Words Speak Louder Than Actions?

Why so much hate for the Donald? If we look only at his actual policies they are in fact no different than any of his predecessors. Differences that may exist are in degree, not kind. Or non-existant at all. For example ICE deportations are both up and down under Trump when compared to Obama. They are up from FY2016 (61,094 vs 44,512) but dramatically lower under Trump than under Obama’s first years (averaging over 225,000 from 2008-2012). The point being before you start jumping up and down about what a monster some president is in comparison to “your guy” chances are high that “your guy” at some point did the exact the same thing or far worse. That goes both ways my Democrat and Republican friends. That’s because they are all the same. Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump – they’ve all been responsible for murdering innocent civilians in other countries by the truck load. But nobody cares because we wave the flag and chant “US interests” or “national defense” as if somehow that incantation is supposed to bring absolution. We’re all too eager to protest the president over something he said (mere words) but then stand silent with respect to their horrendous actions (murdering innocents). I guess actions don’t speak louder than words when it comes to Presidential concerns, at least where it concerns Trump.

Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump have all escalated the drug war. They have all been responsible for caging millions of people for the “crime” of having in their possession something that some other people think they shouldn’t have in their possession. If we threw people in cages for owning certain books there would be a groundswell of public outcry; yet change that word from “book” to “drug” and somehow it all makes perfect sense. There is no constitutional amendment (like alcohol prohibition had supporting it) mandating a drug war, so any of these presidents with the stroke of a pen could have ended this senseless and costly “war” on drugs. That not one of them has serves as a testament to their cowardice and wickedness.

So it is not Trump’s policies that the left finds so objectionable but rather his delivery. Indeed when he shuts up and bombs people the press fall all over themselves praising how “presidential” he is. For shame. Killing people is presidential? Trump is crude and blunt when he speaks. Not at all how we picture our Hollywood presidents to be. The press and the left would like someone from central casting (like Obama) filling the role – someone who just “seems” presidential. This crudeness is perhaps Trumps only redeeming quality. It puts the lie to the notion that presidents are somehow better, smarter, and wiser, than the rest of us and are worthy of the power we bestow upon them. They are not. With Trump we see the Everyman President. And it scares us. And it should. But it should scare us no matter who occupies that office. Do not be so easily duped by the silver tongue of the professional politician. If you focus on their deeds and not their words then perhaps we might one day reign in their power.

January 28 / 2018
Author Greg Morin
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Not Neutrality Part 4

Now that the daily news cycle has shifted its focus from the end of human civilization (net “neutrality” rollbacks) to the latest outrage du jour over yet another autisticly unfiltered remark from Donald Trump (“s*****le countries”) now would be the ideal moment for a small dose of “the truth hurts.”

“Net Neutrality” is yet another Orwellian up-is-down state propaganda that does the exact opposite of the plain meaning of the words (e.g. see Social Security, Affordable Care, Patriot Act, etc.). Were one to introduce a bill called “Shipping Neutrality” that required all shipping carriers use the same vehicles over the same routes and charge the same amount to everyone regardless of package size or distance, then perhaps it might dawn on the proponents of net neutrality just how absurd their position is. The absurdity swells further when one stops to ponder the fact that the explosive growth and innovation occurring on the net occurred in an unregulated environment. Then in 2015 the FCC changed the regulatory landscape and “net neutrality” was born. A mere 2 years later it is being undone yet somehow the internet as we know it is going to come crashing down around us. I’d like to take a moment of silence so we may ponder the dark days on the net that were 2014.

The internet has flourished not despite a lack of regulation but because of it. Innovators were not required to approach the crown on bended knee in order to be granted permission to innovate. To get a glimpse of government oversight of a rapidly innovating industry look no further than the FDA. A massive backlog of drug applications (innovations) at the FDA creates an unending queue of useful products languishing in limbo while development costs skyrocket during the endless wait. Innovation in a state run economy moves at the speed of a single elderly Wal-Mart greeter. Such a drip-wise pace might seem adequate, that is until you have experienced the waterfall of innovation that is produced in the unfettered and unregulated free market economy (e.g. the internet).

The proponents of net neutrality are oddly conservative in their tactics. For conservatives change is bad. It’s bad because it instills FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in their heart. Those pushing the net neutrality agenda also play that fear card. They would have us believe our favorite websites will be slowed or blocked altogether if we don’t pay an endless litany of new fees. They see an á la carte internet (paying only for services you need) as tantamount to Sophie’s Choice. Please. Given the level of public outrage over even the thought of these ideas no ISP would be foolish enough to try such a thing. They would immediately lose their customers to ISP’s that did not engage in the hated practice.

But, and here’s the truth that hurts that nobody wants to face: it is their right to do whatever they wish. If they want to block websites, throttle speed, charge more or less for different services that is their right. If you own it you can do whatever you want with it. Just because modern society has become dependent on certain services (electricity, phone, internet, television, etc.) does not mean those things are basic human rights that must be supplied in an unaltered state at a fixed cost ad infinitum. For anyone to categorically state that another party must supply them with X at Y cost for Z duration and that if they don’t they’ll get their buddy Mr. Government to beat the living crap out of them until they do is the height of hypocrisy. It is hypocritical because you can be quite certain they would object if someone approached them with the same demand, that is, that they now must give their labor for others at some price and duration for which they have no say and that if they refuse to do so they will be thrown in a cage.

Neutrality delivered via the barrel of a gun goes by another name: tyranny. (for parts 1-3 see this page)

January 14 / 2018
Author Greg Morin
Category Net Neutrality
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It’s A Wonderful Life (Without Copyright)

This holiday season I exited what is I imagine a rather exclusive club – those who have never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Yes, I was always somewhat aware of its existence, what with the numerous cultural references, homages, and satirical spoofs one encounters in modern media. However I had never bothered to take the time to watch it until this past week. While this is no movie review, it was indeed endearing in a nostalgic/quaint sort of way; I can see why it is cherished and loved.

But, just as George Bailey got to glimpse the world had he never existed, I will ask you to ponder how your life might have been different had you never seen or heard of this film. Why? Because, but for a typographical error, it was nearly wiped from existence in 1974. Although the film premiered in 1946 it was not the box office success one might assume it was based on its current wide appeal. It actually did so poorly it drove Frank Capra’s (the director) production company into bankruptcy. And there it languished for the next 28 years (the automatic copyright period under the then governing 1909 Copyright act). But in 1974 a miracle happened: the filing for the additional 28-year extension was typographically botched in some way and it was not renewed.

At that point it was in the public domain. That meant that any network, TV studio, or local station could play it royalty free. We, the viewing public, were then inundated every Christmas for nearly the next 20 years with round the clock showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This forgotten tome became a cherished classic within a few short years, as permanent a fixture at Christmastime as Mistletoe or Eggnog.

Sadly in 1993 the copyright owner of the book (“The Greatest Gift”) the movie was based on was able to manipulate the court system and IP (Intellectual property) law to reestablish copyright over the movie. Some might argue this is only fair; they should be permitted to reap the rewards of their great grandfather’s efforts 50 years later. It is perhaps the definition of irony to use copyright law to establish ownership over something that derives its value solely from the lack of copyright.

So the moral of this story is that all our lives would be richer if some things (copyright, and all IP) had never existed. Consider the unseen harm of copyright: all of the otherwise obscure creative output locked away behind copyright never to be experienced by anyone. What, dear reader, are you missing out on?

(No, this is not a call for “free” stuff – without the artificial state imposed constructs of intellectual property laws other, non-coercive, models to artistic remuneration would emerge (as many have already today in response to online piracy)). If your business model requires the threat of violence to protect only the value of what you produce then there is something wrong with your model; violence is never the answer to getting what we want.

January 09 / 2018
Author Greg Morin
Category IP
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Riding the brakes?

Do you remember when those hurricanes hit Texas and Florida last month and since some people couldn’t access their money to buy food and other supplies the government just waived the law against theft so people could get what they needed more quickly? Yeah, me neither. But in fact the government did waive one law last month: the Jones Act. This waiver applied to affected ports in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.  But I thought laws were the very immovable bedrock upon which society was based. How can such pillars of civilization be summarily set aside? The answer is that such “laws” are not really law at all. They are but mere whims and cronyist preferences of those with the power to rule over we mere peasants. These “laws” rather than preventing victimization they instead create victims by benefiting one party at the expense of another.

The Jones Act of 1920 artificially restricts the transport of goods between US ports to only those vessels owned, operated and principally manned by US citizens. In other words no “ferners” can move goods from US port to US port. It was established for putative national security interests post World War I, predicated (as all such protectionist measures are) on a fear of the big “what if” nightmarish scenario of US goods being transported mainly by foreigners….shudder. Of course such a policy is amenable to the autarkist interests of any nation eager to engage in war.

So while the Act has benefited the US merchant marine industry, it has been at the expense of consumers, principally those on US protectorate islands (like Puerto Rico) who by necessity must have nearly all goods brought in by ocean. A 2012 study showed that it cost nearly twice as much to ship to Puerto Rico from the US as it would were a non-US vessel permitted to make such shipments. Another study showed it costs Puerto Rico $537 million per year. In other words $537 million more goes to US vessels (seen benefit) and $537 million fewer dollars goes to those businesses and industries (unseen harm) where that money would have been spent had it stayed in the pockets of the Puerto Rican people.

If a law becomes an obstacle in times of distress then think of what it does in normal times. Although one can get from point A to B while riding the brakes on a full tank, does it really require running on fumes to realize perhaps this constant braking is not a good idea? It is time to remove all such artificial drags on the economy. The role of government is to protect our rights, not to benefit one group at the expense of another.

 

October 03 / 2017

Fallacies

Just as the warm, moist air of late summer engenders the destructive fury of hurricanes, so too do these storms bear the perennial fruit of economic ignorance. Like clockwork the talking heads either eagerly forecast economic prosperity or decry the mendacity of the evil price “gouger.” Or both. The former is the classic example of the broken window fallacy, which like a case of herpes, will never be fully expunged from humanity’s collective consciousness. The error lies in focusing on seen benefits while ignoring unseen harm. We are implored to consider the benefits of jobs that will be created as we set about rebuilding lost homes, towns, and infrastructure. But this economic activity is not enhanced; rather merely diverted. All the money spent on rebuilding would have, absent the hurricanes, been spent on other goods and services. It is those markets and industries that will in turn see economic decline as fewer people spend in those areas. Even if argued that the rebuilding funds come exclusively from the savings coffers of insurance carriers therefore it wasn’t going to be used anytime soon, that still does not change the economic dynamics. A huge influx of “new” cash competing for a fixed amount of supplies does nothing but cause prices to rise for everyone else (e.g. building supplies will be in higher demand therefore all users of such supplies nationwide will experience higher prices). These higher prices mean, again, fewer dollars to spend on other goods. The only sense in which one could argue that net economic activity increases is if we assign no value to leisure. Certainly if one works 12 hours a day rather than 8 to both rebuild what was lost and maintain what one still has, then output is indeed greater. But is that the world we want to live in, where we sacrifice leisure in the name of economic output? Why we don’t need a destructive storm to achieve that, just pass a law enforcing a 16 hour work day and we could double GDP overnight! Destruction is not the path to an economic free lunch. Everything has a trade-off. The only path to prosperity is through savings, capital accumulation, and investment of that capital toward avenues that make production more efficient (i.e. cheaper).

The price gouger fulfills a valuable economic role, namely the rationing of constrained supplies in direct correlation to need. The feedback is immediate and perfect. There is no need for the imprecision of someone overseeing how much has Person A bought in such and such time period if rationing is imposed by pubic or private diktat. This issue is not so much of a fallacy since people do generally understand principle that if supply goes down prices will go up. Rather, it is more of an issue of emotion; each person’s barometer of what a “fair” increase amounts to varies. The fallacy is in believing that someone charging an “unfair” amount deserves to be thrown in a cage. As much as people would like to redefine words, “victim” does not describe someone who paid more than they would have preferred. So, no victim, no crime and thus any laws against price “gouging” are themselves victimizing when those with a true need find nothing but empty shelves. Trading willfully unobserved harms for spurious benefits leaves us all vulnerable.

Quora post: What are libertarian solutions to market failure in emergency healthcare?

My reply here:

There is no such thing as “market failure”. That’s just a term for “outcome I don’t like”

maybe if government got out of the way we’d see these solutions. People are quite innovative and I’m sure solutions I can’t fathom would crop up.

But lets take one example I presume is meant here. Someone needs emergency care and has no insurance or means to pay. Well we already had a solution for that but government killed it. We used to have numerous charitable church run hospitals that would supply such care at no or little cost. But then government got involved with Medicaid and Medicare and started paying everyone so why do stuff for free? Now everyone expects a hand out expecting to be paid by government and the church run hospitals lost their reason to exist and went away (there are only a handful left now).

Government distorts the market and creates the very failures that are so often pointed to.

The fallacy here is believing that 51% of the populations deems policy x so important that they elect people to carry out policy x but absent government somehow those same 51% would just shrug their shoulders and do nothing? No. They would support anyone trying to achieve end they desire

 

 

And then a good exchange below fleshing out the details a bit:

 

 

Qurora user

 

Well you’ve got several scenarios mixed in here which are all quite dissimilar. If as you claim there is no market for some scenario how can that be a market failure? That’s like saying Christianity failed as a religion because it didn’t aid in maintaining societal cohesion in 12th century Mayan society. If something isn’t present how can its absence be blamed on it. Anyway.

To be clear, constrained or limited choices do not constitute “failure”. Just because options are limited doesn’t mean one is being “forced” into a choice. Force only applies if violence or the threat thereof is being employed to constrain ones choice (eg I choose to freely give my wallet to the mugger…my choice was constrained by the threat of violence so it’s not a real choice nor truly voluntary). But your example is no different than saying we are forced to work because Mother Nature threatens us with starvation if we don’t earn money to buy or grow our food. This fact of existence limits our choices in what we can do everyday of our lives. So if I break my leg and I end up in the hospital and my only option given there is amputation or death even though there actually does exist a better option at a different hospital two states over still doesn’t constitute failure. That’s just life. It’s no different then being in the wrong place at the wrong time…we don’t call that life failure. Sure it would be great if you could pull up an app on your phone that told you exactly where to go for the best care and you could teleport there in a second, but people who died before organ transplants existed weren’t sitting around discussing how the market had failed them because it had not invented a cure. Options in life are always constrained by the simple facts of our existence; who are parents are, where we live, where we go to school, who are neighbors are, what language(s) we speak etc. all of those factors can contribute to outcomes we deem positive or negative. Markets are no different because markets as a thing don’t exist…it’s just people doing stuff for other people. So going back to the hospital example and the broken leg, if you happen to end up in the best hospital in the country for that does that then “prove” markets work?

I think what you’re getting at is the classic “”information problem”. This is what the socialist believe, that a perfect market would be a socialist market because with perfect information the state could direct precisely the right amount of each good to produce just in time to satisfy all needs, and so all would be employed, with zero waste and maximum efficiency. And so anything that falls short of this utopian perfection is considered imperfect or a “failed” market. It’s an impossible standard as we are not omniscient beings, so perhaps it makes interfering intellectual fodder, but in the real world is of no real consequence.

its funny how markets are deemed to fail because one can come up with either real or hypothetical scenarios where some outcome was negative…yet such failures exist today under our state controlled markets and somehow that is never seen as a failure of state control. Indeed it just produces calls for more control. Indeed, if whipping the patient isn’t helping then surely the solution is to whip him even more.

 

I think that this scenario would be such an extreme outlier (i.e. a person with no insurance, no identifying information, completely family-less and friendless, suffers a life threatening injury and is also unconcious) that indirect (outside groups) or direct (the hospital itself) would cover these 0.01% occurrences without a second thought.

It think the question to treat without explicit consent is a common libertarian debating point and there are differing opinions on it… but in my opinion you can call it implied consent or “when in doubt” principle or whatever, but I think it is entirely reasonable for people to assume that every person will always prefer any alternative to death and to then act on that assumption. Or to proceed on the course that reasonably seems it should produce the least amount of harm.

I just can’t see how anyone can argue with that position. To argue against it is to argue that you prefer to die over the notion of your right of consent being violated. Right. I don’t think you’ll find many takers on that one. 😉

Now maybe someone’s religion says they should not get medical treatment and they would prefer death, but doing so is not a rights violation per se as they are perfectly free to kill themselves later if they don’t like the outcome of being treated and the person doing the treating is acting in a reasonable and reciprocial way (that is they acted in a way they would wish to be acted upon were they in the same state).

And at the end of the day the whole notion of rights is about reciprocity… we cannot demand rights for ourselves that we are not ourselves willing to honor for others. If we say we have the right to kill other people and take their stuff then we have little cause to complain when someone does that to us. If we say we only have a right to our body and our property etc then we are obligated to respect those same rights in others. So acting on this unconcious injured victim comes down not to what version of rights that victim lives by (unless you happen to know what they are and thus are able to act according to them, but we’re assuming in this extreme example we have no idea what they are) but rather what version you live by (the one treating him/her). You must act in a way that is consistent with your views or how you would want to be acted upon (“do unto others…”)

So the libertarian position in my mind then is “do unto others” and I think 99.999% of people or institutions would treat them, but for the small minority that wouldn’t and let them die, that should be “legal” in the sense there is no legal obligation to act… of course the real world ramifications of not acting would probably be quite similar to it being illegal. pretty much everyone who thought that was a dick move would boycott the hospital or doctor or whatever and they would flush all value in their reputation down the toilet. So you don’t need a “state” to force these things on people… the morality of that society will most directly reflect what actions are approved and what are shunned and thus tend to eliminate those that are shunned… you’re free to do whatever you want, but you’re not free to avoid what others think about you for doing whatever you want.

 

 

Qurora user

Well I was assuming a “libertarian” society in which case nearly everyone would have insurance 😉 because it would be so cheap, like car insurance… because medical costs would be reasonably and low. Otherwise it’s an unfair question, like assume everything is exactly as it is today but you just removed all government force… how would you solve this the day after that? Well of course you wouldn’t have some perfect solution as the entire structure of society has been distorted by state force such that we end up with these scenarios where medical costs are sky high and insunrace is likewise expensive due to mandates. It’s kinda like saying well the government forced me to sit in a wheelchair my whole life and the liberatrian solution is to get out of the wheelchair, but look when you get out you can’t walk, so clearly the libertarian solution is the wrong one.

But I would concede your point it might be a bit more common than 0.01% 😉 as one can still have family etc and not be able to get in touch in time. But far more people would have insurance so the question then just becomes one of how do we insure we can be identified and our insurance status determined if we are unconscious.

But not sure why you say that doesn’t happen right now? It does. I don’t recall the law’s name off hand but there is a federal mandate that hospitals must treat patients to the point they stablize them so they don’t die. They don’t have to “fix” everything, but they do have a legal obligation to keep them from dying. That does create some moral hazard as those that choose to remain uninsured know this and may rely on this in some small part. Now not everyone will but on the margins it must be happening.

In a libertarian world there would be a mix of hospitals that will treat you in these situations and those that won’t and might let you die… and you’ll never know which you might get, so this creates a big incentive to get insurance and carry that fact with you at all times!

But if the original question is asking how can we implement libertarian solutions within the framework of a state run society, i.e. just have some “reforms” while keeping everything else in place (mandates, regulations, certificates of need, moral hazards,e tc) then I don’t think there is such a solution… everything is connected, you can’t just change one small part without needing to change other parts in order for it all to work properly.

Qurora user
August 11 / 2017
Author Greg Morin
Category Health care, Quora
Comments No Comments

Quora post: Libertarians, why should I lean libertarian?

Here’s my reply:

It comes down to one simple question: do you believe that sometimes it is ok to initiate (that is, you are not responding to violence initiated against you) or threaten to initiate violence against others in order to achieve some end? Or stated differently, do you believe that sometimes the ends justify the means?

if you answer “yes” then you are not a libertarian but in order to not also be a hypocrite you should also happily accept whatever is done to you by the state in order that the state may achieve its putatively meritorious ends. Any objection to any state action in this situation would be hypocritical.

On the other hand if you answer “no” to this question then you are a libertarian and following this one simple rule in life will yield the correct answer whenever it is asked “”should the state do X?”

August 11 / 2017
Author Greg Morin
Comments No Comments

A Quora response

A recent Quora post of mine answering a question:

Why don’t we call people who don’t believe in climate change ‘deniers’ instead of ‘skeptics’?

 

For one reason and one reason only: it is a passive-aggressive ad hominem attack on any one holding that position meant to denigrate the holder of that viewpoint by cleverly associating them in the mind of the listener with holocaust deniers. We all know holocaust deniers are truly nuts (no I’m not being sarcastic, they are) so all we have to do is pluck that “denier” word from that usage and stick it over here to the same effect. You see the term “denier” is not used _anywhere_ else until today except for holocaust denial. We don’t call creationists “evolution deniers”. We don’t call the anti-vaccine crowd “vaccine deniers”… they all get their own separate neutral term. But no, for climate skeptics its “denialism” for you.

Yes there are a handful of nutjobs that say there is no change in the climate or no evidence, but they are the tiny minority. But I suppose its like anything, the small vocal group (islamic terrorist) give a bad name to the whole rest of the group that are perfectly reasonable. The climate question is not monolithic. It’s not simply “climate change” and that’s it. It includes

  1. Is CO2 increasing? Yes
  2. Is the temperature rising? Yes
  3. What is man’s contribution to the increase in CO2?
  4. What is the contribution of CO2 to temperature change?
  5. Will the rise in temperature have overall negative, neutral or positive outcomes for humanity? for other species?
  6. Should humans try to combat the percieved causes of the temperature rise?
  7. If they do should they do so in an economicaly mindful way (ie spend more to mitigate than the estimated cost of the damage)?

The problem is, you can agree with the establishment viewpoint on 1–6 but disagree on 7, and that makes you a pariah, a denier (just ask Bjørn Lomborg if you don’t believe me)

That is just not helpful. There are a lot of people like me who have legitimate, genuine questions, but they don’t get answered by the climate folk. We’re just told to “shut up and trust us” No. I’m a scientist as well (chemist) and I’m no idiot, I can understand your answers if only you’d bother to engage us actual skeptics who have actual legitimate questions. All I see on TV are climate scientists refusing to even sit in the same room with a climate skeptic. Sad. Thats’ not science, that’s religion, that’s belief. That’s denialism.

March 24 / 2017
Author Greg Morin
Category Climate Change, Quora
Comments No Comments

Vain Pursuits

It is a curious artifact of American politics that the showcasing of a soldier’s widow (as Trump did during his recent address of a joint session of Congress) has the opposite effect one might imagine. If little Johnny were brought before the class by his teacher to show them how he lost a finger playing with firecrackers, one might expect that frightful outcome would instill in the other children a sense that perhaps holding a lit firecracker in your hand is perhaps not a good idea. We would not expect the children to feel emboldened to engage in the same activity.

Likewise, shouldn’t parading the grieving loved ones of fallen soldiers instill in our “leaders” an instinct to be more parsimonious when using this scarce human capital? We would hope they would become progressively less inclined to engage in bellicose rhetoric that necessitates sending soldiers into harms way. But no, it has the opposite effect. In order ensure the recently departed have not “died in vain” and to defend the “honor” of the country, the leaders become even more inclined to retaliate or engage in new overseas adventures with the supposed goal of “furthering US interests” or “consolidating US power.” Why is that? Because for all the high-minded sounding rhetoric (equality, peace, freedom) and apparently “civilized” structure of the modern democratic state these political decisions still turn on raw emotions. The same emotions that drove primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to raid each other’s villages today drive men in suits sitting under gold domes to murder people half a world away. There is no logic, there is no thought, just raw, visceral emotions of revenge, anger, and pride, all wrapped up in some twisted nationalistic package we label patriotism and uniformly applaud like trained seals when shoved in our faces.

Patriotism, literally “love of one’s country” drives not just American leaders but every other country’s ruling elite to engage in the stupidest, most ill advised behavior – from hot wars to trade wars – all to advance the goal of autarky in an “us vs. them” board game. I suppose it is true what they say, “love is blind,” but in combination with political power this aphorism becomes lethal if love of country blinds one to reason and logic. In the war on terror reason and logic would dictate that blowback and the desire to control others is the proximate cause of virtually the entire problem of terrorism. Stop throwing rocks at the hornet’s net if you want to stop getting stung; beating it harder only makes the problem worse.

You’d think we all want no more widows and orphans resulting from pursuing inane policies. That should have been the point of shoving into the face of Congress the results of their polices. If we keep wasting these fine men and women in vain political pursuits, we will one day find no one left to defend us from an actual external attack.

March 09 / 2017

Defending the Undefendable: The Scalper

Country music star Eric Church recently took the unprecedented step of cancelling 25,000 tickets to his spring tour that he claims were purchased by scalpers. The cancelled tickets will be up for re-sale so his “true” fans can purchase them. In fact, this effort to curtail scalping harms his fans – who does he think bought or will buy the tickets from scalpers? I recently tried to buy tickets to an event but was barred from buying more than 2 at a time. Ever. Had I bought two and went back and bought two more I would have been branded a scalper and all 4 tickets cancelled. Net effect: I just won’t go; it’s my whole family or none of us. Oh well. So I have no doubt many of those 25,000 were people like me who tried to skirt the stupid rules just so a family or group of friends could all go to a concert and actually sit together.

The idea that scalpers cause high prices is as persistent a ‘cart pushes the horse’ myth as is the notion college education causes success. Scalpers provide an invaluable public service. They identify and solve glaring supply problems. They make it possible for poor planners, the blissfully unaware, and the peripatetic to enjoy a show at a moment’s notice. In my college days I was in Paris for a summer study abroad. Through last minute word of mouth I happened to find out Pink Floyd was in concert one evening. Of course it had been sold out months before I arrived, but that was no problem. I walked up to the venue and in a few seconds had bought a ticket from a scalper. Couldn’t have been easier. Now someone might argue (incorrectly) that had there been no scalpers I could have bought one at the box office for a normal price. Ten minutes before show start? I don’t think so – not with a band as popular as Pink Floyd at the time.

But, that scenario actually could take place (box office purchase) if only the artists would stop ignoring basic economics. If something is in high demand (seating at a show) but the supply is low (seats x shows) the solution is to not to set an artificially low price and cover your eyes and ears and stamp your feet demanding scalpers not buy the tickets. The solution is to (a) raise prices or (b) increase supply (more shows or more seats). If they truly want all their fans to have an opportunity to see them perform they need to stop selfishly withholding their talents and perform more frequently!

The two most vilified economic activities, piracy and scalping, are both the result of producers over or under estimating their own worth. If someone is pirating your goods then you are charging too much. If someone is scalping your goods then you are charging too little. Think about it: if music and movies were priced at a nickel each, all piracy would cease. The irony is the studios would make more money following this model. Riches are obtained more readily not from charging high prices to a few but rather low prices to the many (which is why price based competition, in contrast to quality or service based competition, is the most popular tool at gaining sales).

Looking back to our example of scalping we can see that if performers charged what the scalpers charged, the scalpers would realize no more arbitrage advantage to scalping and would cease. Airlines do this rather well, offering a range of ticket prices all of which are still high enough there is nothing to gain by scalping them (ignoring security issues today, but this was true in the past when tickets had no names on them).

These performers are a “victim” of their own success. There is only one of them, so increasing popularity means more and more will vie for contact. They have no choice but to charge more or devote more time to their fans. Supply and demand is as inexorable as gravity: sooner or later it will win.

February 28 / 2017
Author Greg Morin
Category Uncategorized
Comments No Comments
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