The Culling Of Altruism (Not)

I have another response to Henry Farrell's argument against markets in Live-8 concert tickets. He states,

Julian Sanchez and Lynne Kiesling say very rude things about Bob Geldof’s campaign to stop the sale of tickets to the Live-8 concerts on eBay (BBC story here). Julian describes this as “idiotic” and Lynne describes it as “wooly thinking about economics.” It’s neither. There’s an excellent rationale for what Geldof did. The tickets were initially distributed through a lottery, in which people sent instant-text messages to an address for a fee; a small percentage of the two million who sent the messages got tickets. It’s safe to assume that those who participated in this lottery did so for a mix of reasons; partly charitable, partly a desire to go to the concert. But altruistic motivations can be driven out by market mechanisms. Richard Titmuss wrote a famous book a few decades ago, The Gift Relationship, which provided a fair amount of empirical evidence to show that this was true in the case of blood donations, and that purely voluntary systems of blood donation did better on a variety of counts than did systems where some people were paid to donate blood (see also this paper by Kieran which touches on Titmuss’s arguments). On this logic, Geldof did exactly the right thing. If tickets to the concerts became commodities to be bought and sold on the open market, it’s highly plausible that future participation in lotteries of this kind would be seriously hurt. Geldof’s actions are perfectly defensible.

Initially there were 2 million people who applied for tickets via lottery. What were their motivations? Were they purely charitable, wanting to aid those suffering in Africa? Were they purely self-serving, merely wanting to see their favorite bands play live? Or were they motivated by both? As Henry states, it was likely a mix of both sentiments, though the exact fraction of each motivation will never be known.

When the tickets were auctioned on E-bay, they were subject to the market-clearing system. Relative to the initial owners of the tickets - the sellers, how altrustic were the final owners of the tickets - the buyers? It's far from clear. The fact that some of the people who won the tickets through a lottery were willing to sell them on E-bay shows that they probably had little-to-no concern for those suffering in Africa. It might even be that those who did the buying on E-bay wanted to attend the concert for altrustic reasons. There is a good chance that many of them were the ones who had applied for the lottery in the first place.

What's most likely is that both the initial post-lottery distribution of ticket owners and the post-Ebay distribution of ticket owners were of a mostly similar composition of people who simply wanted to see the Live 8 concert regardless of any side-benefits. The conclusion that altruism was somehow culled by the market has no evidence to support it.


The argument that voluntary systems do better than market systems at a "variety of counts" reminds me of the arguments used in the past by the United Network for Organ Sharing as justification for disallowing a fee for exchange of organs. Though it appears to have been removed from the website since the last time I checked, this article provides the following statement from a UNOS spokesman.


A spokesman for the group stated, "Donor families have told us it's something they see as a wonderful legacy. Because folks see it as a gift, they would really be deterred by putting a financial incentive on it."

It's a stunning rationalization of twice as many deaths per year as died in the 9/11 attacks because of a profound lack of understanding of economics. While the chronic shortages of blood may not be as deleterious as chronic shortages of vital organs, both are unnecessary, and those who refuse to acknowledge it because of strong intuitions against markets only continue to promote unnecessary suffering. It's a shame that in the 21st century, people are willing to argue that the supply of a scarce good decreases with increasing price, that somehow there would be fewer people donating organs if they were rewarded with more than simply a warm-and-fuzzy feeling about themselves.

Not that this has anything to do with Geldof's outrage other than common intuitions against profit. The E-bay market didn't make Geldof lose any money that he had already collected via the lottery. It didn't hurt any Africans. Geldof is simply offended at the very idea of profit. And while in this case, his outrage has no real detrimental effects, those same intutions, when channeled appropriately - for example, towards a market for organs - can cause needless suffering on a lofty scale.

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Jonathan, I don't think

Jonathan, I don't think Geldof necessarily thinks about his actions the way that I would explain them. He may not articulate his feelings at all; he just knows that scalpers are profiting off his concert and he probably feels that it is wrong, that it will harm what he is trying to do. So what? A man need not be articulate to have an opinion, a correct opinion, even. It's the difference between wisdom and education, between street smarts and book learning.

I might make analogy to the left's feeling about war here. They are against it, not on any fancy articulate basis (though many of them have that, too), but because they see that it *hurts* people, that it is deeply *wrong*. Recall the film of that grieving mother in Iraq? I do. I can go on about war being the health of the state with the best of them, but when it comes down to it, watching that mother wailing and cursing us was as powerful to me as Bourne.

Scott, the “researcher”

Scott, the “researcher” I was talking about was Henry, some of whose academic work appears to be related to this kind of issue.

Apologies.

And really, Scott, playing Mr. Civil is kind of pointless here, isn’t it?

You do make it seem exceedingly more so with your every passing post, I'll admit.

Few of the libertarians here are especially civil when characterizing their opponents...

Perhaps, but I can't see any difference between the libertarians and those of other political persuasions--you certainly do your own no great service, whatever it may be. Is your argument that the group's behavior excuses yours?

After reading your further

After reading your further explanation in the comments at CT and Leonard’s gift/reciprocal exchange explanation here, I better understand the point you were making in your original post.

You're referring to comment 36 on the CT thread to which you linked in the post, right? Could you explain it to me, then? I understand Leonard's point, of course, because it's the same as my third point above, but Dr. Farrell's argument, which as far as I could tell had nothing to do with reciprocity, still looks pretty sketchy to me.

John, it's pretty obvious

John, it's pretty obvious you don't *feel* the basis of gift-exchange that I am talking about, not the way I do anyway. (You don't give your girlfriend cash for Christmas, do you?) You're just talking about rational stuff, and this isn't that, it's about feelings.

I agree that people *could* scalp their tickets then give all the money to Bob. But he doesn't want cash, he wants political action; he wants agitation. I suppose you might respond: they could scalp the tickets then work for N hours until they "work off" the "debt". OK then: (a) he doesn't want you, Mr. Rich, doing that, he wants someone average, and (b) he wants someone working longer and harder, and *sincerely*, not as a hireling, but as a convinced partisan.

Unless you are going to claim that you think most people can be literally convinced with money, you're not seeing what Geldof wants. He wants leftist activists, and thinks he can get them using his concert. He doesn't think he can get them simply by means of hiring them. Cash transactions may buy performance but they do not *convince*. I feel he is right about this.

As for the scalper, the point is if you are going to violate the wishes of Live 8 and sell your ticket, clearly you don't hold them in regard. If you respect their wishes, at the very least you'll not violate the terms of your agreement with them. So it seems very, very unlikely to me that any scalper will give anything back in terms of political agitation. Again, it's not a logical impossibility that someone would scalp her tickets and because of that become a partisan of the cause; I just don't feel that as likely.

Micha’s “I’m also

Micha’s “I’m also concerned with consumers” – none of whom were harmed in this case – just indicates that he hasn’t really thought about his politics.

Sure, no consumers were harmed - except for the ones who for whatever reason failed to win the ticket lottery. Those consumers who placed great value on getting to see the show and would have been willing and able to purchase a high-priced ticket were not harmed in the least, right?

It also seems to that during

It also seems to that during the concert Geldof and his cohorts would find it easier to whip up and persuade people who'll invest $1200 to see them than people who were just willing to invest a phone call.

Oh, I agree that "feelings"

Oh, I agree that "feelings" are suspect and should be analyzed. I'm not claiming any general correctness to them; they are, after all, evolved to induce us to reproduce successfully in different circumstances.

However, there are, I think, cases where our modern circumstances are enough like the EEA that our feelings are "right". The particular care here can be seen in the light of reciprocity very cleanly, I think. Geldof is angry because his openhanded attempt to initiate reciprocity is being subverted (never mind that nobody can have a substantial relationship with enough people to make a difference democratically). 100000 years ago, some caveman was enraged when he gave a woman a piece of meat but then she turned around and gave it to someone else for a favor instead of having sex with him. Did that caveman articulate it? Spell out rational reasons? Game theory of tit-for-tat? Economics? No.

Where exactly? The post

Where exactly? The post called Ideas: "A pessimist could, I suppose, look upon the facts and bemoan the stasis of times, the tyranny of the status quo–especially revolutionaries such as myself who have a drastically different model of society they’d like to see put in place."

But anyways, if I post here then I certainly would intend to be as uncivil as the posters here commonly are, so I will abide by your request and refrain.

Still makes no sense. If you

Still makes no sense. If you want to "reciprocate" for Geldof's "gift" of the tickets, then one of the high leverage options available to you is to sell the tickets and apply the proceeds to the cause.

How does declining to sell the tickets increase your reciprocity?

Leonard writes:

Similarly, someone who sells her ticket does not attend the show. Now, she really ought to feel beholden to Live 8 for giving away $1200 in tickets, but in my experience that is unlikely.

Upon receiving the tickets she either feels beholden or she doesn't. If she really does feel beholden then why not put the $1200 to use in service to the cause?

It's not like receiving a gift from a friend or family member in that selling the tickets won't interfere with any personal relationship between Geldof and the seller. And I doubt that Geldof would object anyway to someone selling the tickets in a good faith effort to help his cause.

Rich - You are welcomed to

Rich -

You are welcomed to stay if you intend to be civil. You are welcomed to leave if you intend to uncivil. The same policy holds for any commenters, whatever their political beliefs.

But anyways, if I post here

But anyways, if I post here then I certainly would intend to be as uncivil as the posters here commonly are, so I will abide by your request and refrain.

Thank you.

A pessimist could, I

A pessimist could, I suppose, look upon the facts and bemoan the stasis of times, the tyranny of the status quo–especially revolutionaries such as myself who have a drastically different model of society they’d like to see put in place.

Bad Scot. Bad.

Henry, After reading your

Henry,

After reading your further explanation in the comments at CT and Leonard's gift/reciprocal exchange explanation here, I better understand the point you were making in your original post. However, I am still skeptical that Geldof was thinking along those lines in his outrage. I don't think - based on his own statements - that he saw the Ebay auction as a source of lost reciprocity in exchange for the generosity of a nearly-free concert.

Leonard's comment is very

Leonard's comment is very good I think, and gets at something which I was thinking about after posting - that if I had to write the post again, I'd explain it in terms of gift exchange/reciprocity rather than altruism (or about an effort to create a linkage between gift exchange and altruism). One interesting side-implication of this for pro-market types is that gift exchange can be stifling in its own way. Margaret (Lou) Brown has a nice piece on this in Russell Hardin's "Distrust" - talking about how kin may prefer to deal on a cash transaction basis rather than in terms of exchanged favours, in order to get away from the power-hierarchies that are often embedded in those relations of exchanged favours.

Micha This is a quite

Micha

This is a quite extraordinarily weak performance. Yes, of course I'm a social democrat - and if you think that being a social democrat makes me into somebody who has an "irrational hatred" of markets, then you're being ridiculous. The minimum for reasoned debate is some understanding of the other person's political philosophy, and willingness to engage in reasoned argument. You've failed that test miserably. At each stage, you've degenerated further; first silly pictures and sillier claims; second, sloppy and indefensible misrepresentations of my beliefs and motivations; and now "people like you nearly killed my father" levels of emotional hysteria. Grow up a little and learn how to argue. At the moment you're simply embarrassing yourself.

Scott, you should never try

Scott, you should never try to use hypothetic cases on the net that involve killing people. There is too much of a chance that some twerp will later quote you out of context – i.e. “Scott Scheule said that
‘our community made a habit of killing visitors’.”

On the other hand, it's a rather effective way to test the limits of a principle. I should use such hypothetical cases until the marginal costs of doing so exceed the benefits. Since I don't mind being quoted out of context (I can of course always direct a person to the original site where the comment is present in its original context) I imagine I won't exceed the benefits for a while.

But in general, I have no objection to a degree of incivility; I certainly don’t think that it’s innately wrong, as killing people would be. I also think that incivility is a tactic that should not be used by only one side in an argument; if Micha can deride Henry, then I as someone who mostly agrees with Henry can certainly deride Micha.

You certainly can, but I doubt the effect will be a positive one, which is why I'd like to minimize it. Incivility, in my experience, tends to lead to more incivility (through reasoning much like your own, I imagine) and obscure the real issue. It makes debating unpleasant for all, or at least most, and is seldom productive.

Regardless, you may be right about the virtues of incivility--I disagree, but reasonable people can do so. Nevertheless, I think I speak for all of the authors when I say that that's not what we'd like the Catallarchy comment threads to become--or if that's what they presently are, then we'd prefer they not stay that way.

Earlier you said, on another thread: "...if the managers of the site ask me to leave, I will."

If you intend to be intentionally uncivil, then without any disrespect, I ask that you refrain from leaving commentary here.

And finally, I don’t see how you can define an act of incivility as neatly as you can an act of killing. The latter has well-defined biological consequences. The first is (once more) socially defined. You can only say that someone is being incivil by implicit comparison with some societal standard of civility.

For one, I can't define an act of incivility as neatly as I can an act of killing, nor did I say I could do so -- thankfully, I don't think the analogy requires it. It is not a matter of dispute whether or not you are being uncivil -- you've admitted that you are -- so we needn't worry about defining. And most people, I would gamble, don't define civility in comparison to the actions of the community of one particular blog, but rather a much larger community.

With a different society, or at a different time, something like your own declaration that you are a rebel (in some previous thread) might be seen as highly uncivil.

Sucks to be David Bowie, I suppose.

Where exactly did I declare that?

Thanks for clearing that up,

Thanks for clearing that up, Leonard.

Bryan Caplan touched on the same topic a few weeks ago:

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2005/05/dont_do_me_any.html

Wyno, I consider myself to

Wyno, I consider myself to be a liberal (in the standard U.S. sense of that word). And there is no way in which I would consider it to be worthwhile to debate the differences between socialism and Communism on a libertarian blog. If you're really interested, consult wiki or something.

Scott, you should never try to use hypothetic cases on the net that involve killing people. There is too much of a chance that some twerp will later quote you out of context -- i.e. "Scott Scheule said that
'our community made a habit of killing visitors'." But in general, I have no objection to a degree of incivility; I certainly don't think that it's innately wrong, as killing people would be. I also think that incivility is a tactic that should not be used by only one side in an argument; if Micha can deride Henry, then I as someone who mostly agrees with Henry can certainly deride Micha. After all, incivility works. Just look at the success that the Republicans have had with it. To be civil even when the others in the argument are not is no longer seen as being virtuous by American culture, if it ever was, it is mostly seen as being weak. And finally, I don't see how you can define an act of incivility as neatly as you can an act of killing. The latter has well-defined biological consequences. The first is (once more) socially defined. You can only say that someone is being incivil by implicit comparison with some societal standard of civility. With a different society, or at a different time, something like your own declaration that you are a rebel (in some previous thread) might be seen as highly uncivil.

Scott, the "researcher" I

Scott, the "researcher" I was talking about was Henry, some of whose academic work appears to be related to this kind of issue.

And really, Scott, playing Mr. Civil is kind of pointless here, isn't it? Few of the libertarians here are especially civil when characterizing their opponents, and no one complained when Micha posted his silly "knee-jerk anti-market" plus picture attempt at ridicule of Henry; I don't see any reason to conform to a supposed community standard that does not in fact exist.

Gentlemen, I don't think any

Gentlemen, I don't think any more is going to come from debating this issue.

Let's call it a night, eh?

Henry, I think your

Henry,

I think your anti-market credentials are obvious enough from the above mentioned quotes. You're a social democrat; why don't you just come out and admit it? Are you ashamed or something?

My point, would should have been obvious enough that I shouldn't have to explain it now, is that shortages simply do not exist in a free market. The only reason we observe blood and organ shortages is because people are either completely prohibited by law or severely restricted in selling these goods (my father nearly died while waiting for a kidney and pancreas transplant but got lucky after a year on dialysis, so this issue is near and dear to me). You've given us no reason to think that a blood or organ shortage would exist in a free market, and after I read the book review you linked to, I concluded that you were not completely honest about the limitations of the theory you claimed supported your position.

It is because of people like you and your irrational fear of commodification that caused my father to almost die. So yes, it's personal. And your position deserves to be ridiculed as the nonsense that it is. One doesn't need to delve deeply into economic theory to see what's wrong with restricting these sorts of markets and relying on voluntary donations alone. Which, now that I think about it, is sort of ironic, since welfare statists certainly don't believe that people are charitable enough to help the poor, and yet somehow a voluntary system alone is sufficient for organs and blood.

Don’t be too hard on

Don’t be too hard on Micha’s excitability, he’s just an intern. Even if he is being uncivil, that’s kind of expected.

Perhaps, but then what's your excuse?

Henry said that having the

Henry said that having the tickets sold for profit might hurt that.

Henry isn't merely telling us what is possible; he is telling us what he thinks is likely to occur. To wit, in his original post, Henry wrote, "If tickets to the concerts became commodities to be bought and sold on the open market, it’s highly plausible that future participation in lotteries of this kind would be seriously hurt." (emphasis added)

Micha seems to be getting a little too excited to engage in reasonable argument here.

Not really. If anything, it is you, sir, who is being unreasonable and uncivil. I have not engaged in any ad hominem; you, on the other hand, insulted my knowledge of economics. Not that I care all that much, but let’s just keep the record straight.

Still, I’d be interested myself to be acquainted with my (apparently copious) “anti-market rantings”

My pleasure. Skimming through your recent Crooked Timber posts, we find this:

If you’re trying to rebuild a model based on consensus-driven labour relations, on patient capital, and on political control over the marketplace, they are the enemy. The old model had a lot going for it... The advocates of free market reform in Continental Europe have been able to coat their project with an entirely spurious patina of inevitability. The way they’ve painted it, these economies have no choice but to deregulate. This simply isn’t true; the citizens of these countries do have choices, and should be allowed to make them. Far from being “immensely damaging” to Germany and Europe, it’s the first real sign in several years of a proper political debate about the choices that are available, and the benefits and drawbacks attached to them.

Now, saying the anti-market model of social democracy had a lot going for it may not be quite as strong as coming out gung-ho in favor of it, but it’s pretty clear from reading Henry’s post that he favors that model over the free market model.

Or let’s take another example, where Henry identifies the problems with monopolies, only to then commit the most basic of intellectual blunders, the Turtles All The Way Down fallacy. Here is the Catallarchy summary:

What is Henry’s proposed solution to the problems of monopoly?

[W]ithout competition, there's no restraint on firms' ability to abuse consumers, and sometimes (as here) the maintenance of competition requires vigorous state intervention.

So the solution to a monopoly is...a monopoly?

And, of course, let's not forget my all time favorite example of liberal, pro-market thinking, Farrell's call to stifle the free speech of businessmen:

Thus, I’m pretty well convinced of the case for banning direct marketing of drugs to consumers - it’s a relatively mild form of paternalism, which seems to me to have quite substantial payoffs.

Back to Farrell's comments in this thread:

and would also like to point out that even under his extremely peculiar exegesis of my post, there’s no reason that “we must conclude” anything like what he concludes - there’s good reason to believe that markets beat social responsibility for certain domains of social interaction.

I'm reminded of something Julian Sanchez wrote a while ago about anti-market types who, in theory, say they support markets, but in practice always seem to find a reason why this or that particular sector would work so much better with government planning than with markets:

[F]olks like Stiglitz and American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner are too economically sophisticated to really believe what they write: that free-market advocates are just zealots without an argument. They, one suspects, just realized that this line would go over well with their less sophisticated readers. It seems to have worked. This effective rhetorical tactic allows somone like Kuttner to paint himself as the pragmatic voice of reason facing down foaming-at-the-mouth ideologues. Yet, when you read his columns, you find that despite his reasonable-sounding insistence that each sector be evaluated on a case by case basis, there's always grounds for intervention, and the government can always be trusted to find the optimal outcome that markets don't quite muster. Who's supposed to be working on blind faith, again?

Here, though, is that kernel of truth. If you are a good, reasonable empiricist, you will always find what seems like a reason to intervene, to make a "tiny correction" in each individual case. That's because, as Hayek realized long ago, the real case for freedom lies in the fact that we don't know how it will be used. Freedom will always be eroded if we allow ourselves to "correct" piece by piece; so Hayek saw the value of a, yes, "dogmatic" adherence to a principle of open markets.

After the fact, it's easy to see how one could have reached the same outcome just a bit more efficiently through judicious application of state power. But how can Kuttner, Stiglitz, and their fellow travelers expect the same 20/20 vision when meddling in a dynamic system as they have retrospectively? Perhaps the government can consult a burning bush.

I find it hard to credit the

I find it hard to credit the idea that the mix of concertgoers is not changed by allowing resale. It clearly is. Some people had tickets and preferred (lots of) money. Others had money and preferred tickets. All things equal, allowing resale will result in a more moneyed group of concert fans. Obviously Geldof doesn't like that.

Tickets were sold essentially at cost, 1.50 pounds. They are going for a lot, I'd guess. There's an ad right now on Ebay (maybe fraudulent, maybe not, and certain to be removed) claiming a high bid of 350 pounds. Now, would I personally pay ~$1200 for two tickets to Live 8? No way. Would you?

Don't you think that allowing resale would change the mix?

Live Hate Bob Geldof says

Live Hate
Bob Geldof says "Fuck you very much."...

Farrell’s argument is

Farrell’s argument is different. He believes that the resale has driven out altrusitic motivations.

I just took a closer look at Farrell's argument and realized how horribly muddled it is. The Gift Relationship talked about receiving money in exchange for donating blood. Let's assume for the sake of argument that Titmuss's claim was valid. What does that have to do with the Live-8 lottery?

Not a whole lot. The relationship is backwards (paying money to collect blood vs. selling tickets to raise money), and the variables aren't analogous (receiving money or not vs. getting the tickets exclusively through the lottery or having the ability to buy them elsewhere). Honestly, I have no idea why Farrell thinks there's a connection here, unless he's overgeneralized and jumped to the conclusion that markets and charity don't mix, ever.

(Unless one believes that the rich are by definition non-altruistic.)

That--or a slightly weaker version of it replacing "by definition" with "usually"--is indeed a claim frequently made by the left. Interestingly, the paper to which Farrell linked said that blood donation tends to correlate positively with income.

He sold the tickets at cost?

He sold the tickets at cost? Well duh, if he had sold them at their market-clearing price, he would have had an equally full concert and a whole lot more money to waste on Africa.

- Josh

I agree that it changes the

I agree that it changes the mix of concertgoers; that's expected from a market by definition. I disagree with Farrell that it's possible to conclude that the mix of altruistic vs selfish motivations is changed significantly.

1) I'm not convinced that a more moneyed group of concert fans results. The initial distribution of tickets was essentially random over a large population. Filtering through a market allows individuals to bid for the tickets based on their own preferences. This includes poor people, who now have the ability to bid against the rich for things they value. Being a non-rich person, I wouldn't bid that much for the Live8 concert, but I would be willing to try to outbid even Bill Gates given the appropriate venue - say U2 or Oasis here in the Northeast. Just a guess, but I'm probably a bigger fan than he is.

Though you and I might not pay $1200 for two tickets, hardcore fans of the bands that plan to play, whether rich, middle class, or poor, would pay. I believe a general statement can be made to the effect of - "Allowing resale redistributed tickets to those who most urgently demanded them" - but not much more beyond that. Demand is not synonymous with wealth.

As far as I can tell, Geldof hasn't complained about the wealth-distribution of concert-goers. When he speaks of the "money made on the back of the poorest people on the planet", he's talking about Africans, not poor ticket winners. He is instead disguisted at the fact that people are profiting off what he sees as a noble effort on his part.

2) Farrell's argument is different. He believes that the resale has driven out altrusitic motivations. That is a huge step beyond claiming that more moneyed people will attend after resale. (Unless one believes that the rich are by definition non-altruistic.)

Ah, but in your zeal to find

Ah, but in your zeal to find recent quotes about my attitude to reform in the European Union, you curiously seem to have overlooked this one ), which seems rather to undermine your point.

Nor, I should acknowledge, is the neo-liberal side of this debate bereft of good arguments. Some of the European Union’s initiatives to create more competitive markets have had clearly beneficial consequences, weakened the power of national monopolies to trample over consumers etc. Furthermore, there’s a real danger that the more protectionist elements (including those on the right) will align with the people who don’t want Turkey to join the European club – something that would do real long term damage.

Nor do either of the other quotes seem to me to qualify under any reasonable definition of "anti-market rantings" (although they may well qualify under your personal definition, which seems a little ... idiosyncratic).

This is really getting a little silly. You start off with a post which doesn't seem to have much more in the way of argument than a silly picture, and a claim that I'm a "knee-jerk anti-market blogger" with an "irrational hatred" of markets. If there is an argument in what you're saying, it would seem to be that the Power of Caveman Economics (and a few random examples of clearing markets) tells us that markets are always the best way to solve social dilemmas. Which reflects (unless I'm misunderstanding you) a rather inadequate grasp of what economics can or can't tell us about the real world (hint: look up the differences between general and partial equilibrium models, and read Arrow on the limitations of the former sometime). And then, when asked for evidence that I'm a ranter, you come up with a series of quotes which manifestly don't prove what you say they prove, and try to cobble them together with a claim that I'm really a sneaky anti-market type who cunningly disguises my nefarious plans for government nationalization behind a patina of sweet reason. As political rhetoric, this is weak, knock-about stuff; as reasoned argument, it doesn't even begin to qualify. You really need to be doing better than this.

There can be no legitimate

There can be no legitimate 'market' in non-transferable tickets, only fraud. To attend this concert by producing a ticket bought at resale is gatecrashing. The concert organisers have made it quite plain that they only want the original lottery winners to attend and no others. To attend in defiance of this clearly stated wish is violation of the organisers private property rights in their own concert.

All this debate about altruism and economic theorising is irrelevant to this case.

Brandon, you might like to

Brandon, you might like to actually find out a bit about the "Live 8" event before stating that I don't know what I'm talking about. Check out, for example http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4599165.stm . The idea behind the "Live 8" concert is to get a large number of people feeling that they have a sense of involvement, and getting a social movement going. If you can't see how this is about working on people's sense of altruism/social responsibility, and how having the tickets sold for profit might hurt that, I'm not sure that it's worth getting into an argument about it. "Live 8" was explicitly not designed as a means of maximizing revenue from ticket sales. Ditto for Micha Ghertner's argument, which I wouldn't describe as an argument from ignorance quite so much as an argument-from-poorly-understood-undergraduate-courses-in-microeconomics. To the extent that it's an argument at all (Micha described me, incorrectly, as knee-jerk anti market, but didn't himself offer much beyond a knee-jerk assertion that markets are invariably the best way of allocating resources).

[T]he extent to which you

[T]he extent to which you only think what Geldof’s doing is OK as long as it fits your misunderstanding of what economic efficiency is is remarkable.

What's remarkable about it? Geldof is the one complaining about the unintended consequences of his own actions. We're just trying to show that these consequences are an inevitable result of his irrational pricing strategies. How is that a misunderstanding of economic efficiency?

Not that I expect an intelligent response from the likes of Puchalsky, but just in case any inlookers are impressed by his content-less rhetoric, watch as he fails to answer my questions.

still waiting for some of

still waiting for some of those exciting sounding "anti-market rantings" ... ;)

Don't be too hard on Micha's

Don't be too hard on Micha's excitability, he's just an intern. Even if he is being uncivil, that's kind of expected.

As for Brandon Berg, I don't know what his excuse is. Characterizing an researcher's argument as "Reselling [...] tickets is eeevil" shows incivility as well as an inability to understand the argument, so maybe he's an intern too.

As for all the advice about how Geldof could have maximized the money from sales "without impacting the concert's other goals", that's a laugh. It's like a tone-deaf person advising a composer. And I know that this site is for the brave, new libertarians who don't care about that old fashioned "freedom" business, but really, the extent to which you only think what Geldof's doing is OK as long as it fits your misunderstanding of what economic efficiency is is remarkable.

As for Brandon Berg, I

As for Brandon Berg, I don’t know what his excuse is. Characterizing an researcher’s argument as “Reselling […] tickets is eeevil” shows incivility as well as an inability to understand the argument, so maybe he’s an intern too.

A comment which shows your inability or failure to read -- Brandon's "Reselling [...] tickets is eeevil" is a characterization of Henry's argument, not the "researcher's argument."

So perhaps you're an intern, too.

:idea: Of course, what Sir

:idea:

Of course, what Sir Bob should have done was give tickets, web browsers, and eBay accounts to poor Africans.

Also true. Let's see how

Also true. Let's see how Mr. Ghertner responds.

by "beat" I mean to say "are

by "beat" I mean to say "are better than"

Micha seems to be getting a

Micha seems to be getting a little too excited to engage in reasonable argument here. Still, I'd be interested myself to be acquainted with my (apparently copious) "anti-market rantings" and would also like to point out that even under his extremely peculiar exegesis of my post, there's no reason that "we must conclude" anything like what he concludes - there's good reason to believe that markets beat social responsibility for certain domains of social interaction.

Henry wants us to believe

Henry wants us to believe that he is not reflexively anti-market, immediately after telling us – without argument – that people’s sense of altruism/social responsibility will be hurt having the tickets sold for profit. Since, presumably, Henry thinks that altruism/social responsibility are good things worthy of our attention, and since he believes that markets are inimical to these pursuits, we must conclude that Henry is anti-market. That, or we could just read any of his other anti-market rantings on Crooked Timber.

Henry said that having the tickets sold for profit might hurt that.

I haven't read anything he's written besides, so I can't comment upon that, but you are being unfair in your reading of this particular comment of his.

Brandon, you might like to

Brandon, you might like to actually find out a bit about the "Live 8" event before stating that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I took a look at the official web site a few days ago in order to get the facts straight. I maintain that your argument is dubious at best. I repeated and clarified my objections over at your site (comment #33).

If you can’t see how this is about working on people’s sense of altruism/social responsibility, and how having the tickets sold for profit might hurt that, I’m not sure that it’s worth getting into an argument about it.

As I see it, a proposition not worth defending coherently is one not worth making at all. As I currently understand it, your argument boils down to:

  -Paying people to donate blood reduces the supply.
    -To prove it, here are a book review and a paper which call this into question.
  -[A bunch of hand-waving] (You know what would be cool? A hand-waving emoticon!)
  -Reselling Live-8 tickets is eeevil -> :evil:
    -Note the extra e's. Those aren't good.

"Live 8" was explicitly not designed as a means of maximizing revenue from ticket sales.

Right. And a big part of our argument is that it should have been, because this could have raised additional money for charity and also dramatically reduced the resale which Geldof finds so abhorrent, without negatively impacting the concert's other goals.

Henry wants us to believe

Henry wants us to believe that he is not reflexively anti-market, immediately after telling us -- without argument -- that people's sense of altruism/social responsibility will be hurt having the tickets sold for profit. Since, presumably, Henry thinks that altruism/social responsibility are good things worthy of our attention, and since he believes that markets are inimical to these pursuits, we must conclude that Henry is anti-market. That, or we could just read any of his other anti-market rantings on Crooked Timber.

Paul, The fraud argument is

Paul,

The fraud argument is bogus. Most importantly, it's uninteresting - the kind of dogmatic libertarianism we here at Catallarchy try to avoid. Second, just because a seller wants a contract to do such-and-such does not mean that we are obligated to enforce it. Common law holds anti-competitive, collusive agreements unenforceable, for example, and there are similar limitations on the sorts of restrictions sellers can attach to property when they transfer it to other people.

John, for most of us, when

John, for most of us, when we get a gift we feel that reciprocity is demanded. Perhaps "demanded" it too strong... "required"? "necessary"?... but you get what I mean I hope. This is one reason I generally don't like getting gifts: they are rarely what I want or even need, and I am really bad at shopping for others, and hate shopping in any case. Double whammy. I'd suggest that reciprocity-tracking is an important, and powerful, part of evolved human nature. We have inbuilt mental modules to track our friendships for imbalances in giving.

In the case of Live 8, the idea is that people will be given a free concert; thus they will feel beholden to those who put it on to do what they are suggesting, which is to pressure the G8 via the democratic process: "8 world leaders, gathered in Scotland for the G8 summit, will be presented with a workable plan to double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair. If these 8 men agree, then we will become the generation that made poverty history." It's right there on their front page: http://www.live8live.com/

Now why would buying a ticket affect this? Because you paid market value; you no longer feel beholden to anybody. Do you feel gratitude requiring reciprocity to your grocer? I don't. Similarly, someone who sells her ticket does not attend the show. Now, she really ought to feel beholden to Live 8 for giving away $1200 in tickets, but in my experience that is unlikely. Rather she'll congratulate herself for pulling a fast one, and take the money and run. Being given goods or (better) services is much more engaging to people than being given money. If you doubt that, try giving your wife $100 in cash on her next birthday and she how she responds.

Even if one were deeply

Even if one were deeply concerned about the suffering in Africa, how would declining to sell the tickets help?

The argument, I believe, is roughly that commodification would injure Geldof's aim to use the concert to build a social movement to aid suffering in Africa.

The fact that some of the

The fact that some of the people who won the tickets through a lottery were willing to sell them on E-bay shows that they probably had little-to-no concern for those suffering in Africa.

Am I not following something? Because I don't get this.

Even if one were deeply concerned about the suffering in Africa, how would declining to sell the tickets help? It wouldn't, so what one does with the tickets reveals nothing about such concerns. It seems to me that if you wanted to help alleviate such suffering then holding on to the tickets would be a dumb thing to do. You'd help more by selling the tickets and donating the proceeds.

There may be plenty of evidence that this is not what's going on, but the fact that the tickets are being sold is no evidence at all that it's not.

That’s backwards, at least

That’s backwards, at least according to Marxist terminology. Socialism is state control of the means of production, and communism is what happens after the state withers away.

Yes, you're right. That was my understanding of the terms' more common definition though -- I would be interested in hearing what others think.

I’m not Rich, but to my

I’m not Rich, but to my mind the difference is “group ownership” vs. "government ownership."

That's backwards, at least according to Marxist terminology. Socialism is state control of the means of production, and communism is what happens after the state withers away.

Brandon, I think you’ve

Brandon, I think you’ve got it. I don’t expect you to agree with the aims of the concert organizers, but it’s far better for you to understand and disagree than to say that his means are somehow wrong because they don’t lead to your ends.

I've been saying all along that I didn't see how the resale of tickets interfered with Geldof's goals. I think you made a snide comment about that very point somewhere. My argument was, in essence, that since no one had made any plausible argument for how selling the tickets at a higher price would negatively impact the primary goal of the concert, it would be a good idea to do so.

And I'm not aware that anyone else had made a plausible argument. The arguments from Drs. Farrell and Quiggin basically started with the premise that volunteer blood donation works better than paying for blood, made a huge leap to the sweeping generalization that "monetary and altruistic motives tend to crowd each other out," and then tried to fit that particular square peg into the round hole that is the Live-8 concert, ignoring--among other things--the fact that the people who sell the tickets for monetary gain won't actually be attending the concert anyway.

Some miscellaneous comments:
The people who placed false bids were violating their contracts with eBay. But since eBay failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent this (i.e., taking credit card numbers at signup and charging fees for unpaid bids), I don't think it's reasonable for them ask others to shoulder the burden of enforcing this.

I do think it's acceptable to use humor to ridicule an obviously weak argument. That's not what you did in your FAQ. First, aside from the comment about nuclear weapons, it wasn't humorous. More importantly, you caricatured the arguments by omitting important details. You're just taking advantage of the fact that libertarian positions often sound outrageous or absurd to those who haven't really thought about the issues. Ha! Those craaazy libertarians! They think that people should be allowed to decide whom to allow on their property. Yeah, but get this: They mean businesses, too!

If we are right about the economics of growth, then European-style welfare-statism has killed, and will continue to kill, countless millions by slowing down economic growth and inhibiting the rate of technological advancement.

Rich. Do you consider

Rich. Do you consider yourself a socialist? What is the difference in your mind between a socialist and a communist?

I'm not Rich, but to my mind the difference is "group ownership" vs. "government ownership."

Incidentally, even libertarians are markedly socialist -- at least this one is -- the nuclear family is a microscopic socialist arrangement to a point, as are many firms, and few libertarians wish to abolish either.