My friend George Scoville wrote a Black Friday-appropriate post on a problem with gift-giving, which touches on a broader point that libertarians should heed.
A microeconomics paper that’s bounced around econ-blogs for several years says gift-giving causes a huge deadweight loss: when someone else picks a gift for you, it may not be what you would have bought for yourself when you would have bought it, which normally implies that goods and services are being distributed inefficiently.
If that’s true, then Christmas is a tremendously wasteful institution, within an order of magnitude of the income tax, and we’d be better off giving each other cash gifts.
First, on a technical note, that paper was written in 1993, before Amazon wish lists and social media made it easier to detect people’s interests and needs, so perhaps we’re getting better at matching gifts with recipients.
More importantly, the paper fell short of meaningfully capturing deadweight loss, because it focused entirely on the value of the goods. Gift economies mostly operate on another kind of supply and demand: the desire for social cohesion, meaning closer relationships with family, friends, and other peers.
This is no trivial matter: relationships with people we can count on make us happier, healthier, and more successful. Anything that helps to build and cement those bonds is valuable, and while some academics and marketers try to quantify that value (it may be more than you’d think), the normal rule is that relationships of trust should not be fungible with cash. All societies have some social taboo against trading off the sacred and the mundane, which sometimes leads to absurdly stupid conclusions, but also allows people to build trust without worrying that anything intimate or of an extremely hard-to-price value (what’s the rest of your life worth?) will be easily sold for any of the mundane things that can be bought with cash.
It’s awkward when people give each other cash as gifts even if the amount is equal, and gift exchanges in which only one side puts any thought into it show unequal empathy. If you put a lot of thought into anticipating someone’s wants, and that person gives you a very generic gift, it’s like being put in the Friend Zone.
The point of gifts is to trip a hardwire in the brains of social mammals: cycles of giving and gratitude that go beyond simple reciprocity. When you’re trading cash, everyone is acutely aware of the value of what’s been exchanged, and there’s no fudge factor in the brain for “the thought that counts.”
That’s something we disagreeable, rationalistic libertarians should keep in mind, because the gift economy is a powerful force in human relations that resists and resents the intrusion of market forces, even if markets efficiently bring us the gifts.
A couple of things have been on my mind recently, and this seeme like as good a time as any to get them off my chest. So, I’ll just skip from subject to subject until I get tired. But, I might as well start off with current events.
I guess most of you saw the debate between Eddie Munster and Smirky McAngry this week. Joe Biden’s ability to sit there and lie so magisterially and with such confident assurance really is something to behold. Like when he declared that he voted against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both of which, of course, he voted for. He just boldly asserts this utter crap, and nobody ever calls him on it.
"You know, Joe, I got a copy of the Congressional Record lying around somewhere that says you did vote to approve the AUMF in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And you voted back in 98—during Operation Desert Fox—to make removing Saddam Hussein from power the policy of the United States Government. Oh, and by the way, not that it’s relevant at the moment, back in ’83, you voted to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. You think you might want to backtrack on your last statement, there, Joe?"
During the debate, Joe’s smirk struck me as exactly the kind of condescending arrogance that, if it was coming at you from anyone else, you’d want to erase with an overhand right. His whole schtick was irritating. The constant interruptions, the yelling, and the condescending laughing were exactly the kinds of things that, if you pull ‘em on some guy in a bar argument, will get your ass kicked.
The Left loved it, of course. They thought Good Ol’ Joe was finally sticking it to the wingnuts. And why shouldn’t they? Anytime anyone says anything nasty about them, their vaginas get all hurty, and they start moaning about "civility". But that’s not a rule they’re all that interested in, themselves. Some Lefty dolt on twitter thought that, considering Ryan’s position on abortion, his daughter should get "f*cked and pregnant when she’s 13".
Though, really, that’s pretty tame stuff compared to what comes over the transom at Michelle Malkin or Sister Toldjah.
It’s just amazing to me that these Lefties, who see themselves as the good guys, and the oh-so-compassionate defenders of the downtrodden, have these deep wells of rage that come spewing out at the first opportunity.
Amazing, but not surprising, really, because the political divide in this country really isn’t about politics anymore. It’s a battle of Good Vs. Evil. They are the forces of cosmic justice, and if you disagree with them, then you’re "the other", and not really as fully human as they are. Your disagreement is proof of your moral deficiency.
And, hey, there are people on the Right who feel the same way about lefties. I don’t think Lefties are bad people, necessarily. I do think they tend to be dumber than a bag of hammers, though.
Which is why I really don’t see us all living together in the same country much longer.
We don’t even speak the same language anymore. For instance, take the term "fairness". To me that refers to a process that is impartial, and predictable. If the process receives input X, then output Y tends to result. To a Progressive, fairness is a result. The process is immaterial, as long as it produces equal results. If it doesn’t, the process is flawed.
Those aren’t anything like the same thing. If we don’t even share concepts, there’s no way we’ll ever be satisfied with governing each other.
By the way, who was Biden thinking would be impressed by his debate performance, other than Obama fanboys? Who was he trying to convince?
I mean, usually, when you want to persuade people to join you in a cause, you don’t try to irritate the crap out of them. You try to appeal to them through reason, good feeling, and moral persuasion. Smirky didn’t try to do much of that.
Maybe the whole point of Joe’s performance was to reassure the base that the Obama team was willing to fight hard. But if you’re four weeks out from an election and you’re still trying to motivate your base, then you’re probably in a fair amount of trouble.
The Lefties were just ecstatic that Joe was so Rude to Paul Ryan. They think that’s exactly what he deserves: rudeness, and arrogant condescension. Because, it’s not like he’s really a human being, or anything.
There were some big spikes in consumer confidence this week. Despite rising food and gas prices—the CPI rose 1.1% last month on those two items alone—and despite 20 million or so people not having jobs, folks seemed to have more confidence in the future.
The funny thing is that the consumer confidence surveys for this week were all taken after Obama got shelled by Romney in the first presidential debate. I wonder if that spike in consumer confidence popped up because people think there’s a better chance that Obama will be heading back to Chicago in January? Or, maybe even a leading indicator of that?
Baseball is designed to break your heart. I just watched the Cardinals come back from a 6-0 deficit to go ahead 9-7 in a 4-run 9th inning and beat the Nationals. Why won’t the Cardinals just die, for God’s sake?
I’ve spent my whole life hating the Cardinals. If I were to find an actual cardinal in the forest, twittering with happiness in the dappled sunlight, and I could get it to fly gently into my hand, I would squeeze it until I heard all its little bones break like tiny little twigs.
Then I would cackle with glee.
Another week, another round of stories I just couldn’t get to in any detail:
-Uh, I don’t think this guy understands what “anti-bullying” really means. And he certainly doesn’t help his case when he does precisely what he denounces. Dope.
-I kind of think it has: “Has America Been Crippled By Intellectual Idiots?”
-Investors Business Daily talking about “journalists” (yes the scare quotes are intentional): “It’s Cool To Be In The Tank For Obama”. But they’ll still want us to laud them for being “objective” and “hard nosed”, right?
-About time. New professional behavioral guidelines have been issued for the Secret Service. This only intensifies my belief that this sort of behavior was widespread and fairly common and that leadership was either clueless or did the ole “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”. Either way, higher heads should roll. And yeah, I’m a hard ass about stuff like this.
-An interesting exploration of the US labor participation rate.
-Students may love the idea of the redistribution of wealth (when it comes to paying their student loans), but when the example is redistribution of grades, not so much.
-The LA Times carries a story saying the US is signaling a major shift on the Iran nuclear program in which the Obama administration might support letting Iran continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity if it agrees to other U.N. restrictions. Of course that begs the question as to why the administration has also sent a flock of F-22s, our most advanced air superiority fighter, to bases in the sandbox?
-Embattled Attorney General Eric Holder has declared there’s “more work to do” before his term is done. Like what? Scouting out country club jails for his future incarceration? The guy has got to be the worst and most corrupt AG we’ve seen in quite some time.
-How to win friends and influence an industry – “crucify them”. Remember, the government is a servant of the people … right?
-I know this will come as a complete shock, but did you know that Social Security and Medicare are going to go broke even sooner than we thought? Who knew? According to experts, each household owes $538,000 toward unfunded SS and Medicare liabilities. Or, $63 trillion, with a “t”, dollars. Anyone out there want to argue we’ve been well served by our political class?
-I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with the Senate race in MA, but Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor and darling of the left is finding out that politics is a bit more hard ball than being in the academic in-group. Especially when you can’t support your claims.
-Finally the Zimmerman narrative has begun to crumble completely. The man who was portrayed initially by omission as a white man is apparently a man of very mixed race, to include African ancestry. Also interesting is after you read this story, you’ll most likely have much the same thought as I did – I now know more about Zimmerman than I do about the President of the United States.
Got to tell you, my heart just goes out to the poor baby </sarc>
Booed at Fenway. More unpopular than the Yankees.
And meanwhile, the big money just isn’t rolling in like it did.
But guess who is still bundling for Obama?
Here we go again. Why don’t we just get it over with and make it $100 an hour. $500? They just don’t get it do they?
Guess what industry is driving Ohio’s economic recovery and … jobs?
Is California becoming unaffordable for the majority of people?
Why blacks die younger. Hint: It has nothing to do with race.
Why the middle class is doomed.
Is the left committed to “Social Creationism?”
The UN: A case study in failure.
What obstructs the “pursuit of happiness”?
Hard to find the words to find the uh, “winning” in this quote:
“We were winning. We were winning in a very different way because we were touching hearts. We were raising issues that, well, frankly, a lot of people didn’t want to have raised”—Rick Santorum in his concession speech this week.
Is Crony Capitalism the reason your cell phone bill is 80% too high?
Factory farm raised beef is horrible, but organically raised beef? It’s worse. For what? Well global warming of course:
Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable.
Is the Federal Government making a move to take more control of Natural Gas production in the states by Executive Order?
The federal government is concerned, since natural gas volumetric exploration in 2011 was so large, it eclipsed the all-time high production record of 1973, it must “ensure that we can successfully tap this critical resource for decades to come, we must develop it safely and responsibly.” Translation, we must control it and reduce its production so that our air and water are safe according to the EPA dictates. This is interesting because natural gas is one of the cleanest sources of energy.
Why Obama is no “Energy President”, or, perhaps, is the Anti-Energy President.
Rev. Jeremiah Wright makes the point that he’s never changed his preaching style and that Obama listened to that preaching for 20 years. Who is lying here?
Secret Service agents misbehaving?
If you’re up for reading about one of the most absurd wastes of money it has been my misfortune to run across, hit the link. In the big scheme of things, it’s not a lot of money, but when you read the whole story my guess is you’ll be seeing red … just like the financial red ink our country is drowning in precisely because of bureaucratic, wasteful and downright stupid spending like this.
The recent end of one man’s “white guilt”. Mine died decades ago.
A pretty poor attempt to justify the healthcare mandate legally.
About those “green” jobs.
DoJ has become a horrible joke.
Enjoy your Saturday.
Good for thee, but not for me – this administration is, well, just something. Apparently, lowering taxes to spur economic growth only works in China. If you suggest it here, well, you’re an extremist:
While making positive comments about the most recent five-year-plan developed by the Communist government of the People’s Republic of China, Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats specifically applauded China’s decision to lower taxes because it would spur economic growth.
Instead you’re going to hear the left double down on income inequality as a prelude to their tax the rich panacea. When they do, keep this in mind:
“Any analysis of taxes paid in high tax-and-spend countries shows that the U.S. has the most progressive income tax system in the world.”
Speaking of taxes, the inevitable is about to happen in Germany. Inevitable what? The inevitable “solution” to an out of control welfare state. Germany has been much more successful than some of the other European states in putting this off, but apparently the time has come.
GERMANY is proposing to levy extra taxes on the young to pay for the costs of the country’s growing numbers of old people, under government plans for a ”demographic reserve” levy.
The usual political over promise that’s been woefully underfunded. Of course the same problem exists here as well.
I always say there are only a few polls to watch between elections. One is the “right track/wrong track” polls that measure whether people think the country is on one or the other tracks . Real Clear Politics presently has that at 60% wrong track and 33.7% wrong track.
Can anyone ever again consider NBC a news organization?
John Derbyshire hits bottom with this piece of garbage.
The Hill publishes a piece that just takes your breath away. It is so poorly written and argued you have to wonder if they have been hacked by a 12 year old and just don’t know it yet.
Anti-Semite MJ Rosenberg, of Media Matters For America, resigns and hits the trail – sort of.
When you chum for sharks, what would you expect to show up?
Best first pitch ever.
Egypt (Arab Spring you know) continues to pursue pro-democracy American NGO workers. The country has requested Interpol arrest them. This while Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is welcomed in the White House.
Economic “recovery” is slow and weak due to Obama Administration policies.
The annual silliness surrounding membership at Augusta National is upon us. In a free country you get to run your business the way you want too … and suffer the economic consequences of your decisions. Forcing Augusta to allow women won’t empower them a bit. Women starting their own “women’s only” golf club will. And it certainly isn’t the business of politicians.
Global warming alarmists have almost become pathetic in their desperation. James Hansen puts the cherry on top of that desperation.
Obama declares “women are not an interest group” although he and the Democrats clearly believe they are and have spun up this phony “war on women” with that in mind.
Finally – the real unemployment rate, as we’ve pointed out for quite some time, isn’t what is officially touted (8.2%). Instead it is more like 10.9%.
Enjoy your weekend.
Sometimes there are a lot of stories out there on a day but few that really spark a need for a lengthy discussion. Today, at least to this point, is one of those. Yes, all attention is focused on SCOTUS and the ObamaCare law, but that will be later in the day.
But there are some things I’d like to just hit with a short comment or two.
Such as the fact that Newt Gingrich simply doesn’t know when it’s over. Hey Newt, it’s over and charging $50 bucks for a campaign photo isn’t going to endear you to those whose support you’re seeking. And by the way, when the press pulls all their people from your campaign, it’s a sign that even most addle-brained politicians can usually figure out.
Anyone else as appalled at the “love fest” Dick Cheney sparked by having the audacity to accept a heart transplant. And how about this “bioethicist” who weighed in saying Cheney was “too old” to qualify and shouldn’t have gotten one. But remember, in the future, there will be no “death panels”. Newsweek again proves why it’s not worth reading anymore.
Do you remember all the lefties hyperventilating over the rise of militias a while back? And the Southern Poverty Law Center claiming the they were the internal threat of the future. That was all driven by a group called the Hutaree militia group out of Michigan. They were arrested by federal agents and charged with conspiring to commit sedition and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction among other things. Yesterday:
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts granted defense requests for acquittal on all charges against five of the defendants and the most serious charges against two others: alleged ringleader David Stone Sr. and his son Joshua Stone.
Acting after prosecutors rested their case, Roberts ruled the government didn’t have enough evidence to back its claims.
Given this DoJ, is anyone surprised?
Under the category, “there is no cure for stupid”, we have some wannabe assassins, to include a former army officer and an active duty soldier, who’ve been plotting to do “wet work” with undercover DEA agents (thinking they were drug cartel members) for a year. You’ve got to read the story to believe it. My guess is there are way too many ninja movies in these bozo’s past.
Spike Lee is a dumb ass.
The real reason to push the global warming scare.
Astroturfing Allen West. Hey, why not? The professional protesters on the left are always looking for a new gig, especially now that OWS is winding down.
VIPER teams? Did you know that TSA is now out on the highways and byways?
Zimmerman/Martin case – it has nothing to do with the FL “stand your ground” law. In fact, it is “legally irrelevant”.
EPA slap down. Nothing like missing a deadline to act by 3 years. The court was not impressed.
Have we hit rock bottom on this little charade yet?
In the world of “hard to swallow” claims, the claim that the architects of the buildings below just had “no idea” this resembled the 9/11 attack on the World Trade center is exactly that:
Said the Dutch design firm MVRD, in an English language release:
“It was not our intention to create an image resembling the attacks,” the designers insist, “nor did we see the resemblance during the design process.”
Really? I mean, by goodness, look at the design. You’d have to be an addled 5 day old badger not to see it.
I’m raising the big red BS flag here on this obviously disingenuous claim … especially after this:
The problem with this assertion – apart from its inherent implausibility – is that they have admitted the contrary in Dutch. Thus Jan Knikker of MVRDV told the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, “I have to admit that we also thought of the 9/11 attacks.”
Of course they did, what fool wouldn’t? Yet they still thought it was a design in good taste and then lied about it when confronted.
This one is a pretty thrilling ride, I think you’ll enjoy it for a change of pace:
Yup. Big brass ones.
I spend a lot of time in front of an audience. It’s a major source of my income, and if I suck at it, my bank account will feel it.
Since I’m rather fond of my bank account, I try to listen to others who do public speaking, and pick up do’s and don’ts from them. It’s mostly don’ts, I’m afraid, especially from politicians. Our generation has very few good public speakers, and no genuine orators of consequence as far as I know.
The worst things I see are tics that speakers fall into. They annoy the heck out of me, and probably you too. I try to observe and remember those annoyances, so that I can avoid them in my own delivery.
Here, then are the top five things I notice in public speakers that grate on my nerves. Any of you that need to get in front of a group should try hard to avoid having a single one of these tics even one time in your presentation.
1. "…you know…" This is the one I see the most right now. Politicians seem to particularly susceptible to this one, including Obama. Here are a couple of examples from Senator Mark Warner in an interview published just a couple of days ago.
You know, there’s ideas, for example, that I’ve found a tremendous response on that says, you know, we’ve got thousands of schools in our country that are energy inefficient. Why not take folks, particularly young people, 18 to 30 year olds, who’ve been on unemployment for more than 10 or 15 weeks and say, you know, we’re going to continue…
Well, you know, the – I wish I’d say that, you know, I’m extraordinarily optimistic, but, you know, the alternative becomes, you know, if we’re going to look at gridlock, candidly, the whole Congress ought to get fired, because the American people ought to expect us to do our job.
…there are a whole series of things that we could do that, frankly, you know, we do need folks – particularly in the House – to simply stop saying “no” and kind of roll up their sleeves and, you know, try to work together in a bipartisan way.
I doubt Warner even knows he does this, but I find it incredibly annoying when someone speaks like this. You probably do too, so make sure, you know, you’re not doing it.
2. "…like…" Another well known tic is the gratuitous use of "like". Example: "This problem is like really hard to solve. You should like give us some extra time to like figure it out."
Conversational tics go in cycles, and this one is (hopefully) on the decline. At its height five or so years ago, I used to sit in audiences and calculate the "like index", which was the number of times the speaker gratuitously stuck in "like" per minute.
Younger female speakers were and are by far the worst offenders, and for some reason this tic seems to be worse in California. I heard a young lady speak in front of a group a couple of years ago with a "like index" of about fifteen.
Because this one has been around a while, people notice it, and therefore it’s especially important to avoid it. It also has a connotation of youthful cluelessness, which is another very good reason to, like, keep your presentations "like"-free.
3. "…, right?" This one’s fairly recent. I first noticed it about two years ago. Presenters began the tic of inserting the question-tone "right" at the end of about every other sentence. Even some quite good presenters I know picked this up, and I suspect it’s because it became a conversation tic inside Microsoft – the culture there has a tendency towards such tics.
A presentation with the "right?" tic sounds something like this:
"The turboencabulator uses a CPU to encarphalize the singlial signal, right? And that minimizes energy drain by the gristocentrum, right? Compare that to an agilomodelizer. It connects garphal entities to anthrocentic viewlicanters, right?"
Unlike "like" or "you know", I think perhaps one or two "right?" insertions per hour for emphasis might not be too bad. But as a tic inserted in every paragraph, not only is it irritating, after a while the audience begins to wonder if you’re not trying to convince yourself. Right?
4. "…frankly, …" and its relatives. This one has been a favored tic from politicians for years. They like to insert "frankly" every so often in whatever they are trying to get across. You can get as many examples as you like with simple searches. Here’s one for “senator frankly”.
I think they are striving for the implication that they’re being honest with us, which of course for a politician is always an open question. I find it insulting, though. Are they not being honest if they don’t keep inserting "frankly" in every other sentence?
There are variations on "frankly", and some are far worse. Sometimes politicians realize they have used "frankly" too much, and switch to "candidly", which is just as bad. An even worse variant is "To be honest with you…". A really bad variation is the insertion of "trust me", which almost any audience member will interpret as "don’t trust me".
If you believe in what you’re saying, it should come through in your tone and body language. You don’t need to keep reassuring your audience that you’re telling the truth. Unless you’re lying, of course.
5. Overuse or misuse of "literally". I’ve been guilty of this in my writing on occasion, probably because I’m trying to emphasize that I’m really not kidding about something that sounds outrageous. However, I recommend that you never use it in public speaking.
First, it has some of the same problem as "frankly", in that your tone and demeanor should make it unnecessary. Second, there is a bad tendency in present day communication for it to be used naively. Some people apparently don’t understand what the word really means, and they just use it for general emphasis. If you use it, you risk being dumped into the bucket with those folks.
There are others: "a going-forward basis", "incentivize" and other verbicized nouns, switching out perfectly clear terms such as "spending" to something that isn’t really accurate but has a better connotation ("investment"), and other forms of drone-speak. However, it’s the tics that really bother me. I can’t really seen any excuse for them whatsoever in someone who speaks as part of their profession.
If you have to get in front of a group more than once or twice a month, these tics will bother your audiences too. So do your best to banish them from anything you say in front of a crowd or on camera.