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A Theory of Rational Addiction

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  • Becker, Gary S
  • Murphy, Kevin M

Abstract

The authors develop a theory of rational addiction in which rationality means a consistent plan to maximize utility over time. Strong addiction to a good requires a big effect of past consumption of the good on current consumption. Such powerful complementarities cause some steady states to be unstable. They are an important part of the authors' analysis be-cause even small deviations from the consumption at an unstable steady state can lead to large cumulative rises over time in addictive consumption or to rapid falls in consumption to abstention. Their theory also impies that "cold turkey" is used to end strong addictions, that addicts often go on binges, that addicts respond more to permanent than to temporary changes in prices of addictive goods, and that anxiety and tensions can precipitate an addiction. Copyright 1988 by University of Chicago Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:96:y:1988:i:4:p:675-700
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