tisdag 9 oktober 2012

Knowledge and Decisions - Historia

Här kommer några väldigt intressanta citat från Thomas Sowell Knowledge and Decisions.
Like most price discriminators, municipal transit was vulnerable to competitors who chose to serve the overcharged segment of their customers. Around 1914-1915, the mass production of the automobile led to the rise of owner-operated bus or taxi services costing five cents and therefore called "jitneys," the current slang for nickels:
The jitneys were owner-operated vehicles which essentially provided a competitive market in urban transportation with the usual characteristics of rapid entry and exit, quick adaptation to changes in demand, and, in particular, excellent adaptation to peak load demands. Some 60 percent of the jitneyman were part-time operators, many of whom simply carried passengers for a nickel on trips between home and work. Consequently, cities were criss-crossed with an infinity of home-to-work routes every rush hour.
   The jitneys were put down in every American city to protect the street railways and, in particular, to perpetuate the cross-subsidization of the street railways' city-wide fare structures. As a result, the public moved to automobiles as private rather than common carriers....
In short, the cross subsidy scheme not only distorted the location of homes and businesses; it artificially increased the "need" for private automobiles by forcibly preventing or restricting the sharing of cars through the market. (s. 184-185)
Vilket därmed gör det mer troligt att man får köer, och att dessa blir längre. Transport är en sak som många har svårt att föreställa sig helt privatiserat, vilket nog kan vara berättigat ifall man inte hade kunnat tänka sig att det var vanligt med en sådan här livlig marknad för transport i en stad. För något liknande, lyssna på Michael Munger om det privata busssystemet i Santiago, Chile. Det är, helt klart, svårt om inte omöjligt att förutse hur en fri marknad skulle fungera, liksom det är svårt att förklara hur flygplan byggs. Det här exemplet borde dock få en att tänka sig att det nog inte är en så otroligt annorlunda sak från vanliga saker som säljs på en marknad. Själv tänker jag mig att något liknande skulle kunna ordnas smidigt med gps och internet så att vanliga bilägare kan plocka upp trafikanter, köra de en bit på vägen de ska och få betalt direkt via bitcoin eller dylikt.
Some idea of the complications insulating regulatory agencies from feedback from the affected public may be suggested by the fact that specialists studying federal regulatory agencies "cannot even agree on the number" of such agencies, although "it is thought to be over 100." A senator critical of regulatory commissions claims that simple "common sense" is "rare" in many of them, and then characterizes them as "undemocratic, insulated, and mysterious to all but a few bureaucrats and lawyers." Such criticism misses the point that the agencies' own interests could hardly be better served than by being so incomprehensible to outsiders that even a United States senator with a staff at his disposal cannot find out precisely how many such agencies there are, much less exercise effective legislative oversight over their activities. The costs of regulation to the public - that is, its uneconomic effects as well as its administrative costs - have been estimated by the U.S. General Accounting Office at about $60 billion per year - about $1000 for every family in the United States. The regulatory decisions which impose such costs may seem to lack "common sense" as public policy, but such decisions often make perfect sense from the regulatory commission's own viewpoint - especially in favoring such incumbent special interests as have enough at stake to pay the high knowledge costs of continuously monitoring a given agency's activities. (s. 191)

This is the idealized economic theory [for why natural monopolies should be regulated]. The reality is something else. Once a rationale for regulation has been created, the actual behavior of regulatory agencies does not follow that rationale or its hoped-for-results, but adjust to the institutional incentives and constraints facing the agencies. For example, the scope of the regulation extends far beyond "natural monopolies," even where it was initially applied only to such firms. The broadcast-interference rationale for the creation of the Federal Communications Commission in no way explains why it extended its control to cable television. The "natural monopoly" that railroads possessed in some nineteenth century markets led to the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission, but when trucks and buses began to compete in the twentieth century, the regulation was not discarded but extended to them. Airplanes have never been a "natural monopoly," but the Civil Aeronautics Board has followed policies completely parallel with the policies of other regulatory agencies. It has protected incumbents from newcomers, just as the FCC has protected broadcast networks from cable TV, as the ICC has tried to protect railroads from trucking, or municipal regulatory commissions have protected existing transit lines from jitneys or other unrestricted automobile-sharing operations. As a leading authority has summarized CAB policy: "Despite a 4,000 percent increase in demand between 1938 and 1956, not a single new passenger trunk line carrier was allowed to enter the industry." (s. 195-196)

Many of the most extreme examples of employing unnecessary labor - "featherbedding" - are found in regulated industries. Duplicate crews for handlingg trains on the road and handling the same trains when they enter the railroad yard, retention of coal-shovellers or "firemen" after locomotives stopped using coal, and elaborate "full crew" laws and practices are among the many financial drains on the American railroad industry, which is financially unable to keep its track repaired or maintained in sufficiently safe conditions to prevent numerous derailments per year and the spread of noxious or lethal chemicals shich often accompany such accidents. (s. 199)

With women the key variable is marriage. Even before "affirmative action" quoatas, women in their thirties who worked continuously since high school earned slightly more than men in their thirties who worked continuously since high school. In the academic world, where many discrimination charges have been filed under affirmative action, female academics earned slightly more than male academics when neither were married - again even efore "affirmative action" - and unmarried female Ph.D.'s who receieved their degrees in the 1930s and 1940s became full professors in the 1950s and 1to a slightly greater extent than did unmarried male Ph.D.'s of the same vintage. In short, the male-female differences in incomes and occupations are largely differences between married women and all other persons. Sometimes this is obscured in data for "single" women, many of whom are widowed, divorced, or separated - that is, have had domestic and maternal handicaps in pursuing their careers. (s. 260)

The rising murder rate in the United States is largely a phenomenon dating from the mid-1960s, and continuing to escalate in the 1970s - a rise generally coinciding with the sharp dropoff in executions. This rise in murder rates reversed a long-term decline in the murder rate in the United States. The absolute number of murders in American urban centers of 25,000 or more remained relatively constant from 1937 through 1957, even though the population in such centers was growing rapidly over that span. Urbanization, as such, apparently had not entailed rising murder rates. (s. 275)

This consumer good aspect of totalitarian ideology is an essential part of the phenomenon. The hypnotic fascination and exhiliration with which Hitler's followers listened to his speeches was an integral part of Nazism. Among Communists, the vision of the ideology itself - the "wretched of the earth" creating "a new world" - substitutes for oratorical genius, and has in fact proven far more effective with intellectuals. The "intellectual delight" and "intellectual bliss" on reading the Marxian vision, the sense of revelation when "the whole universe falls into a pattern like the stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle assembled by magic at one stroke," the thrill when the "revolutionary words leaped from the printed page and struck me with tremendous force" - these are part of the psychic rewards for the total commitment that characterizes totalitarian movements.
   ... It is only in the light of such ideological visions that it is possible to understand the "confessions" to nonexistent crimes which have been produced not only in Soviet courts but even in Communist movements in Western democracies - movements possessing no tangible power to punish their members. The ideological context dwarfs the particular characteristics of the particular individual, as in this description of an internal party "trial" among American Communists in the 1930s:
... there had to be established in the minds of all present a vivid picture of mankind under oppression.... At last, the world, the national, and the local pictures had been fused into one overwhelming drama of moral struggle in which everybody in the hall was participating. This presentation had lasted for more than three hours, but it had enthroned a new sense of reality in the hearts of those present, a sense of man on Earth...Toward evening the direct charges against Ross were made. ...
   The moment came for Ross to defend himself. I had been told that he had arranged for friends to testify in his behalf, but he called upon no one. He stood, trembling; he tried to talk and his words would not come. The hall was as still as death. Guilt war written inevery pore of his black skin. His hands shook, he held onto the edge of the table to keep on his feet. His personality, his sense of himself, had been obliterated. Yet he could not have been so humbled unless he had shared and accepted the vision that had crushed him, the common vision that bound us all together.
   "Comrades," he said in a low, charged voice, "I'm guilty of all the charges, all of them."
   His voice broke in a sob. No one prodded him. No one tortured him. No one threatened him. He was free to go out of the hall never see another Communist. But he did not want to. He could not. The vision of a communal world had sunk into his soul and it would never leave him until life left him. (s. 309-310)
While freedom antedates constitutional democracy, both are rooted in a division of power. ... Freedom as a result of division prevailed among the Arabs efore Mohammed united them, and religious freedom existed among the diverse peoples of the Roman Empire before Christianity united them by conversion or through force. Much of the freedom of colonial America and the early United States was a fortuitous freedom, born of the sheer diversity of local despotisms, too numerous and widespread to unite or overcome on another. A leading American historian has observed: "In none of the colonies was there anything that would today be recognized as 'freedom of the press.'" Religious freedom was equally scarce. In 1637 the Massachusetts Bay Colony "passed an ordinance prohibiting anyone from settling within the colony without first having his orthodoxy approved by the magistrates." A Puritan leader declared that other religionists "shall have free Liberty to keep away from us." The banishment of Roger Williams, and the public whippings and brutal imprisonment of the Quakers who came to Massachusetts unique, or Quakerism the only proscribed religion. In late colonial America, "the only place where the public exercise of Catholic rites was permitted was Pennsylvania, and this was over the protest of the last governor." It was from this "decentralized authoritarianism" that a "great diversity of opinion" came, not from toleration in principle but from "the existence of many communities within the society each with its own rigid canons of orthodoxy." (s. 315-316)

Sedan tog Sowell upp en hel del citat från andra tänkare som stämde överens med hans eget perspektiv. Här är två från Edmund Burke och Karl Marx.
It was the great conservative thinker Edmund Burke who refused to categorically defend the status quo, saying, "A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation," and "he that supports every administration subverts all government." (s. 154-155)

Although it may be empirically true that different ideologies generally regard central planning in different ways, it is not ultimately in principle an ideological question. Marx and Engels were unsparing in their criticisms of their fellow socialists and fellow communists who wanted to replace price coordination with central planning. Proudhon's theory that the government should fix prices according to the labor time required to produce each commodity was blasted by Marx in the first chapter of The Poverty of Philosophy:
Let M. Proudhon take it upon himself to formulate and lay down such a law, and we shall relieve him of the necessity of giving proofs. If, on the other hand, he insists on justifying his theory, not as a legislator, but as an economist, he will have to prove that the time needed to create a commodity indicates exactly the degree of its utility and marks its proportional relation to the demand, and in consequence, to the total amount of wealth. (s. 218-219)
Marx och Engels verkar alltså delvis ha insett problemen med kalkylering i en socialistisk ekonomi. Då dyker en fråga upp för min del - om de såg det, hur hade de tänkt sig att problemet skulle lösas? Och om de inte hade någon lösning, vad gjorde de egentligen?

Nåväl. Sowell har en hel del intressant att säga om antitrust-lagstiftning så jag skall ta upp det med i ett senare inlägg, som får avsluta min genomgång av boken.

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