Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shopping On Both Sides of the Aisle

We like to say in economics that a person's actions best reveal their preferences; to use a cliche, talk is cheap. How a person acts is what actually matters.

John Edwards says he hates Wal-Mart. He says it so much, even his six-year-old knows it and once scorned a fellow classmate for buying shoes at the discount retailer. Recalling the story, Edwards said "If a 6-year-old can figure it out, America can definitely figure this out," Edwards said.

Paradoxically, a few days ago Edwards' office contacted a local Wal-Mart to see if they could secure a coveted Playstation 3. It turns out it was his staffer that, Edwards claimed, only did it because he heard his wife mention she wanted to get one for the kids. Edwards also claims the staffer really just wanted one for himself. (Maybe he was after two; I don't know.)

Let us suppose all of this is true and the staffer only dropped Edwards' name and called from his office solely for his own purposes. Then we end up painting a strange picture: If your six-year-old can figure out that you hate Wal-Mart, why doesn't your own staff understand? Either that staff member knows Wal-Mart isn't the devil you claim it is or you do.


Tim said...

I just feel bad for the poor child that's being taught not only to hate and disdain, but also directing that frustration against his innocent classmates.

I, for one, don't want my daughter to grow up to heap scorn on her classmates.

Bullies suck, and there's no need for me to put it more eloquently.

Tim said...

I'd like to note that while talk is cheap, it can be revealing as to hidden preferences - that is, what they'd have done in their ideal world.

Lots of tension between these can be drawn on as a major source of anger and frustration.

It's certainly worth noting what people say, and attempting to determine what they actually think, as opposed to merely what they do - but I don't doubt that you'd agree, David.

David said...

Well, we can think of what people say as a revealing preference action, as in "this is what I want people to think I believe in." While the words are just talk, the practice of getting in front of a camera and speaking is, itself, an action. And in this capacity, it is most revealing.