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title author date belief
Hiding the cost
Issa Rice
2016-08-21
possible

This page describes the tendency of people to list the benefits they derive from something without similarly listing the cost of that same thing.

Examples:

  • People describing in detail all of the things they get from attending EA Global without saying how much it cost them (for the ticket, flight, lodging, disruption in workflow, etc.). In particular, see a June 2016 thread where Vipul Naik comments:

    I think it would be helpful if people here disclosed how much they actually paid for the conference, as well as their total cost of attendance, since the out-of-pocket costs (both for the conference itself and for travel to it) can play a significant role in determining whether it's cost-effective. If somebody says "I spent $400 on the conference and $200 traveling to it, and found it worthwhile" that's more impressive than somebody who got a discount ticket of $100 and lived in the area and found it worthwhile.

    I say this because my impression is that many elites/community insiders get discounts or fee waivers and this might be making it look like a more cost-effective proposition to them than to the typical participants.

    Thanks to Vipul Naik for relocating this thread when I indirectly brought it up in a conversation.

  • Something I've noticed while doing my dive into global health: people tend to enthusiastically list all of the impact their program has had, without listing how much the program cost. For instance, look at how empty the "Operating costs/funding level (in US$)" column is on the priority-setting in global health Wikipedia page that I wrote (some of it is due possibly to my inexperience in trying to locate funding information, but much of it is because the information could not be found in a reasonable amount of time). While this is something one can expect without doing any look into global health, it's important to realize the prevalence of this tendency, and also to experience how frustrating it is that this sort of information cannot be found.

    Perhaps another way to say this is that there is a social norm that makes it okay to not list the cost of a health program. If there was a social norm of pestering program managers to release cost information, and to not take seriously anyone who hides this sort of information, we could expect this information to be widely available.

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