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Monday, January 15, 2007

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,
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
The self-same way with more advised watch,
To find the other forth, and by adventuring both
I oft found both: I urge this childhood proof,
Because what follows is pure innocence.
I owe you much, and, like a willful youth,
That which I owe is lost; but if you please
To shoot another arrow that self way
Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,
As I will watch the aim, or to find both
Or bring your latter hazard back again
And thankfully rest debtor for the first.
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.

  • At 1/15/2007 09:05:00 PM, Blogger Flavia wrote…

    I've never heard the term "gambler's demise," but GWB has long described the other GWB in just the same way--as someone who doubles down when he's losing.

    Did you see this at the Huffington Post (via Wonkette)?

     

  • At 1/15/2007 09:11:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    The graphic that Flavia links to is hilarious.

    I also liked when Bush said this in the 60 Minutes interview:

    "You can't get elected unless at least 50% of the people who vote say 'We want you to be in office.'"

    Umm....

     

  • At 1/18/2007 02:19:00 PM, Anonymous Midmodern Scholar wrote…

    Dear Hieronimo,

    Totally off topic, but I would like to share some of my evaluations from my gigantic lecture class with you because I know that you savor the foibles and weaknesses of mortals.

    "I liked that this was the only class I did not sleep through."

    "Suggestion: The Firm is a very good book. Beloved is a very bad book. Maybe you could replace Beloved with The Firm."

    "Do you like cheese? I LOVE it. Also, what is your favorite planet? Mine is the sun."

    "Explain more about the confusing parts of books. There are a lot of those in this class."

    "I don't like Harry Potter because it is about witchcraft which I don't like and am against."

    Best,

    Midmodern Scholar

     

  • At 1/18/2007 10:08:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    midmodern: I love them all. So much.

    see next post.

     


 Scribble some marginalia



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