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roadnottaken


Michael Watts has done the analysis: Every choice has a cost because choosing to do one thing entails giving up the opportunity to do something else. Faced with the same option, different people often make different choices because they place different values on each alternative's cost and expected outcome. Robert Frost's famous poem, "The Road Not Taken", is a perfectly clear description of a choice involving an opportunity cost. Most people remember that in this poem the speaker takes the road "less traveled by," which makes "all the difference." Few remember an earlier line, which states that the roads were worn "about the same." That line suggests another basic idea in economics--an automatic process of equalizing differences among returns (after adjusting for risks) that occurs among workers with similar qualifications or investors with similar amounts of funds to invest. Whenever the overall returns become higher down one path than another, more people will start to choose that path until the roads are, in fact, worn about equally. Even then, of course, because of individual differences in skills, interests, and the willingness to accept risks, people must try to choose the road that suits them best. So perhaps Frost implies here that because of these subjective factors the choices people make are more a matter of personal perception than of how much different "roads" are actually traveled and worn. In any case, each person who comes to a crossroad must make a choice for it is impossible to travel down two roads at the same time, and the road that is chosen today often leads a person to different roads and choices tomorrow.