For a Dollar


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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65 Responses

  1. Avatar I hate liars says:

    “Now, when people on the left hear me say things like this, they often seem to conclude that I must be speaking in code.”

    Now will you stop pretending that you are not a conservative?

    Who cares about the people being exploited to give you your precious one dollar calculator, right? What’s important is that Americans get to consume and consume and consume.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Now will you stop pretending that you are not a conservative?

      Right after you stop beating your wife.

      You may hate liars, but I hate leading questions.Report

    • Avatar Jonathan says:

      This wasn’t a serous comment, was it? Surely, it was a wonderful farce.Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      “Now will you stop pretending that you are not a conservative? “

      Trust me, as someone who actually is a conservative, you don’t have very much to worry about.Report

  2. Avatar I hate liars says:

    Being gay does not make you a non-conservative. Just because you are for gay marriage (which probably is only because of personal reasons) does not make you not of the right wing. Stop pretending to everybody. You work at CATO for god’s sake.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      How about being a pro-choice, pro-porn, anti-war atheist?

      Because I’m all those things too.

      And I still hate leading questions.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Dude, please on behalf of all the liberally inclined commentators and liberals in general; get a clue and try and make arguments rather than slinging invective and personal attacks. You’re not helping any of our causes; you’re just lowering the discourse and making the local conservatives feel smug.Report

    • Avatar J. Peron says:

      Good god! What nonsense. Any leftist is to the right of any real libertarian. Libertarians or classical liberals were the original Left. Socialists came along and want to achieve liberal ends by using conservative means, that is state power. As such they are the original compromise between radical liberalism and conservatism.

      Similarly libertarians really have little in common with the Right and more in common with the Left.Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    Wow i never realized that as a contemporary liberal who thinks a mixed economy is just the bee’s knees that i didn’t think the free market is a good thing with plenty to offer. I mean i listened to my ipod on the way into work and am typing this on my laptop with my nifty digital picture frame showing my vacation photos next to me, but who knew consumer products are a good thing.

    Pocket calc’s and other goods are , well, good. It just seems like when somebody points out that some things are not the same as consumer goods that the entire response is “free market, free market, free market.” I clearly remember the HCR debates on this very blog where more then one person told me the market for health care is just like every other market, no differences at all.Yup HC markets= twinkies and pocket calc markets. Its at the places where we don’t think the market works well or the various problems can’t solve that we have disagreements, not that the market does some things great.Report

    • Well I think the difference between pocket calculators and healthcare are that not everybody demands pocket calculators, nor do they demand them equally, but everyone equally demands healthcare (at least in a Rawlsian sense) and I think therein lies a strongly pro-market libertarian argument in favor of universal healthcare similar to libertarian support for the common defense, the enforcement of contracts, courts, and police protection.Report

      • Avatar 62across says:

        I agree. Why do you think that argument gains so little traction among libertarians at large?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          As Will Wilkinson noted, the recent legislation did a lot to destroy what was left of market pricing in health care. Not a good thing by our standards.Report

          • Avatar 62across says:

            Are you throwing your support behind universal single-payer healthcare coverage as a way out of the current legislation you (and I) disdain or would you prefer trying to establish a greater degree of market pricing in healthcare than existed in what was then the status quo? Christopher’s argument is that the way forward is single-payer and I don’t see that argument getting any purchase in libertarian commentary. If it’s an idea that is winning minds – great! If not, why?Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              First preference would be to introduce more market pricing.

              Second preference would have been the old system. Not great, and not nearly the good deal for consumers that a my first choice would represent.

              Third preference – single payer. Depending on how it’s set up, this could flip with the second preference. My understanding is that Britain’s system is pretty awful, but France does very well.

              Fourth preference – say that you can keep your current insurance plan, but lie about it. Tie insurance companies even closer to the government, guaranteeing them a profit but only if they don’t innovate, don’t meaningfully compete with each other, and don’t deviate from the government’s rules. Set up a death spiral that ought to kick in a few years down the line by requiring them to cover people with preexisting conditions. Allow the healthy to opt out after a fee.

              In other words, what we got.Report

              • My problem with market pricing in the insurance market is that there will be widespread genomic discrimination. Insurance companies can draw some blood from your child, determine that he has a 50% chance of leukemia, and charge you an exorbitant rate. That’s not to say there couldn’t be more market pricing for some things, like primary care.

                If this is tied to employers it could mean not only that insurance companies will be able to discriminate against people whose genetic profiles suggest potential medical problems, but that these people will not be able to get the same kinds of jobs that “healthy” people would.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Wow i never realized that as a contemporary liberal who thinks a mixed economy is just the bee’s knees that i didn’t think the free market is a good thing with plenty to offer.

      I never said any such thing. Why do you bring it up?

      I clearly remember the HCR debates on this very blog where more then one person told me the market for health care is just like every other market, no differences at all.Yup HC markets= twinkies and pocket calc markets.

      My position was that the status quo in health care so little resembled a free market that even a single-payer system might have been better. But I thought that the recent legislation was neither constitutional nor a good idea in light of the corporate-government nexus that it entrenched still further.

      If you’d like to argue with people who thought otherwise, you should consider doing it elsewhere.Report

  4. I hate liars, did you even read this post?Report

  5. Avatar Dan says:

    I agree that the free market can be a source of tremendous good. I will never argue otherwise. However, I think the wonder at the $1 calculator elides some important considerations.

    Does that calculator truly “cost” $1? Where was it produced, and with what, and by whom? If it was in a country with lax worker and environmental protections (which do not seem to be demanded just now by the free market), were the workers paid a fair wage and did they work in safe, healthy conditions, and was the area around the site of manufacture spared toxic run-off from the plant? Would it be worth paying a little bit more for such a marvel as a translucent pocket calculator to rest assured that some far-off person or place is not being unduly exploited? How much more, and who determines that cost if the market only seems to demand a nifty pocket calculator for cheap?Report

    • Avatar I hate liars says:

      These considerations only matter to weak-kneed liberals. Real men don’t worry about things like that.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Would it be worth paying a little bit more for such a marvel as a translucent pocket calculator to rest assured that some far-off person or place is not being unduly exploited?

      Yes. To the extent that the calculator is made in an externality-laden process, it’s going to cost less, but we shouldn’t be happy about it.

      Getting rid of these externalities makes the market-in-practice look more like the theoretically optimum market, in which those resources are allocated more efficiently.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Extremely good of you to say so: changes my take on you entirely fwiw. For all my shrieking and hollering about how Free Markets Aren’t Exactly Free, as long as those externalities are acknowledged, the math works.

        It’s surprising how little it costs to eliminate some of those externalities. Work them off, one at a time, with input from the putatively Exploited, it all enters the realm of the possible. There’s also the happy side effect of creating more markets for all sorts of things as we turn the Exploited into Consumers.

        The greatest and by far the ugliest is the Wage Pimp. Invariably, he’s the go-to guy for labor in some far-off location. He’s got connections with the kleptocrats and he speaks some English. The oblivious Foreign Candides who take their low-margin products offshore don’t realize the Wage Pimp is extorting the worker’s wages in the form of kickbacks, paying bribes to the inspectors and generally distorting the market in every unpleasant and usually illegal way possible. Get rid of his skeevy ass. Pay the workers directly, form up alliances with the local leadership, maintain a safe and hygenic workplace, put in some child care and back a school, you don’t need him. He’s the problem. You’re still paying low wages and your calculator won’t cost much more, if any more.Report

  6. Avatar JohnR says:

    “Now, when people on the left hear me say things like this, they often seem to conclude that I must be speaking in code.”

    You gotta love generalizations invoked to support stereotypes. It makes self-gratifying ‘monoscussions’ so much easier. You could, of course, have made your points without the pleasurable slap at your opponents, both real and imagined, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun. Well, that’s human nature. Of course, I’m far to wise for that sort of thing.
    I don’t disagree with your basic argument, although I personally try to take a more pragmatic view of things in order to try to avoid forcing complex reality to fit my simplistic ideology. That’s probably because I’m no longer young and naive. All you kids today with your fancy-schmancy ideas about how the world works; it’s all been thought before, and probably better expressed.Report

    • Avatar JohnR says:

      “too”, also. Also, far too handsome and too good a spellographer. Although I’m going to blame my lazy keyboard for the missing ‘o’ on that one.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      You gotta love generalizations invoked to support stereotypes. It makes self-gratifying ‘monoscussions’ so much easier.

      JohnR, this particular point would have carried a lot more weight if it were the first comment in the post rather than one written after “I hate liars” wrote hers.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        Or if the entire comment thread of “The Middle Class Isn’t Dying” had never happened.

        With the support so close at hand, I didn’t think it necessary to offer a link. But check it out, if you were curious.Report

      • Avatar JohnR says:

        One swallow does not a summer make. But if it makes you feel happier, Jaybird, feel free to imagine that mine was the first posting..
        With regard to the comment thread that you draw up in support of your point, Jason, even such a massive (self-selected) group as this seems to be a bit thin on the ground to me. “People on the left” includes such a great and diverse array of individuals, from common-or-garden fuzzy-minded one-worlder nincompoops, to mouth-frothing, militant-wing, Trotskyite Shakers, that forcibly shoehorning them into a stick-figure caricature seems a bit careless to me. But hey, if that’s your bag, baby, go to it! It certainly makes lightweight, superficial ideological pronouncements a whole lot easier. Now me, I take it a step further: I cram each and all of us, with our unique Irish Stews of weird, self-contradictory beliefs, fantasies and Procrustean ideologies, into a single stereotype that I call [insert reverb here] “Foolish Human”. I find that saves me oodles of time and mental effort; far more even than our use of stereotyping normally does. I consider it to be the inevitable evolutionary next step. Plus it lets me sneer at everybody (except maybe Lady Gaga) with a confident feeling of quiet superiority.Report

        • Avatar Dan says:

          Plus it lets me sneer at everybody (except maybe Lady Gaga) with a confident feeling of quiet superiority.

          Right there with you. I prefer to sneer at Lady Gaga with a confident feeling of loud, boisterous superiority.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Aw I find some of her songs catchy and her video’s are entertanining to watch. I mean, Liza she ain’t but she’s not horrible.Report

            • Avatar Dan says:

              Well, if I were given a choice between listening to her or cats being put through a paper shredder, I suppose I could stomach another chorus or twenty of “Ale-ale-jandro, ale-ale-jandro” boring into my limbic system., and I actually find the unplugged version of “Poker Face” rather charming. (I’d even buy an album if she stuck with witty, tuneful songs and didn’t layer on the meat dresses and pelvic thrusting.) But her whole oeuvre smacks of effort, and I wonder if she breaks into a cold sweat at night wondering how she can possibly top a litter-borne egg.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Personally I like the idea that my entertainers are putting a lot of effort into their nonsense.Report

              • Avatar JohnR says:

                Personally, I never sneer at Her Gaganess at all. I’m far too awed by the extraordinary singlemindedness with which she has managed to transcend a lack of any significant talent beyond an iron willingness to do almost anything for self-promotion. She manages to make Madonna look a bit lazy and self-indulgent. But we were discussing Our Jason’s fascination with pencils, Free Markets and stereotypes. Perhaps we should leave the (admittedly fascinating) discussion of modern pop astronomy for another time and post. I’ll do my bit..Report

            • Avatar Heidegger says:

              North, my good friend, how y’all doing these days? Hopefully well.

              Now, I have a question for ye, a question that will undoubtedly get me banned as an impossible, irredeemable, homophobic, bigot. Leaving aside such niceties, I’m asking this in good faith with absolutely no intention or desire to upset fellow Leaguers. So, here goes: Suppose in the not so distant future, a gene was discovered that was 100% responsible for homosexuality. I mean, we’re talking beyond a shadow of any doubt and the removal of this gay gene would irreversibly lead to one being heterosexual. Debates invariably end up with gays making the statement that homosexuality is not a choice at any point in one’s development but something innate and something that they’re quite proud of. Now what would happen if, through some kind of genetic manipulation, or engineering, homosexuality really DID become a choice, would gays overwhelmingly want to stay gay or become heterosexuals? The ramifications would be huge, both philosophically and morally and the debate would immediately go up a few thousand incendiary degrees if the removal of lack of choice were to be a factor. Just curious and no offense intended.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                There’s a very interesting article by LeVay cited in 891 papers. Biologist Dr. Qazi Rahman concludes there is a biological component.

                Let’s turn your question around, since it’s so provoking. If you had observed homosexuals lived a more interesting lifestyle, generally made more money, took more vacations, had more friends and lived in nicer homes than you, wouldn’t you want to be gay? Statistically, they do, you know.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Could I perchance, have found the newest and greatest Dancing with the Stars candidate?


  7. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I enjoyed this immensely, right up to the part where I’m supposed to sing the praises of the Free Market.

    Red cedar was once the preferred wood for pencils, which was almost brought the red cedar to extinction. Britain actually stopped the trade in pencil sharpeners to cut down on sharpening, so short was the supply. At any rate, all the incense cedar used in today’s pencils are grown in regulated forests. Free markets aren’t as free as they seem: they require regulation to churn out their product.

    As for the calculator, the printed circuit board is now becoming a serious waste disposal problem. And there’s all those etchants, solvents, resists and especially the resist solvents such as benzene, toluene, xylene and acetone. Those waste products are also a product as surely as the calculator itself and properly disposing of them might require more than the tender mercies of the Free Market.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      We appear to face a fairly stark alternative. We must choose either some variant of the market process, in which we are obliged to try as hard as we can to mend externality problems — or it’s starvation.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “Red cedar was once the preferred wood for pencils, which was almost brought the red cedar to extinction.”

      And it’s a good thing the government stepped in, because there’s absolutely no way that private industry would have decided, all on its own, to make pencils out of some other kind of wood.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Begged questions? Tsk, tsk. I put these historical curiosities about the pencil simply because they amuse me, especially the British attempting to stopper up the market in pencil sharpeners.

        Upstream, I said as long as externalities were recognized as such, I have no problem. Take the fishing industry as an example of how such things might work out: overfishing can go one of two ways. Everyone overfishes, excusing himself because others are doing it. Or someone does a survey of the fish and everyone agrees to fish sustainably. Hunter societies understand this problem and have evolved a mindset which treats the prey species with great honor. The conservationists of the 1960s quickly learned to gain the respect and alliances of the hunter community.

        The same was true of the loggers: they, more than anyone, understood what clear cutting was doing to their world. Sure, there are unpleasant people on both sides of every conservation issue, but the reality of overuse for any otherwise sustainable commodity is most keenly perceived by the harvester.

        Again, it resolves to your viewpoint: either it’s The Government or Our Government. Sneering and begging questions about what private industry would have done when the red cedar was gone…. here’s another BlaiseP Factoid for your perusal. The Chalk Downs of Britain were once covered in beech trees: Neolithic man cut ’em all down. The Easter Islanders cut down their last tree and their civilization died immediately. In North America, Neolithic man ate every single horse: by the time the horse was reintroduced, the native people had no word for the animal which had evolved on their continent.

        So you can go on believing private industry would find another kind of wood. The societies which survived evolved to live a sustainable lifestyle, within their bounds. The others are gone.Report

  8. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    We could still easily have pocket calculators, mini mp3 players , and all the other luxuries of modern life along with a robust welfare state, a higher tax burden, and a more secure middle class. One has nothing to do with the other.Report

  9. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    Jason, to me, you’re overstating what market freedom has delivered and understating its negative consequences. Markets often yield results that are contrary to fundamental tenets of how we should treat other human beings – coming at this from the broad conceptualization of human rights angle, civil and political as well as social and economic rights, probably some Hegel mixed in there as well. As commentators, thinkers, analysts, whatever it is we’re doing communicating online, we are in a position of privilege. Our position is unique precisely because we can argue for avenues less brutal than markets. If Mother Nature is an ungenerous, uncaring mistress, then markets are her rapacious sister, little better, exploitative of people and the environment. Unaccompanied by stringent oversight and moral insight, as markets exist in far too many places, markets too produce perverse, amoral outcomes. A question the price system does not come near to answering: Is this ethical? Even conceding the point that markets allocate resources efficiently (I have serious reservations about this contention), this efficiency has little to say about whether markets have allocated resources ethically.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “Markets often yield results that are contrary to fundamental tenets of how we should treat other human beings.”

      Yep. And market participants–consumers, that is, meaning you and me–are permitted to not buy things from people who we don’t like.

      “Oh, but I need my cell phone, I need my shoes, I need gas to drive my car.” Well. Then I guess we’ve learned how much your principles are worth to you.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Should we then re-open the ivory market? How ’bout the slave market, too? By your lights, I should be allowed to own my own Negro, too. I’d find uses for him, oh yes I would.Report

    • Markets are an emergent order arising from individuals pursuing self-interest. They are only unethical in the sense that their participants are unethical. If we are to block the formation of a particular market, we must prove that destroying a negative externality resulting from that market is worth denying people freedoms to participate in that market.Report

  10. Avatar Ben JB says:

    a) Have you read (I have not) Tim Harford on the miracle of cappuccino and the question of the market’s utility? ( It seems like a response to Read’s “I, Pencil.”

    b) Your commentary on Mother Nature vs. the Market seems philosophically (& biologically) suspect. You may be an atheist, but a little more materialism wouldn’t hurt you here. I think I understand what you mean about the utility of the market, but setting it up against nature is a losing argument.

    (I remember when I was young, I saw a guy on the news during a gas crisis defend his use of a larger car by saying that he could afford what the market demanded for that gas; and even then I understood that the market doesn’t capture certain externalities. So, sure, yay, a $1 calculator and maybe it was produced in a way as to minimize certain pollutants and human misery–but I wouldn’t bet on it.)Report

  11. Avatar 62across says:

    You lament that your views are mischaracterized by the commenters here and I sympathize. But, then you close with a statement about Markets overcoming Nature without even an allusion to any other forces at work and my sympathy just evaporates.Report

  12. I kept looking for a link to Matt Ridley’s TED Talk where his comparison of a computer mouse and hand axe also make this point about pencils.Report

  13. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I feel like I’m walking into a discussion in which I’ve missed all that came before. You’re saying that you encounter people on the left who bemoan the free market in relation to consumer goods? Is there some movement on the left to have the state mass produce goods? I mean, aside from whoever’s still a communist? I do agree that the market has been the best means for delivering goods, food, and many services to the most people for the least cost in human history. So, we’re good right?

    Because, for me, the discussions in which I am skeptical of the free market tend to be ones in which the other person describes exactly the sort of thing that you have and I agree with them, “yes, those calculators sure are a modern marvel, and the free market is to thank for that”. And then they say, “So, if the market does such a good job with calculators, why should we trust the state with elementary schools?” Or, you know, some other public service. And that’s the point at which I’m reluctant to trust in the magic of the marketplace. I don’t think it’s too extreme to want the market to be one sphere, among many, in society. And I still agree about the consumer goods.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      No true Leftist admits of the power of the market. In specific instances, that is. Or if not there, then presumably at some even more paramount locus of inquiry.Report

  14. Avatar Francis says:

    This morning I took a shower.

    Now, since I live in Southern California (along with several million other people), my water came from three places: groundwater from the two enormous groundwater basins underlying Los Angeles, the Feather River and the Colorado River.

    And I marveled at the amazing combination of engineering, law and politics that brings me safe, affordable and reliable water for less than a dollar a day, without a market or private party anywhere in sight.

    Nature is utterly cruel and ungenerous, and yet people working together in this weird thing called ‘government’ can overcome it, and that’s why water in LA for a dollar a day is so wonderful.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Would you trust the government to run your grocery stores too?

      And what’s your explanation for why the Soviet Union fell, while your wonderful state offers water so well?

      I don’t think you have one. Mine is that you’re only, and purposefully, telling only a tiny part of the story of water provision, which would not happen nearly as efficiently without very significant elements of freedom in the market.

      It’s simply untrue that the private market isn’t anywhere in sight. Contractors working on the system? Private companies. The biggest water consumers, who make sure the state delivers what it promised? Again, private companies, working through both democracy and the persuasive threat that they will obtain their water otherwise. Plumbers? The folks who make the pipes?

      Don’t kid yourself. Public utilities work, but they couldn’t work as they do without these private entities that you’d so happily dismiss.Report

  15. Avatar rj says:

    Any American who will even consider voting for a major political party believes that the market is the best way to produce consumer goods and bring them to the people. My flippant side would tell you to go find the last couple dozen holdouts who believe in ration cards and the like and tell it to them.

    Still, the words you put into liberals’ mouths do make a small distinction.

    We have heard many, many conservative commentators say that while wages have stagnated, the middle class have more air conditioning, more electronic gadgetry and more cupholders in safer – as if middle class living standards in 1970 are some sort of platonic idea of middle classness above which you are, and will always be, well-to-do.

    Forgive me for seeing a pean to the marketplace and waiting for the conclusion to be that we live would live in the best of all possible worlds if we just let the market “work its magic” by eliminating this or that protection the middle and working classes have fought for over the last century.

    But what I’m really having trouble understanding here is your final thought on privation. What’s your point? That while the marketplace is great, we have to take a fatalistic approach? That attitude could be used to justify anything from eliminating the safety net (eeh, the poor will always be with us), to a much more generous aid policy (privation exists, but the marketplace has created bounty we should share).

    It can also justify jettisoning the market system entirely. Over the years, the market has produced computing power of such magnitude and the system has clearly “maxed out” on the benefits it provides. Thus, the market itself could be improved upon by central planning. Stalin’s five year plans were designed with pencil (heh!) and paper with the help of slide rules – no wonder they failed. Now, we have computers that can win Jeopardy. Let’s try again to knock out privation! (and yes, I know that’s crazy, but it’s an argument)

    That being said, “I, Pencil” is a classic. I can’t remember the first time I read it, but it has always been a favorite, even for this liberal sap.Report

  16. Avatar North says:

    I’m going to throw in with the sensible liberals on the thread and say that in countering some knuckle dragging assertions in other discussions you’ve made a couple broad brush strokes of your own in this one. I don’t think there’re many to any liberals in America today outside of the ivory towers of Freddie’s neighborhood who honestly think that markets don’t have their uses. But market purism definitely leaves things out as well.

    You and Blaise did briefly mention externalities and I’m in agreement with you there though I’ll note that you nimbly avoid the question of how a purely market driven system would apply externalities that fall only on unownable commons. The market didn’t, and wouldn’t have, price in the elimination of ozone depleting chemicals in consumer goods; the market didn’t, and wouldn’t have, brought about the industrial procedure changes in the US that greatly reduced the incidence of acid rain, the market does not, and shows no sign of doing, anything about the fisheries in international waters where various fish stocks are about to tip into commercial extinction.
    Nor has the market been demonstrated to be able to function without the orderly structure of non market law enforcement and justice. In general the market seems to depend strongly on sane stable governments maintaining the environments in which they flourish.

    That little said, I still agree more than I disagree. Markets are great and the human energy and inventiveness that animates them is even greater still. Let’s just not get carried away on market triumphalism and start believing that they’re the answer to everything.Report

  17. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Should we vote Republican?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I haven’t voted that way in a national election since 1996.

      If you’re worried, you can rest assured that your vote doesn’t matter. Because it doesn’t, you know.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        If I’m worried? About what? I don’t know what that means.

        And my vote doesn’t count? Does yours? Do we not count votes in this country? Does something else that I’m not aware of determine who takes the various offices? If our votes count, why don’t they matter? Because the aggregate is what matters? It’s one thing to say it barely matters. To say otherwise is clearly deluded. But to say it doesn’t matter at all is equally deluded, unless I am missing something. Votes don’t have identities, so if the votes at at large matter, then the individual votes all matter equally in the small shares.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          If I’m worried? About what? I don’t know what that means.

          If you’re worried about making the wrong choice.

          And my vote doesn’t count? Does yours?

          Statistically, I can say with an astronomically high degree of confidence that neither your vote nor mine will ever determine an election’s outcome. That’s all.Report

  18. Avatar LauraNo says:

    I haven’t had time to read all the comments so forgive me if I repeat a point already made. It seems to me the calculator, at $1, was being sold for a loss. That’s what a price nearly at zero says to me.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

      > That’s what a price nearly at zero says to me.

      The price isn’t nearly at zero. A dollar isn’t worth the same thing here in the U.S. that it is elsewhere. Most of the cost of producing the calculator is applied elsewhere.

      Many of the remaining costs of the calculator *are* applied here, but they are heavily subsidized (the Port of Los Angeles, the rail system that transports the shipping container from PoLA to one of the 12 Wal-Mart distribution centers in California , the highways that the Wal-Mart trucks drive on from the distribution center to the store, the tax breaks that the local municipality gave to the company to build there.

      That $1 calculator isn’t entirely a product of the free market. On the other hand, if Wal-Mart wasn’t around, you probably wouldn’t be able to find that calculator for $1, it’d be $5. Because Wal-Mart is a gigantic market force.Report

    • Avatar Boegiboe says:

      This was my first thought, too.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        The economy is a complex system. It’s *really* hard to break it down into irreducible parts.

        I’m all down with “least regulation” (repeated for the umpteenth time – audit is waste). In that sense I grok the desire to see markets be as free as possible. But any case example of “here’s why the free market is awesome” is limited by the fact that nothing comes out of a free market in this ‘burg.

        That doesn’t mean that the philosophy of freer markets is invalid. Just like the financial crisis is evidence that better-regulated markets are in some cases apropos. It’s just hard to make absolute statements.Report

  19. Avatar Chip says:

    Recognizing Convenience
    Author Chip Lyon

    Like many I’m sure, I take for granted the ease with which I walk into my corner store and get the things I need without having to bother or hassle with traveling further to a large grocery store once every three weeks or so to restock. More likely I bitch – like many – about how high the markup is on items (under my breath) and move along. Something happened to me yesterday as I was in my corner store chatting it up with the day-guy and the night-guy came in for his appropriate shift and while doing so he patted me on the shoulder and said “What’s up Chip?” This little effort made the day a little better and, I obviously remember it.

    So I’ll cut to the quick here. Our good country has forgotten just how good we are, and you’ll take notice I didn’t say great; it currently seems impossible to utter the word with any truth where the U.S. is concerned. It’s time to stop whining and take (some kind of) action. I don’t buy in to the theories that technology and progress is the reason for our collective asses not getting off the couch. There has always been some kind of technology. Blowing smoke has apparently become the status quo. I don’t like having to apologize for wanting to save the world and I live in the country that used to be number one in that department in everyone’s eyes. Unlike Gordon Gekko I don’t think greed is good, it’s more like Jonestown Kool-Aid. And our whiney little attitudes and the preservation of politicians who only protect themselves and their campaign donor’s butts just won’t cut it anymore. Through fear, intimidation and some good-old-boy appeasing we have been force-fed that bitching is just how it is and there is no reparation. Hogwash.

    It was my experience in the convenience store that made me remember that we American’s are still a caring people as a whole and that this proof is in the pudding of experience. I like to think that I have always cherished these values while on the other hand I’m sure there are people out there that would not see me as such a Gung-ho type. But I was raised by a mother and father that instilled upon me the wish to make other people feel nice when the opportunity is afforded to do so. This isn’t a liberal thing or a conservative thing – it’s a character thing. And we are not cartoon characters; we are Americans and it’s a tough role, but somebody’s got to fill it.Report