Top Economist's Headache
By David Henderson
A Nobel prize-winning economist was to be guest of honor at a large dinner party at a Texas university. A professor from the university picked up the economist at his hotel. On the way out the door, the economist mentioned that he had a headache, so they stopped into the hotel store to buy some aspirin. “$4.95 a bottle!” the Nobel laureate complained, “I can get this for $2.50 in my town.” “Let’s go find a regular drug store,” he demanded. Because they were already running late, the professor said, “It’s your lucky day. I’ll pay.” This professor could see that the real cost of the elusive $2.50 bottle of aspirin was far higher than the cost of the $4.95 bottle in front of them because of the extra search time involved. The professor was happy to spend the extra money to ensure that he got what he valued more: a relaxed economist giving a good talk and some time to socialize beforehand. Does the irony in this story jump out at you? It is, of course, the Nobel prize-winning economist who should have offered such a solution. He should have seen that, given his situation, the $4.95 bottle, available then and there, was much more valuable than the $2.50 bottle across town.
The university was Trinity University. The professor from the university was Bill Breit. And the Nobel prize-winning economist with the headache? Paul Samuelson.