Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TEAnocratic Nonsense or Let's Ban Bans

Economist Barry Nalebuff has always been an insightful, out-of-the-box thinker. I've long admired his work.

So it is with great disappointment that I read this.

Nalebuff wants to rewrite New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed regulation that bans beverages in NYC from being sold in sizes greater than 16 ounces. If "rewrite" meant "erase completely and never bring up again in the Land of the Free", then I'd be on board. But Nalebuff instead wants to reconfigure the regulation to be smarter. Apparently, the dumbness of the regulation only occurred to him once he realized his former beverage company's products were out of compliance. He does make a case for one kind of smarter regulation. But that is far short of sufficient to justify such a blatant violation of free choice with both its benefits in principal and practicality.

Very disappointing to see yet another good thinker turned into a technocrat. He fails to realize that his preference shouldn't necessarily be everyone else's preference and that government regulation's effectiveness along one dimension (in this case potentially a more effective health rule in one health dimension) comes at the expense of less effectiveness in most other dimensions (in this case certainly less effective consumer utility). Or perhaps as a professor of economics he rejects revealed preferences—a foundational tenet of economics.

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