the strawman market
One often hears:
[Libertarianism] can only work if all the conditions of a free market economy are present … things like anyone being able to easily enter any market segment, all consumers having near-perfect knowledge of what they are purchasing, large numbers of sellers selling identical products to large numbers of buyers, etc.
And one is moved to ask whether the political system makes up for such departures from the ideal by adding moral hazard.
Where did the meme came from? My guess is that some introductory economic textbooks contain theorems that rely on those simplifying assumptions, and some students get that far and no further.
I don’t know much about academic economics but I do know that there’s plenty of interest in the negations of those simplifications; for example, Ronald Coase made his name by pointing out the importance of transaction costs, including the cost of overcoming imperfections of knowledge.
What I need is the libertoonian equivalent of the TalkOrigins Archive, containing standard responses to the other side’s tired assertions.
a perverse incentive in customer service
Awhile ago I worked out that, if you want to watch a different disc every evening using Netflix, your quota (the number of discs you have out at a time) needs to be at least five: three for the mail cycle plus two because Netflix does no processing on Saturday or Sunday. (This assumes no glitches and no holidays. It also assumes you do not get the disc back into the mail on the same day you received it.)
Now I see that Netflix has begun working on Saturdays, reducing the addict’s minimum quota to four. That means they’ll get $6/month less from each subscriber who applies my reasoning. Hm.
where’s my fix?
For two or three years I was never without a supply of navel oranges, because the Australian (or before that Chilean) crop came in just as the California crop was ending; but the antipodean goodies have not (yet) shown up this year. Is a weak dollar to blame?
Sunday: scurvy is averted: Chile came through.
chaos and health
In a private forum, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:
I remember that one of my early epiphanies on the road to libertarianism came when I was reading about chaotic, scale-independent oscillations in heartbeat frequency. One might naively think that the healthier the heart, the more regular its beat – but actually the opposite is true. A healthy heart chaotically wanders around a setpoint, as a result of interactions of millions of locally coupled oscillators, the spontaneously spiking cells in the AV node. But as you press your heart harder and harder, as in heart failure, the chaotic rhythms are becoming simpler, until one last AV frequency remains, usually quite high, tachycardic, produced by an ever smaller set of cells. The next step may be fibrillation, or asystole, and death.
So, in our hearts health comes from chaos, the absence of a rhythm for every cell to dance by. Networked interactions can be made much more robust using multiple, locally interacting oscillators, rather than relying on a single one. The analogies to the society, the share of activities controlled by a single global decision-maker versus multiple local ones are in my mind crystal clear.
it’s a post, ain’t it?
a very clever picture — clean, but be warned, much of that site is NSFW.
Bon mot from Sheldon Richman:
Advocates of the free market are sometimes parodied for their seemingly all-purpose answer to any problem: Let the market handle it. What may sound like a simplistic answer, however, is actually the most complex prescription imaginable. In the modern world, the workings of any particular market are so complicated, they are beyond the grasp of mere mortals. Moment by moment, day by day, so many subtly interrelated decisions are made by so many people worldwide that no individual or group could possibly understand the big picture in any detailed way. So there is nothing simplistic about proposing the market as a solution to an economic problem. It’s short way of saying: let the multitude of knowledgeable people seeking profit, risking their own money, and responding to incentives find a solution based on persuasion not force. Translated that way, it sounds like a promising approach.
Ironically, those who don’t appreciate markets are in fact the ones who offer a simplistic, even empty alleged solution to economic problems: government regulation. That phrase is uttered like an incantation, the magical answer to all doubts about how, in the absence of fully free markets, problems would be solved. The irony is that while “let the market handle it” can be unpacked and made specific, “regulation” cannot.
It occurs to me that, assuming Cuban Communism does not long outlive Fidel, a lot of gringos are going to buy nostalgic cars there.