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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 21, 2005 / 14 Sivan, 5765

Economics for the citizen

By Walter Williams


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The final installment of a Ten-Part Series

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In 10 short articles, there's no way to even scratch the surface of economic knowledge. I'll simply end the series with a discussion of a few popular sentiments that have high emotional worth but make little economic sense. I use some of these sentiments as a teaching device in my undergraduate classes.


Here's one that has considerable popular appeal: "It's wrong to profit from the misfortune of others." I ask my students whether they'd support a law against doing so. But I caution them with some examples. An orthopedist profits from your misfortune of having broken your leg skiing. When there's news of a pending ice storm, I doubt whether it saddens the hearts of those in the collision repair business. I also tell my students that I profit from their misfortune   —   their ignorance of economic theory.


Then, there's the claim that this or that price is unreasonable. I used to have conversations about this claim with Mrs. Williams early on in our 44-year marriage. She'd return from shopping complaining that stores were charging unreasonable prices. Having aired her complaints, she'd ask me to go out and unload a car trunk loaded with groceries and other items. Having completed the chore, I'd resume our conversation, saying, "Honey, I thought you said the prices were unreasonable. Are you an unreasonable person? Only an unreasonable person would pay unreasonable prices."


The long and short of it is that the conversation never went over well, and we both ceased discussions of reasonable or unreasonable prices. The point is that whatever price a transaction is transacted at represents a meeting of the mind of both buyer and seller. Both viewed themselves as being better off than the next alternative   —   not making the transaction. That's not to say that the seller wouldn't have found a higher price more pleasing or the buyer wouldn't have been pleased with a lower price.

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How about your parents' admonition that "Whatever's worth doing is worth doing as well as possible"? That's not a wise admonition. I tell my students, often to their amazement, that it might not be worth it to try to get the best grade possible in economics. Let's look at it. Say they have biology, physics, English and economics classes. They work their butts off in economics, earning an A, but spending so much time studying economics takes time away from other classes, and they wind up earning an F in biology, a C in physics and a D in English. That makes for a semester grade point average of 1.75. They'd be better off, in terms of grade point average, if they spent less time studying economics, maybe earning a C, and allocating more time to biology and English and thereby earning a C grade in all their subjects. They'd have a higher grade point average (2.0) and wouldn't be on academic probation.


Another example: You ask your wife to have the house as neat and clean as possible when you return from work. You return, and the house is immaculate. You compliment her, saying, "That's a great job, honey. What's for dinner, and where are the kids?" She responds, "I don't know where the kids are, and there's no dinner prepared, but the house is immaculate." Just as getting the best economics grade possible is non-optimal, so is doing the best job possible cleaning the house.


Then, there's "You can never be too safe." Yes, you can. How many of us bother to inspect the hydraulic brake lines in our cars before we start the engine and head off to work? Doing so would be safer than simply assuming that the lines were intact and driving off. After all, prior to launching a space vehicle, the people at NASA make no similar assumptions. They go through a countdown of all systems, taking nothing for granted. Erring on the side of over-caution is costly, and so is erring on the side of under-caution, though for a given choice, one might be costlier than the other.

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Walter Williams Weekly Column Archives

Economics for the citizen, Part Nine
Economics for the citizen, Part Eight
Economics for the citizen, Part Seven
Economics for the citizen, Part Six
Economics for the citizen, Part Five
Economics for the citizen, Part Four
Economics for the citizen, Part Three
Economics for the citizen, Part Two
Economics for the citizen, Part One

© 2005, Creators Syndicate

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