Why less is more: the economics of moderation. | 003/100

Studying economics can be tough. Sometimes, when I’m deep into theoretical models, each reliant on dozens of complicated (and completely unrealistic) assumptions, I despair. How on earth is this useful? How is this in any way, shape or form applicable in the real world? Einstein said that ‘as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.’ The same holds true here.

I’m not saying there aren’t any insights to be drawn – that’d be ridiculous. It’s just a thrill when an economic model actually helps you make sense of the world. One such idea is the concept of ‘diminishing marginal returns’. Simply put, that means the more you consume of something, the less and less valuable each subsequent unit is to you. An example you’ll often come across in a textbook is eating burgers. The first burger, great. The second – yum. Perhaps by the third you’re starting to feel a little ill. There’s no way you could possibly jam in a fourth… And so on. Each one is worth less and less to you.


Because you can have too much of a good thing.

A recent report from the ONS covered how people spent their ‘leisure time’, what they spent that time on and how many hours they worked. How often do you hear people moaning how fed up they are about work? You’d expect that those working less hours, with more time to spend as they wished were far happier.

Well, turns out that the busiest people enjoy their leisure time the most. On top of that, those who ‘spent the most time in leisure activities, at seven hours and 57 minutes per day, and were least likely to enjoy their leisure time‘.

“Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl chain of all virtues.”

-Joseph Hall, the ‘English Seneca’

Sitting around in your pants watching Netflix all day may sound great on the surface – but try doing it for a week, and see how you feel.

Ask yourself this: What are you overindulging in? Excessive drinking? Stuffing your face with cake? Scrolling mindlessly through your phone? Think about how you can cut down. The scarcer it is, the more you’ll enjoy it.



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