28 Apr 2010


Tolerance means that you do not change your behavior towards someone whose thoughts or lifestyle are "strange" to you.

There are two types of tolerance. In the first, you either fail to notice the other person's strangeness or fail to take it into account when interacting with them. In the second, you do notice -- and are perhaps are bothered by that strangeness -- but do not make any explicit action or comment because it's in your best interest to work with that person.

This means that someone who accepts others will have non-business interactions with them (since they really don't care about that person's "strangeness"), but someone who merely "puts up with" a strange person will interact only when it's beneficial.

Now you can ask the litmus test question: "Ah yes, you have [black, gay, asian, non-economist] acquaintances. Do you have them over for dinner?"

I'll note that my background (growing up in San Francisco, traveling in 80 countries) has given me an accepting tolerance of many types of people. The only type of person for whom I have very little tolerance is a hypocrite. (I tend to avoid people who do not accept others; they can be passively or actively dangerous to society and our common future.)

Bottom Line: We can "just get along" when we are tolerant, but we can thrive* when we accept otherness -- and allow it to enrich our lives.
* In economic terms, we know that social cooperation for the provision of public goods and management of common pool goods depends on EITHER shared norms OR social preferences, i.e., the ability to see others as our equals.