Monday, January 9, 2012

The price of killing cats: $1 million?

This discussion from Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias is an interesting comment on perception:

Now consider a new Vanity Fair survey:

Questions: Would most people you know kill their favorite pet for $1 million? What about you?
Answers: Most people: Yes (23%) No (72%); Yourself: Yes (11%) No (83%).

Matt Yglesias (Hat tip Sir Charles):

I don’t believe it for a minute. Saying you wouldn’t kill your favorite pet for $1 million is cheap talk. Actually declining an offer of $1 million in exchange for the life of your pet, by contrast, costs $1 million. How many people would really turn that offer down in these cash-strapped times?

Actually, my guess is that if no one you knew had ever taken such an offer, and if you took it you’d be in the news so that most folks you know would hear of it, most of you wouldn’t take the offer. But once a few associates had taken the offer, and such offers weren’t newsworthy anymore, most folks would take such offers.

Instead of asking the question, maybe they should do an experiment to find out how much cat owners would demand as a compensating differential to put their cats put into a slightly riskier job (high-rise construction cats?). If this is the experiment, one might have to divide by nine to adjust for the cats-have-multiple lives theory.

Note: The original article used the phrase "favorite pet," but I read "cat" even though we do not have a pet. I have no explanation for that.


  1. What if my favorite pet is a goldfish?

  2. In that case, the experiment might involve compensating you for putting the goldfish in a tank with a bigger, hungry fish. For my taste, I'm not sure that would be as much fun as cats in hard hats. But, as they say, there's no accounting for taste. :)


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