Why Power Corrupts

Here’s an interesting podcast from Harvard Business Review with Dan Keltner, Power Corrupts, But It Doesn’t Have To.

In it, he discusses ways in which power corrupts. A question I think is even more interesting is why power corrupts. He touches on it a little, but not much. Maybe his book goes deeper.

I wrote about why I think power corrupts in 2010.



In this Planet Money podcast, they explore why milk is usually in the back of the store. The two prevailing theories are:

  1. Since it’s a high volume item, putting it in the back gets more shoppers to walk through the entire store so they buy more.
  2. Because it’s easier for the store to keep the milk cold from the truck to the cooler.

Michael Pollan represented #1 and Russ Roberts #2.

There’s a couple reasons I enjoyed this podcast beyond the topic being interesting.

First, Russ Roberts, host of his own podcast (commonly referenced on this blog) EconTalk, is interested in finding the truth, rather than just being right. This was evident in that there were a couple of times in the pod when he helped the other side make their argument. I think that is a rare and refreshing quality in world that seems more full of people who are more interested in being right.

Second, I think Russ did a great job of explaining how competition keeps businesses honest.

His argument against #1 is competition. It’s kept in the back because it’s cheaper and shoppers prefer cheaper milk over more convenient milk, otherwise competition — which is high among grocers — would have discovered the preference.

It’s worth a listen.


Duh #2

To sum up the post, Left Wing Governments Love The Poor on Marginal Revolution: keep them dependent on you so they will vote for you.

As Harry Brown said:

Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.

Yet, most people can’t seem to recognize when government is breaking their legs.

Kaine’s use of equivocation

I saw a clip of the Today show cast grilling Mike Pence on why he didn’t defend Donald Trump against the long list “factual” statements made by Trump, that Kaine referenced in the veep debate.

If I were Pence, I would have taken them to task.

Kaine repeatedly used the fallacy of equivocation (look it up). That’s a weak debate tactic popular among 6th graders. They took statements we made out of context and misrepresented them as meaning something else.

We do not have to defend ourselves against the inaccurate and false meanings they attributed to those statements. As journalists, should know that and you should be defending us against statements taken out of context. But, you’d rather parrot the fallacies instead of doing your jobs. The American public should think long and hard on why that is.



The price system: the magic wand you’ve been looking for

Don Boudreaux quotes Arnold Kling and writes well about the wonders we enjoy, and take for granted, from the markets and the price system.

This should be taught in schools.

First, Kling:

In a modern economy, no one is self-sufficient.  Instead, people are specialized.  The work you do probably does not produce something you could consume.  Even more striking is the fact that almost everything you consume is something you could not possibly produce.  Your daily life depends on the cooperation of hundreds of millions of other people.

Then Boudreaux writes:

You – you ordinary American you – you wake up and flick a switch or two and light, that does not pollute the indoors of your home, immediately bathes the rooms you occupy. You lift a lever or twist a knob and potable water, as hot or as cold as you prefer, gushes forth for you to use to shower or to quench your thirst.

You dine – at breakfast, lunch, and dinner – on foods that you have no inkling how to grow and process.  On those many occasions when you dine out, you don’t even perform the final stage – cooking – of the food.  Strangers do that for you.

And, so on, listing lots of the modern conveniences we enjoy, then he follows with this:

The worldwide market of which you are a part – indeed, which is responsible for your very existence – is not nirvana.  It doesn’t work as perfectly as our vivid imaginations are capable of conceiving.  But here’s the thing: it works so damn well that what we notice are its relatively few failures to work smoothly; we don’t notice – because it is so common – its routine, smooth, everyday marvelous successes.

The key question is how do those millions of people Kling refers to cooperate?

For the most part, they cooperate through the price system. They sell their specialization through it to earn money and they decide what to buy through it. Each time, information is communicated and rippled through the price system. Yes, that dinner was worth the price. No, that pair of shoes was not.

It’s something we interact with several times a day, but pay little attention to it and few people grasp just how powerful and beneficial it is.

Tim Kaine’s Inconsistency

One thing I thought was funny about veep debate this week was Tim Kaine’s inconsistency on the ability of government to do things well.

In regards to keeping terrorists out, No problem. We just check immigrants. If we know who they are, we let them in, if we don’t, we don’t.

Yet, earlier in regards to the Virginia Tech shooting and gun control, he said there are problems in the background checks for gun buyers.


So, government can definitely tell a terrorist from a non-terrorist, but let people slip through the cracks on gun background checks.

Trump tax story

One of the dumbest stories of the recent week is the report that Trump claimed a large loss in the 90s “to avoid paying taxes for X years.”

Who knowingly doesn’t claim a credit or deduction on their taxes that they are legally entitled to?  Nobody.

Who voluntarily pays more in taxes than they are legally entitled to? Nobody.

Dumb story.

It is also hypocritical that the same people reporting the Trump tax story don’t seem bothered by the existence of the Clinton Foundation, which is essentially the same story.