Saturday, August 29, 2009

Poll: What do you do when a friend asks for help moving?

In a piece entitled The Economics of Doing What You Love, Justin Wolfers talks about the high opportunity cost of training for and running a marathon. He laments that because he makes so much money per hour as an economist, running is especially expensive for him.

Note: Running is expensive because the wages he must forgo for each hour running is exceptionally high... i.e., he has a high opportunity cost.

His article at the Freakonomics blog is a summary of an interview in which he says this:
It's only because I'm both slow and an economist that I fret that the world's cheapest sport is actually incredibly expensive.

He goes on to say:
By sticking to economics, I make time for running. [...] When a friend asks me to help them move, I write them a check to pay professional movers instead. It's just more efficient.

He's right. It is more efficient to let muscular mover men do the moving for your friend, rather than volunteering to help out. Certainly, the job gets done more quickly, but I have to wonder how Mr. Wolfers' friends respond when he writes them a check.

That leads me to the poll question of the week:

If a friend asks you to help him move, how do you respond?

(a) Roll up your sleeves, and help him move some boxes.
(b) Make up an excuse for why you can't help.
(c) Cut your friend a check, so he can save both of your time.
(d) Stop being friends with your "friend" because he obviously doesn't understand economics.
(e) Explain the economics of comparative advantage, opportunity cost and gains from trade to your friend. Keep explaining why he should hire movers until he finally breaks down and hires movers himself.

The poll is open for a week. I am eager to hear what you have to say. Vote on the sidebar (---->), and tell your friends and "friends" to vote. As always, if you have any thoughts on the issue, feel free to comment.

A question for speculation: A friend of mine recently asked for help moving. How do you think I responded?


  1. as a salaried employee, i can't really say that my time is worth very much outside of my normal 40-hour work week. plus, all of my friends who have ever helped me move weren't worth much more than some pizza and beer. and i'm obviously not an economist.

  2. Well, I am going to have to ride the fence on this one a bit and say that it depends on the friend. Sort of like investing in your children as a retirement plan for yourself, I will be more likely to help a friend move if I think this person will scratch my back when the time comes. Otherwise, I will certainly be making up an excuse. Though I would forgo little in terms of wages, a day spent helping someone move is a day I could have spent biking, climbing, or even watching paint dry.


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