Convenience has a massive effect on your behavior. You rarely shop in your favorite store, eat in your favorite restaurant, or visit your favorite place. Why not? Because doing so is typically inconvenient. They’re too far away, or not open at the right hours, so you settle for second-best or third-best or tenth-best. You usually don’t switch your cell phone company, your streaming service, or your credit card just because a better option comes along. Why not? Because switching is not convenient. Students even pass up financial aid because they don’t feel like filling out the paperwork. Why not? You guessed it: Because paperwork is inconvenient.
Suppose someone accuses me of being a pickpocket. I respond, “I have picked no pockets, therefore I am not a pickpocket.” My accuser could naturally retort, “Oh yes you are, I have video evidence of you picking pockets on three separate occasions.” What would you think, though, if my accuser instead declared, “There’s a lot of pickpocketing in the world. You’ve personally done nothing to stop it. That makes you a pickpocket!”
The anonymous author of the satirical “Homeless Camping in Austin: A Modest Proposal” has also sent me this more serious guest post. The title is mine. “Democratic centralism,” you may recall, is the Leninist practice of demanding strict loyalty to a party line after a (usually perfunctory) debate. Printed with the author’s permission.
Economically speaking, there’s a straightforward win-win case for these Mexican resorts: Not only do they make the tourists happier; they make the Mexicans happier by providing them with better opportunities than they have elsewhere in the Mexican economy. If you reconsider this verdict through the distorted lens of Social Desirability Bias, though, a radically different picture appears before your eyes. Once you forget economics, you could easily describe the resort experience in the following sordid way.
This winter, I’m a visiting scholar at the University of Texas. Though Austin is gorgeous, visitors can’t help but notice vast homeless villages scattered throughout the city. Local sources tell me that this is driven by Austin’s repeal of the ban on homeless camping. One of the economists I’ve met here has written a Swiftian proposal for reforming Austin’s approach. The author prefers to remain anonymous, but this is printed with his permission. Engage your sense of satire, and enjoy!
Socialist and nationalist revolutionaries are Latin America’s most successful criminal gangs, augmenting sheer brutality with fanatical ideology. The average person in these countries, however, craves tranquility and opportunity. Revolutionaries are a handful of wolves who make daily life hell, all the while vainly promising a heaven-on-earth that never comes.
I got my Ph.D. in economics from Princeton in 1997. Twenty-three years after graduation, I remain a professor at a mid-ranked school. The odds that I’ll ever get a job at a top-20 department look awfully low. How do I feel about this situation? The socially approved response, at least within social science, is to […]
Herbert Spencer’s “From Freedom to Bondage” famously claims that “[T]he more things improve the louder become the exclamations about their badness.” And he offered a bunch of great examples. Inspired by Spencer’s insight, I recently turned to Google Ngram to look at long-run trends for six oft-named expressions of prejudice.
I ignore the news, in part, because I deem it unreliable. That’s right, “I don’t trust the media.” But what exactly do I mean by this seemingly conspiratorial statement?
A few weeks ago, the NYT reported that “The Coronavirus Has Claimed 2.5 Million Years of Potential Life.” If you read the original study, you’ll discover one crucial caveat: The authors’s calculations assume that COVID victims would have had the standard life expectancy for Americans of their age. They freely admit that this is unrealistic and inflates their estimate.