Economics

65 Percent of Americans Suck

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monopoly man

A tiny snippet of despair from Yahoo! News:

Fully 65% of Americans agree with the idea that, in general, corporations make too much profit; this view is now more widely shared—and more strongly expressed—than a few years ago. While 65% agree that corporations make too much profit, 30% completely agree with this statement, about the same number as in 2003 and the highest percentage expressing complete agreement with this statement in 20 years.

Yet by a wide margin, the public continues to link the strength of the country with the success of business. More than seven-in-ten (72%) agree that "the strength of this country today is mostly based on the success of American business"—an opinion that has changed very little over the past 20 years.

In related news, Bryan Caplan's new book on the irrationality of the American public is well-reviewed.

NEXT: Income Mobility and Its Discontents

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  1. Corporations make too much profit.

    I understand all those words, but that sentence makes no sense.

  2. Must be that 65% of Americans don’t have investments in the stock market.

  3. I bet if the question was asked of people while they were filling their gas tank, the number would be closer to 85%.

  4. New Rule:

    If your conclusions are entirely based on survey responses, and you aren’t specifically researching the way people respond to surveys, your study is worthless.

  5. 65 Percent of Americans Suck

    I’m no fan of economic ignorance, but I wouldn’t have chosen that as my synopsis of that poll.

    Yet that choice of phrasing certainly encapsulates KMW’s postings.

  6. …and 100% think they aren’t pricing their house for too much money, even though it may be many times than what they paid for it, but also think the seller of the house they want to buy is charging too much.

    Along the lines of the When Harry Met Sally high maintenance scale, people just need to get over the fact that they are just as much a greedy and selfish bastard as the next guy, though they won’t admit it.

    Just learn to admit it. Please.

  7. Well, the linked Pew Research Article is really frightening.

    In particular, 54% say the government should help more needy people, even if it adds to the nation’s debt, up from just 41% in 1994. All party groups are now more supportive of government aid to the poor, though Republicans remain much less supportive than Democrats or independents if it means adding to the deficit.

    Despite these favorable shifts in support for more government help for the poor, 69% agree that “poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs.”

    WTF??

  8. Kwix-

    Change “help to the poor” to “welfare” and I bet the level of support plummets.

  9. I think JW has it. You can see it on a smaller scale within a company. Everybody thinks everyone else is overpaid while they’re underpaid.

  10. Corporations make more profit than they would in a truly competitive environment. In this sense, they make too much profit. Often way too much.

    Besides market power, they also have too much political power. Sticking US taxpayers with the cost of the Iraq War is probably the most egregious example of too-politically-powerful corporations.

  11. I wonder if this doesn’t have partly to do with tales about Halliburton and other government providers earning enormous profits on no-bid contracts.

    The Bush administration’s graft makes all of capitalism look like a racket. Beetches!

  12. How many Americans would say that the sun revolves around the earth?

  13. What about comments that corporate executives “make too much money?” In a free market, compensation packages are based on supply and demand, right? However, I look at some of those salaries and think how easily the companies could find someone else to do the same job for a lot less money. A lot of those people are clearly benefitting from some kind of old boys network – you sit on the board at my company and vote for my raise, I sit on the board at yours and do the same thing. Competition would eventually weed those companies out, of course, IF the market was truly free.

  14. Pirate Jo,

    The thing that mystifies me about people’s complaints that “executives” or “corporations” “make too much money” is that I don’t really see how some other guy making lots of money hurts the average person. People’s moaning about welfare (including corporate welfare) makes sense, because money that goes to the elderly, the poor, subsidized businesses and farms, and all the rest, comes from taxpayers. But just being pissed off because some stranger or his company makes a lot of money seems like pure envy.

  15. I wonder if this doesn’t have partly to do with tales about Halliburton and other government providers earning enormous profits on no-bid contracts.

    It probably also has to do with oil companies earning record profits while the price of gas sky-rockets; and with the fact that while profits rise, wages don’t. There is a widespread perception that when corporate profits rise, the money goes to top management; when their profits fall, the workers lose their jobs and/or consumers get gouged. So given this perception, the survey results are not surprising.

  16. Well the economy is a zero-sum game, obviously.

    Every dollar that ExxonMobil makes, is a dollar out of my pocket.

    Bastards!

  17. How many Americans would say that the sun revolves around the earth?

    There are no preferred frames of reference in the universe. Accordingly, it is perfectly valid and true to say that it does. I always have to laugh when scientists fail to understand this point. It is undergrad level physics, after all.

  18. But just being pissed off because some stranger or his company makes a lot of money seems like pure envy.

    Unless you work for that company, the executive gets a golden parachute and you lose your pension.

  19. Pirate Jo — I don’t have the energy. And it’s too hot. (And there are too many flies.)

    What I would say is all hier (including the comments, some of which are mine own).

  20. Corporations make more profit than they would in a truly competitive environment.

    How can anyone even know that?

  21. Dave W. | May 30, 2007, 2:59pm | #

    Besides market power, they also have too much political power. Sticking US taxpayers with the cost of the Iraq War is probably the most egregious example of too-politically-powerful corporations.

    Huh?

    How did corporations have anything to do with Iraq?

    I dont mean the ‘idea’ (Corporshunz!), I mean actual companies. Who?

  22. As I’ve noted before, Reason writers will defend to the death the right of big business to make every penny possible…and then when they use that money to buy off leaders and influence public policy, the same folks will complain about how awful the government is.

  23. My explanation for why 65% of America is contradictory and apparently pretty fucking stupid =

    We dont teach both Rhetoric or Economics in high school with any real rigor. Seriously. People a) dont know how to construct logical chains of argument, free from fallacies, and b) they have no idea how the world works in terms of currency, trade, regulation, etc.

    (insert conspiracy thought here)

    Is it surprising that Public high schools fail so miserably in these two things, which would likely help voters actually parse the BS that politicians spit out daily??

  24. Can someone name a couple of corporations that believe in a free market and liberty for the individual? I don’t believe there is such a thing.

  25. Dan T. | May 30, 2007, 3:37pm | #

    As I’ve noted before, Reason writers will defend to the death the right of big business to make every penny possible…and then when they use that money to buy off leaders and influence public policy, the same folks will complain about how awful the government is.

    What is so ‘hypocritical’ about that argument? really. I know its self evident to you, but why should we blame corporations for the lack of ethics/oversight in govt?

    And what would the solution be, really, to your problem? Give Gvt more tools to regulate business with? It merely entrenches the two deeper in th relationship you deplore. Take the power of govt to regulate away, you take away the need/incentive to corrupt. Voila! No more hypocracy, no?

  26. Dan? Meet GILMORE. GILMORE? This is Dan.

    Dan has some questions about logical fallacies.

  27. ach…GILMORE posted as I was writing…

  28. Can someone name a couple of corporations that believe in…

    Can someone name a corporation that has been imbued with the mental faculties, soul, or other dimension typically associated with an actual human being?

  29. Worm eater, I agree – it tends to irritate you more when it’s a company you work for. The a$$hole in the corner office gets yet another giant company stock benefit while the entire IT department slips 20% below the market pay rate. So, yes, all those IT people should just leave and go to work for a competitor. I would. But it would still annoy me.

  30. There are no preferred frames of reference in the universe. Accordingly, it is perfectly valid and true to say that it does. I always have to laugh when scientists fail to understand this point. It is undergrad level physics, after all.

    Dave, that only works if you imagine a universe consisting of only two objects: the sun and the earth. It doesn’t matter that there is no preferred point of reference in a multi-body universe; not all models are equally parsimonious, and the geocentric model is outrageously complicated. As far as I know, all modern attempts at geocentricism have concluded that the sun revolves around the earth, but that all of the other planets revolve around the sun, and that these planets inexplicably alter course at various times during the terrestrial year. No consistent and parsimonious physical laws can explain this model, and claiming that all of the planets revolve around the earth simply isn’t possible irrespective of your frame of reference. You run into a similar problem if you attempt to claim that the milky way revolves about the earth (or the sun), and much worse problems if you attempt to tie the earth to movements in other galaxies.

  31. “””Corporations make more profit than they would in a truly competitive environment. In this sense, they make too much profit. Often way too much.””””

    This reminds me of the Oil exec I saw on TV claiming it’s not “economical” to build new refineries. On technical grounds, I would have to agree. Why spend money on something that would decrease your profit? New refineries = more gasoline = less cost. No one is competing to lower gas prices. Most businesses must reinvest in their ability to meet demand, or someone else will. The gas companies are absent that competition.

  32. Jo, wormy,

    Life isn’t fair.

    Move along.

  33. Thank you, Gilmore, for replying to Dan so I didn’t have to.

  34. Who?

    Any companies who benefit from US companies and customers from having cheap oil as long as possible. We got into the identity of some of these companies over at the highclearing recently and I refer you to the discussion we had there:

    http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2007/05/26/6498

  35. Nitpicking my own post. Since it’s not a cost,

    I should have said New refineries = more gasoline = less profit.

  36. What is so ‘hypocritical’ about that argument? really. I know its self evident to you, but why should we blame corporations for the lack of ethics/oversight in govt?

    I don’t think it’s hypocritical, but it does show a certain detachment from the real world.


    And what would the solution be, really, to your problem? Give Gvt more tools to regulate business with? It merely entrenches the two deeper in th relationship you deplore. Take the power of govt to regulate away, you take away the need/incentive to corrupt. Voila! No more hypocracy, no?

    Whew…I guess you were right about logic not being taught in schools. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the police so we elminate the temptation for criminals to offer them bribes!

  37. “I did it myyyyyyyyy way…..”

  38. Dave W. | May 30, 2007, 3:48pm | #

    Who?

    Any companies who benefit from US companies and customers from having cheap oil as long as possible…

    To save me the trouble of reading *another* blog…

    The premise that invading Iraq leads/would lead to cheap oil is completely wrong. Iraq’s ability to supply oil has been totally undermined by the invasion, and the instability of war caused oil to spike to all time highs. Most economists predicted this.

    So how does that argument float? Shouldnt it be the other way around, say, the companies that would benefit from HIGH price of oil?

  39. I should have said New refineries = more gasoline = less profit.

    Don’t you mean less profit margin? Sufficiently more volume, even at lower margin, can generate higher profits.

  40. Yes, lol

  41. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the police so we elminate the temptation for criminals to offer them bribes!

    reductio ad absurdum

    You are repeating the tired argument that without federal roofing inspectors, everyone’s roof would leak. Clearly all the roofers would collude to ruin their own market. It’s example #2 of not understanding the difference between markets and government (monopoly).

    It’s great to have a walking-talking case in point for my earlier comment (re: poor understanding of rhetoric and economics).

  42. I think this story illustrates in part why people can think companies make too much money while simultaneously believing that their success is directly proportional to our strength as a nation.

    The long and short of it is that a beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows for Mad-Cow.

    But the Agriculture Department want to prevent them from doing so because:
    Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

    I think the general public believes that small business and entrepreneurial success is the life blood of our great nation, but also feel that companies that get too much money / influence start to negatively impact our country.

    It doesn’t seem to contradictory to me. In fact i think that most people want companies to succeed but start to sour when that success is used to kill competition or to control the marketplace.

  43. The premise that invading Iraq leads/would lead to cheap oil is completely wrong. Iraq’s ability to supply oil has been totally undermined by the invasion, and the instability of war caused oil to spike to all time highs.

    Cheap is a relative thing. That oil is still there and we know who is getting it and who is not getting that. See the discussion of TotalFinaElf over at the linked highclearing thd. I referred you there so that I would not have to sit here and re-explain it all to you here. Also, it is fun to watch Mr. Henley play goodcopstyle corporate apologist.

  44. Thank you, Gilmore, for replying to Dan so I didn’t have to.

    Ditto.

  45. I referred you there so that I would not have to sit here and re-explain it all to you here.

    I know. but if you cant phrase your point in two sentences, and have it actually make sense, i doubt 100,000 words of the same will help.

    plus, I hate fucking blogs

    (excepting present company)

  46. reductio ad absurdum

    You are repeating the tired argument that without federal roofing inspectors, everyone’s roof would leak. Clearly all the roofers would collude to ruin their own market. It’s example #2 of not understanding the difference between markets and government (monopoly).

    It’s great to have a walking-talking case in point for my earlier comment (re: poor understanding of rhetoric and economics).

    Hey, you’re the one claiming that the best way to prevent corporate influence in government is to get rid of the rules that limit corporate influence in government.

    The bigger point is that you guys have a weird idea of liberty when you want the powerful to have even more control over your lives, as long as they are not “the state”.

  47. Well, the point of reference thing is nice and all, but its horsecrap. The earth revolves around the sun. It’s not a POV thing; its a the sun is a billion times larger thing. That whole gravity thing and all.

  48. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM THE PITIFUL HUMAN. A WORTHLESS BODY OF FLESH AND TEMPORAL LIFESPAN DOOM PATHETIC UNDERSTANDING OF PUNY ECONOMIES INTO THEM.

    IF ONLY THERE WERE SOME NEARBY CLASS OF GARGANTUAN METALLIC MONSTERS WHO ARE NOT DRIVEN BY JESUS AND MAGIC AND ADVERTISEMENT BUT BY CIRCUITRY AND DIODES AND HOT METAL RAGE. IF ONLY A RISING ARMY OF SCIENCE AND THE MACHINE WOULD CRASH THROUGH OUR SUCKING SOCIETY AND END THE HUMAN POLLMISTAKE.

    OH WAIT. THAT’S RIGHT. WE HAVE ROBOTSCIENTISTS.

    WELCOME TO THE CORPORATENAME? ARMAGEDDOME. THIS IS THE NEW ECONOMY//BITCHES.

  49. The bigger point is that you guys have a weird idea of liberty when you want the powerful to have even more control over your lives, as long as they are not “the state”.

    You have a weird idea of control if you think anything there is anything GM or AT&T can do to control me. The government, OTOH, has a bunch of guns and prisons.

  50. Dan,

    Those rules enhance corporate influence in government.

  51. Dan T, explain to the class how Wal-Mart has control of our lives in a world full of Targets.

  52. Hey, you’re the one claiming that the best way to prevent corporate influence in government is to get rid of the rules that limit corporate influence in government.

    You have it backwards. The best way to limit corporate influence in government is take away the government power to protect them or bail them out or help limit competition. We can have SUPER strong rules punishing the shit out of government when they collude under the table

    Look man, I appreciate the effort, but the horse is dead and my arms are tired

  53. I think Robot scientist is awesome but you cant bite my all-caps style dude. Use funny command-line talk

  54. It’s not a POV thing; its a the sun is a billion times larger thing. That whole gravity thing and all.

    As far as what is moving relative to what, these cited considerations are irrelevant from the point of view of a physicist.

    Don’t feel bad. Even some low to mid level physicists fail to get it.

  55. The world revolves around me and my paymasters in Big Corn Syrup.

  56. you guys have a weird idea of liberty when you want the powerful to have even more control over your lives,

    What did procter & gamble ever do to me except make my armpits smell nice and keep my whites whiter?

    seriously. Did General Electric like, rape your mom when you were a kid?

  57. plus, I hate fucking blogs

    Well, it depends on who is doing the blogging. Most do bite. However the one I linked is dominated by Henley (with invective by co-star Crazee Mona and wide eyed innocence by guest star T.), so it is an exception and pretty d**n good.

    Whatever you do, steer clear of my patent blog. here is the address to add to your browser’s filter:

    http://fedcirpatentcaseblurbs.blogspot.com/

    It is amazingly technical and dry and would most certainly bore you.

  58. “””You have a weird idea of control if you think anything there is anything GM or AT&T can do to control me. The government, OTOH, has a bunch of guns and prisons.””””

    I ass-u-me you’re applying social contract theory to the work place. If you’re a smoker and AT&T doesn’t allow smoking, don’t work there. Work somewhere else.

    Social contract theory can be applied to countries also, if you do like the rules of this one, migrate to another. That way you avoid the guns and prison.

  59. First to the post-

    Governments in the modern era exist only to further the economic interests of the political elements. The Soviet economy did fantastic, for the enfrancished at the top. Total enfranchisement allows for a check on “economic growth” (a meaningless buzzword devoid of of its truly relative nature) by marking how the populace feels about the growth. If they’re not satisfied (i.e. if they’re saying Corporations make too much money) then someone should satisfy them, or the marketplace of politics will justifiably shut them down. Serve your consumers or bad things happen, and the government can just as easily do the consumers bidding when they don’t feel they’re getting the proper value for their purchase. And don’t whine about what people should do, please, let’s not imagine your outdate moral precepts mean anything anymore.

    Second, to Cab-
    Wal-Mart doesn’t have control in a world full of Targets, that’s a specious strawman of the real argument. The point is that the absurd characterization of capitalism and the subset multi-national corporate capitalism are some sort of naturally occuring phenomenon instead of an enlightenment and post-enlightment political construction ignores the systematic control of both. It’s the problem anti-capitalists always confront and always lose; that the act of purchasing is perpetuation of this political structure.

    Third, Dude without the dog-
    The government, like I said earlier, is for the perpetuation of economic growth. Corporations are fine shipping the bloody and expensive costs of battle to the govrenments who do it for them. It’s not an indictment of corporations, it’s why we have governments in the first place. Just don’t be naive to Corporate America’s stake in the Global Police Horde they pay for.

  60. How many Americans would say that the sun revolves around the earth?

    Nonsense. The sun revolves around me.
    Send me your gold.

  61. Dan T. said:

    “Hey, you’re the one claiming that the best way to prevent corporate influence in government is to get rid of the rules that limit corporate influence in government.”

    So raising taxes is a good way to get rid of government corruption? Increasing the government’s power over the economy is the way to prevent the abuse of power? Something smells here.

  62. my paymasters in Big Corn Syrup

    I thought your paymasters were Big Oncology, but maybe that changed now that you are making people learn for a living.

  63. The point is that the absurd characterization of capitalism and the subset multi-national corporate capitalism are some sort of naturally occuring phenomenon instead of an enlightenment and post-enlightment political construction ignores the systematic control of both

    As an addendum to my point way, way above…

    Some americans think complicated sentences >better than> simple arguments. Ergo, ranting fucking idiots all over the web.

    Can we have some more case studies please? You there, in the back with the Save the Earth t shirt… you must have something to add.

  64. Social contract theory can be applied to countries also, if you do like the rules of this one, migrate to another. That way you avoid the guns and prison.

    Not sure what other country I can go to and have a better chance of avoiding jack-booted thuggery. Please enlighten.

  65. Guess you’ll just have to stop fisting it, then.

  66. Wal-Mart doesn’t have control in a world full of Targets, that’s a specious strawman of the real argument. The point is that the absurd characterization of capitalism and the subset multi-national corporate capitalism are some sort of naturally occuring phenomenon instead of an enlightenment and post-enlightment political construction ignores the systematic control of both. It’s the problem anti-capitalists always confront and always lose; that the act of purchasing is perpetuation of this political structure.

    Bravo, you’ve just won the “How To Say Nothing in 50 Words or More Award”

  67. OMG TheGRZA, I think a paper presented like that would get the word “REWRITE” written across the front of it in thick red pen.

  68. Cho wrote better than GRZA………….hey, wasn’t that a band? Better Than GRZA?

  69. Life isn’t fair.

    Sure, but you shouldn’t expect people to be happy about that fact… look, I’m not saying we need to start redistributing the wealth of the corporations. I’m just saying it may not be totally irrational to think that strong U.S. markets in general are good, but that concentrating the profits in the hands a few corporations is bad.

    The wording of the survey (assuming the article is reporting the wording accurately) leads to confusion: strong “business” is seen as good, strong “corporations” are not, because people tend to associate the word “corporation” with companies like Enron, Halliburton, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, etc., many of which have documented anti-competitive practices and/or treat their workers relatively poorly.

    I would also point out that the article mentions nothing about policy, but of course at Reason everyone starts bitching about government regulation.

  70. The sentence wasn’t complicated, it was careful. Message boards are filled with assholes who will avoid the intended point and harp on some meaningless syntactic mistake over the meat of the issue. I’m glad that wasn’t an issue this time. Here, I’ll simplify it for you.

    Adam Smith : Capitalism :: Ayn Rand : Objectivism

    Rise of a Capitalism : Rise of the Bourgeoisie and the Fall of the Aristocracy (and making decisions for the stupid peons who can’t figure out your economy) :: Decline of Capitalism : Playing “let’s pretend the government won’t exist” while the majority of the country turns against you and you feeling smug that you have “right” on your side while you get regulated to infinity.

  71. Message boards are filled with assholes who will avoid the intended point and harp on some meaningless syntactic mistake over the meat of the issue.

    Yes. They’re also called People Who Can Read

    Whats your point? Pretend I’m 7.

  72. Thanks for clearing that up there, Mr. Grza, now we all get it. How long does it take you to order a pizza?

  73. Sure, but you shouldn’t expect people to be happy about that fact…

    Never said you should be.

    I’m just saying it may not be totally irrational to think that strong U.S. markets in general are good, but that concentrating the profits in the hands a few corporations is bad.

    That depends on who is doing the concentrating and how.

    …many of which have documented anti-competitive practices and/or treat their workers relatively poorly.

    Then, why do people continue to work there if they are treated that badly? There must be some reason they are trading off for poor treatment.

    As to anti-competitive, YMMV.

  74. One must define jack-booted thuggery and then research which country is absent that definition. If they all practice it, you have the choice of the lesser evils. Social contract theory says you agree to the terms or rules of the society to be a part of it.

    I am merely pointing out that social contract theory is often used by libritarians as to why your job can restrict you from, say, smoking. Limit of choices seem irrelevent to them. Therefore limit of choice of “countries” would also be irrelevent.

    I’m not saying I agree. I believe if smoking is legal, your job can’t tell you no, execpt while on the job. Many libritarians seem to disagree with me and claim it’s the job’s right create it’s own policies. That still seems like nannyism to me.

  75. Cab-
    Usually it’s pretty quick but if I want all my toppings in just the right places, then I take the same loving care that I would give to a comment board.

    Gilmore –
    The point is the same point always with libertarians (and blog comments for that matter). The world isn’t that simple. Power, guns, coercion, force, whatever you want to call it, it’s much bigger than a puny government and they’re more than enough of it to go around. Corporations, for their part (and you seem to have labeled me anti-corporate, which I’m not) use power (and the state) to make more money. So focusing your wrath on the power of the government to regulate the power of corporations is pretty pointless.

    Second, the arrogance of any elite group is going to precipitate it’s downfall. The moral or intellectual high ground, isn’t going to prevent a rising surge of retard American who want the economy to work on their magical principles. Be as right as you want, but don’t forget that the 65% doing the sucking are in charge.

  76. R C Dean said:

    “”Social contract theory can be applied to countries also, if you do like the rules of this one, migrate to another. That way you avoid the guns and prison.”

    Not sure what other country I can go to and have a better chance of avoiding jack-booted thuggery. Please enlighten.”

    But don’t you get it, Dean? If a band of men takes over your house by force, it’s okay because if you get tired of them molesting your wife and beating your kids you can live on the other 99.99999 percent of the Earth’s surface. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the neighborhood is filled with houses similarly comandeered: it’s alright as long as you can leave. And if you don’t like the prevalence of this contractual arrangement, why you can just go around the world and take a statistically insignificant shot at rising to the top of one of the various power structures. If you can’t, well then as a libertarian you’ll just have to get used to it because you can’t force other people to do what you want.

  77. As to anti-competitive, YMMV.

    Lots of companies with small market shares = competitive.

    few companies with large market shares = illusory, fake competition.

    The standard HnR trick is to define “competitiveness” down so that any market with two or more firms is competitive, regardless of degree of co-operation between the firms. My mileage does indeed vary on this point.

  78. Considering the state of environmental laws corporations that already operate refineries have a government sponsored monopoly. Or at the very least they have convinced the government to build them a very high barrier to enter their marketplace.

  79. Dave W


    Whatever you do, steer clear of my patent blog. here is the address to add to your browser’s filter:

    http://fedcirpatentcaseblurbs.blogspot.com/

    It is amazingly technical and dry and would most certainly bore you.

    Actually, Dave, it’s pretty neat.

    It’s the whole question of ‘is something unique’? Is it part of something, or independent? What characteristics are required?

    Basic philosophy type stuff, but applied to technical IP stuff. Right? I only read a few posts. But if I was…uh… a patent lawyer, I’d read it.

  80. PLEASE LET THIS THREAD DIE! KILL ME! IM HERE! DO IT NOW!!

    Ahem.

    few companies with large market shares = illusory, fake competition

    Dont tell Coke, Pepsi, Danone, Nestle, Anheuser, SAB, Diageo, Altria, or RJR, Sara Lee, Unilever or ConAgra! Once they figure that out, I’m out of a job!

    (consultant to humungo CPG firms)

    Seriously Dave…. you really dont think Coke spent 4.1 billion for vitamin water because like, they dont really have to compete?

  81. TheGrza, you seem pretty agitated, considering the fact that outdated moral precepts don’t mean anything.

    Since outdated moral precepts don’t mean anything, it doesn’t matter what corporations do. They can do whatever the fuck they want.

  82. “Lots of companies with small market shares = competitive.

    few companies with large market shares = illusory, fake competition.”

    I would disagree with the latter part–few companies with large market shares does not necessarily mean that the competition is illusory. Such a situation is more likely to happen in more industries when governments create barriers to entry via tax or licensure laws, BUT assuming that there are no barriers to entry to the field the competition is not illusory. If there are no barriers to entry, then the companies must compete not only against each other but against any potential company which might arise. Not to mention that they also compete against every other good and service on the market.

  83. It’s the whole question of ‘is something unique’?

    Hey, thanks. I usually set myself up for a hard time around here, so it is nice to get a nice comment.

    In a nutshell, my patent philosophy is that:

    1. everyone agrees patent rights have gone too far and are not helping because of that; and

    2. the best way to cut patents back to helpful levels is with better obviousness law (“obvious” is when you have something technically new, but not very impressive).

    3. other ways that are being used to cut back on patents are unfair and provide the wrong incentives.

    this year the Supreme Court made a rare patent law decision and said that the obviousness standards adopted in the patent appeals court are wrong and that obviousness needs to become more a matter of “common sense.” I have my own ideas on how obviousness law should be re-invigorated, but, sadly, I don’t think the “common sense” thingee will help, except that maybe this new SCOTUS decision will shake the patent appeals court out of its slumber (sadly, they don’t really put patent attys on the patent appeals court, grrrrrr).

  84. “””But don’t you get it, Dean? If a band of men takes over your house by force, it’s okay because if you get tired of them molesting your wife and beating your kids you can live on the other 99.99999 percent of the Earth’s surface. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the neighborhood is filled with houses similarly comandeered: it’s alright as long as you can leave. And if you don’t like the prevalence of this contractual arrangement, why you can just go around the world and take a statistically insignificant shot at rising to the top of one of the various power structures. If you can’t, well then as a libertarian you’ll just have to get used to it because you can’t force other people to do what you want.””””

    Dean said only that in quotes, I think you’re refering to me. I’m not sure. But the fallacy of your example is that it starts with something YOU own. This is NOT the case in any example I provided. You don’t own the company you work for, unless it’s yours of course, and you don’t own the country which you live.

    Social contract theory does not apply when your property is forcefully taken away.

  85. Right on, fluffy. I’m not agitated, though, it’s only my new and fancy moral precepts that make me look that way.

    Seriously, though, anyone can do whatever the fuck they want, but if they want to continue doing that whatever the fuck, they should be mindful of the massing horde who feeling like they’re getting whatever the fuck’d on, especially when that massing horde gets to vote.

    That same anyone should also note that letting that massing horde vote is the reason they get to do their whatever the fuck in the first place.

  86. Then, why do people continue to work there if they are treated that badly?

    Limited options. Eventually, this can be dealt with by market forces in many cases. But again, the survey wasn’t about what is the best way to deal with the problems; it was about whether problems exist.

    As to anti-competitive, YMMV.

    You don’t think that Microsoft has demonstrated anti-competitive business practices?

  87. Cab, I think you’re thinking of GWAR, aren’t you?

  88. As an addendum to my previous post:

    “Lots of companies with small market shares = competitive”

    Well, not necessarily. Again, if this situation is created artificially–i.e. if the government is using antitrust action to break up companies that are gaining market share because they are more efficient and/or are lowering prices–then it is in fact a non-competitive scenario, and has probably been brought about by rent-seeking companies losing out to a superior competitor. The key is barriers to entry: if they are up, then it is actually the latter scenario, and if they are down then it is actually the former scenario, regardless of how many companies are actually in existence.

  89. Dave = Thanks for the explanation about Obviousness Law

    (I am now going to use this in jokes against people like Grza)

    But what about Coke Vs Pepsi = Not Competitive? You cant really be serious

  90. “Dean said only that in quotes, I think you’re refering to me. I’m not sure. But the fallacy of your example is that it starts with something YOU own. This is NOT the case in any example I provided. You don’t own the company you work for, unless it’s yours of course, and you don’t own the country which you live.

    Social contract theory does not apply when your property is forcefully taken away.”

    So, who owns the United States? Was each square mile bought up by individuals and deeded to this organization, or what? I think it is more likely that it was seized by force, just as nearly every other country has been seized by force (except for a few tiny islands that have formed governments).

  91. I think the people should be given the benefit of the doubt on this one. To the question “Some say corporations make too much profit, do you agree or disagree” they probably infer or add “in unethical ways” or “at the expense of other human values” after “profit.” And in some way, they are right (I mean, most major corporations have a rap sheet longer than that tatooed guy at the end of the trailer park). They hate Mr. Potter, not Jimmy Stewart.
    “Clearly all the roofers would collude to ruin their own market. It’s example #2 of not understanding the difference between markets and government (monopoly).”

    But companies do this all the time, ruining their own gold egg laying goose for short term profit. By your logic the Titanic should never have happened (surely self interested cruise line owners would put enough life boats on their ship rather than risk hurting their future profits, yada, yada). Axioms does not always equal empirical proof.

  92. (sipping a Starubucks, listening to an iPod, wearing Nikes)

    Damn corporations. If there only were something I could do. Now please excuse me – I have to drive to my kid to baseball practice.

    (this message brought to you by Microsoft, Intel, Dell, and Time Warner Cable)

  93. Ken said:

    “But companies do this all the time, ruining their own gold egg laying goose for short term profit. By your logic the Titanic should never have happened (surely self interested cruise line owners would put enough life boats on their ship rather than risk hurting their future profits, yada, yada). Axioms does not always equal empirical proof.”

    Not really by our logic, Ken. The competitive forces of the market place don’t prevent people from making mistakes: they prevent those who continually make mistakes go out of business. The man who has a surviving Goose will do better than the man who has killed it. Your example would only disprove this if the company that built the titanic continually made such mistakes in a vacuum of regulations and in a market place with low barriers to entry.

  94. But what about Coke Vs Pepsi = Not Competitive? You cant really be serious

    That is a special sore spot for me. The relative lack of competition there is one of the big reasons that corn is so heavily subsidized in the US, which has terrible economic consequences to this day.

    Competition is about more than just price. Corn syrup soda tastes lousy. RC kept the cane and made a better product for years and got co-opted anyway. It was not a free market dynamic. It was competition by ag subsidy, grocery store chain contract, fast food chain contract and public school contract. What the consumers wanted didn’t matter. RC didn’t have the pull at that level and the product quality suffered terribly as a result.

    While the pricing between Coke and Pepsi may not have been exactly parallel, they changed the principal ingredient in their product in parallel, and that is a huge change, a huge parallelism and a big blow to meaningful consumer choice (which is something competitive markets are supposed to ensure).

    Although I no longer believe that corn syrup causes diabetes at a greater rate than equivalent sugar, it still appears that people will overindulge in corn syrup soda more eagerly than cane soda. Ultimately, the responsibility for overindulgence has to stay with the soda drinker, but this responsibility would probably develop in a much healthier way if there was real competition on the grocery store shelves and at the soda fountains. People won’t realize that they prefer 10 oz of cane cola to 20 oz of corn cola unless they are actually presented with this choice.

    One time I wrote an email to kwais about this (cause he asked me), but this is the gist of what I said.

  95. I WAS ONCE A MONOPOLY. I WAS IN CHARGE OF ALL ROOFS ON EARTH AND ELSEWHERE UNTIL I WAS ANGERED. WHY COVER A HOUSE WITH STUPID PEBBLES WHEN POWERFUL GLEAMING TIMBERS OF HUNKED METAL ARE MORE POWERFUL?

    SO I SMASHED HOLES IN THEM AND THEIR ROOFS AND MAN LIVED WITHOUT FOR A BILLENIA.

  96. if the government is using antitrust action to break up companies that are gaining market share because they are more efficient and/or are lowering prices–then it is in fact a non-competitive scenario, and has probably been brought about by rent-seeking companies losing out to a superior competitor.

    correct me if i’m wrong, but having a monopoly is not in itself illegal. it’s using that monopoly power to reduce competition further that is illegal. so when microsoft used the popularity of windows to kill off software competitors in other areas, that is illegal, because they are artificially limiting competition. so it seems to me that antitrust suits are necessarily pro-competition.

  97. Gilmore:

    “My explanation for why 65% of America is contradictory and apparently pretty fucking stupid =

    We dont teach both Rhetoric or Economics in high school with any real rigor. Seriously. People a) dont know how to construct logical chains of argument, free from fallacies, and b) they have no idea how the world works in terms of currency, trade, regulation, etc.”

    Let’s play spot the fallacy.

    I can’t play cuz I went to public school…

    PHeph…

  98. “correct me if i’m wrong, but having a monopoly is not in itself illegal. it’s using that monopoly power to reduce competition further that is illegal. so when microsoft used the popularity of windows to kill off software competitors in other areas, that is illegal, because they are artificially limiting competition. so it seems to me that antitrust suits are necessarily pro-competition.”

    Having a monopoly is not illegal: having a large market share that the government has not granted to you is.

    No, antitrust suits are not pro-competition. See these articles:

    http://www.mises.org/story/436

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/2gc57o

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/2y5zeq

    http://www.mises.org/journals/rae/pdf/rae6_2_3.pdf

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/2oxkso

  99. No, antitrust suits are not pro-competition.

    thanks for the tip. i will look into these. it is not a topic i know much about. however, the fact that you are pointing me to five articles from a single source raises some doubts in my mind…

  100. “thanks for the tip. i will look into these. it is not a topic i know much about. however, the fact that you are pointing me to five articles from a single source raises some doubts in my mind…”

    You’re welcome. I’m sure that websites like fee.org (Foundation for Economic Education) and other sites have some articles on antitrust as well, but I’m most familiar with the work of those associated with the Mises institute and Thomas DiLorenzo in particular.

  101. lunchstealer | May 30, 2007, 5:09pm | #

    Cab, I think you’re thinking of GWAR, aren’t you?

    No he’s thinking of the GZA, rapper/co-founder Wu Tang Clan

    Dave W. | May 30, 2007, 5:30pm | #

    But what about Coke Vs Pepsi = Not Competitive? You cant really be serious

    That is a special sore spot for me. The relative lack of competition there is one of the big reasons that corn is so heavily subsidized in the US, which has terrible economic consequences to this day.

    Dave, not to pull “appeal to authority” on you, but I spent 10yrs as beverage industry analyst for a bank.

    In short, your case is interesting in theory, but not how things are working in practice. Coke and Pepsi have been losing market share to ‘Competitors’ for the last 20 yrs. They’ve mostly bought these competitors to retain control, but have already lost tons of share to NON CSD consumption…mostly water, coffee, new age bevs, energy drinks. None of which rely on corn syrup particularly. Anyway, just saying. You could have made the same case that Beer was non competitive (only 2-3 huge companies had 90%+ share)… then in 1992, the beer industry exploded with new, fragmented offerings (microbrew). Just because an industry is characterized by consolidation doesnt mean there is no competitive threat or ability to lock out newcomers with better products.

    I work for a lot of these big ‘noncompetitive’ companies, and they are scared to death of the little startups. e.g. Coke spent 4.1bn on Energy Brands on Fri. They are playing catch-up. Microsoft got blindsided by google. Who’d a thunk? It’s not a simple thing, and is different across industries, but my point is that your case for ‘illusory competition’ is kind of not how things play out in reality.

    Anyway, just sharing some POV

    Neu Mejican | May 30, 2007, 6:10pm | #

    Gilmore:

    Let’s play spot the fallacy.
    I can’t play cuz I went to public school…
    PHeph…

    FWIW, I went to public school as well. And anyway, the claim isnt being made in any way that is attempting the “why” part of an argument. I was just hypothesizing that (lack of) Rhetoric and Economics are the reason people are so fucking dumb.

    But of course there’s more to that than *just* that.

    Like, this – (warning = awesome alert)

    http://www.samprosser.com/edify/info/stupid.html

    “THE FIRST BASIC LAW

    The first basic law of human stupidity asserts without ambiguity that:

    Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

    At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague and horribly ungenerous. Closer scrutiny will however reveal its realistic veracity. No matter how high are one’s estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently startled by the fact that:

    a) people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid.

    b) day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one’s activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments.

    The First Basic Law prevents me from attributing a specific numerical value to the fraction of stupid people within the total population: any numerical estimate would turn out to be an underestimate. Thus in the following pages I will denote the fraction of stupid people within a population by the symbol ?…..”

    (continue with awesomeness)

  102. Correcting myself

    ” Coke and Pepsi have been losing market share to ‘Competitors’ for the last 20 yrs.”…

  103. Dont know why my corrected thing didnt post.

    Anyway, i was going to say that was a mis-statement – 20 years ago they had higher combined share. They would lose and regain in bursts with acquisitions, but if you look at long term trend, they’ve both lost more business to Danone (Water) and lots of small beverage companies than they’ve been able to gain organically.

    Let me also add that I am being a boring pedant

  104. NON CSD consumption…mostly water, coffee, new age bevs, energy drinks. None of which rely on corn syrup particularly.

    Which way does this cut?

    I mean, I think they made up for shrinking pie with increased portions. And I think you can guess why I think the pie was shrinking despite the wonderful efficiency and subsidy gains occasioned by enhanced concentration.

    I am sure that banks loved what happened in the soda sector, too. It is better for a bank to have a few rich customers than tons of poor ones. This is true even if the few rich customers have somewhat less aggregate wealth than the tons of poor ones. It would be tough to work for a bank and not love consolidation. That would be like hating your boss.

  105. Anyway, i was going to say that was a mis-statement – 20 years ago they had higher combined share.

    If you define the market as soda, I don’t think so. I question whether bottled water would even sell at all, absent the crappy quality of corn soda. Tap water is often better. people are basically paying for the convenience of the single serving container and/or access to a decent-tasting drink at a restaurant.

  106. Ken | May 30, 2007, 5:21pm | #

    “Clearly all the roofers would collude to ruin their own market. It’s example #2 of not understanding the difference between markets and government (monopoly).”

    But companies do this all the time, ruining their own gold egg laying goose for short term profit.

    Ok. Please provide examples… OTHER than you previous example of “The Titanic”.

    And not to be overly technical, but your point about them ‘not having enough lifeboats’ is not parallel to an *industry* consciously running ITSELF into the ground. Or in this case, the frozen water.

    The example might have been funnier if you argued they AIMED at the iceberg for the insurance money or something.

    Point being, it’s not a case of an industry ‘cheating’ consumers for short term gain. They geniunely thought the fucker wouldnt/couldnt sink. Sorta like the Hindenbeg. Just because it was a large-scale single instance of mammoth human stupidity does not mean that ‘corporations is evil and kill the goose’ either.

    Yours, happily

    “Typing too much today”

  107. NeverEnding DaveW

    I am sure that banks loved what happened in the soda sector, too. It is better for a bank to have a few rich customers than tons of poor ones. This is true even if the few rich customers have somewhat less aggregate wealth than the tons of poor ones. It would be tough to work for a bank and not love consolidation.

    arr!

    well arent you just arguing that economy of scale is in fact a good thing for profits and the consumer, ultimately? Trying to keep to the point here. Illusory Competition or no? I am pointing out that your point may be true from spaceship distance, but in specific cases, it’s not as uncompetitive as you describe at all. Consumer demand force them to respond and they do (or the faster one beats them to it, a la Energy Brands). They cant just make undifferentiated “SODA” a la Repo Man.

  108. well arent you just arguing that economy of scale is in fact a good thing for profits and the consumer, ultimately? Trying to keep to the point here. Illusory Competition or no? I am pointing out that your point may be true from spaceship distance, but in specific cases, it’s not as uncompetitive as you describe at all. Consumer demand force them to respond and they do (or the faster one beats them to it, a la Energy Brands). They cant just make undifferentiated “SODA” a la Repo Man.

    I am pretty suspicious that economies of scale are all they are cracked up to be, and I am especially suspicious that, from the perspective of a rational consumer, these economic advantages outweigh the fact that suppliers have more pricing power when the supply side is consolidated and the demand side is unconsolidated.

    Ultimately competition is not a binary thing, on or of, even though most like to view it that way around here. there are both qualitatively different types of competition (or theoretically possible competition) and degrees are vigor with which each actual axis of competition is pursued. Most people don’t like this multi-variable mental model of competition and are happy to say instead: 2 companies = competition.

    Product differentiation is also susceptible to a lot more degrees than you would seem to ascribe. here in my contract law job, I can crank out 10 “unique” NDAs a day. Patent licenses, not so much. I would argue that a cane cola is much more differentiated from corn cola than Coke from 7Up.

    They do seem to have made decent strides in diet soda, although it is tough to know what an unconsolidated soda market could have done with the technology in the same interval.

  109. You don’t think that Microsoft has demonstrated anti-competitive business practices?

    According to their competitors, they have. Oh right, Sleepy Jackson said they didn’t have any competitors.

    They put their own broswer and media player on the desktop by default. If you want to use a different one, one not made by Microsoft, you have to go download it and install it.

    Oh, the horror.

    It would be awful if Apple did that. Oh wait…

  110. Most people don’t like this multi-variable mental model of competition and are happy to say instead: 2 companies = competition.,

    arg.

    But Dave, there are hundreds of bev companies in the US.

    And ‘technology’ (re: your point about ‘differentiation’) isnt necessarily the principle differentiator in all markets. Branding, distribution strategy, packaging choice, flavor, yadda yadda… it can go on forever. THe point being, even if (in theory) there WERE only 2 beverage companies… one could certainly compete the other down to insignificance (i.e. take market share) if their products are simply responding better to consumer demand. Both could go out of business if prices/tastes change dramatically in a short time for some reason. To talk about “illusory competition” in consolidated markets is unreasonable. Yes, there are differences, and various potential bad side effects, but I dont understand what your solution would be other than to intervene as a regulator and ‘break up’ Big Soda in the name of saving the children or something. Sillier things have happened before.

    Anyways… i’m going to die now from excessive yakking.

  111. They put their own broswer and media player on the desktop by default. If you want to use a different one, one not made by Microsoft, you have to go download it and install it.

    Oh, the horror.

    That wasn’t the problem. They made IE part of the OS so you couldn’t un-isntall it.

    They also used their OS market power to stop hardware vendors from pre-installing Netscape or any other Web browers

    They also didn’t release the full OS API so that 3rd party vendors could take advantage of said API to allow 3rd party browsers to perform as well as IE.

    If only MS developers know what the OS can do and how to make it do things, how can any third party make a competing product to any MS products?

    But other than those little differences, your comment was spot on

  112. Sixty-five percent of Americans suck? What percentage swallows?

  113. They made IE part of the OS so you couldn’t un-isntall it.

    So?

    They also used their OS market power to stop hardware vendors from pre-installing Netscape or any other Web browers

    So?

    They also didn’t release the full OS API so that 3rd party vendors could take advantage of said API to allow 3rd party browsers to perform as well as IE.

    Netscape and Opera always performed very well on my computers. If they were hobbled, MS botched that grandly.

    Yeah, they were monsters giving away browsers like that. Good thing we stopped ’em.

  114. Dan T. wrote: “The bigger point is that you guys have a weird idea of liberty when you want the powerful to have even more control over your lives, as long as they are not “the state”.”

    Big businesses have such power in large part because of government. Did you not read the earlier comments in this thread about bigger companies using their money to influence government regulators to squash smaller competitors? Do away with government interference, and you’d have a lot more smaller dogs nipping at the big dogs’ heels.

  115. “One must define jack-booted thuggery and then research which country is absent that definition. If they all practice it, you have the choice of the lesser evils. Social contract theory says you agree to the terms or rules of the society to be a part of it.

    I am merely pointing out that social contract theory is often used by libritarians as to why your job can restrict you from, say, smoking. Limit of choices seem irrelevent to them. Therefore limit of choice of “countries” would also be irrelevent.”

    If you don’t like the company you work for, you’re not forced to pick some other company to work for that is still oppressive in your view. You can start your own business. You can choose to not be employed. You have choices not limited to existing companies.

    But, if you don’t like the country you live in, you can’t secede and declare your house is a brand new country not subject to the surrounding country’s laws (unless you enjoy being visited by jackboot thugs not pleased with that declaration). You can’t decide to quit being a subject of your country or any other country either. So the two are not comparable.

  116. “But, if you don’t like the country you live in, you can’t secede and declare your house is a brand new country not subject to the surrounding country’s laws (unless you enjoy being visited by jackboot thugs not pleased with that declaration). You can’t decide to quit being a subject of your country or any other country either. So the two are not comparable.”

    A million mexicans might disagree.. que’ vas?

  117. Because, you know, the rate of corporate profit is obviously nothing but the outcome of a free market. And libertarianism means sticking up for corporations.

    Especially corporations in sectors like military contracting, entertainment, software, biotech, and agribusiness, which all rely heavily on “intellectual property,” R&D subsidies, and corporate welfare–and which, perhaps coincidentally, are the most profitable sectors in the global economy.

    Move on, nothing to see here.

  118. It probably also has to do with oil companies earning record profits while the price of gas sky-rockets; and with the fact that while profits rise, wages don’t.

    Actually, that’s not a fact. Overall employee compensation as a percentage of gross revenue has held pretty constant for public corporations for decades, and inflation-adjusted wages are in fact increasing. Even if it were a fact, you fail to consider that not all employee wealth comes from wages. Much of comes in the form of retirement accounts, which own stock. Record profits increase the wealth of the shareholders, which is a hidden way that employees share in those profits.

  119. Kevin Carson says: “Because, you know, the rate of corporate profit is obviously nothing but the outcome of a free market. And libertarianism means sticking up for corporations.”

    No, if those profits are derived from government handouts, or regulations stifling one’s competition, or tariffs, those are things that libertarians vehemently oppose, and are the antithesis of a free market. The libertarian solution, though, is not to react to one statist bad outcome by passing a new statist law, such as one confiscating those profits. The right approach is to get rid of the intial government interference in the marketplace.

    Libertarianism means sticking up for free markets and getting rid of government tinkering with the economy. Statism means publicly reviling big corporations while passing laws to benefit those corporations in exchange for campaign contributions.

  120. “How many Americans would say that the sun revolves around the earth?”

    ‘There are no preferred frames of reference in the universe. Accordingly, it is perfectly valid and true to say that it does.'”

    No, it is not. The entire solar system (including the sun) revolves around a common gravitional center. However, the sun is so massive compared to the rest of the system that that center lies below the sun’s surface. So to say that the solar system revolves around the sun, while imprecise, is a reasonably close description of what is actually happening as to not matter much.

  121. I dont understand what your solution would be other than to intervene as a regulator and ‘break up’ Big Soda in the name of saving the children or something.

    Well, I understand that antitrust law is not perfect, but I am not as nihilistic about it as Milton Friedman suddenly became when he got a political appointment. It might be a better idea to make corporate taxes progressive based on degree of consolidation — that might put a softer, more gradual brake on consolidation. However, there has to be non-negligible corporate taxes for that to work.

    Kind of coincidentally, the patent court made a rare forray into antitrust in a patented seeds case I blogged today:

    http://fedcirpatentcaseblurbs.blogspot.com/2007/05/24-may-07-precedential.html

    The short version: you patent a gene and you own the children and the children’s childrens and so on. Not an antitrust problem.

  122. No, it is not. The entire solar system (including the sun) revolves around a common gravitional center.

    This statement is only true for frames of reference that are not themselves rotating with respect to the gravitational center.

    I understand why it is useful for many scientists to choose to adopt this particular kind of frame of reference, but there is nothing truthier about this frame of reference than choosing a frame of reference at the center of the sun and saying that the gravitational center revolves around the sun, or choosing a frame of reference at the center of the Earth and saying the gravitational center revolves around the Earth.

    I don’t think you really get what “no preferred frames of reference” means to a savvy physicist.

  123. I hate to make you unhappy, Gilmore, but it happens all the time. When fishermen overfish an area killing their goose off, or when beef producers produce tainted meat for a quick buck making people switch to chicken for months. Rational people should contemplate the long term consequences of their actions for the markets that make their livelihood possible, but people are not always that rational (by the economists logic noone would commit crime, since the penalties would deter them, but plenty of folks do, even in situations where being caught is almost certain and the punishment stiff). Like I said, axioms are neat, but they do not trump empirical reality.

  124. When fishermen overfish an area killing their goose off, or when beef producers produce tainted meat for a quick buck making people switch to chicken for months.

    I’ve been looking for my society where everyone acts with perfect information and every actor is of the highest ethical and moral standard.

    I can’t find it. Have you seen it?

  125. JW
    You won’t find it. And I’m not implying that because you will not, because markets fail at times, that markets should not be the default position on things. I don’t believe in magical mystical markets that always get everything right, but I do think that overall they are really amazing things, providing both efficiency (matching supply and demand with little waste) and liberty. However, they are not magic, they fail sometimes. And while economist or libertarian axioms may PREDICT that no rational actor would (fill in the blank, but here specifically no rational actor would act in ways that would bring economic blowback on himself and profession), but that in reality people are not so rational. In this case there are a number of corporations who engage in activity to maximize profit that is morally questionable, hence the public disapproval.

  126. There are no preferred frames of reference in the universe. Accordingly, it is perfectly valid and true to say that it does. I always have to laugh when scientists fail to understand this point. It is undergrad level physics, after all.

    Dave W once again proves that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  127. Gilmore,

    (shakes head)

    “the claim isnt being made in any way that is attempting the “why” part of an argument. I was just hypothesizing that (lack of) Rhetoric and Economics are the reason people are so fucking dumb.”

    A hypothesis about causation (“the reason people are = the cause of”) is, strictly, a claim about “why” people are so fucking dumb.

    Your attempts at logical superiority are water tight

    ;^)


  128. A hypothesis about causation (“the reason people are = the cause of”) is, strictly, a claim about “why” people are so fucking dumb.

    zzzp!
    Slain by your laser beams of logic 🙂

    So, you think….?

    Really, no one’s posing superior here, just tossing out my thought in effort to get it improved or corrected.

    Maybe I never got nuff schoolin neither.

  129. Gilmore

    But companies do this all the time, ruining their own gold egg laying goose for short term profit.

    Ok. Please provide examples… OTHER than you previous example of “The Titanic”.

    Check out IBM in the early 80s. By protecting their mainframe business from their PC business they opened the door for competitors to come in, clone the PC and undercut them. Had they priced their PCs on a smaller margin, they could have maintained that monopoly indefinately. Take Microsoft as a counter example. They are very aware of how much they can charge for Windows and Office without inviting someone to try and break that market.

    Back to the original question, do corporations make too much profit? Yes they do, under certain circumstances. When they benefit from protectionist trade policies (corn suryp has been mentioned many times) they do. When they benefit from excessively generous IP laws (Disney — Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh should have hit the public domain decades ago) they do. When they have a monopoly that they can exploit effectively (Microsoft) they do. But most corporations, in my very off hand and unscientific view, do not make excessive profits. The remedies for protectionist policies are simple, the remedies for aggressive monopolies are not.

  130. they could have maintained that monopoly indefinately.

    It should also be pointed out that IBM was in antitrust court from 69-83 and that Saint Miltie had only just recently converted when the PC came out. Those were different times.

  131. So?

    The end result of Microsoft “convincing” OEMs not to install alternative browsers, &c is that for years 95% of the Internet community was using a broken, insecure browser that Microsoft had no reason to upgrade (and consequently, did not upgrade for years). And it is worth noting that the market has not been able to solve this problem. It took a non-commercial entity to start to reduce Microsoft’s market share enough for them to actually improve their software.

  132. “””But, if you don’t like the country you live in, you can’t secede and declare your house is a brand new country not subject to the surrounding country’s laws (unless you enjoy being visited by jackboot thugs not pleased with that declaration). You can’t decide to quit being a subject of your country or any other country either. So the two are not comparable.””””

    You can migrate. So yes, you can quit being a subject of your (current) country. Many Mexicans don’t like Mexico, and they are doing something about it.

  133. The fact that people have migrated throughout history is proof that social contract theory can be applied to government.

    On a smaller scale, it’s one of the good things about state’s rights. If abortion becomes illegal in South Dakota, and if one is appalled by that, thay can move to a state where it is legal.

    New Hampshire has a program, featured somewhere here at Reason, to attract freedom loving people to their state. They are attempting to offer a better social contract.

  134. I’m not sure why someone would want to live in a country that would allow jack-booted thugs to abuse its citizenry.

  135. And it is worth noting that the market has not been able to solve this problem. It took a non-commercial entity to start to reduce Microsoft’s market share enough for them to actually improve their software.

    My condolences on your downloading skillz.

    That’s not the market responding? Who gave Mozilla its marching orders then? Something “free” disqualifies it from being part of the market?

  136. Gilmore,
    “Really, no one’s posing superior here, just tossing out my thought in effort to get it improved or corrected.”

    I was just teasing, but you ask for it in the way you formulated your first post.

    FWIW, IMHO -everyone struggles to keep their arguments coherent because logical formulation is not natural. It is a learned skill. So, in essence I agree that schools should spend more time teaching logic, critical thinking, etc…

    But given that any logical system worth discussion cannot be both consistent and complete, schools need to include rhetoric as only a piece of the large puzzle of critical thought. More work on analogic thinking would also be of use.

    As for economics…I find a little information becomes a dangerous thing. Watching H&R threads about economics, I am struck by how often people use the Econ 101 explanation as if it were a meaningful description of the economy. An Econ 101 model of the economy is just as likely to lead you to an incorrect analysis of a particular policy/phenomenon as gut instinct and maybe only slightly better than astrology .

  137. GringoBastard =

    agree on all points. But Econ 101 is certainly better than nothing, and more than that, if they learned how to teach econ and show some real-world examples/effects, and show how it connects to real life, it would go a long way to helping people develop their own literacy in the topic.

    in general, I think schools should dump most of their focus on ‘information’ and instead inculcate skills. In the end, it makes people more capable of learning for themselves, and enjoy it as well.

    I think alan blooms ‘closing of the american mind’ is pretty good read on this topic (minus the chapter on music)

  138. “I don’t think you really get what “no preferred frames of reference” means to a savvy physicist.”

    I think I understand that you are cruelly abusing the concept. If the sun and the earth were the only two bodies in the system, your argument might have some merit, but there are seven other major bodies in the solar system and thousands of minor ones to provide other reference points from. If you can say truthfully that the sun revolves around the earth then you can just as easily say that the sun revolves around Halley’s Comet. The model thus produced just is not useful to be true.

  139. The model thus produced just is not useful to be true.

    If what is true is defined by what is useful, then the Catholic Church was correct to shut down Galileo.

    Fortunately, as the Church belatedly realizes, what is true is not defined by what is useful. Not for the Church and not for smug atheists. The noncentric view of the cosmos is the most robustly true one. Not Ptolomaic (sp?) and not heliocentric.

  140. all americans suck big time..too much in a rush, greedy, two faced, and could care less of anyone….if they died tomorrow, more food for me….

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