Some People Don’t Always Try to Maximize Personal Profit, and the NY Times’ Adam Davidson Is ON IT!

I dunno. Maybe Davidson couldn’t think of anything else to write before deadline. Or maybe his recent Times Magazine column illustrates the harmful, long-term ethical effects of an economics undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. Either way, Davidson is surprised to discover that many people, even business people, don’t view making as much money as they possibly can as their highest priority (boldface mine):

That’s when I realized that my hypothesis was precisely wrong. Perhaps these small business survivors weren’t the smartest or fittest. They were run by unusually risk-averse businesspeople who sold a product whose value just happened to grow in lock step with the neighborhood. Michael Stewart, who co-owns Tavern on Jane, put it more bluntly. He’s surviving, he said, because he’s not an especially ambitious businessman. Stewart’s sales have risen over the past few years, but he takes home less money than he used to. He pays three times as much in rent as he did on his first lease, in 1995. Food costs more, too. “If I just cared about the money,” he said, “I’d have closed a long time ago.” Instead, he’ll remain open “as long as the place is covering the costs.”

…I wondered why Bowman, like her fellow proprietors, was disavowing economic theory and not trying to maximize her profits. Then I remembered one fascinating statistic about our economy. There are more than 27 million businesses in the United States. About a thousand are huge conglomerates seeking to increase profits. Another several thousand are small or medium-size companies seeking their big score. A vast majority, however, are what economists call lifestyle businesses. They are owned by people whose goal is to do what they like and to cover their nut. These surviving proprietors hadn’t merely been lucky. They loved their businesses so much that they found a way to hold on to them, even if it meant making bad business decisions. It’s a remarkable accomplishment in its own right.

Snark aside, it’s truly depressing to think that the NY Times grants valuable real-estate to someone who is unaware that many human beings, maybe even most, aren’t trying to “maximize their profits.” Lots of people aren’t doing this, including including policeman, firemen, teachers, and, yes, even some scientists.

I believe this would qualify as a disconnect between the elite and ‘real Americans.’

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3 Responses to Some People Don’t Always Try to Maximize Personal Profit, and the NY Times’ Adam Davidson Is ON IT!

  1. Pingback: Do “We” Need Unions? Wrong Question | Mike the Mad Biologist

  2. Misaki says:

    1) Investment banker spends $10 (is that a lot?) at a small business restaurant whose owner refuses to raise prices to maximize profits.

    2) Investment banker buys Apple profit with 50% profit margin. http://blakemasters.tumblr.com/post/21169325300/peter-thiels-cs183-startup-class-4-notes-essay

    3) Apple saves $100 billion in tax havens, unemployment ticks back up to 8.2%.

    Making “sell to the poor” a more profitable business strategy for the average person (even if you’re not trying to maximize profits!): http://jobcreationplan.blogspot.com/

  3. Pingback: New York Times’ Adam Davidson Strikes Again, Tells Us to Ignore Downer Jobs Data and Trust the Confidence Fairy | Economy | AlterNet « Ye Olde Soapbox

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