I began to try more things and found that not only were they good environmental practices, they were saving me money! As I saved more money, I began to do more things. In the s, I invested in a better electric car and I also installed solar hot water. In I invested in a wind turbine in the California desert.
In , I installed solar electricity even before there were government tax credits or rebates. And all of these things I've done over the years that are "good for the environment" have been good for my bottom line! This is where I see the convergence of belief and behavior.
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People in this country may or may not believe that we share responsibility for global climate change? We want to lower our energy bills, reduce our gasoline consumption, and eat healthier? This economic motivation extends not only to individuals but to corporate America. Thirty years ago, businessmen and politicians and economists in California claimed we would destroy the economy by forcing the automakers to reduce emissions and by forcing power companies to clean up their plant emissions. Instead, Detroit and the world made cleaner cars through the use of unleaded fuel and catalytic converters.
The power companies cleaned up their dirty plants and moved to cleaner fuels like natural gas. The air quality in California improved markedly and the economy thrived. Today we have four times as many cars in Los Angeles, yet we have half the ozone depletion. We all deserve a medal for bringing about such an astonishing turnaround!
That is why I believe the "challenges" we face are solvable. We have made changes, big ones, and we can do it again. Sometimes people ask me, "How can I do the things that you have done, Ed? I don't have the money or the resources of a Hollywood actor. I can't afford to make that type of investment. I'm a working actor.
And I started small back in and did more and more over time as I saved money. Start by changing out your old incandescent lightbulbs for energy-efficient compact fluorescents. Get an energy-saving thermostat. Start recycling and composting. Start your own vegetable garden.
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Get out of your car a day or two a week and walk or ride a bike or take public transportation. Start by picking the "low hanging fruit" first and work your way up to the bigger ticket items as you save money. We're all in this together and we can overcome these environmental challenges. There is no reason for us to use the world's resources like we're having a going-out-of-business sale.
There is value to the trees in the forest that is equal to or greater than the value of those trees being used as two-by-fours.
Cutting down the old growth forests for lumber would be like tearing down the Smithsonian because we needed some bricks! I'm filled with hope for the future Ed Begley, Jr. It can be hard to find? Nowhere, you might think. But a new kind of economist is starting to prove that life makes more sense than you would ever have expected. The new economics grabs any tool that works: a brain scan, a giant social experiment, or the hidden patterns in an old map.
Its leading experts are discovering the rational behavior in the apparently irrational world that surrounds us.
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This is a departure for economics? That detective work was what made Freakonomics such a success. But although the star of Freakonomics , Steven Levitt , is one of the most respected economists around, he's just one of many who are doing ground-breaking work. Most have snuck under the radar screen of economics commentators. Economists have long believed that "people behave rationally. When I wrote The Logic of Life , I wanted to tell the story of this new type of economist, and I wanted to use it to show us our daily lives in a new light.
Whether you are trying to climb the corporate ladder, or to get a date on Friday night, once you discover the hidden logic behind the trials of daily life, you begin to see everything differently. I cannot promise that the picture will always be pretty, but I can promise that there is always something new and different to see.
Let's take a look again at those initial examples. The juvenile tearaways first: Many people argue that criminals? If prison works at all, goes the theory, that's only because the bad guys are locked up, so they can't break into your home. But teens have a closer eye on the legal system than you might imagine. Most states have harsher systems for dealing with adults criminals than the young, but the gap is wider in some states than in others. In the states where the difference is particularly big, potential criminals rapidly clean up their act quickly when they become old enough to go to an adult prison.
Yet in the states where adults and juveniles are treated in almost the same way, they behave in almost the same way. You might be afraid of that kid in the gang colors, but the evidence is that he's a rational criminal. The heavy drinkers, too, are more rational than you would expect. When taxes on alcohol rise, people cut back on their drinking, and that won't come as a surprise. But what is surprising is that it is the alcoholics who respond more to high prices than anyone else.
The evidence comes from looking at medical records: when alcohol prices rise, cases of liver damage fall off a cliff. Nobody would claim that alcoholics are in complete control of their actions, but again, the evidence is that some, at least, know when the habit has become so costly that cold turkey becomes rational.
As for the prostitutes, economists have discovered? The astonishing thing is that the danger money negotiated by the prostitutes seems to be comparable to the premium in pay received by soldiers, firefighters, lumberjacks and other people in dangerous professions. The prostitutes risk their lives for money? Although each of these examples focuses on the darker side of life, that is not unusual.
One of the features of the new economics I explore in The Logic of Life is the way that individual rationality can produce socially irrational results. For instance, think of the way a city tends to segregate itself into the toniest neighborhoods and the ghettoes.
The Alchemy of Happiness
In the hands of the new economists, a computer model shows how this outcome can emerge from individually rational decisions. Of course, people do not always behave rationally. The Logic of Life shows the bizarre ways in which we trip over the decisions that lie in front of us. And yet, it is striking that these mistakes are not at all commonplace? By contrast, when dealing with the daily choices we make in our relationships or our jobs, we can subconsciously make staggeringly complex decisions about what is to our advantage.
See a Problem?
In The Logic of Life , I show that traders, procurement managers, poker players, and soccer professionals are able to solve complex problems without even knowing that they're doing so. Top soccer players have been shown by economists to mix up their penalty kicks according to the fiendishly-complex strategies prescribed by economic theory.
I don't think it's because they've solved the equations; instead, like the rest of us, they've left the job to their subconscious. If a professional soccer player like David Beckham is smart enough to figure out economic theory, then so am I, and so are you. The calculations take place without us realizing. And it is their subconscious logic that shapes our apparently-illogical world.