A person possesses a multidimensional capacity that may be used in different ways. This capacity is modeled analogously to “the commons,” where open access insures value dissipation. Efficiency requires constraint on access, which may be interpreted as a rule for usage. As applied to personal choice, the model suggests that rationality, defined as maximization of whatever standard of value chosen as the objective for choice, is a learned rule rather than a “natural” behavioral attribute. In other words, “maximize utility” is not an empty normative imperative, even if “utility” remains undefined. The discussion offers a means of reconciling descriptive and prescriptive models of rational choice and allows utilization of the explanatory potential of both economics and psychology. The analysis is readily extended from individual to collective choice with numerous familiar applications.
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