Well, actually I think the time is well-spent. But it is funny how often economic thinking and concepts directly intrude on my thoughts the older I get and the more time I spend with economists in person and in print. Two cases in point, both related to the concept of opportunity cost:
1. I was stuck at the airport for much of last Saturday and so perused the magazine racks there at some length during breaks from the pain of trying to work in an airport chair. At one point, my eyes wandered over to the newest edition of Psychology Today – a pretty awful magazine – and noticed the front cover advertising an article titled something like: Why Smart People Have Less Sex. I instantly and without really thinking at all said to myself, “Well that must be due to their higher opportunity cost,” before I even processed anything on a more intellectual level or even picked up the magazine. I decided to see if the article did touch on this (obvious) possible explanation and was disappointed during a quick perusal to see it wasn’t really discussed as an alternative in anything more than a cursory fashion.
2. My eldest son was taking forever eating his dinner tonight so I tried to explain to him the concept of opportunity cost. I was tired of just telling him to eat his supper and stop playing with his food, so I thought I’d try to rationalize with him once again. I proceeded to teach him the phrase opportunity cost and how he should think about what fun he was foregoing by taking twice as long to eat as it should even allowing for enjoyable organic family conversation. When I quizzed him about what this all meant, he responded such that he certainly knew what I was talking about. I thought victory was at hand. And then he proceeded to tell me that it was still so much fun to make his pasta into a ski jump – thus handing me a defeat in my quest to get him to eat faster than paint dries. However, I was pleased that his internal economist is working quite well since he seemed to be calculating the trade-offs!
Note: I wrote this post before David Henderson said this earlier in the week about opportunity cost. Worth a look.