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Monday, January 09, 2006

Why the sky doesn't fall, despite the constant warnings

Here's a step-by-step instruction manual in writing a sky-is-falling 'news' story: First, find some seemingly scary datum. Second, extrapolate the trend to absurdity without ever once cracking a smile. Like this:
If present trends continue, the price of gasoline may someday hit $50 a gallon. The average worker could spend as much as 36 hours of his 40-hour work week to buy a tank of gas.
If you stipulate the premise, "if present trends continue," the rest follows logically enough. The trouble is, present trends will not continue. The free market is dynamic, and no commodity is valuable irrespective of its relative cost. If we anticipate a steady increase in transportation costs (and the experience of history is all the other way, despite the nonsense you read in the newspapers), then we should also anticipate a decrease in the amount of transportation. This is already happening, not because of gasoline prices but because of time lost to commuting and convenience gained by working from home. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
As attendees at last week's Consumer Electronics Show perused gadgets that could enhance their leisure time, their bosses were plotting to get them out of the office for good.

Members of a panel that delved into the world of technologies for home use said businesses are increasingly eyeing products that will enable employees to telecommute, or work from home.

"We're seeing a huge trend in the business world to move consumers away from commutes," said Alexander Ramia, director of product development for Innofone, an Internet consulting company in Santa Monica, Calif. "The person working at home doesn't know when to quit, so companies get more work out of them, and time spent in cars commuting is lost productivity."
The point applies to any economic good - most especially real estate - provided it is not monopolized by government. If people are free to choose among alternatives, and if vendors are free to provide those alternatives, buyers and sellers will arrive on their own at a mutually-satisfactory meeting-of-the-minds. This only happens millions of times a day, so it's perfectly understandable that Chicken Little would fail to notice...

posted by Greg Swann | 7:09 AM  


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