14.5.18

BAUMOL'S COST DISEASE?

The phenomenon itself seems intuitive.  "Because labor markets across different sectors are connected, rising productivity in manufacturing leads the cost of labor-intensive services — such as education and health care — to rise."  It's trotted out by special-pleaders in health care and education as a way of deflecting criticism of rising prices, generally by arguing that it takes as long to perform a string quartet, or set a broken bone, or lead a discussion of Julius Caesar, today, as it did in the Steam Era, or in the Age of Sail.

Never, ever, send an economist to sea with lots of time to contemplate things.  Such as a bottle of champagne.  Doesn't it take just as long to raise the grapes, and don't you have to press the juice carefully, and won't rushing the fermentation with chemical additives give you vinegar, not bubbly?


Then building this stack of glasses requires just as much care on the part of the stewards as it did when Commodore Sir Arthur Rostron was the star at Cunard.


In like manner to the canonical Beethoven quartet, the Palm Court music can't be rushed through.  Perhaps, though, engaging two string players, rather than a full Palm Court orchestra, might be a way of keeping the atmosphere whilst engaging in economies.  College faculty who have not had a raise in years might concur.

Finally, the Captain has to take time away from the bridge to say a few words of welcome.  As of yet, there are no holographic captains capable of passing around the ceremonial first glasses.

I don't know that there's a full academic study necessary to present the history of the champagne fountain at sea.


Were they more frequent on Mauretania or Normandie or United States, and were they limited to first-class passengers in the first-class lounge, as opposed to being available to all passengers in the great hall on the first formal night?

But I had a lot of time to reflect (as well as to sleep in or to swim or -- pleasant surprise -- to talk about sailing and model railroading with fellow passengers!) and my thoughts turned to this.


Put simply, the photograph shows the useful parts of the administration of the ship.

I confess that I didn't look into the full Carnival - Princess - Pacific and Orient organization chart, but I'm probably on solid ground suggesting that there isn't an Assistant to the Associate Cruise Director for Diversity, and the simplest explanation is that there likely isn't an Associate Cruise Director for Diversity.  Therefore, there likely isn't an expansive staff justifying its existence by imposing urgent, unimportant demands on the crew, such as demanding an explanation for the absence of ragtime music in the Palm Court repertoire, or demanding a justification for the inclusion of ragtime music in the Palm Court repertoire.  Heck, why not issue both demands, just to be on the safe side?  Never mind that the musicians are providing responses to these requests when they might be practicing, or performing.

But that's not the full story, dear reader.  The right to travel is a restriction on the powers of government.  The presumption, at least among the United States, the European Union, the British Commonwealth countries, and most of the countries hosting ports of call for cruise ships, is that people enjoy a presumption of free movement in the absence of evidence to the contrary, which is why people subject to criminal investigation must surrender their passports, and why customs inspectors quiz travellers pursuing unusual itineraries.

Suppose, instead, that governments treated the right to travel as a positive right, and there was a Passenger Protection and Affordable Cruising Act.  Would we be more likely to hear Baumol's Cost Disease explanations for "rising cruising costs?"

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