Bleary-Eyed, Per Usual

Self has been up since 2:45 a.m. Rather than wallow and curse over her lack of sleep, she decides to get up immediately and act as if 2:45 a.m. were really 6:45 a.m. Amazing, the things you can dream up at 3 a.m. Books she never shows the slightest interest in reading in the full light of day now seem very compelling. She went back and forth to the bookshelf, back and forth.

But now she is groggy. And self has been trying to read the same passage in The New Yorker, over and over, and the darn thing is being stubborn and obtuse instead of opening itself up fully to seat-of-the-pants analysis. As far as self can make out, the article seems to be about coffee mugs. And who or who does not have access to tickets to a Duke basketball game. And there is a connection to Obama’s health care plan thrown in there somewhere.

Okey-dokey, now to the article’s main point, which seems to be that the public “skittishness” about the Obama plan can be attributed (at least according to the article’s writer, James Surowiecki) to something called “the endowment effect.”

It works this way: “the mere fact that you own something leads you to overvalue it.”

There is also something called “status-quo bias” : According to Surowiecki, “Just designating an option as the status quo makes people rate it more highly.”

As proof, Surowiecki turns to behavioral economists, who “have established that we feel the pain of losses more than we enjoy the pleasure of gains.”

Now, then, has self already mentioned the interesting detail about the coffee mugs, and about the tickets to the Duke basketball game? No? Let’s just say those are niggling details. The meat of the argument is this:

People have been rendered unnecessarily anxious by “reams of disinformation.” Anxiety has been “exacerbated by the Obama Administration’s initial emphasis on the way the plan would help hold down health-care costs. This approach was understandable: most people think health care is too expensive, so the ability to hold down costs seems like a selling point for the plan. The problem is that once you start talking about cost-cutting you make people think about what they might have to give up. And that makes them value what they have more highly.”

Phew! Is self glad the article is over! Because trying to understand all the finer points of the argument are proving extremely taxing to her brain!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

1 Comment

  1. sleepnosleep said,

    September 23, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Hi Bleary-eyed

    We just completed a miniseries on sleep deprivation and insomnia.

    For more info + interview with the director, visit,

    http://www.sbs.com.au/blogarticle/109508/Dead-Tired-2-part/blog/Documentaries-SBS

    We are independent film-makers and need all the help we can get to get our film out there. If you can help… thanks!

    To get the DVD just visit http://www.mindfulmedia.com.au

    Casper Pieters


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