Saturday, February 05, 2011

Mankiw's Luck

Honestly, I sometimes wonder why this guy gets taken seriously, but I suppose I know: he plays into every instinct for smug self-satisfaction that you would expect among cosseted, comfortable Harvard students--and that you would want a proper education to beat out of them.  So no wonder that he is up this morning with a post on:

...together with a menu of exercises designed, so far as I can tell, to explore ways of scamming people out of it.  Now strictly speaking, I am no great fan of rent control: I think it often does more (social)  harm than good.  But "luck"?  Why is rent control more a "lucky break" than being born blond, beautiful, Norwegian and blessed with great ski-jumping skills?  More particularly, Mankiw operates out of a cohort that spends all its time telling us about the evils of envy and class warfare--wouldn't he want to go slow on promoting the same?  I admit I've got friends in New York rent-stabilized apartments who delight  in their privileged position, thankyouverymuch. Maybe I've got other friends who, say, bought apartments in the East 60s back in the Dinkins administration when those puppies were going for $65k a pop, tops.  I suppose Mankiw might want me to think that those buyers (as distinct from those renters)  were operating out of pluck and foresight and deserve every penny of the appreciation that they've enjoyed.  I doubt it.  I suspect that most of them were hard-working strivers who wanted to live in a nice place (considering) and got, well, lucky.  Does Mankiw spend a class hour trying to delegitimatize their hold on good fortune, to figuring out ways of clawing it back from them? Can we look forward to a chapter on

The  Luck of Not Having Cerebral Palsey

Well?  Why not?  There's an episode of the Larry Sanders Show where they talk about a guy who "enjoys," if you can call it that, a handicapped parking space.  It's Hank the clueless sidekick who provides the episode's moral compass: "well what did that guy ever do to deserve it," asks Hank, "except dive into an empty swimming pool?"  Yes, it's edgy, but the calculus doesn't seem a bit different.


Noah said...

I love this post. Just one problem; it needs to be longer. More Mankiw-bashing is better Mankiw-bashing.

Ken Houghton said...

"Maybe I've got other friends who, say, bought apartments in the East 60s back in the Dinkins administration when those puppies were going for $65k a pop, tops."

I have an old friend--possibly the same guy--who was renting one of those who was renting one of those when the bank foreclosed. He offered them rather more, but they decided to have a foreclosure auction instead.

He went in and bought the place at auction for--you guessed it--$65,000. As the only bidder.

It's one of those stories I always tell when people claim that sellers are always perfectly rational. (The other being how my then-realtor was on both sides of a transaction, with consumer/producer surplus to spare, but somehow managed not to close the transaction.)