Thursday, December 31, 2009

High Resolution...

John Mellencamp has a pretty tough New Years resolution to keep, if a million people have their way. I’ve always been a fan of his music, if not his politics, so I was glad to hear the other day that he was going to quit smoking. Maybe. Apparently, John has agreed that if his son can get a million people to sign up as friends on the cyber community, Facebook, he will give up cigarettes. As plans go, I guess this sounds like a good one. I'm not sure if his decision would be different if 2 million people asked him to continue smoking.

I quit smoking about 25 years ago on New Years Day after I bet a couple of buddies $100.00 each that I could. We all three made the same bet. Turns out I was the only one that collected. And it’s not that I didn’t appreciate the motivation, or the $200.00, but in my later years I’ve often wondered why good ideas can’t seem to stand on their own merits. If it was a good idea for me to quit smoking for $200.00, wasn’t it just as good of an idea to quit for $20.00, or for nothing? I think I would have gone ahead and quit even if someone else had offered me $300.00 to continue, but I guess I'll never know for sure. Nobody offered.

Anyway, I hope Mr. Mellencamp gets a million people to agree that he ought to quit. But if he really wants to quit, I hope he’ll do it for half a million people. Or maybe just because his son asked him to. Or better yet, just because he thinks it is a good idea.

I'd like to see a lot of people make a resolution to do the right thing just for the sake of doing the right thing this year. I'm not sure basing our decision on what most other people think or do, or what seems to be the most profitable is always the best way to go.

Many years ago my Mom warned me about jumping off the bridge just because my friends did. I considered it sage advice, although thankfully it was never needed. (I did follow Stinky Wilmont out of the hay mow in an unthinking moment of distraction once, although it wasn't nearly as high as the bridge, and that's a story for another time.)

A couple of weeks ago Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska decided to vote for the health care bill after being offered $100 million for his state. Now, I'm not a big fan of government involvement in the health care business. I'm even less of a fan of this newest intrusion. And I do understand that there are people who genuinely believe that it is a good idea. But I have to wonder, if everybody in the country who is opposed to the bill would have passed the hat and offered Mr. Nelson $150 million, could we have headed this thing off?

I know that sometimes the majority is right, and sometimes the majority is wrong. And sometimes I agree with the majority and sometimes I don't. I suppose it's possible that one person could be right while everybody else is wrong, just like it's possible that one person could be wrong while everybody else is right.

However it works out, I resolve to spend 2010 doing what I think is right. As for Senator Ben Nelson, as far as I'm concerned he can go jump off the bridge.

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Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Good stuff, Rex!

Economists have a difficult time explaining this sort of thing-- that people sometimes impose artificial/unnecessary costs on themselves to get things done that ought to be done without those costs. (My favorite example is putting the alarm clock away from my bed.) This militates against the "rational (economic) man" who weighs costs and benefits, maximizes utility, and so on. It's called the "self-control" literature and it's a fascinating topic.

Biblically, of course, it's easy to explain/describe such things. Even for Christians, with the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we often live out Paul's famous passage in the last third of Romans 7.

May God bless you and yours-- as you bless Him and others-- in this New Year.

Grace and peace, eric

4:55 PM  

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