Economic Psychology

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Economic Psychology

How and why markets aren't rational. Navigational tips for charting the Bermuda Triangle of human economic behavior.




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Default Parameters
 
Barry Schwartz asserts, in The Paradox of Choice, that default parameters matter. A 'default parameter' is defined as: the option that is assigned when no choice has been specified.

I would take Schwartz's astute observation even farther and propose that the default parameters one selects are in fact central, defining features of one's character -- personal, organizational, institutional and/or national.

For proof, one need look no farther than the shining example of the presumption of innocence, as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 11
1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

And the Supreme Court's 1895 commentary on Coffin et al. v. United States:

The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.




On my mind today:
 
The Gettysburg Address, given by Abraham Lincoln at the commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg -- which began on this day in 1863 and became the turning point in the U.S Civil War.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.