Economic Rationality On the Case of Olivia

According to the standard economists utility theory model of rational choice, an action is rational if it is instrumentally rational or consumptively rational. An action is instrumentally rational if the agent chooses it because he soundly believes it is the best prospect for achieving his goals, values, ends, etc. On the other hand, an action is consumptively rational if it is an instance of an action-type- a general desire, value, or end. Aside from these conditions, other factors characterize a rational choice in the context of the standard economists utility model specifically in the context of instrumental rationality. Gaus states,

An instrumentally rational agent is one who seeks more rather than less, who is responsive to the costs of her choice, and who does not pursue one goal again and again, but acts on a variety of goals in order to maximize the achievement of her goals or ends She is also an agent who satisfices seeks an outcome that is satisfactory or good enough.

These conditions for an instrumentally rational agent take into account the social, legal, or moral norms in the process of making her decision. Such is the case since the utility of her commitments are dependent on societys conceived utility of these commitments. In other words, her goals are in themselves determined by the importance of these goals andor preferences in the society in which he lives in. Consider for example that in the case of Olivia, the child with an end-stage renal disease, her parents decision to sign her up in the end of the list may be caused by their adherence to other norms andor commitments, which they consider primary over the life of their child. The commitment that played a major role in their decision is the social, legal, and moral norm of fairness.  Fairness entails that a person recognizes that the available resources, in this case the kidneys for transplant, are used to ensure the capabilities and functionings of those in need. Although their daughter was also in need of the  kidney transplant, signing her at the end of the list proves to be the most satisfactory action at the time being. Such is the case since ensuring the capabilities and functioning of their daughter requires them to respect and follow the norm of fairness, which is required in order for such institutions to function in line with its goals. This merely shows that norms play a different and constraining role in our rational deliberations about how to act and make choices based on our preferences. Such is the case since norms determine the value of our preferences and as such, they determine the mode of action that we will take given a specific situation. In the case of Olivias parents their action may still be considered rational under the standard economists utility theory model of rational choice since their action represents the most soundly believable satisfactory action available in their situation, which may allow them to attain their desired end, which is ensuring the continuation of their daughters life.


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