October 25, 2006

Acting Like an Idiot

From the Skeptic's Dictionary:
sunk-cost fallacy

When one makes a hopeless investment, one sometimes reasons: I can’t stop now, otherwise what I’ve invested so far will be lost. This is true, of course, but irrelevant to whether one should continue to invest in the project. Everything one has invested is lost regardless. If there is no hope for success in the future from the investment, then the fact that one has already lost a bundle should lead one to the conclusion that the rational thing to do is to withdraw from the project.

To continue to invest in a hopeless project is irrational. Such behavior may be a pathetic attempt to delay having to face the consequences of one's poor judgment. The irrationality is a way to save face, to appear to be knowledgeable, when in fact one is acting like an idiot. For example, it is now known that Lyndon Johnson kept committing thousands and thousands of U.S. soldiers to Vietnam after he had determined that the cause was hopeless and that the U.S. could never defeat the Viet Cong.
Of course, all sensible centrists know that there are no parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, and no common factors whatsoever. Double that bet when people who still believe we had any right at all to invade Iraq are involved.

Therefore, you should feel free to ignore this post entirely.

(Via the indispensable Scott Horton, who also appears here.)