Rational Addiction Theory

Definition (via Wikipedia)

Rational addiction is the hypothesis that addictions (to heroin, tobacco, television, etc.) can be usefully modeled as specific kinds of rational, forward-looking, optimal consumption plans. The canonical theory is due to Kevin M. Murphy and Nobel Prize Winner Gary S. Becker[1] A theory of addictions in the broad sense—for example, to heroin, tobacco, religion, or food—the article tried to reconcile addictions with the standard rational choice framework of modern economics. Though controversial, the theoretical approach has become the standard approach to understanding addiction in economics, and a variety of extensions and modifications have been developed and published by other authors over the years.

Criticisms of Rational Addition Theory

Criticism of rational addiction theories have emerged along different lines. One strand of criticism is the already mentioned econometric work. A prominent critic working along different lines is the philosopher Jon Elster who in a series of works [8] [9] has claimed that theories in Becker’s framework are conceptually incoherent in their view of preferences, as well as inconsistent with the ambivalence and desire for increased self-regulation that is empirically displayed by many addicts. Economist Ole Rogeberg has used the theories as a case example of what he calls “absurd theories” in economics [10], and argues that the theories “illustrate how absurd choice theories in economics get taken seriously as possibly true explanations and tools for welfare analysis despite being poorly interpreted, empirically unfalsifiable, and based on wildly inaccurate assumptions selectively justified by ad-hoc stories.”

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16. February 2010 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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