Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Rational decisions are impossible without reference to price. What is proper and affordable in some circumstances becomes ridiculously expensive in others. Price ignorance inevitably leads to stress and anxiety
"Inquiring about prices is sinful," wrote scholar Hugh of St. Victor in the year 1130 C.E., "since it only serves to aid the vice of avarice." The medieval mind saw the world as immobile and human beings as passive spectators. Life was something that happened to you. Silent acceptance was regarded as a virtue.
Rational decisions are impossible without reference to price
Nine centuries have gone by. The universe has not changed, but we have erred and learned. In our age, looking up prices occupies a good part of our time. We cut off coupons from newspapers and compare discounts from car dealers. We listen to commercials on the radio and participate in auction sales.
Our activities have taken a new course, but to a certain extent, our thinking remains anchored in the Middle Ages. Reflect for a minute and count the people you know who actively pursue price information in their endeavours and act consistently on that knowledge.
How long is your list of those who look around and compare offers? What percentage of men and women carefully assess cost before making decisions? If you write down names, chances are that they will be few, since whole segments of the population prefer to ignore price information. Let me name just three examples.
First, children are foreign to cost considerations, since their priority is to have everything right now, irrespective of the price. Instilling sound economic judgement should be one of the objectives of a good education. Psychological growth demands perception of the bond between effort and reward.
Second, smokers must be also excluded from any list of cost-conscious individuals. How many of them are unaware of their increased health risks? Anyone who watches television or reads newspapers can hardly claim ignorance of the massive cost of cancer treatment.
Third, complainers spend their days deploring problems which, on closer examination, could have been easily avoided by looking at the market. Depressed prices or exaggerated valuations do not prompt rational men to lamentation, but to cautious action.
What is proper and affordable in some circumstances becomes ridiculously expensive in others
Acquiring consciousness of prices is part of becoming an adult. Irrationality makes people despondent, leading them to sell their property at reduced prices. Obsession deprives men of understanding, inducing them to pay too much for fashion. Price ignorance inevitably leads to stress and anxiety.
Fear cannot justify foolishness. Conformity cannot excuse willingness to delude ourselves or the world. Ignorance is unacceptable when knowledge is freely available. Wisdom begins with consciousness of our environment. For products, services, or convictions, there cannot be valid advice without reference to price.
Image by dalbera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us