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On Hobson’s Economics “Choice”

The Philosophical Tradeoff

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA


In economics, Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered, and one may refuse to take that option. The philosophical choice is therefore between taking the option; and not taking it. 

A False Choice 

The phrase is said to originate from Thomas Hobson [1544-1630], a livery stable owner who, in order to rotate the use of his horses, offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in the stall nearest the door – or taking none at all. It is analogous to the expression “my way or the highway”. 

In other words, it is in many respects a faux choice – or no choice at all. 

Financial Tradeoff 

Some retired physicians and other retired people live on a fixed income and many of them live right on the edge of their financial capability.  At some time in their life, they may have to make a choice regarding many purchases.  

In this case, we will illustrate “choice” using a couple’s purchase of Long Term Care Insurance. Of course, economics is the study of choice; wants, needs and scarcity, etc. 

In our case, if they decide to make the purchase they commit to a lifetime of premium payments. 

The financial tradeoff is this; if they make the commitment to purchase LTCI, they must give up something else.


In order to maintain a monthly premium of $100 ($1,200per year), an elderly doctor, retired layman or couple must essentially relegate about $30,000 of financial assets to generate the $100 necessary to make an average premium payment (assumes a 7% rate of return with 4% withdrawal rate) or [4% X $30,000 = $1,200 year]. 

Thus, if the monthly premium cost is $500 per month, the elder must give up the use of $150,000 of retirement asset just to generate enough cash flow to pay for the LTC insurance. 

The married elder couple has to make the choice between lifestyle (dinners, vacations, gifts to children, prescription drugs, medical care or food and shelter) versus paying an insurance premium to provide for nursing home coverage for a need, which may be very real, but will not occur until sometime in the ambiguous future. 


When faced with such a tough economics – Hobsonian – choice, neither of which delivers peace of mind or a respectable solution; many will simply decide that, in either case, they may already end up impoverished. 

Thus, many will often opt for the better lifestyle now … while they can enjoy it … together. 


A health economist or financial advisor often has to dispel the myths, hopes and misconceptions of clients and deal with the realities they face. Alternative risk management strategies are important, and health economic choices must be considered in any comprehensive financial plan. 

And so, what are your thoughts and comments on Hobson’s choice [dilemma]? 

Speaker: If you need a moderator or a speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA – Editor and Publisher-in-Chief – is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com 


Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™  Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™


Invite Dr. Marcinko


One Response

  1. Unum

    Falls as Long-Term Care Loss Ratio May Prompt Reserve Charge.


    Ann Miller RN MHA


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