructor’s appraisal. And this is the point where we can apply the rational choice theory to explain how and why the individuals make decisions as they do.

In other words, the rational choice theory helps to explain why James May is so “addicted” to Dacias and why Jeremy Clarkson laughs as hell on this. Or why, in the middle of the dialogue, Jeremy suddenly understands that he does not want to talk to James any more. You remember the Top Gear from 26 October 2003 (s03 e01), don't you? The moment when Jeremy utterly disliked BMW 5 series (E60), but had to agree to James' defending arguments:

The Top Gear s03 e01 script. Sorry, video was not available.

You may have probably heard of Gary S. Becker, a guy from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, who studied in Chicago and liked economics. He also liked thinking rationally, like Descartes. Unlike Descartes, however, he attempted to explain the social life, not the nature, through the bunch of sophisticated calculations. He got consumed by this idea to an extent that the whole life of his became full of researches, lecturing, and similarly boring academic stuff.

Gary started with an assumption that all people act rationally all the time. Both you and me are utility maximizers. We seek to get as much as possible with as few as possible troubles. The reasonable gain for a reasonable price. Therefore, our society functions as it does because a large groups of individuals take actions they find the most appropriate at a certain moment. Thousands of individuals act similarly in the similar situations, as this is rational. And this moves the humanity forward.

Human capital analysis starts with the assumption that individuals decide on their education, training, medical care, and other additions to knowledge and health by weighing the benefits and costs. Benefits include cultural and other non-monetary gains along with improvement in earnings and occupations, while costs usually depend mainly on the foregone value of the time spent on these investments.

Gary S. Becker

Gary wanted to build a model which can explain how people engage themselves into numerous activities or pursue different goals. What motivates them to do so? What do they find rational? What do they expect to achieve? He arrived at a deduction that people always calculate in their minds the likely costs and benefits of every action before deciding how and when to act. In other words, both me and you are motivated by a number of material and non-material things, what also includes the necessity of self-expression. We choose the best way and the best time to get access to these things. The best way to become satisfied. But we also are limited in our actions. We need to have resources. We also need to understand that we will never have a full information about all costs, benefits, and troubles on the way. We also should be aware of alternative courses of actions.

In a nutshell, Gary stated that these are our “I-want-this-badly” things and dreams which motivate us to act. Our actions come with costs the full gravity of which we can never predict. Assessing all this rationally, we decide what, when, and whether to do anything.

Developing his arguments further, Gary faced the problem: “But what about human emotions? What about our acting under emotions? Is it rational? Is it predictable?” The answer was yes. Both me and you enjoy experiencing approval, recognition, renown, love and, surely, the weight of $100 banknotes in our pockets. As just we understand that some non-material benefits are on a stake, our consciousness and intelligence enters the stage. Needless to say that both consciousness and intelligence are also “rational beasts” focused on utility maximization. Moreover, whatever decision we adopt, whatever action we do, it will always come with the physical and emotional loses and gains.

Gary invariably concluded that our incentives to act have a lot of to do with the social approval and appreciation. We are not only willing to make ourselves satisfied when pursuing our goals, but we also seek for the positive feedback from the people we respect. In other words, social appreciation of our actions is also one of our goals, whether we understand this or not. It is a powerful multiplier for everything we plan to do, as well as for everything we achieved so far. In this light, purchasing the all new Dacia Sandero with an air-conditioning and heated seats may be a very satisfactory thing. Especially when you live in a Cornwall countryside with all your neighbours driving Reliant Robins, Morris Marinas, Yugo GV's, and Lada Riva's. Your travelling comfort along with your social status will rocket high! Paradoxically, stealing the Lamborghini Gallardo from an official dealership may be no less rewarding when you try becoming noticed by a local mafia. Impressing the mob, taking Don Corleone's daughter for a joyride, and selling the Lambo on a black market afterwards – this pays off!

In a word, everyone of us calculates individual costs and benefits every time. But none of us is the only individual calculating costs and benefits in a unique way. Numerous individuals have similar goals. Numerous individuals think and act similarly in the similar situations. In a family, in a gang, in an army, in a police department, in a corporation. Because there always is a certain balance of costs and benefits which sounds rational to all of us. And this “generic” rationality of thoughts and actions makes our society look as it does.

Gary was very happy arriving at this conclusion. In their turn, the people and institutions he respected were no less happy. For instance, The New York Times described Gary as “the most important social scientist in the past 50 years” in 2014. The US President George W. Bush awarded Gary with the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. Finally, the Noble Committee evaluated Gary's discoveries and decided that he was worth the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1992.

Such was the outcome of Gary's individual life choices. Professor Gary S. Becker from the University of Chicago.

But let us take a step back and give a second thought to the Lamborghini Gallardo. Let us assume the supercar is not stolen, but legally bought at an official dealership. Bought by a not-that-rich individual who decided to use it as a daily drive. Is it rational? Can it ever happen?

The paradox is that it can happen. And it is rational.

You may have probably heard of Richard Jordan from Dallas who decided one day to sell everything he had, take a bank loan, and buy the black $180K Lambo. Because these were only the supercar and an open road which could make him satisfied with his life again.

Imagine a typical and perfect American family. A loving couple raising kids in a beautiful house somewhere in a pastoral countryside. Happiness, welfare, love. And now imagine that this never happened. There were no kids. The fiancée decided to break up. The newly-bought house became a burden. That how Richard's story started in 2006.

Richard was so frustrated that he made a very unusual, but a very crucial decision to "cure his soul." He shut his problems up and took a break. On 4 July 2006, on his personal Independence Day, Richard bought the Lamborghini Gallardo Coupé, one of the most expensive cars on the market. And he started driving it daily!

For more than a year he wandered from place to place, lived in motels, and met dozens of people. He crossed the U.S. three times and completed journeys from Ohio to Colorado to Texas to North Carolina within 48 hours. He collected 53 tickets for speeding. He covered ~100K miles in a year in the supercar which had neither been properly garaged nor meticulously maintained. Once again, mates: ~100K miles in the supercar which other owners are often afraid to touch! My world will never be the same again! But Richard literally had no other home except for the Lambo.

Surely, there were a lot of adventures on his way. In Ohio, for instance, he was confused with Moby in a strip club. The club manager was so happy to host "Moby" that Richard had a couple of bottles of champagne for free. In Indiana he was detained for carrying a handgun in the supercar. To make things worse, the Lambo's registration had expired a day before. The adventure ended well, but the release cost Richard $25K.

Let us return to the rational choice theory now. It well explains Richard's decisions and course of actions. His incentive after the break-up with the fiancée was to restore himself psychologically. Therefore, he opted to purchase the Lambo (i.e. pay the cost) to fight frustration and enjoy freedom (i.e. achieve the individual benefit). Nothing else would bring him more satisfaction than driving the supercar on an open road and meeting new people. Actually, Richard himself confesses: “That was the one thing that felt like it worked for me." The Dacia, being not that burdensome, would never succeed with this task.

Moreover, Richard was noticed by the media. For instance, journalists from the Jalopnik interviewed Richard and covered his story in details. His adventures continue being actively discussed by the readers. It is only on the Jalopnik page that his story counts ~1M of views, ~700 comments, and 11 recommendations. Some of the commentators stated that they would do the same in the similar circumstances. The social attention and petrolhead approval which Richard “capitalized” through his actions also became a part of his “soul cure”. Richard might have not forevisioned this directly, but, apparently, he expected this to happen. And I bet he enjoys the attention and approval today.

Such was the outcome of Richard's individual life choices. Richard Jordan from Dallas who planned to set up a shop after his journeys and craft custom motorcycles.

You may ask at the end: “What is the overall moral of this article?” Good question. The answer is: “Do what you like. This will always be rational.”

#acadrive, #story, #originalcontent, #smalltribesrule, #car, #cars, #philosophy, #car-philosophy, #economics, #car-economics, #nerd, #driver, #driving, #driversclub, #society, #lamborghini, #lambo, #gallardo, #italy, #italian, #italiancar, #italiancars, #super, #supercar, #supercars

P.S. The idea of this article belongs to the USA Ambassador Ryan Christensen, who once started a discussion in #smalltribesrule chat on whether it is rational to buy supercars. It is. Kudos to Ryan's curiosity!

P.P.S. To write this article I used materials previously published on the Jalopnik media outlet: jalopnik.com/5559767/i-sold-everything-to-buy-a-lamborghini-and-drive-across-the-country. All Lamborghini pictures were taken from here: jalopnik.com/5559756/lamborghini-gallardo-journey-travel-photos/

P.P.P.S. Matt Parsons can be reached here: www.behance.net/Matthew_Parsons_SA

Join in

Comments (13)
  • That was a nice read. With very unexpected turns. Thank you.

    But honestly, this rational choice theory is about everything and nothing.

    3 months ago
    1 Bump
  • Nice demonstration of how the theory works!

    4 months ago
    1 Bump

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

5 things you didn’t know about The Grand Tour Game
"Academic Drawing" Episode 6: Bargain Burton
Alfas as seductive perpetrators: love & hate story