The rationality of preference construction (and the irrationality of rational choice)

Economists typically assume that preferences are fixed-that people know what they like and how much they like it relative to all other things, and that this rank-ordering is stable over time. But this assumption has never been accepted by any other discipline. Economists are increasingly having difficulty arguing that the assumption is true enough to generate useful predictions and explanations. Indeed, law and economics scholars increasingly acknowledge that preferences are constructed, and that the law itself can help construct preferences. Still, fixed preferences are often treated as a normative ideal: Even if people don't have fixed preferences, they should. Behavioral law and economics scholars offer approaches to deal with this normative shortcoming. My article argues that preference construction, properly understood, is not normatively undesirable. Having fixed preferences means having a complete and stable rank ordering of what we want that dictates our choices. But we often do not have such an ordering, and rationally so. My article argues instead for an alternative process-based, account of preference construction. Rather than having a complete rank ordering, we have ways of making choices. We construct narratives, using evaluative criteria against a backdrop of wants, desires and inclinations, some of which we rank order and some of which we do not. The evaluative criteria embed a consideration of transaction costs: critically, where a decision is not very consequential, a formulaic decision rule that permits a ready choice among roughly comparable alternatives may serve our purposes better than a more considered alternative-by-alternative assessment. Our wants, desires and inclinations are for both traditional objects of choice and higher order values and desires; they are both previously constructed and constructed and elicited in the choice-making process. My article makes the case for such an account's potential explanatory power, as well as its tractability.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,470
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

14 ( #313,355 of 1,925,580 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #418,223 of 1,925,580 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.