The Public Interest

Are smokers rational?

Nicholas Eberstadt

Spring 1993

SINCE CLASSICAL TIMES, economics has asked how human desires can be met in the face of material constraints. Indeed, the discipline has been extraordinarily successful in measuring and analyzing this process. But when it comes to explaining the human desires that drive this process, economists have had rather less to say. Usually, they duck the difficulties, and simply accept tastes and preferences as fixed, “exogenous” quantities. 

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