Heresies about Time: Wasted Time, Double-Duty Time, and Past Time.

by Charles Wolf, Jr.

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A discussion of three neglected aspects of time as a factor in economic life, based on the contention that the Becker-Linder approach to time allocation imposes a simplified, one-dimensional structure on matters that are more complex and subtle. (1) Wasted time occurs most frequently among the most harried--business executives, bureaucrats, housewives, well-known professors--and is notorious among those connected with large organizations. Hard technology-miniaturized computers and recorders--and soft technology--mental processing routines for quickly retrieving information and ideas--afford a way to turn wasted time into usable time. (2) For human capital formation, time spent in use can perform double duty, adding to the stock while yielding a flow of current values. Educational time coupled with on-the-job training can yield joint products: current output can be raised while human capital is formed. (3) Contrary to the traditional economic theorem that sunk-costs should not influence decisionmaking, past actions can greatly affect current choices. Also, sunk-costs are often valuable in explaining and predicting present behavior. 11 pp. Ref. (DGS)

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