Re: people, places, things, and ideas

Mike Masnick (
Thu, 07 Jan 1999 18:56:50 -0800

At 06:08 PM 1/7/99 -0500, Robert S. Thau wrote:
>Sorry --- I should certainly not have said "immediate", though I'd
>still like to know how anyone thinks they can quantify the cost that
>people are minimizing by going to church, synagogue, mosque, or
>whatever. (Not describe --- quantify).

Who said it needs to be "quantified"? Besides, you've left out the other
part of the equation. Theoretically, they're maximizing their benefit, at
a fairly low cost. Minimizing cost is only part of the deal. Maximizing
benefit (or utility, depending on what sort of econ course you're in ;) is
another very important part.

>What was going into this was really two things. First, I have read
>about some interesting research where they put people in very
>constrained situations where all the costs could in fact be quantified
>pretty exactly (they were having people who were total strangers to
>each other exchanging dollar bills in various ways), and the peoples'
>behavior was not in accord with any reasonable theory of cost
>minimization. But (drattit) I can't find a citation right now.

Be interested in seeing the study, but I'd bet it could be explained by
economics - which also goes well beyond cost minimization (as implied above
- though, of course, econ, as a whole, goes well beyond minimizing
cost/maximizing benefit).

The thing about economics is that in the long run, pretty much anything can
be *explained* by it. However, predicting with economics is a hell of a
lot trickier, because there are very few people (if anyone) who can
realistically factor in *all* the relevant variables. That's why
predictive economics is pretty much a crapshoot of who's got the best model
(determined conclusively only after the fact) - which is, afterall, just a

>The other, which actually set me off, was my extreme annoyance at a
>caller to a talk show featuring Richard Stallman who allowed her
>libertarian doctrine to trump common sense, and rather obnoxiously
>declared if people were paying the FSF money for tapes of freely
>available software, "then your customers are fools".

Most folks who speak doctrine (no matter what it might be) scare the shit
out of me. Not that I don't do it myself, but I do try to minimize it
whenever possible. Libertarians are pretty bad about screwing up basic
economics. Though, so are most liberals and conservatives as well. Hell,
so do I, for the most part, but at least I'm trying to figure out my
mistakes, and not assume I know everything (yet!).