The economics of advice

At times I believe the following propositions, in appropriately qualified fashion:

1. You don't know what a person really thinks until you hear his or her advice.  Along these lines, if you really want to know what a person thinks, ask for advice and he or she will open up.

2. In philanthropy there is a saying: "Ask for money and you will get advice.  Ask for advice and you will get money."

3. There are many exacting scholars who should be locked in a room, asked for advice of various kinds, and forced to speak into a tape recorder with no edits allowed.  The advice-giving mode mobilizes insights which otherwise remain dormant, perhaps for fear of falsification or ridicule or of actually influencing people.  All of the transcripts should be put on The Advice Website, with an open comments section, to limit the actual influence of the advice.  Some famous people would be revealed as foolish in critical regards.  The contents would be most interesting as non-advice and the site would carry a government warning that the advice is not to be taken seriously.

4. Often we do not trust people until we hear their advice.  We suspect in any case that they wish to control us, and until we know what they have in mind, we remain wary.  Sometimes it is necessary to give advice — even pointless advice — to establish trust.

These remarks are not intended to apply to medical or clinical advice.

Here is Bryan Caplan, offering direct advice to his colleagues (an excellent post).  Brett Arends questions whether you should take advice from people who write for a living.


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