Friday, July 20, 2007

More on L and Cminds

First read the short article at the link below which analyzes the paradox of why we continue to buy gas guzzling cars and at the same time most people, including truck and SUV owners, support higher taxes on gas to promote conservation.

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2007/07/23/070723ta_talk_surowiecki?printable=true

Given all of that, I was particularly struck by the following paragraph:

Back in the nineteen-seventies, an economist named Thomas Schelling, who later won the Nobel Prize, noticed something peculiar about the N.H.L. At the time, players were allowed, but not required, to wear helmets, and most players chose to go helmet-less, despite the risk of severe head trauma. But when they were asked in secret ballots most players also said that the league should require them to wear helmets. The reason for this conflict, Schelling explained, was that not wearing a helmet conferred a slight advantage on the ice; crucially, it gave the player better peripheral vision, and it also made him look fearless.

The players wanted to have their heads protected, but as individuals they couldn’t afford to jeopardize their effectiveness on the ice. Making helmets compulsory eliminated the dilemma: the players could protect their heads without suffering a competitive disadvantage. Without the rule, the players’ individually rational decisions added up to a collectively irrational result. With the rule, the outcome was closer to what players really wanted.

Here seems to be an instance where even a staunch conservative would have to allow that sometimes we need a higher power like the government to act as a stern parent and look out for our best interests. In other words, individual freedom and choice are not an absolute, not the best in every situation.

What say you, C-minds?

Stu

[EDITed by Ira to make link clickable and structure the long quote]

8 comments:

Stu Denenberg said...
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Stu Denenberg said...
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Ira Glickstein said...

From: Ira, Re: More on L ... Great posting! It really makes this C-mind THINK!

Of course, I may not be a typical C-mind (or L-mind for that matter). I actually PAID EXTRA to have seat belts installed when I bought my first new car in the 1960's, prior to when they were standard equipment. Four years ago, my wife and I decided to share a single car and three years ago we downsized to a hybrid Toyota Prius that gets actual 45-54 MPH.

The linked article points to a problem with polls and also with press releases by corporations and activist organizations: People *lie* to make themselves feel better or look better! Also, poll questions may be worded to get any result you want.

o Do you want the government to pass a law that will force car companies to boost gas mileage by 20%? (What driver, other than me, would say "no" to that?)

o Do you favor increasing the tax on gasoline, raising the price to $10/gallon, as a way to reduce consumption and encourage conservation? (What driver, other than me, would answer "yes" to that?)

o Should Congress revise the law of gravity downward, reducing everyone's weight by 20% :^)

The auto industry resists safety and efficiency standards that would raise the price of their product because it will reduce sales volume and cut into profits, at least temporarily. By resisting, they get Congress to delay and then moderate new standards. When they agree to comply with the watered-down new standards they get good publicity.

When safety features are offered at additional cost, most consumers (unlike me :^) don't buy them. Car companies don't like to spend alot advertising safety features because the return is small and it reinforces the idea cars are dangerous and cuts into sales.

The secret ballot of hockey players supported making helmets manditory. On the other hand, if player "A" voluntarily wore a helmet while player "B" did not, player "B" would have better peripheral vision and would play better.

Stu, you, and the linked artical do make good points!

1) We know people will not pay extra cash for safety features so, the only way to get them incorporated in cars is for the government to mandate them.

2) We know hockey players will not pay (with poorer personal performance) to wear helmets, so the only way to get them to wear them is for the league to make them manditory.

3) We know car buyers will not pay extra for gas-saving vehicles (that are smaller and slower and perhaps less safe in a crash), so the only way to get them generally adopted is by government mandate.

4) Therefore, you say "we need a higher power like the government to act as a stern parent and look out for our best interests. In other words, individual freedom and choice are not an absolute, not the best in every situation."

As a C-mind, I rebel at the idea of government trying to constrain our economic freedom for the (supposed) collective benefit. The government screws up almost everything they try to do, even with the best of intentions. In many cases, I think the main purpose of proposing restrictive legislation is to get the lobbyists on both sides to pony up more political contributions to the legislators.

On the other hand, I did favor some of the safety laws, such as manditory seat belt use. I also favored government restictions on smoking. I now favor punitive taxes on non-renewable carbon-based energy.

Bottom line: Sometimes the government must act like a stern "parent." However, when they do so, I hope they do it by increasing the costs of being a naughty "child" rather than by attempting to micro-manage the details.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

L-minds, C-minds, hockey, choice

Stu brought up an interesting topic that may help us better establish the nature of L-minds and C-minds.

The hockey helmet situation is an example of the use of authority to level the playing field so that a desired action can be taken by the contestants. If we compare that with motorcycle riders, who are NOT in competition with one another, we see that the opposite is true.

Motorcycle riders do not want the government to impose helmets on them, while the general public is in favor of helmets. The trouble for me is that I'm not sure which represents L versus C-mind thinking. I can tell you that my gut feeling (no thinking involved) is to require helmets in both cases. In the first case, it's because I feel sports need to be fair. I also favor a strict ban on steroids and a ban on high performance equipment that makes old records meaningless.

In the second case, it's because I hate bikers (actually only the eardrum shattering kind). I'd let bikers go bare-headed and crack their skulls, if they would all ride quiet bikes. If I applied reasoning, I might come up with a different result. Perhaps we should increase the categories so that we have: L-minds, C-minds and No-minds. :^P Aloha y'all -Joel

Stu Denenberg said...

Wonderful to hear feedback from Joel and Ira.

Seinfeld's comment on motorcycle helmets to the effect that "what kind of brain refuses to protect itself?" seems appropriate here. In Joel's terminology, obviously a No-Mind!

One other point: the argument made by bare-headed motorcyclists on their freedom to feel their hair blow around does not take into account the fact that society must pick up part of the cost when they break their heads --- hospitals are partially funded by the community. And since we all pay for the outcome of their accidents, it's not unreasonable that we pass laws to protect ourselves from higher taxes; if we also protect these "free spirits" (air heads?) from themselves then that's just icing on the cake.

Stu

joel said...

keywords: Joel, L/C minds, helmet law

I'll continue with a less emotional analysis of helmet laws than my visceral dislike of bikers. My C-mind would analyze the situation this way. It would be appropriate for the NHL to make a rule requiring helmets assuming a survey of players wanted such a rule. It would not be appropriate for the government to do so, based upon the following reasoning. There are many dangerous activities in which we engage such as motorcycle riding, rock climbing, bicycling, skating, roofing and auto driving which may be safer with helmets imposed. Each involves a personal decision involving personal risks. Personal freedom dictates that we be allowed to make such choices. Any reasoning that says that government may impose that which is for our own good and safety can be used to take away all rights. Even free speech involves a risk to the speaker. Lately, secondary consequences such as burden on the health care system have been used to deny individual rights. I believe this is just a rationalization of a desire to control others. Bare-headed motorcyclists are apparently a great souce of transplant body parts. They become brain dead in accidents, so all other organs can be harvested. That's how this C-mind would look at the situation. With respect -Joel

Ira Glickstein said...

From: Ira, Re: More on L...

Joel and Stu: Thanks for your Comments on helmets. I do a lot of bicycling and always wear a helmet.

*******************
Any ADULT who doesn't think the brain that God gave them is worth the cost of a helmet ... is probably correct!
*******************

Of course, helmets for bicyclists are a different issue from helmets for motorcyclists. (I am not a motorcyclist.)

The only reason this C-mind accepts for laws that *require* helmet use by motorcyclists is that we are all in the same insurance pool that will pay for the extra injury a motorcyclist faces if he or she has an accident without a helmet. (And we all pay taxes to cover medical costs of those not iinsured.) Therefore, I favor laws requiring helmet use.

(On the other hand, if the statistics showed that motorcyclist DEATHS were increased when not wearing a helmet, thus saving some medical costs that would otherwise go to treating and caring for INJURED BUT NOT DEAD motorcyclists, I would oppose such laws.)

I also favor laws *requiring* CHILDREN to wear helmets while bicycling since their brains have not developed to the point where they can reason as adults.

Ira

joel said...

keywords: from Joel, more on L/C minds, helmet law

Ira said:
The only reason this C-mind accepts for laws that *require* helmet use by motorcyclists is that we are all in the same insurance pool that will pay for the extra injury a motorcyclist faces if he or she has an accident without a helmet. (And we all pay taxes to cover medical costs of those not iinsured.) Therefore, I favor laws requiring helmet use.
(On the other hand, if the statistics showed that motorcyclist DEATHS were increased when not wearing a helmet, thus saving some medical costs that would otherwise go to treating and caring for INJURED BUT NOT DEAD motorcyclists, I would oppose such laws.)

Joel responds:
This seems like a very slippery slope. If we accept that government has the right to intervene whenever there is a possibility that there will be costs to the health care system, there is almost nothing that cannot be justified. The government can restrict our fat intake, prevent me from rock climbing, or prevent Ira from cycling off bike paths. All these are risky activities. How can we balance the positive benefits of unhelmeted motorbikers providing us with transplant parts against the cost to our life insurance pool? It seems that we are short an axiom. What do you do when a problem becomes so complex that it has no solution? There are situations in which both C-minds and L-minds become stymied. What do they do?