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September 21, 2009

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Thanks, Sandra - I agree with you in general, especially the point that agents make decisions and choices for reasons, even if those reasons fall outside the boundaries of what is commonly regarded as "economic," which doesn't make them any less valid. But I think some compartmentalization is still useful, if we understand "economic" reasons to refer to your typical, self-interested, material preferences, and "noneconomic" reasons would include ones based on altruism, sympathy, principle, etc. - reasons that would restrain the "economic" ones. But neither type of reason is more valid--therein lies the problem, to my mind.

Consider the implicit normative judgment among many that "economic" reasons are more valid than "noneconomic" ones. I often read in various forums, after every election, "why did voters favor him when he's going to raise their taxes [or lower their benefits]?" Any other reason to vote for or against a candidate--such as foreign policy, abortion, same sex marriage, judicial appointments--are judged "irrational." Why are economic considerations "privileged" in such contexts, when in others, making decisions solely on the basis on financial gain or loss is commonly seen as selfish?

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