I sometimes hear people talk about „disequilibrium economics“ and I think I know what they have in mind. Equilibrium is often associated with a system at rest. That’s the physicist’s notion of equilibrium: a ball sitting at the bottom of a bowl, a planet moving around the sun in a stable orbit, etc. Disequilibrium is something not at rest: you hit the ball and it jiggles around inside the bowl, a planet collides with another and flies off its orbit.

Economists have a different notion of equilibrium. Indeed, they have several different notions depending on the context. But basically, an economic equilibrium is a consistency condition imposed on a model by the economist. It follows that „disequilibrium economics“ is a logical impossibility.

Let me explain. Economists build models to explain certain real-world phenomena, say bank runs. Inside these models there are agents, e.g. savers, banks, firms, each described by their preferences, beliefs and constraints. For instance, a saver wants to keep her money in the bank as long as she believes she will get it back eventually. Whether she can get it back depends on the number of savers who demand their money back. As long as most of them don’t want to withdraw their money, everything is fine. However, if there is a critical mass of savers who want their money back, the bank needs to liquidate its assets prematurely at „fire-sale“ prices, which means it cannot repay all the savers’ deposits in full. You have two equilibria: one in which nobody runs on the banks, the banks carry their investments to maturity, everyone gets repaid; another one in which everyone runs, the banks liquidate their investments prematurely, people don’t get repaid in full.

Only the first of these equilibria can sensibly be characterized as „a system at rest“. In the second equilibrium, nothing is at rest: there is chaos in the streets, banks go bust and people get hurt.

What characterizes both equilibria are two conditions:

- Everyone is doing the right thing given their preferences, beliefs, and constraints. The saver who runs on the bank is doing the right thing: Given that everyone else runs, she should run, too, or else she will get nothing. This is called rational behavior, but it should really be called
*consistent*behavior. It’s behavior that is consistent with an agent’s preferences, beliefs and constraints. - Things need to add up. Or to put in fancier language: individual decisions need to be consistent with each other. The total value of deposits repaid cannot exceed the total value of assets held by the banks. If there are 10 cookies and I want to eat 8 and you want to eat 5, that’s not an equilibrium. It’s a „disequilibrium“. It’s a logical impossibility.

If you’re a behavioral economist, you may take issue with condition (1). You may argue that people often don’t do the right thing, they are confused about their beliefs and they don’t understand their constraints very well. That’s fine with me. Let agents do their behavioral thing and make mistakes. (Although you must be explicit about *which* mistake out of the approximately infinite number of mistakes they *could* make they actually *do* make.) But still, things need to add up. I may be mistaken to want 8 cookies and you may be confused to want 5, but there are still only 10 cookies. Behavioral economics still needs condition (2).

If you’re a first-year undergrad, you may think equilibrium means that markets clear. Then you learn about asymmetric information and realize that things like credit rationing can occur in equilibrium. And you learn about the search models. Adding up constraints may be inequality constraints.

Finally, you cannot „test for equilibrium“ with data. Equilibrium is that which your model predicts. If your prediction is contradicted by the data, it’s because your model is wrong, not because there is „disequilibrium“. I have heard econometricians talk about error correction models where they call the error correction term a measure of „disequilibrium“. What they mean by that is that their economic model can only explain the long-run relationship between variables (the cointegration part), from which there are unexplained short-run deviations. But that just means the model is wrong for these short-run movements.

Equilibrium means consistency at the individual and at the aggregate level. It doesn’t mean stable, it doesn’t mean perfect. In fact, it is completely devoid of empirical content in and of itself. It only becomes meaningful in the context of a concrete model. And without it, economic models wouldn’t make any sense.

]]>

]]>

Wie soll das gehen und sind Mehreinnahmen in dieser Höhe realistisch?

Zunächst einmal zur Theorie: Da gibt es zwei Mechanismen wie eine Steuersenkung den volkswirtschaftlichen Output steigern könnte. Nennen wir sie den „keynesianischen” und den „neoklassischen“ Mechanismus. In einfachen keynesianischen Modellen führen niedrigere Steuern zu einem Anstieg im privaten Konsum und über den Multiplikatoreffekt zu einem höheren Volkseinkommen. In neoklassischen Modellen erhöht eine Steuersenkung den Arbeitsanreiz, weil der relative Preis der Freizeit steigt. Unter der Voraussetzung, dass der Substitutionseffekt dieser Preisänderung den Einkommenseffekt überwiegt, steigt die Beschäftigung und damit auch der Output.

In der Wirtschaftspresse wird fast ausschließlich der keynesianische Effekt angesprochen. Irgendwie scheint die Story vom Multiplikator beim durchschnittlichen Leser besser anzukommen als relativ komplexe Argumente über zwei gegenläufige Effekte einer Relativpreisänderung. Wie dem auch sei, jedenfalls halte ich das nachfrageseitige, keynesianische Argument in diesem Kontext für nicht schlagkräftig. Erstens sprechen wir bei der Frage der Gegenfinanzierung von der langen Frist, d.h. ob die Steuersenkungen auf die Dauer den Staatshaushalt belasten, und nicht von kurzfristigen Effekten auf die Konjunktur. Zweitens ist in einer kleinen offenen Volkswirtschaft wie Österreich der Multiplikatoreffekt gering bis inexistent – zumal man zum expansiven Effekt der Steuersenkung den restriktiven Effekt der einhergehenden Aufgabensenkungen dazurechnen muss.

Bleibt noch der angebotsseitige Effekt. Und dieser hängt davon ab, wie elastisch das Arbeitsangebot auf eine Änderung der Steuersätze reagiert. Die Elastizität des Arbeitsangebots bestimmt auch die Elastizität des Volkseinkommens. Dazu eine kleine Pi-Mal-Daumen-Rechnung. (Ich liebe solche Rechenspiele!)

Gemäß dem oben erwähnten Vorschlag soll die Abgabequote von derzeit 43,2% auf unter 40% des BIPs gesenkt werden, also eine Senkung des durchschnittlichen Steuersatzes um 3,2 Prozentpunkte. Damit die Mehreinnahmen, die durch Effekt auf das BIP entstehen sollen, 4 Milliarden betragen, muss das BIP um 10 Milliarden ansteigen. Das ist ein Anstieg von 2,7% gegenüber dem derzeitigen BIP. Das impliziert eine (Semi-)Elastizität des BIPs von 0,84 – sprich: eine Abgabensenkung von einem Prozent des BIPs erhöht das BIP um 0,84 Prozent. Die Steuer-Elastizität des Arbeitsangebots müsste sich also auch in diesem Bereich abspielen.

Ist das viel? Ist das wenig?

Schwer zu sagen. Es gibt Schätzungen zur Lohn-Elastizität des Arbeitsangebots. Sie variieren von Land zu Land (Hoch- oder Niedrigsteuerland), zwischen beobachteten Stichproben (Männer, Frauen, Singles, Ehepaare mit und ohne Kinder usw.) und zwischen beobachteten Zeiträumen (kurze Frist lange Frist). Laut dieser Studie vom deutschen IZA liegen die Lohn-Elastizitäten im Bereich von 0,2 bis 0,6 – sprich: ein Lohnanstieg von 1 Prozent steigert das Arbeitsangebot um 0,2-0,6 Prozent. Um von der Lohn-Elastizität auf die Steuer-Elastizität zu kommen, muss man erstere durch einen Faktor von 1 minus Steuersatz dividieren.* Damit käme man auf Steuer-Elastizitäten zwischen 0,33 und 1.

Mein sehr vorsichtiges Fazit: Mehreinnahmen von 4 Milliarden im Zuge einer Steuersenkung von 3 Prozent vom BIP sind nicht komplett utopisch, implizieren aber eine Steuer-Elastizität des Arbeitsangebots, die im oberen Bereich der plausiblen Schätzungen liegt.

*) Sei L das Arbeitsangebot und w der Nettolohnsatz, dann ist die Lohn-Elastizität

Der Nettolohnsatz beträgt wobei der Bruttolohnsatz und der Steuersatz ist. Die Steuer-(Semi-)Elastizität des Arbeitsangebots ist definiert als

Es gilt: Daraus folgt:

]]>

Here is a first attempt. Let me assume that all potential beach goers have the same utility of going to the beach (over their second best activity) as a function of the number of other people on the beach, . We now need to introduce prices. It seems a safe assumption that, ceteris paribus as the economists like to say (meaning all else the same), people prefer to pay less over more. In principle we could work with any final utility function that depends on both the number of other people and the price as long as it is decreasing in both arguments. We do not lose much, and it is (a little bit) easier to understand, if we use .

Now fix any positive price . What would the new equilibrium number of beach goers be? By the same argument as in the previous post, and with the same caveats, we now expect a number of beach goers, call it , that makes everyone indifferent between going to the beach and doing their second favorite thing. In other words, must be such that . And as is decreasing in we have that the higher the price the lower is – the fewer people are on the beach.

Are people more happy now having to pay for beach access? No. However, there are also not less happy. Why? This is so because the higher price does two things. First, the people who go to the beach now have to pay this price, which they do not like. But second, there are now fewer people on the beach, a fact that they do like. However, on balance, the two effects wash out. So we are back to square one.

But I have not played all my cards yet! In fact I have at least two routes to go. Let me take the less obvious one first, and I will come back to the more obvious one later (what is it?). I have so far assumed that all potential beach goers have the same utility function, an assumption that we agreed, I assume, is not very plausible. Let me now introduce heterogeneity among our potential beach goers. There are at least two ways of doing this. I will assume that people still do not differ in their function, but in their willingness to pay in order to get some through accessing the beach. And now, while I could stay with the model with a finite number of potential beach goers, it strikes me as more elegant and easier to turn to a model with a continuum of beach goers. I think you will see why. Let me take an arbitrary potential beach goer. Her or his utility shall now be given by the function , where is now the proportion of all potential beach goers that actually end up going to the beach, is still the price, and is a parameter that describes this person’s willingness to spend money. A person with a low does not suffer that much from paying a high price (I guess this is probably a wealthy person, but could also be just a beach fanatic), while a person with a high is very reluctant to spend any money in order to get beach access. I can easily introduce heterogeneity now by assuming that there are different people with different . In fact, and that is why a model with a continuum of potential beach goers is now easier, it is easier to assume that a person’s is distributed according to some continuous distribution. One could of course also work with only a finite number of possible values for , but this is more clumsy in the analysis.

In order to make some calculations I will assume a more specific setting. I will assume that . It is strictly decreasing in and is zero exactly only at (that is when all potential beach goers actually go to the beach). I will also assume that people’s willingness to pay parameter follows a uniform distribution on the interval .

Having made all these assumptions (and making the assumption that we shall have an equilibrium in this game with a continuum of players – see my previous post on why I believe equilibrium makes sense in this context), I can now let math take over to work through the consequences of this model.

Now every person is different and different persons make different choices. For a given price , a person with a given goes to the beach if and only if , or equivalently, if and only if . Note that because of the continuum assumption I can ignore people who are exactly indifferent between going to the beach and their second favorite activity. They have zero mass in such a model.

This now means that for a given price and a given proportion of actual beach goers the actual beach goers are exactly those people with an . How many of these do we have? Or, more accurately, what is their proportion? Well this is given by the probability that . And, as we assumed that is uniformly distributed on , this probability is given by . But this now means that when the proportion of actual beach goers is it will then be given by . So the two (and this is the equilibrium condition) must be the same: and we obtain an equilibrium proportion of actual beach goers of . In this model, if people are charged a price to go to the beach a fraction of actually pay this amount and show up at the beach.

We can now do all kinds of interesting things with this model. First, we can verify that if the price is zero, the model leads to the same conclusion as the previous one. Here, everyone goes to the beach, but everyone is in the end indifferent between going to the beach and the second favorite activity and nobody derives an actual positive benefit from being on the beach. Second, we can finally compute the welfare optimal prices as I have promised. This opens a new can of worms, of course. What is welfare? Let me just use, without discussion, what is typically called utilitarian welfare, but you can use your own measure if you like. Utilitarian welfare is simply the equally weighted sum of all people’s utility. In our case the sum will have to be an integral, as we have a continuum of individuals. Taking our equilibrium condition as given utilitarian welfare is given by , which one can compute to be . The reader can verify that the welfare maximizing price, in this model, is equal to one (a trick: maximize the natural log of welfare).

So what do we have? At a price of one (in whatever currency we are working with here), half of all people go to the beach. These are the people with a high willingness to pay. That is, with an . These people derive a strictly positive benefit from being on the beach and are therefore better off in this case than under zero prices. The other half of the people does not go to the beach and pursues their second favorite activity. They derive zero extra benefit. So they are not better but also not worse off than under zero prices. Going from zero to positive prices we therefore have what is called a Pareto-improvement, we make some people better off without making anyone worse off.

Could we make all people better off? Yes (and this by the way is the route two I mentioned earlier). I have so far not said where the money that all these people are paying actually goes. Supposing that the group of potential beach goers is an easily identifiable group (the people who live in the area as well as all registered tourists), then the income generated from the beach goers could be paid out equally to all potential beach goers, those who go and those who don’t. In our model all potential beach goers would therefore receive a money amount of regardless of whether they go to the beach or not. Note that this does not change their incentives to go to the beach, unless their utility function changes when given a small amount of additional wealth. But then now everyone is better off under positive beach prices compared to zero prices. The world would be a better place.

The reader may now want to come back to the assumption that all people have the same function. Sufficient heterogeneity here will change some of the insights somewhat and clear Pareto improvements will typically not be possible. But the utilitarian welfare will typically not be maximized at zero prices in such a model either.

Another thing one could do now is to ask how the price is chosen. Perhaps it is chosen by majority voting among all potential beach goers. What price would they vote for? Would it be the welfare maximizing price?

]]>

By the way, the interested reader may want to look at the literature on the economics of clubs for more on this topic. A good starting point may be “Clubs” by Suzanne Scotchmer, 2008, in the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics also available here.

So what do we need in this model? We need potential beach goers and we need to think about the benefit that these beach goers derive from going to the beach. We already have a lot of options here. We could have a finite number of potential beach goers or we could think of them as a continuum of beach goers. The first assumption is obviously empirically correct but the latter may be more practical when we are thinking of a lot of beach goers. Let me here start with having a finite number of beach goers, but I might change this later. A beach goer is now assumed to derive a “utility” from going to the beach (versus pursuing his or her second best alternative) that is a function of how many other people there are on the beach. Let us call this function , where is the number of other people on the beach (excluding the person whose utility we are here looking at). Of course, in reality different potential beach goers have different such utility functions, and of course, people do not really have such a clear function in their mind at all. But people are probably more or less happy being on the beach with more or fewer other people on the beach and people probably at least to some degree make their choices to which beach they go dependent on their expectation of the number of other people on the beach. More worrying than our assuming the existence of such a utility function is our assumption that all people have the same utility function. This is almost surely wrong, although it is actually not so easy to assess this empirically. I will assume that all people have the same utility function for the moment, but we should keep in mind that this is most likely wrong. We may want to come back to this question at the end.

Now to the shape of this utility function. I would assume that it is ultimately decreasing in and eventually negative for sufficiently large . As I am not so interested in beaches that do not suffer from an overuse problem I will simply assume that the utility function is decreasing for all and of course positive for .

With the model as it is so far I can now replicate (or demonstrate) my argument of the previous post that beaches can be inefficiently overcrowded. Suppose that the number of potential beach goers, call it , is such that is negative. Given this, how many people will go to the beach?

In an equilibrium (call it Nash equilibrium if you like – as what I described here is really an n-player game), we expect essentially so many people, call it , to go to this beach such that . Why? Well if fewer people than go to the beach then a potential beach goer who is not on the beach would derive a positive net utility (over the second best alternative) from going to the beach. So she should go. And more people will come until we have people on the beach. If more people than are on the beach, people on the beach will suffer a negative utility and will start leaving until the remaining number is again than .

Of course in reality we do not exactly expect people to go to the beach for various reasons. One possible reason is that our model is simply not a 100% accurate description of the real world. But even if our assumptions about people’s utility functions were completely correct we still have made an implicit and quite radical assumption about what people know about the number of people on the beach when they make the decision whether or not to go to the beach. In reality when you make this decision you do not know how many people are on the beach already and how many people will still come later. Also, once you have driven perhaps a fairly long way to the beach and then you see that it is rather crowded you may decide to stay even if, had you known about this before you left, you would not have driven to the beach in the first place. However, as I argued in my previous post, the approximate number of beach goers at various beaches is often roughly commonly known. People who live in the area have a pretty good idea about these numbers and tourists can also inform themselves fairly well from their respective hosts. This information is to some extent typically also available on the internet. On any given day you might find that you were lucky and that the actual number is somewhat lower than expected or unlucky and the actual number is somewhat higher, but on average the numbers are not so far off from what people expected.

Now back to the equilibrium number of beach goers on our beach, , what have we learnt from this simple analysis so far? Well, we have the tragedy of the commons in a nutshell. Despite the fact that all potential beach goers would derive a potentially high extra benefit (over their second favorite activity) from going to the beach – if only the beach is not overcrowded – the equilibrium number of beach goers is such that everyone is just indifferent between going to the beach and doing their second favorite thing (staying at home, for instance, or going to another beach).

If somehow we could cap the number of beach goers at some lower level, say , for which by assumption , we could improve the utility of all the people who are allowed to go to the beach without hurting those who are not allowed. This is because without the cap the latter group would have been indifferent between going to the beach and their second favorite thing anyway. One should probably now re-examine the assumption that all people have the same utility function. I will leave it to the reader at this point, but will tackle this in my next post when, I hope, I will finally demonstrate how it is possible to impose a cap through a price for beach access and how this can be welfare-optimal.

]]>

But the beach, for me at least, could do with fewer people.

In fact, I would almost go as far as saying that I would prefer to be the only person on a beach, except family and friends of course. To be fair the Cornish beaches that I have been on in the last couple of weeks are typically not too crowded, and if there weren’t a significant number of beach goers, the beach wouldn’t have a café and bathrooms. And I do appreciate being able to buy an ice-cream cone now and then.

But there is also a beach not far from the others that we essentially never go to. In the last almost ten summers, in which I have spent parts of the summer in Cornwall, I have been to this beach only once. And this is actually probably the nicest beach of all. It has islands and caves and multiple bays. The tide does interesting things to the beach. It has lovely walks around the cliffs. It is simply amazing. But it is just always full of people. Being there once, I realized that I much prefer to go to a less attractive beach with fewer people over the more attractive beach with lots of people.

I expect that I am not the only person on the beach wishing others away and that beaches generally suffer from what is known as “the tragedy of the commons”. Beaches in Cornwall are “commons” – see also my post on a conflict over access to stream water on a Cornish beach. They are not owned by any individual or group but are owned by all. By the way, I am very happy about this. I remember once being at a conference at Stony Brook, New York, where I spent a free late afternoon driving around to find some access to the coast. As a naïve European I thought I could just drive around and find a sign pointing me to a beach somewhere. In fact I drove around for hours without ever getting close to the coast at all. I always ran into private property, or at least signs indicating as much. And I suppose that if I had found a publicly accessible beach it would have been packed. So I do appreciate the fact (I believe) that in most of Europe (including the UK) most beaches are “commons”.

But the problem with commons, or at least a possible problem, is that they are overused, just as is supposedly the case with the overfishing of international waters and, historically, with the overgrazing of the commonly owned village meadow.

The problem is this. When a new person arrives on the beach, while this person is apparently – by a revealed preference argument – deriving some positive benefit from being on the beach, the well-being of the people already on the beach often deteriorates. The typical Cornish beach is wind-swept and prone to the occasional shower. People, therefore, bring wind-breakers and even tents to the beach. Imagine your joy when a family of four tents puts up camp a few yards from your feet right between you and your view of the sea. Or when you go bodyboarding in the surf, trying to stay within the very narrow bounds allowed to you by the life-guards, you continuously bump into all those other surfers or, worse, they into you.

If this problem is severe, one could imagine welfare improving prices that people have to pay for going to the beach. Note that through parking fees such prices are actually sometimes already in place. It is indeed possible in some cases – even if it sounds a bit paradoxically – that charging a perhaps even substantial price for beach access would be welfare improving for **all** potential beach goers. The reader may want to try and construct a model (a set of assumptions and a logical argument) in which this statement is true. I will do this in my next blog post.

I would like to finish this post by pointing out that this “tragedy of the commons” is probably present in many other situations. The last time I went to the Natural History Museum in London with my kids, it was so packed with people that we did not really enjoy ourselves much and left again pretty quickly. When I was in Kyoto (on a two-month sabbatical) we mostly avoided visiting the “top temples” because they were so busy that we felt the whole point of visiting a calm and serene temple garden was lost. Yes, all these places do charge entry prices, but I am not convinced that these prices are welfare-optimizing for the “consumers” of these places. Generally, any place you visit with potentially lots of other people with which you compete over access rights in some form or another – a children’s play ground, an amusement park, a museum, etc. – potentially suffers from a bit of “the tragedy of the commons”.

]]>

In contrast to personal matters, knowing always seems to be preferable to ignoring when it comes to science. However, it is not that easy. For example, if I know the conclusions derived in a model or based on a study, while at the same time I do not know the underlying assumptions or the characteristics of the test persons, there is a high chance of misinterpretation and even misapplication of the conclusion I know. Especially in our discipline a lot of particles of information are taught which in the packed form crucially lack general validity. This is one reason why I took a little extra time in order to stick with textbook-knowledge. As I am critical of the fundamentals I probably have to step in at a fundamental level.

At the same time, new knowledge is generated day by day. While complete knowledge is utopic anyway, even specialization does not guarantee sufficient knowledge with regard to the issues you are investigating. Facing over two hundred years of economics, meanwhile hundreds of journals with economic background, and our restriction in time, it leaves the quest of acquiring the ‘right’ and ‘necessary’ knowledge with quite a load of uncertainty. For me science therefore always will partly – probably even to large parts – be about trial and error. That is the second reason for why I probably invested less time in catching up with reading than some would expect from a junior fellow and instead worked on a deeper understanding of what I already – seemingly – know.

The third reason for my priorities as I set them in the recent past builds on the previous one. It is clearly important to search the literature for new or comparable ideas, whether it is in favour of inspiration or just to avoid unnecessary repetition. However, already in the course of my study I did not content myself with just knowing an approach and its implications as they were taught in class. I liked to trace its derivation and apply it on my own. I claim that I was often rewarded with a more detailed understanding than many of my colleagues were able to show.

Of course, by sticking to this approach I clearly risk a further increase of my steadily growing reading list. This in turn increases the risk for repetitions of trials unknown to me. However, due to the admired authors and their frequently released literature surveys the shortfall, at least with regard to scientific content, may be not that comprehensive as the number of unread articles and books may suggest. Given that, involuntary repetition may not be rewarded with appreciation, but may again prove worthwhile with regard to a general and deeper understanding of the issues. Weighing up the remaining risk with the aspired chance of strengthening my comparative advantage I stayed on track: try and err, instead of only read, believe and copy in favour of an easy success.

At this point I want to refer to some economic model I am currently dealing with. It captures a sector of firms applying research and development in favour of new machines. The firms in this sector try to invent on the one hand, and imitate on the other hand. Efforts in favour of imitation means that they search for better machines in their competitors’ portfolio. Efforts in favour of invention means that they try to develop a new machine on their own.

Progress and its dispersion clearly needs both, research and development. It does not end with those diligent role models, who commendably keep track with the literature and reliably complete the paths scribed by it. There is also a need for those taking the entrepreneurial risk of abandoning the popular track now and then, testing new approaches or combining old ones in a new way – as Schumpeter would maybe state it.

]]>

An investigation was launched that quickly revealed the source of the sudden disappearance of water. One of the more ambitious projects, not only involving a father but a set of uncles as well, had been successfully carried out further upstream. The stream had been dammed so well, that the water had now found a new course much more directly into the sea, avoiding the long meandering now empty river bed. It was a project that was every father’s dream, of course, and I could see and empathize with the sense of satisfaction on all the faces. Careful planning and tireless construction work with attention to detail had led to a substantial change in our surroundings. Men (and their children) have changed nature to suit their own needs.

Yet, glorious as it undoubtedly was, the successful engineering feat had left the 20 or 30 kids downstream with nothing to play with anymore. The dam builders were approached and asked to open one of their hatches at least a little to let some water to also flow down the usual path. Reluctantly they did so. Not much later, however, the water supply downstream dwindled again. The opened hatch had been closed. This now led to subversive acts of sabotage with people opening hatches without asking for permission or explaining why they did so. This in turn left the original engineers with frequent repair work. One had a sense that the engineers knew that they were on morally shaky ground, but they tried to hang on regardless to see their project through. People were trying to avoid an open confrontation and after a couple of hours of oscillating water levels on both sides the problem was solved by the engineers finally deciding to join the bodyboarders in the sea. As by now some kids had started working down the new (but much shorter) stream, eventually some water was allowed to flow both ways.

The problem of allocating water to the different parts of the stream was certainly inefficient for some time. In that time most of the water flowed down the short new river bed that only allowed a few kids to play in it, while when the stream was flowing down the old river bed it had created happiness for many more children. The, for the most part silent, dispute over the allocation of water, was created by the absence of a clear property rights structure. The beach is a “commons ‘’. It is not owned by any one person but by all of them. Nobody has a right to an exclusive use of the stream or to decide alone on how the stream should be used. If someone owned the beach or at least the stream (this could be a government agency or a private person) beach goers could pay for any amount of water (subject to availability) going down to their desired branch with some reasonable hope that prices will solve the allocation problem. I would not really advocate this here for two reasons. One, as the issues at stake are not that very high, people in most cases find reasonable agreements through communication with the implicit threat of public shaming if people act too selfishly. And then they are better off compared to a situation with the same final allocation but with everyone having to pay. Two, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to watch.

]]>

(Unfortunately, the sound quality is not great. If anyone has an idea how to improve it, please leave a comment.)

There will be a video of the second lecture at some point, but it still needs some editing which is definitely not my comparative advantage.

]]>

Das sagen ausgerechnet wir, die wir unruhig und engstirnig momentanen Impulsen folgen und konfrontative Situationen provozieren, anstatt diese zu entspannen. Wir, die wir uns das Recht herausnehmen, rücksichtslos in das Leben anderer einzugreifen, verwehren uns schon im nächsten Moment gegen regulative Interventionen und verkaufen es auch noch als Überzeugung.

Wehe, uns würde jemand früh morgens den Schlaf rauben. Wehe, jemand würde neben unserem Speiseteller ein Duftstäbchen entzünden. Wehe, zwei Sitze weiter würde jemand Schlagerlieder vor sich hin krächzen. Wehe, jemand wagt irgendetwas, das nicht unserer Präferenz entspricht. Asozial muss dieser jemand sein und natürlich spießig, wenn er überhaupt ein Leben hat. Denn wir haben ja eines und wissen daher, wie ein Leben auszusehen hat. Wir, gleichermaßen Zentrum der Welt und Maßstab aller Dinge. Oder doch bloß ewig im Stadium egozentrischer Kleinkinder, welche die Welt ausschließlich von der eigenen Position aus zu interpretieren im Stande sind?

Jedenfalls nicht ganz die Toleranz, die wir so gerne einfordern. Koordination, Kooperation und entsprechende Regeln sind eben komplex. Und kompliziert sein ist was für Stresser. Wir hingegen sind simpel. Kein langes Abwägen von gegenseitigen Abhängigkeiten und externen Effekten. Stattdessen finden Beurteilung und Sinnfrage bereits mit dem Abgleich des spontanen Eigeninteresses ihr Ende. Individualistisch, opportunistisch und teilweise bildungsresistent hinsichtlich empathischer und rationaler Entscheidungsfindung – ja, wir arbeiten hart am Ende der sozialen und liberalen Gesellschaft – zu entspannt, um leben zu lassen, was uns leben lässt?

]]>