Surging and Sinking
|Thinking about The Decider's speech the other night, I was reminded of this speech from Bassanio early in Merchant of Venice:|
In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,This is the sunken-cost fallacy at its finest. You know the old joke: one businessman tells another, "We're losing a nickel on every widget we sell." "Well, how do you stay afloat?" "Volume." I've also heard this called "The Gambler's Demise," named after the foolish gambler who loses $5 on a bet and figures he should bet $10 on the next one to get back up, then $20 on the next one, $40, and so on. But I can't find that definition anywhere online.
Anyway, one of the reasons that Merchant of Venice is a Shakespearean comedy and not the Iraq War is that, in the end, Bassanio and Antonio's sunken-cost fallacy turns out to everyone's benefit, twenty times better (but once in special). Everyone except Shylock, of course. The true costs of Antonio and Bassanio's fallacious gamble are fantastically deflected onto a figure who--although he lives among them, eats, talks, and does business with them--is not really one of them. Ultimately, Shylock gives and hazards all he has for others' benefit. And Bassanio in fact gives and hazards all that someone else has. Come to think of it, this is rather like The Decider's decision.