Rational Addiction

Rational addiction is the hypothesis that addictions (to heroin, tobacco, television, etc.) can be usefully modeled as specific kinds of rational, forward-looking, optimal consumption plans. The canonical theory is due to Kevin M. Murphy and Nobel Prize Winner Gary S. Becker. A theory of addictions in the broad sense—for example, to heroin, tobacco, religion, or food—the article tried to reconcile addictions with the standard rational choice framework of modern economics. Though controversial, the theoretical approach has become the standard approach to understanding addiction in economics, and a variety of extensions and modifications have been developed and published by other authors over the years. A survey of researchers who had authored or co-authored peer-reviewed articles on rational addiction theory indicates that the researchers see the theories as successful in a number of ways: 73% of the respondents see them as extending and enriching consumer theory, 56% see them as containing relevant insights on the welfare effects of addictive goods and public policies towards these, 44% see them as providing useful tools for predicting aggregate consumption behavior, 39% see them as providing insights into how addicts choose that are relevant for treatment professionals, and 27% see them as providing evidence that addictions are actually a sequence of rational, welfare maximizing choices.

Read more about Rational AddictionThe Becker and Murphy (1988) Model, Later Extensions, Criticism, See Also

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