For students of economics and the curious non-economist layman, I previously explained the concept of “sunk cost.” Here is another example, from what I do. Suppose I have worked a few hours on an EconLog post. From my first reflections and draft to the final post ready for publication, through some complementary research, a few editing passes, and the choice of a featured image, I might have spent four or five hours over a couple of days, a high cost since I could have done something else productive or directly enjoyable during that time. Time is short and its opportunity cost high.

Suppose I now reckon that most of my readers will likely find my newly minted post at best banal. They will not even feel challenged to learn more. They may conclude that they are unlikely to benefit from reading me anymore, which represents a reputation cost. In short, I now think that clicking “Publish” will, from now on, carry a net marginal cost for me. It would be irrational to go ahead “because of all the time I spent on it.” Wasted time is a sunk cost that will not be erased by incurring further costs. Past time is gone forever. It won’t be “reimbursed” to me.

I think and hope that I usually don’t succumb to the sunk-cost fallacy. I sometimes delete, as I just did, a post ready to publish.