Posted by Kathryn Edwards
California economist Glen Whitman’s preoccupation with ‘Two Things’ is such fun that it’s no wonder it gets whirled around the papers every now and again, most recently in Saturday’s Guardian. Its premiss – laid out by a man whom Professor Whitman met in a bar – is this: for every subject, there are only two things you really need to know. “Everything else is the application of these two things, or just not important.”
“Oh,” said the professor. “OK, here are the Two Things about economics. One: Incentives matter. Two: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Not content to limit the analysis to his own game, Whitman has quizzed those from other worlds to discover the lie of their lands. These are some of the perspectives he’s been collecting:
The Two Things about Medicine:
1. Do no harm.
2. To do any good, you must risk doing harm.
The Two Things about being an Executive Assistant:
1. The boss is always right.
2. The boss is always wrong.
The Two Things about Marketing:
1. Find out who is buying your product.
2. Find more buyers like them.
The Two Things about Writing:
1. Include what’s necessary.
2. Leave everything else out.
The Two Things about Civil Engineering:
1. Dirt + Water = Mud.
2. You can’t push a rope.
You can see where my thinking’s going: can we usefully hitch a ride?
Okay, over to you.
What are the Two Things about Arranging a Funeral?
Answers in a comment box below, please. A cigar will be awarded for the best.