Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't Rain on my Platform Parade

So, sometimes in NYC, crazy things happen. These crazy things include, but are not limited to, seeing hot pink stretch limos with hot tubs in the back,* having President Obama attend a fundraiser across the street from your apartment,** and wearing high heels as a safety measure.

A couple of weeks ago, when it was raining like mad and half of Pennsylvania was asking the Amish population how long it would take to build an ark, I had not worn rainboots. I had walked through a light mist in flip-flops that morning (I was running late and needed to be able to dodge people quickly), and had then switched into the tallest shoes I own. It was raining considerably, and there was standing water on the ground. Out of concern for my safety, I decided to walk back in platform strappy sandals.

Typically, when one is surrounded by people who think safety is a virtue (and who also probably wear really butch dress pants), one is scolded for heels. "You'll screw up your back," "You'll throw out your hip," and "You'll stumble over a tiny tourist who ran under your feet" are all common warnings received. We get it: high heels, like hurricanes and Michael Moore in hot pants, are really dangerous.

The thing is, flip flops have basically no traction. They are also very near to the ground. This means that in standing water, you will go slipping and sliding everywhere, and have a very real chance of falling. Platform strappy sandals, however, are high above the ground, keeping your feet dry, have straps to keep your feet from sliding, and are way more stylish. Thus, I opted for my very tall shoes, and stayed safe the whole way home.

I mention these two strange  NYC occurrences because economics assumes rational actions. There are just sometimes where what may seem rational on the surface is actually irrational given all the facts. Flip flops look safer, but having more information (thanks to past experiences), I knew that counterintuitively, my heels were the way to go.

In economics, you never have all the information, but you can make rational decisions even without knowing everything. This is one of the most impressive things about the free market—even without all the information possible, most people have enough information to make the best decision for themselves most of the time. This happens without any mass planning, any formal informational training, and it's generally not noticeable. But sometimes it looks as crazy as platforms in the rain.

I acted as rationally as possible in:

Khaki skirt, brown tank top, hyacinth blue thick-knit sweater with safety pin, brown disk earrings, brown flower ring, and camel leather platform sandals.

*The first year I lived in NYC, I really did see this. I do not, unfortunately, remember what I was wearing.

**Really. I had to ask two cops why the roads were closed off. They looked at me like I was crazy and then told me "Obama." Guess I'm slow on the uptake ...