24.8.04

TONIGHT'S ECONOMICS READING.

First, a Marshallian moment: can you say "price scissors?" The Noble Pundit takes the occasion of the hurricane that disrupted his neighborhood to explain that "panic buying" is the demand-side counterpart to "price gouging" on the supply side.

Next, a Schumpeterian moment: can you say "creative destruction?" I was under the impression that seminarians learned logic; evidently Reverend Greeley did not.

First, the lament:
Greed is responsible for the endless stress and ruthless competition of the workplace and the strains and tensions of professional class marriages. Greed (in this instance another name for relentless ambition) explains much of the cheating on college campuses. Greed is responsible for outsourcing, which is incapable of comprehending that the employees who lose their jobs are also the consumers who sustain the economy. Greed generates the reckless ventures that in part caused the bubble of the late '90s. Greed causes expensive wars that shatter the budget. Greed is the reason that only the wealthy are benefitting so far from the economic upturn that is allegedly happening. Greed drives loan sharks. Greed is responsible for the success of big box stores that tax the poor with low wages to provide bargains for affluent suburban shoppers. Greed is the reason poor white Appalachians, poor African Americans and poor Native Americans must fight the wars that the wealthy start. Jessica Lynch joined the Army so she could go to college. Her Native American roommate, killed in action, joined so, single mother that she was, she could support her children. Greed is the reason why the country is being run by those whom the president has described, however inelegantly, as the "haves and the have mores."
Next, nostalgia for the past:
Greed may have been a more serious problem for Americans, say, in the era of the robber barons. But the Garys and the Morgans and the Carnegies were a small bunch of men. Now their greed has seeped down to a much larger segment of the
population.
Finally, the breakdown of logic:
Ambition is not evil within limits. The struggle for success is not bad within limits. Hard work and fair rewards are good within limits. It is not good to take from the poor and give to the rich, and that's exactly what this country is doing today.
I have trouble interpreting these paragraphs as meaning anything other than a complaint about how more-widespread prosperity is a greater social problem than the less-widespread prosperity of the era of robber barons, many of whom prospered (and were cursed) for making better products and selling them at lower prices. (And the last time I checked, the big-box retailers were not catering to the Hamptons set. I bet opposition to big-box retailers correlates positively with household income.)

Finally, a Samuelsonian moment. Alex at Marginal Revolution has some cool math stuff up.

No comments: