Monday, September 08, 2008

At the margin, this job sucks 

My MnFMI colleague Craig Westover mails me a question:
If at the margins you love baseball more than your wife, how would you apply that economic theory to Sarah Palin's dilemma -- she can put family first and still be vice president of the United States? Do we have a teachable moment here?
Yes we do! We rationally devote time to all the things we do in life -- work, love, recreation, social networks, etc. -- up to the point where reallocating an hour from any one activity to any other cannot make us happier. Mrs. S, God bless her, doesn't try to prevent my consumption of baseball (too much -- she will remind me of the value of alternative activities from time to time) or NARN or anything else. No matter how much I love my job, the last hour I devote to it has enough disutility to make me want to spend that hour just as much with her, Littlest, or the radio guys, or my church, or any other activity which gives me pleasure. Likewise, the last hour Governor Palin spends in her job as governor or VP candidate is not something she likes, we can predict: She'd just as soon spend it with her family or moosehunting or whatever else she likes to do.

The previous paragraph draws on a lesson I use in my introductory classes, from Dwight Lee's "Take This Job and Shove It, At the Margin."
Even if you get tremendous satisfaction from your job, the marginal satisfaction can be very low, in fact negative. Well before the work day is over, most of us are tired of the grind and would love to leave work early and do something else. We would like to tell the boss, �Take this job and shove it, at the margin.�
I'm certain Governor Palin will have moments in her job -- whichever she ends up with -- where she would rather be at home with her kids. She also has moments with her family where she would like to be on a snowmobile or out hunting. It's the nature of human beings with many wants and desires. She is induced not to do so by current and potential future benefits, as is anybody else, including Senators Obama, Biden and McCain.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey reviews the work-family balance.

Labels: ,