Economics: Is there any problem it can’t solve?

The Economics of Weight Loss (or: Dieting for Dollars)

So I heeded the suggestion of Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, and cooked up my own “Economist Weight-Loss Incentive Plan”: I contracted with a friend to pay her $500 if I had not lost nine pounds at the end of 10 weeks. I and a witness (my friend’s husband) signed the pact. My friend similarly obligated herself to take the payment and to spend it on herself. She affirmed her solemn pledge with her signature, witnessed by her husband (with a big grin).

I had her sign because I wanted to make sure that she would not wimp out on me at the end of the contract term and refuse to take the payment out of guilt. I wanted to be bound for the full cost (and pain) of my commitment.

Incentives matter. I may have to try this plan with someone. Probably someone I wouldn’t want to give the money to otherwise, so a donation to a good charity wouldn’t count. I’ll have to think about this….

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