July 04, 2012

Looking beyond freedom and property rights

Interesting blog post today by Matthew Yglesias:
Sometimes I think we're arguing about economics and people simply disagree on what the practical upshot of certain proposed regulations would be. But oftentimes I think we're arguing about curbing positional competition. You can easily imagine a workplace in which every worker would prefer to work slightly shorter hours and would be willing to accept less pay, and where managers would be willing to make that bargain. But the managers (naturally) look a bit askance at whoever it is they deem to be the laziest worker, and the workers (naturally) are therefore reluctant to present themselves as the laziest in the office. Therefore nobody actually asks to make the hours/pay tradeoff. Group decision-making, whether through a collective bargaining agreement or legislation can create a situation that most people are happier with. Suppose someone invented a machine whereby a healthy person could sacrifice his own life in order to secure five extra years of life for an ill person. Once some people started making The Ultimate Sacrifice, failure to do so might come to be seen as exhibiting a below-average degree of love for one's child or spouse leading to widespread Sacrificing even though in public health terms it's a horrible deal.


Blogger First Sea Lord said...

The artificially, inefficiently competitive impulse, not evolutionary competition about substance in differing approaches, but rather projecting a social image of competing, is almost a foundational flaw in our system.

It speaks to the old question of why Americans work longer hours, with very few vacations- while we have 8 percent unemployment.

I will say again my father's observation: there were so many men, lions in war, efficient, inexhaustible, brave, cooperative, competitive, and useful, who after WWII, thrown to the rat race, to the worship of the Almighty Dollar, failed, and never recovered, and became burdens.

We waste so much human potential to our social ideologies about economics.

July 6, 2012 at 12:28 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home