From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: sunk-cost fallacy
23 Nov 2003
With regard to your entry on the Sunk Cost Fallacy, I wanted to pass along two thoughts that I had with the examples that are used.
Regarding the use of the Concorde as an example of the governments of Britain and France committing the Fallacy, this is true if the only goal of the Concorde project is assumed to be a positive return on investment. With this example this is not the case, as of primary importance to these governments at the time that this project was funded was to ensure that cutting-edge technical advances continued to come from Europe and not only America or Japan. Furthermore, one can't assume that profit would be the only reason for this project to exist-above and beyond the belief that government seeding of applied science is desirable, there is the notion of national (or Old World) pride and a visceral need to not feel irrelevant. That it was deemed necessary for this project to be funded by government and not the private sector is a tip off that the bottom line was not of prime importance.
Regarding the Johnson-Viet Cong example-this example is relevant if narrowly defined: if Johnson truly believed that the war was lost but continued to commit troops then one must question if [his?] logic (if not his morals). However, I take from this example a meaning that may or may not have been intended: that at a certain point in time, the Vietnam war was indeed a lost cause. This is only true within a certain context; if one had been willing to take greater risks or to commit to winning the war in a different way, then the Viet Cong were most certainly a group that could be defeated. It's only within the context that this "next level" was not appropriate (for various reasons) that lost cause would be logical conclusion.
Not to sound partisan, but perhaps a better example would be one of funding failing public schools. If one was to determine that a particular public school system is not achieving any successful result, committing greater sums of public money without any kind of reassessment or change in accountability would have to be seen as committing the Fallacy.
Thank you for providing such a wonderful resource.
name withheld by request