Confusing the Satisfaction of Some Consumers’ Preferences for Market Failure

by Don Boudreaux on November 26, 2011

in Competition, Current Affairs, Myths and Fallacies, Property Rights

Only by implicitly assuming that consumers are automata who mindlessly flood into retail stores the moment doors open for business can Robert Frank conclude – as he did earlier this week in the New York Times - that pre-dawn holiday retail-store openings are the result of a competitive struggle that ultimately harms everyone.  But consumers are not the passive fools that Frank presumes them to be.  They have preferences, on which they can act, regarding the hours at which they shop.  If enough consumers want to sleep in without losing ready access to all of This Season’s Must-Have Holiday Gifts, one or more retailers will have incentive and ability to cater to these consumers.

Such retailers can advertise “We stock a huge inventory of all the holiday gifts you want and we never open earlier than 10am!”  Problem solved.  Late-sleeping shoppers will then be assured they can awaken at a respectable hour before trundling down to shop at such retailers.

Want evidence?  Consider the fact that the vast majority of retailers, even during the holidays, in fact do not open before sunrise.

Frank has long been consumed by his vision of market competition as a negative-sum game.  He here carelessly allows his bias to be confirmed by evidence of nothing more than some retailers’ successfully catering to some consumers’ preferences for the excitement of pre-dawn holiday shopping.

UPDATE: The New York Times‘s great science writer, John Tierney, offers the following thought to me in a private e-mail:

I would guess that the retailers are doing this at least in part for the free publicity — the shots of people camping outside the Best Buy sign — so they’re offering low prices as a way of paying the performers in their publicity campaign.

Yep.  A very good point.

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Invisible Backhand November 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

I can confirm you are biased against the non-subscriber link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/24/opinion/how-to-end-the-black-friday-madness.html

Invisible Backhand November 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I can confirm you are biased against the non-subscriber link

Just as everyone here can confirm that I am biased against reason, experience, and economic knowledge in general.

My paymasters and indoctrination officers at Anonymous and MoveOn.org instructed me to say that.

By the way, comrades, I assume everyone here has also noticed that I’ve been trolling a lot less frequently. I wonder why that is?

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Stop stealing others’ identities. You are a mammoth troll and should go extinct.

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm

IB, what is wrong with you?

Invisible Backhand November 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm

IB, what is wrong with you?

Don’t know, laddie. Just not feeling myself, lately.

brotio November 27, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Just not feeling myself, lately.

As long as you don’t do it in public…

Jon Murphy November 26, 2011 at 9:47 am

I have a question for Mr. Frank (consider this a Jon Murphy open letter):

Mr. Frank, you wrote that your sales tax plan (6% national sales tax on purchases between 6PM and 6AM Thanksgiving night-Friday morning) would “leave both stores and consumers free to decide for themselves whether middle-of-the-night shopping is worth it.”

Why aren’t there incentives enough for stores and consumers as it is? Each business can decide if paying their employees overtime is worth it for the customers as it is. Each customer can decide if fighting through throngs of other people and getting up early/staying up late is worth it as it is. Why add an unnecessary complication in to the process? Some people love Black Friday and more power to them. Why punish them?

Andy November 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

For Frank, it’s essentially a free lunch because those tax dollars will be spent on “crumbling infrastructure” and other good stuff.

Harold Cockerill November 27, 2011 at 8:03 am

I would bet Mr. Frank dislikes the degree of freedom demonstrated by business and consumers. Then again maybe he was pepper sprayed last year in a stampede at Best Buy and is trying to get revenge.

Darren November 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Why aren’t there incentives enough for stores and consumers as it is?

Because those incentives do not involve government and therefore can not be adequately controlled and directed toward more favorable outcomes for the masses.

Scott Murphy November 26, 2011 at 9:49 am

I am so tired of Frank’s bull Elk example of inefficiency. The story behind these sorts of odd evolutionary designs are more complicated than he lets on.
Antler size grows disproportionately with body size because of the way DNA and metabolics work. The Irish Elk is a famous case of this. Not to say sexual selection had nothing to do with it. It’s just complicated, you know like the economy. What seems easy and “efficient” from the outside ignores the way information is being used to create macro effects like antlers and demand.

A note on one kind of Bull Elk, the famous example of Darwin.
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/artio/irishelk.html

Hammer head sharks are another example of evolution working in unexpected ways.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Body building should be banned too! It’s a waste of resources!

indianajim November 26, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Frank’s problem is that a Bull Elk analogy is a bull if applied monomaniacally to humans; Frank has a fetish for status that ignores other innate drives (IMO most importantly reciprocal altruism, a behavioral tendency shared by other higher order social animals such as vampire bats and dolphins). Frank’s fetish is IMO an example of confirmation bias; a zero sum or negative sum society is just what an elitist leftist academic wants to believe in so that he scoff at rube libertarians who argue that people should be left largely alone, free to choose for themselves independent of the mandates of self congratulatory wanna-be czars.

Darren November 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Frank’s problem is that he’s a neanderthal anti-evolutionist.

Scott Murphy November 26, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Yeah, both of the above are good points. But I think even taking the argument on his terms; Which is that competition, because of selection pressure, creates structures that are not efficient. He has not properly shown that this is what is happening in either evolution or capitalism.

He might be right that Darwin will be the pre-eminant figure in discussions of competition. But it could still be a very institutional and non-interference discussion.

JoshINHB November 26, 2011 at 11:54 pm

I am so tired of Frank’s bull Elk example of inefficiency. The story behind these sorts of odd evolutionary designs are more complicated than he lets on.

More fundamentally, the critique implies (actually requires) that the critic knows what the ideal morphology (and what drives that morphology) is for every species on earth and how the actual morphology of any given species deviates from that ideal.

In other words, he is presuming godlike omniscience.
Then again, he is a socialist.

Harold Cockerill November 27, 2011 at 8:05 am

Like

Greg G November 27, 2011 at 8:32 am

Josh

I am not a fan of Frank’s analysis here but it is silly to claim that his identifying an extreme example of a dysfunctional morphology is “presuming godlike omniscience.” You usually don’t need to know where the ideal is to identify the extremes.

I don’t know what anyone’s ideal body weight is. Even so, I could identify an anorexic or an obese person as being far from the ideal.

Scott November 27, 2011 at 10:21 am

That is within a species. Much easier than cross species morphological fitness testing.

Seth November 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I agree with you on the bull elk example. I see Frank present this as an example of how competition may not always be good for the masses, but I don’t seem him present evidence. His evidence seems to be the statement “large antlers make the bull elks easy prey because they can get stuck in trees.”

On the Freakonomics blog post with the bull elk example, I asked for evidence to support Frank’s position. Are elk populations dwindling because of this seeming disadvantage? If so, where’s the proof of that linkage? It seems like bull elks could just as easily learn to stay away from densely wooded areas. The other commenters hammered me in the ratings. Apparently, no proof is necessary.

Jon Murphy November 26, 2011 at 9:50 am

It seems to me that this is just another example of one person trying to force is values onto a group of people.

My favorite quote: A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it provides what people want as opposed to what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

haxney November 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm

“A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it provides what people want as opposed to what a particular group thinks they ought to want.”

Wait, what? Who said that? How are those two things not exactly the same? It provides people what they want, opposed to what they want?

Josh S November 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm

You didn’t quite understand the quote. Let me clarify with brackets:

“A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it provides what people want as opposed to what a particular group [of self-appointed guardians of society] thinks [other people] ought to want.”

The quote is from Milton Friedman.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Exactly correct. But remember that some people do require that their decisions be curated, as it were. Frank has lost his ability to see the difference between adults and children.

Josh S November 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm

A lot of liberals accuse libertarians of having a childish view of authority. They view anyone who has the skills to get elected (well, if he’s a Democrat, anyway) as having the maturity and wisdom necessary to tell us what to do, and the rest of us as children who need to be prodded into doing what’s healthy for us. It’s just 18th-C paternalism writ large.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 27, 2011 at 12:19 am

“Frank has lost his ability to see the difference between adults and children.”

If he ever had it. Do you realize how getting paid for a few column inches of drivel in the old grey lady tends to imbue a writer with a sense of superiority that causes them to regard their readers as irrational rubes?

Then again, I think the NYT tends to attract that sort of personality like crap draws flies.

G. Webb November 27, 2011 at 1:49 am

You wouldn’t know what a “free economy” was if it smacked you in the face. Major troll, thou art.

Jon Murphy November 26, 2011 at 10:08 am

Another thought just occurred to me: This plan almost has a “Grinch” aspect to it. Black Friday shoppers (some, but not all) are buying gifts for others. Essentially, he is proposing a tax on certain Christmas presents. Anyone else see anything wrong with that?

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Naaaaah. They’re just greedy! And so is Walmart! Frank must do a lot of hand wringing.

Ed Dolan November 26, 2011 at 10:28 am

Thank you, Don! Needs to be said!

muirge0 November 26, 2011 at 10:40 am

Yeah because the power of mass marketing and mass media is nothing. It’s not like there are whole fields of study devoted to manipulating society into thinking they need more and more.

What a massive failure not to recognize this. I recommend people to read a book like Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell or The Affluent Society.

Don’s position is akin to saying lets get rid of stop lights and stop signs and let people decide when to cross an intersection.

Frank’s arguments are well made and once again attacked because they hit at market fundamentalism. It’s just laughable to see the fundamentalist requiring themselves to deny science and data over and over to hold there poor positions.

Here’s Frank at the RSA making his point quite well…

http://www.thersa.org/events/audio-and-past-events/2011/the-darwin-economy

It’s very tiring to listen how rational people are with their purchases and hood irrational they are with their policy preferences. It’s an irrational position that only market fundamentalist would try to support.

Andy November 26, 2011 at 11:07 am

So you have somehow escaped all this manipulation by your supreme intellect? Actually, Don’s position is not at all like the stop light example.

muirge0 November 26, 2011 at 11:55 am

Yeah because the power of mass marketing and mass media is nothing. It’s not like there are whole fields of study devoted to manipulating society into thinking they need more and more.

And it should be obvious to everyone here that I, and I alone, have escaped the power of mass marketing and the nefarious manipulations of mass media. Of course, I may have been duped by the lure of facile explanations and easy rationalizations marketed by the far left; fast-talking salesmen for the Leviathan State like Marx, Soros, and Galbraith (the last, especially, a super-talented genius — I mean, he taught at <Harvard, for God’s sake!!! It doesn’t get any better than that).

Don’s position is akin to saying lets get rid of stop lights and stop signs and let people decide when to cross an intersection.

And we can’t allow that! Some sort of order might emerge — unplanned — of its own accord, and that would shoot my entire wordview regarding the supremacy of the state and central planning to hell:

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2008/0912/p07s03-woeu.html

When Ulrike Rubcic heard that her town would take down all of its traffic lights, she rolled her eyes in disbelief.

Tucked between cornfields and cow meadows, the main street in this bucolic northern German community was also a thoroughfare with thousands of cars and trucks zooming to or from nearby Osnabruck. “Are we waiting for the first accident?” she thought then.

But this summer the town reworked its downtown thoroughfare, not only scrapping the traffic lights but also tearing down the curbs and erasing marked crosswalks. The busiest part of the main street turned into a “naked” square shared equally by bikes, pedestrians, cars, and trucks. Now, there is only one rule: Always give way to the person on the right.

Two months into the experiment, “Instead of thinking, ‘It’s going to be red, I need to give gas, people have to slow down, to look to the right and the left, to be considerate” says Ms. Rubcic.

The bonus? Town people recognize they have become a bit closer to one another. “The whole village has become more human. We look at each other, we greet each other,” she says.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm

The objection is to force; to assuming I don’t know what is best for myself.

Craig November 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm

“It’s very tiring to listen how rational people are with their purchases and hood irrational they are with their policy preferences. It’s an irrational position that only market fundamentalist would try to support.”

What’s irrational is arrogant elitists like you and Robert Frank presuming you know whats best for other people. Sorry that you can’t get the unwashed masses to do what you prefer without brute force. If you don’t like people shopping at midnight then don’t go. Only wannabe aristocrats like Robert Frank think you can legislate away human nature.

brotio November 26, 2011 at 6:38 pm

It’s dooshbags like Yasafi who have given us $400 toilets that don’t work well instead of $100 toilets that do work. Yasafi and his elitist asswipes have also given us poisonous, expensive, Chinese-made CFLs in order to keep CO2 levels from increasing to 0.38301 percent of the atmosphere rather than the current 0.038300 percent.

muirge0 November 26, 2011 at 8:50 pm

My toilet was $200, it’s low flow and it never plugs up…. although I’m guessing for you even my excellent toilet would get plugged by sheer mass and volume of what you’d try t put through it. What I’m saying is it’s not the toilet that’s the problem in your case.

muirge0 November 26, 2011 at 9:31 pm

My toilet was $200, it’s low flow and it never plugs up….

That’s because I take my dumps on the message board of Cafe Hayek!

Can’t you tell?

Andrew_M_Garland November 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm

muirge0 said: “Don’s position is akin to saying lets get rid of stop lights and stop signs and let people decide when to cross an intersection.”

Sometimes no stop lights or stop signs is exactly what works.
Is this the end of the road for traffic lights?
=== ===
The project is the brainchild of Mr Monderman, and the town has seen some remarkable results. There used to be a road death every three years but there have been none since the traffic light removal started seven years ago.

There have been a few small collisions, but these are almost to be encouraged, Mr Monderman explained. We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt.

It works well because it is dangerous, which is exactly what we want. But it shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for his or her own risk.

In the days of traffic lights, progress across the junction was slow as cars stopped and started. Now tailbacks are almost unheard of and almost nobody toots a horn.
=== ===

muirge0 November 26, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I think this is an excellent idea to advance road safety and cost…. I think that planner guy works for the government though…HOW could that be?

muirge0 November 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm

And could someone PLEASE light my cigarette for me? Both of my hands are busy at the moment filching spare change from my neighbor’s pockets.

(By the way, I always vote in favor of community property laws. That way, I cut myself into a piece of the action right away without having to suffer the indignity of stealing my neighbor’s property personally. He always gives me this look . . .)

Krishnan November 26, 2011 at 10:41 am

It is always dangerous to let people make decisions for themselves. It upsets the “way things should be” as opposed to “things the way they are”. Consumers making choices and picking winners and losers troubles many. How can the great unwashed and riff raff know when to shop, what to shop and more importantly when NOT to shop.

I will say that Frank does make sense, at times. I enjoyed the pod cast where Frank discussed the “Darwinian” idea for the economy – the examples he gives. I did not hear that podcast as someone who does not like the market – and yet, he gives the impression that one can (and perhaps should) tinker around the edges.

I cannot see how this Friday madness is bad for consumers – If in fact, consumers DO get impacted, that signal will come through … Frank’s point may be that consumers may not know they are impacted and if they did, they would not do what they do

vidyohs November 26, 2011 at 10:54 am

Robert Frank’s entire piece a hodge-podge of cobbled together of leftist mantra stupidity, virtually every sentence can be dismantled and refuted even by a dumb old street guy like myself.

Consider the contradictory statement herel:
“It’s not how fast or how strong you are that matters, but whether you’re faster or stronger than your closest rivals. The arms races that result when rivals jockey for position — witness the huge antlers of bull elk — often spawn considerable waste. And as with the elk, so, too, in the marketplace. The start time for post-Thanksgiving sales is a vivid case in point. “

Look at that first sentence. It doubles back on itself with everything coming after the comma directly contradicting what went before the comma.

Is display of no meaning when used as the Elk antlers? Bigger is better for the bull Elk because it impresses the lady Elk and the male Elk has more opportunity to enjoy their favors.

But consider the display that is common to the Soviet Union and Red China. They are second rate military powers and have been since their creation; but, each year both parade their entire military, including every single piece of mobile hardware they own, through the streets of their capitols to impress the world as to just how bad ass they are.

The true dominant military power never did that and still does not.

Yet the world always accorded both the Soviet Union and Red China as having more military power than they actually had because they were so eager and effective at displaying what they had.

So, if a Robert Frank lies, albeit unknowing perhaps, do you ever believe him about anything else?

As to the free market, Frank is just another looney lefty eager to eliminate your individual choice in favor of his preference. He is like a girl I used to date, it wasn’t enough to show my affection through devoted attention to her, her security came from the fulfillment of the demands she made on me, by my also bringing gifts.

It isn’t enough for Frank to see the evidence of the shoppers at the store at a time of their free individual choosing: It isn’t enough for Frank that retail outlets freely (as Don pointed out) oblige those shoppers. He demands more proof of the shopper’s and store’s willingness to openly and freely trade…….no no no, he wants that “girlfriend gift” in the form of a tax added to shopping at hours he doesn’t approve of.

They are broken brained guys, you can’t argue with them and you can’t fix them.

Adam Smith November 26, 2011 at 11:45 am

You are insightful, whereas Frank is inciteful. The military hobgoblin approach works wonders on you American Lollipops.
When you’re in Volgograd in the summer, its like a 60′s utopia of beautiful permissive women, cheap vodka, and free outdoor partying.
A Wenzhou man can start a business building intercontinental ballistic missiles in his front yard, and his neighbors all wish him good luck.
The Jerusalem streets are some of the safest places in the world.
Cheers.

Russ Fan November 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm

We don’t flaunt our military might with parades. Instead we do it via nation building every time people like you get antsy enough and vote a neo-con into office.

vidyohs November 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Umm okay….yes, and not really.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm

“It’s not how fast or how strong you are that matters, but whether you’re faster or stronger than your closest rivals.”

One of the most illogical sentences ever created with a straight face. He tries to imply that being “fast and strong” is both a good and bad thing in the same breath. If you’re fast because you want to be faster than others, that’s evil. If you’re strong but don’t care about competing, you’re an altruistic saint.

Also, a desire to be slightly faster than your neighbor obviously leads to more evil strength than a desire to be infinitely strong. Frank is a genius!

Mogden November 26, 2011 at 11:18 am

Reading the NYT editorial page is often an exercise in glancing at the topic, identifying the trivial or non-existent problem to be solved, and then jumping ahead to the inevitable call for government regulation (naturally without any consideration for public choice problems along the way.)

This editorial was a classic of the genre.

Nevada Doctor November 26, 2011 at 11:24 am

The case can be made for anarcho-primitives to be allowed to live in a state of noble-savagery. Maybe they don’t like drinking water full of human sewage, and deserve the ability to forbid industrialization and division of labor within their territory. The demand for uniform domination of one system within a territory is the worst sort of fascism and coercion. Let each man live in peace if he is able to support himself. The laws must be stricken which impede Robert Frank his life of animal husbandry on the shire.

Greg G November 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm

This new shopping pattern seems plenty bizarre and irrational to me but that does not mean it requires any government action.

I like the idea that the craziest shoppers are out there at times when I would never be. The rest of us benefit from not having them clogging the stores when we want to shop.

Andrew_M_Garland November 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm

That is exactly what one store executive cited on the radio. There were lines around the block last year when his company’s stores opened at 8 AM. So, they decided to open at 6 AM to better handle the rush.

(I heard it on a radio show. I don’t know the company name or the exact opening times.)

Jon Murphy November 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm

“I like the idea that the craziest shoppers are out there at times when I would never be. The rest of us benefit from not having them clogging the stores when we want to shop.”

Right? Plus, they are all on the road when I am nice and warm and safe in my bed. Less risk of an accident for me.

nailheadtom November 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Isn’t there some subjectivity in Frank’s concept of “waste”? ” The arms races that result when rivals jockey for position — witness the huge antlers of bull elk — often spawn considerable waste.” Sure, bull elk could have evolved more efficient means of dominating their rivals, they could have grown swords from their heads or perhaps ocular death rays, but they haven’t so far. Frank’s statist, collectivist mind looks at competition not as a process that leads to innovation and improvement but as a “waste”. Can’t really get more conservative than that. Thankfully, putting his silly piece in the NYT guarantees its pseudo-intellectual frivolity.

haxney November 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm

“Isn’t there some subjectivity in Frank’s concept of “waste””

Some? More like all. Who is he to make value judgments regarding my preferences of family time and shopping time? Do I value family time “incorrectly” and need to have my preference “corrected” by some wise and benevolent master? Clearly, I am to much a slave to my irrationality to be allowed to choose how I want to live my life and need to turn over such matters to my betters.

Josh S November 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Note that Frank fails to mention how impossible it would be for a government committee to centrally plan the evolution of all species on Earth. Sure, the antlers of the elk are arguably sub-optimal, but they’re far better than what would be produced by central planners. Central planners can’t even manage forests, let alone plan their evolution.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Mr. Frank is a fucking moron.

Why don’t we tax sexual intercourse in private homes between 6pm and 6am? After all, who really wants to have sex at night, when they could be sleeping, or spending time with family?

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm

You are in insulting vulgar cross between a troll and a twit. You think you are so smart but you are a nothing and a nobody. Any woman or man that would have sex with you is a sorry desperate loser. Sex should be taxed to stop the reproducing of failed people like you.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Deep thoughts.

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Why don’t we tax sexual intercourse in private homes between 6pm and 6am?

We already do. It’s called “syntax.” (“Sin-tax”. Get it?? Get it??)

Ken November 26, 2011 at 7:02 pm

^See, this is what comes of not having a pun tax.

Muirge00 November 27, 2011 at 12:25 am

“After all, who really wants to have sex at night, when they could be sleeping, or spending time with family?”

Hey,having sex and spending time with family are not mutually exclusive!!!

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm

http://news.yahoo.com/alleged-la-area-pepper-spraying-shopper-surrenders-164732499.html

This impulsive, mindless consumerism has led to people getting trampled or as in the above-mentioned incident getting pepper sprayed. These companies are using what is called loss leaders to draw customers into the store.

Shopping can be an addiction like drugs. So if we think it is appropriate to outlaw certain drugs, it is reasonable to suppose that we should outlaw certain shopping practices that really harm society. The librarian philosophy doesn’t believe any of this; it is up to the individual consumer to look out for herself. Sadly, humans are more like automata than you believe they are. Society has to impose restraints on them to keep them from harming others. They will harm other if given the chance. Some of it is psychotic and some of it is ruthlessness. But restraints must be imposed for the overall good of society. Society is not doing so good right now so the psychotic automata are winning out and demanding or unthinking their potentially evil way even more. Humans are generally speaking bad news and must be done away with to save planet earth and her other species.

Josh S November 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Is the Society that puts restraints on humans made up of robots, or angels?

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm

This impulsive, mindless Internet posting has led to people getting their feelings hurt and their dignitas trampled.

Trolling can be an addiction like drugs. So if we think it is appropriate to outlaw certain drugs, it is reasonable to suppose that we should outlaw certain Internet posting practices that really harm online society.

I know it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. So I volunteer myself as both judge and jury in deciding who gets to post what, where, when, and as who.

By reviewing the high quality of my previous posts, I feel sure you can all trust me. I’ll be fair. I promise.

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 8:02 pm

You won’t be fair because you are not honest like me. Impersonation is not fair to begin with and my illicit sanctions or worse.

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Ah, yes. Fairness only requires honesty. It doesn’t require judiciousness, wisdom, integrity, and experience. Why, we all know, that any honest person can be fair. Just ask him. And I’m sure a thieving, sissified, identity burglar like you thinks himself honest. You think all kinds of other stupid things, so why wouldn’t you think you’re honest as well?

“Illicit”? That’s a fancy word for you, sonny boy. I see you’ve been catching up on some of your grammar school vocabulary homework that you blew off, lo these many years. Keep up the good work! Everyone on Cafe Hayek encourages you and wishes you best of luck as you attempt to graduate second time around!

(Sound of polite applause in the background…)

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 8:35 pm

You elicit nothing but horse laughs. You are a flea on a mouse.

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 9:22 pm

You elicit nothing but horse laughs.

They can’t be coming from you because you’re obviously a jackass.

Yergit_abrav November 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

This bit about people being automata reveals your comment to be either clever satire at the expense of statism or exceptionally revealing about what you leftists really feel about the masses

Economic Freedom November 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

You feel nothing about the masses. It’s all about you, you, you. You phoney librarian.

Economic Freedom November 27, 2011 at 2:55 am

You feel nothing about the masses.

You feel up the masses — which no member of that group asked you to do — and you claim you’re doing them a favor; in fact, what you want is power and unearned respect. You’re a moocher, a looter, a fraud, and a perv. Go feel yourself up and leave the masses alone. Believe it or not, phony, they’re doing fine without you. They don’t need your unsolicited and interfering “help” and they never did.

Jon Murphy November 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

This is one thing I do not understand. One person misbehaves (in this case, pepper spray) and, rather than punish the individual who committed the act, everyone must be punished. It’s this knee-jerk reaction that infuriates me. There is no logical thought behind it. It’s a reptilian reaction. Nothing more, nothing less.

The other thing I don’t understand is this whole argument about mass marketing and brainwashing and all that. Sure, millions go to Black Friday shopping, but what about the millions more who stay at home and sleep? Were they somehow immune to the brainwashing? Were the people standing in line thinking “TV told me to shop so I must shop”? This has got to be, without a doubt, the single most ridiculous argument of all time. OF ALL TIME. It just reeks of the whole tin-hit aliens reading our thoughts nutjob rants.

I’m about to launch into a rant about how no one is responsible for their actions anymore, but I’ll restrain myself.

Ken November 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Thomas Franks: The myth of “perfect competition” claims another victim.

Ken November 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Robert Frank — excuse me. Bleah.

Michael E. Marotta November 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Regarding the preferences of some consumers, The Supply curve, Demand curve, and their Equilibrium comprise a fundamental fallacy of both Classical and Keynesian economics. There is nothing magical about the so-called “equilibrium” point. Supplies and demands exist all along both curves. People are always exchangiing lower valued good and services for those of higer value at every point along either curve. The most than can be said for the so-called “equilibrium” is that it is the modal price, the one statistically most likely.

Thomas Bayes November 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm

How depressing to see an Ivy League economics professor write a column for the New York Times in which he calls for our government to forcefully take money from private citizens simply because they choose to exchange goods for money at a time that he wants them to be in bed.

indianajim November 26, 2011 at 7:00 pm

“How depressing to see an Ivy League economics professor… for the NYT…? “How depressing”??? Don’t you mean: How typical?

Chuckarama November 26, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Good news for those consumers that don’t want to stay up all night on cold sidewalks, awaiting the opportunity to push, shove, and pull a stranger’s hair to get a deal.

A new class of retailers have created “Cyber Monday”. You may need to stay up late, for some deals, but you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to shop. If you trend the amount of sales of retail on Black Friday, vs sales on Cyber Monday, you’ll see many consumers are indeed opt’ing to shop in their pj’s. For those of us who don’t care for the thrill and crush of the crowd, the adrenaline of tearing a store display to pieces without care for what is even in it, the market has supplied us with a much calmer and “civilized” manner to purchase our goods.

But it’s tough to get footage of someone clicking “Buy” in their virtual shopping cart, without any fuss, to air on the 10:00 news.

Stone Glasgow November 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Ban this too! Damn greedy people!

Yergit_abrav November 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Sadly it is this and similar logic which led to many countries in Europe placing severe restrictions on sale pricing. Frank’s point of view is sadly shared by many and perhaps a majority.

GAAPrulesIFRSdrools November 27, 2011 at 12:29 am

Yes, and Europe’s economic policies are obviously unimpeachable. Let’s do everything they do.

CalgaryGuy November 27, 2011 at 2:31 am

Frank: “Few people actually want to shop in the wee hours, and the purchases that do occur then are presumably offset, dollar for dollar, by reduced sales during normal business hours. Even the shoppers who turn out for early openings seem motivated primarily by a fear that others might snap up bargains before they get there. But if all stores opened later, there would be no fewer bargains than before. In short, we have a classic collective action problem, an arms race.”

From the customer point of view, his statement that “few people actually want to shop in the wee hours” actually shows why it’s not lose-lose competition (à la his elk example). Most stores have a limited quantity of items for sale. If I’m looking for a great deal on an item that is limited in quantity I would be better off having less competition (other shoppers) trying to get the same item in the wee hours. If a store didn’t open until a “normal” time, there likely would be many more shoppers creating an even greater stampede and my chance of actually getting a sale item goes down.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 27, 2011 at 11:12 am

as Drucker wisely observed, people who don’t know how to market have to sell, which is a bad business model.

Black Friday is business failure, not success

CalgaryGuy November 27, 2011 at 11:53 am

Having people camp outside your store and making news coverage (yes while some negative, still a lot positive) isn’t successful marketing? Whats your definition of (succesful) marketing?

Jon Murphy November 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

People doing what he wants as opposed to what they want.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises November 28, 2011 at 9:03 am

you don’t see people camping outside Warren Buffett’s stores and making news coverage. instead, you read about the profits earned in the annual report

Sam Grove November 27, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Meta-perspactive.

Busybodies such as Robert Frank can’t really help themselves. They are so constituted that they view other humans as mere artifacts to be manipulated at will using the crude tool of political power to punish people for behaving in ways that are not of the design of the manipulators.

Sam Grove November 27, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Meta-perspective…

VJ November 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

Its that animal spirits bs that has been doing the rounds in Neo-Keynesian thoughts. Consumers are not rational because they can’t think for themselves therefore we need government. Ugh

VJ November 28, 2011 at 11:11 am

As a shopper who could care less about Black Fridays(
I am not bargain shopper) but didn’t mind shopping during that period because I knew stores would still have specials, I benefited from retailers who catered to consumers with similar tastes as me. Macy’s had a morning specials on some jeans and I purchased four pairs for the price of one. To claim that consumers are incapable to see through retailers’(and other businesses) scheme is asinine and the biggest fallacy statist like to rely on to explain why government should be involve in every aspect of the market

Matt November 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm

For an economist, Robert Frank shows some remarkably superficial and frankly amateurish thinking.

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