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Damn! And I was just thinking about another post on "doing nothing", saying it could mean anything. And yet in your examples, "doing nothing" does seem to mean something (it has a plausible natural interpretation)!

BTW, there's a good comment stuck in spam.

OK, the political interpretation seems plausible enough, but I am not so sure about that "natural interpretation".

There does not seem to be any reason why kickers should ever decide in advance to aim for the centre. The chance of success, conditioned on the goaltender guessing right, is higher for the corners than for the centre. And the chance of success, conditioned on the goaltender guessing wrong, is also higher.

There is an entirely different plausible natural interpretation than "action bias". Perhaps kickers (almost) always intend in advance to kick for one corner or another - that would be rational. Goaltenders seem to be able to divine the kicker's intention better than chance, as you yourself observed (by 189/129 left and 206/161 right.) If they are sometimes anticipating the kicker's choice, perhaps they sometimes do so prematurely, so that the kicker has time to change the course of the kick. It might well be that it is physically easier to redirect a kick to the centre than to the opposite corner; that would explain the high incidence of centre kicks.

But in that case, it would not help the goaltender to increase the frequency of standing pat; the kicker would just continue his original plan and kick to a corner, and there would be no save.

Great post, really like it. Course one could always try to look like you're doing something, like jump up and down impressively while staying in the middle of the goal, and not actually do anything at all.

There is a "skill shortage". Let the wages rise (ok). With these higher wage, some people will "increase their skills". Which the same thing as "increasing skills" immediately, but taking more time. Then , what's wrong about "doing something about skills"?.

The choice here is really identification of the problem, not action to solve the problem. It's silly to worry about a skills shortage (a small fish problem) when the labour market can't clear anyway EVEN IF there was no skills shortage (a big fish problem).


This says "involuntary unemployment" to me. We don't have a skills shortage, we don't have enough jobs. But the solutions to this problem are politically unpalatable to many.

Frances: I coach football, uh, soccer. The goalie is not permitted to jump around prior to the ball being kicked. FIFA Law 14 states "(The goalie) must remain on his goal line, facing the kicker, between the goalposts until the ball has been kicked"


Most soccer goalies, especially at the higher levels, do a little more than randomly jumping - they usually base it on past data, and the way the other player is running up to the ball. Also, with the goalie standing in the center I wonder how many players actually aim at the middle. I think the statistical data is hiding a lot of variables inherent to the problem.

Having said that, even if action bias is valid, how do you pre-determine that a specific problem susceptible to action bias, and that no action is best? Is there some type of groundwork that can be done to evaluate a situation?

This problem is made even worse when there is an option value in waiting. Not only does the politician feel compelled to act, he/she feels compelled to act now, often when the decision is irreversible (or difficult to unwind). Every time we see politicians trying to pull investment forward, whether it be rebates for clunkers or what not, politicians fail to recognize the socially optimal action of delay. For young economists reading this blog post, read Dixit and Pindyck's excellent text, Investment Under Uncertainty.

You correctly anticipated where I was going to go next with this line of thought!

Here's the type of action bias I see too much of: when action is important, if not critical, then do nothing. (Ie. global warming, where the longer we wait, the harder it is to slow down let alone stop or reverse.) On the other hand, if there's no real problem, WE MUST ACT FAST! (Social Security is precious for the future. We must save it by cutting benefits now! Earlier, it was privatize it! Earlier still, it was Social Security is bad.)

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