Minor Thoughts from me to you

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Selling Reservations Democratizes the Dining Experience

Selling Reservations Democratizes the Dining Experience →

Tyler Cowen, writing for the New York Times.

When restaurants don't charge for reservations, they tend to hold back tables for regular customers, celebrities, very attractive people and the politically and socially well connected. You might be dying to go to that restaurant for a special birthday or anniversary, but you'll simply be unable to get in. Money is ultimately a more egalitarian force than privilege, as everyone’s greenbacks are worth the same.

This applies to far more than just restaurant reservations, of course. All scarce goods must be rationed. That rationing can be done by connections or cash. I'd prefer that it'd be done by cash, putting everyone on an even field of play. (Those without cash can earn it, raise it, or be given it. Connections are much harder to come by.)

Caution, During Political Silly Season

Nationally, we are gearing up for political silly season. The Republican primaries are half over and we're moving swiftly towards the national conventions and the fall election season.

In Wisconsin, the political silly season has been with us for the past 15 months and looks to stay with us straight through November. (In case you haven't heard, we've had recall elections for six senators and a hotly contested Supreme Court election. We have another 4 senate recall elections and a gubernatorial recall election scheduled.)

Politicking is off the charts and everyone is inclined to believe the absolute worst about everyone else. At times like this, I remember one of my favorite quotes (I have many) from Robert Heinlein, from The Green Hills of Earth.

You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.

In every party, most politicians are just plain dumb. Freely criticize every politician with whom you disagree. But don't degrade yourself by ascribing evil motives to people who are well-intentioned. It's usually wrong, it's uncharitable, and it reflects poorly on your own character. Instead, criticize the lack of knowledge. And then help the situation along by offering your own knowledge to fill the lack.

This entry was tagged. Quote

That "Directed by Michael Bay" Feeling

This made me snicker.

But then, when I look at the field of candidates, I get that "Directed by Michael Bay" feeling. It's not as bad as I felt in 1996 when it was clear that Bob Dole was going to be the nominee. That was like watching Stephen Hawking heading out to sea on a surfboard. You didn't know exactly what would happen, but you knew it would end badly.

-- Jonah Goldberg, in today's G-File, on the field of potential 2012 Presidential candidates

Al Mohler on the Amazon Kindle

Do not think of the Kindle as replacing the book. Bury that thought. Bury it deep. Then go and hold a favorite book in your hand. Enjoy. Then pile 50 of your favorite books and carry them with you all day, through airports, onto airplanes, checking into hotels, sitting in meetings, reading in bed at night. You get the point. You sit (gloriously) in a library. You take a Kindle in your briefcase.

Well said, sir. Well said.

This entry was tagged. Kindle Quote

Can we do what we "ought" to do?

I just read a pretty good essay over at The Freeman, discussing the difference between what we can do and what we ought to do. Too often, people talk about what we ought to do before even considering if we can do it. The essay, appropriately enough is Ought Implies Can.

There are two parts I particularly liked. The first was on the problem of imperfect knowledge.

The economist David Prychitko once defined economics as “the art of putting parameters on our utopias.” And in a particularly insightful definition, Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek wrote that “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” What both definitions suggest is that economics deals with the realm of the possible and in doing so demarcates the limits to what should be imaginable.

The author points out that this practice makes economists unpopular.

Economists are thus often seen as only knocking down the ideas of others without coming up with solutions of their own. There is some truth to this claim. That is how economists spend much of their time. But it’s an important function: showing why a proposed solution would only make matters worse is a valuable contribution to the broader process of solving the problem.

So, before you tell me that we ought to do it -- healthcare reform, for instance -- you first need to demonstrate that we can do it. Preferably in some level of detail.

This entry was tagged. Hayek Knowledge Quote

Don't be an intellectual drunk driver

Sheldon Richman on "Proposers versus Producers."

"The dynamic leader who gives impassioned speeches and sponsors legislation on behalf of social justice is portrayed as heroic in part because few people can find the logical flaws in the program. As a result, all that counts are presumed motives. But motives divorced from understanding are worthless — even dangerous. In a more sensible world, proposing ends while oblivious to means would be a sign of irresponsibility, the intellectual equivalent of drunk driving."

(Tip 'o the hat to Art Carden at Division of Labour.)

This entry was tagged. Quote Responsibility

John Stossel on health care markets

I should know by now that whenever I try to explain something John Stossel has already explained it better. First, he delivers a great quote about why competition keeps prices low.

In a free market, a business that is complacent about costs learns that its prices are too high when it sees lower-cost competitors winning over its customers.

I posted yesterday about why "exchanges" are worse than free markets. Stossel takes that on too and does a far better job than I did.

... Competition is not a bunch of companies offering the same products and services in the same way. That sterile notion of competition assumes we already know all that there is to know.

But consumers often don't know what they want until it's offered, and their preferences and requirements change. Businesses don't know exactly what consumers want or the most efficient way to produce it until they are in the thick of the competitive hustle and bustle.

Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek taught that competition is a "discovery procedure." In other words, the "data" of supply and demand emerge only through the market process. We need open-ended competition not merely to see which rival is better, but to learn things we didn't know before and aren't likely to learn any other way.

"Competition is valuable only because, and so far as, its results are unpredictable and on the whole different from those which anyone has, or could have, deliberately aimed at," Hayek wrote.

The health care bills are perfect examples. If competition is a discovery process, the congressional bills would impose the opposite of competition. They would forbid real choice.

In place of the variety of products that competition would generate, we would be forced "choose" among virtually identical insurance plans. Government would define these plans down to the last detail. Every one would have at least the same "basic" coverage, including physical exams, maternity benefits, well-baby care, alcoholism treatment, and mental-health services. Consumers could not buy a cheap, high-deductible catastrophic policy. Every insurance company would have to use an identical government-designed pricing structure. Prices would be the same for sick and healthy.

What's wrong with "cherry picking"?

Yowza. This is Jerry Pournelle on education and "cherry picking".

On education, the usual critique of charter schools is that they are guilty of "cherry picking" which is to say, they accept only students who want to learn something and are willing to be disciplined. Thus an academically accomplished charter school in DC was not allowed. Cherry picking is supposed to be a bad thing? As opposed to the current practice of making those who would like to learn in DC go to a school that accepts those who do not want to learn and refuse to be disciplined? And this from people who are supposed to be liberal? It seems to me a very good way to keep the blacks in their place. Make them go to lousy schools filled with disorder while you send yours to schools that have discipline, and then on to Harvard. Is that the goal of liberalism? To keep the blacks down? Because I think of no better way to accomplish that goal than what is happening in DC. Tons of money spent on truly horrible schools that no one who could possibly escape them would go to? Would anyone who had in mind the good of black children in DC permit the current school system there to exist for ten minutes more?

The money is spent, and the results are known, and nothing is to be done. Yet under the Constitution the Congress is responsible. One presumes that both parties intend the results obtained since neither party makes any attempt to do anything about it.

That's the best response to the cherry picking argument that I've seen yet.