Econstudentlog

En opfølgning

For et år siden deltog jeg i en øjenundersøgelse som jeg også omtalte her på bloggen. Jeg fik for ikke så længe siden et brev fra lægen som stod for studiet. I brevet stod bl.a.:

“Vi har analyseret data, og har fundet at øjendråberne påvirker blodgennemstrømningen i nethindens blodkar. Derfor kan de muligvis være en behandlingsmulighed for diabetisk øjensygdom i fremtiden.”

Det er godt nyt! I brevet fremgik det også, at et nyt studie er påbegyndt, som vil undersøge et tredje præparat. Jeg regner også med at deltage i dette studie og har udtrykt min interesse i at deltage.

Her er et let relateret link. Helt ærligt, hvor lavt kan man synke? Hvordan kan sådan et menneske se sig selv i spejlet? Skodkultur er om noget et pænt ord at bruge.

July 20, 2010 Posted by | diabetes, personligt | Leave a comment

‘Not a zero sum game’ != ‘Everybody will be better off’

[warning: long rambling rant about politics, I've already regretted writing it, really shouldn't post it, might take it down again soon. Stupid, stupid, stupid waste of time]

You sometimes see people who argue in favor of ie. free markets using two somewhat related if still quite different sentences together. The first sentence is ‘it’s not a zero sum game’. The second sentence is ‘everybody will be better off’. There are some people who, it seems to me, use them as if they mean pretty much the same thing. Here’s the thing: They don’t. Those two sentences don’t mean the same thing at all. Take if from a guy you know to be relatively free market: It’s dishonest to claim that they do and it tends to make you look bad to do that.

Here’s a classic zero sum game:

1:
A’s utility: 10
B’s utility: 10
C’s utility 10
Total utility: 30

2:
A’s utility: 15
B’s utility: 15
C’s utility: 0
Total utility: 30

Going from 1 to 2 makes A and B better off, but it also makes C worse off and total utility does not change.

To contrast, here’s a positive sum game:

1:
A’s utility: 10
B’s utility: 10
C’s utility 10
Total utility: 30

2:
A’s utility: 15
B’s utility: 15
C’s utility: 8
Total utility: 38

Going from 1 to 2 increases total utility by 8 but it still makes C worse off. That doesn’t change the fact that this is not a zero sum game.

People of a free market bent sometimes use the argument that it’s usually possible to set up some sort of transfer system to compensate the loser(s) so that everybody will be better off if a game is a positive sum game, it’s a well known argument and it’s been around for a long time. If you play the positive sum game and if it is somehow possible to compensate the losers, ie. by making A and B each give C 2 ‘utility units’ (money, whatever) each – then by playing the positive sum game, all three will be better off. Sometimes people miss this step about compensating losers. If you don’t compensate the losers in the game, some people, the Cs, will be worse off even if it’s not a zero sum game. It’s by no means certain that A and B will compensate C if they are left with a choice – indeed there are good reasons to assume they will not.

Now assume that the utility units in the examples are money equivalents, that no compensation takes place and that you play the positive sum game above. Now that game looks remarkably like a wealth transfer from the Cs to the As and Bs.

Sometimes the positive sum game will have pay-offs of say 15, 15 and 11 and everybody will be better off – but that’s not always the case, and in that case, even though everybody is better off, maybe they’re still not ‘equally better off’, however one might define that term, making the outcome look unfair to Cs. Sometimes a game that A and B think is a 15, 15, 11 game, say because they evaluate the utility parameters primarily in terms of the monetary gains alone, actually looks like, say, a 15, 15, 8 game to C, because C values equality highly, and the game caused (perceived?) inequality to go up.

Most free market reforms, like all other kinds of reforms, will cause some people to be better off and some people to be worse off. If one of the main goals of a specific reform proposal is less government, as a proponent of such a reform you’ll probably not be all that keen on combining your reform proposals with new (‘temporary’) government programs to compensate the losers. Maybe the distributional effects related to your proposal is part of why you like the proposal in the first place – maybe you think it’s a good thing that there’s less to the Cs because they don’t work, whereas As and Bs do; maybe you want the reform because you want less Cs and more As and Bs.

But to repeat the main thing here: No matter what other things you might do when arguing, at least be honest. Don’t lie, not even by omission. Don’t make claims that are untrue, don’t claim everybody will be better off if they won’t, and make it clear what it takes for everyone to be better off. If not, it’ll just look like wishful thinking, magic that never gets explained and makes you look untrustworthy. Either that or something even worse. Argue why you want less Cs, if that’s what you want, and why you like a specific reform proposal. Ideally, you should work hard not to miss any important steps in the argument process, no matter if you think people know them already or you consider them obvious. If you do, it can easily make you come off as a really unpleasant person. Even to people like me.

July 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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