Monday, April 29, 2013

Magic Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Euvoluntary of Them All?

Pity poor Narcissus. Not that he got turned into a flower, but that he had to suffer the backbreaking indignity of having to bend down to the surface of a still pond to enjoy his comely visage. The now-common mirror, a technology so dully prosaic that acne-ridden teenagers have them hanging (by magnets!) in their school lockers by the truckload, was utterly and completely beyond his ken. Yes, he indulged his vanity, but without the luxury of more easily avoiding sciatica.

Jason Brennan reviews Sandel at BHL, and forwards a very euvoluntary proposition: part of the civilizing effect of markets is that they enjoin a supply side effect: the information that prices give go (at least) two ways: they are necessary information for consumers to make inevitable tradeoffs, but let suppliers know what they should produce and where they should direct innovative talents. If everyone has to line up for a mirror, what incentive does the mirror-maker have to ply his trade?

I agree with Sandel wholeheartedly that there are lots and lots of exchanges that are well outside the realm of euvoluntary, but I also have to agree that making that set more comprehensive demands a system that best encourages craftsmen to lower their costs and make their wares available more widely.

Just think of how much more lovely the flower would be if he would have endured his divine punishment standing upright.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?