Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

The 24 news cycle in recent times has largely been about topics that most people find stressful or discouraging.

Are things really that bad or are we just looking at the world in a very negative way?

Here is one interesting perspective on the issue:

Here are some facts to keep in mind when perusing the news

http://www.aei.org/publication/carpe-century-50-reasons-were-living-through-the-greatest-period-in-world-history-weve-got-it-made-be-thankful/

George Will, unlike other columnists this week, has managed to find some literary inspiration in the headlines.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-something-the-nation-did-not-know-it-needed/2017/07/28/8dc09ae0-7302-11e7-9eac-d56bd5568db8_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.a6ce35def01f

Is Dr. Pangloss not right?

Oldbooks1 wrote: "Is Dr. Pangloss not right?"

Yes--with some reservations. The statement that "this is the best of all possible worlds" is open to interpretation. It could mean that all possible worlds are pretty bad and this world is the least ugly, least frightening, and least imperfect of whatever number, if any, "all" possible worlds refers to, which would make it the best. And if the statement that this is the only possible world were true, then it could be the best, worst, or just average world, depending on whether or not one sees the glass as half empty or half full. I personally think it has many nice features such as beaches, bacon, cell phones, Netflix and cheery people like Dr. Pangloss. Hence, half full for me.

Not So Nice and Easy in Nice
It's still not clear what took place in Nice, but disturbing events like this seem to have become a daily occurrence in the Airline Industry. Maybe we are fortunate that there are not more of them, given the number of people who fly everyday.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/30/europe/easyjet-passenger-punched/index.html

After arguing with Dr. Pangloss for my entire adult life, I have finally concluded he is right. As I see it we could all be better off in principle but our inability to act rationally limits us to our actual state (which evolves in a positive direction over time). This means the glass is actually full, that we will soon have a full glass of larger capacity and the process will continue until, most likely, some idiot (a high government official with the requisite authority) not merely breaks our glass but destroys our ability to make glass and quite possibly us along with it.

Turning to more immediate concerns, the incident in question highlights the problem:

"The couple were showing some irritation, which was perfectly understandable in the circumstances..."

Let's think about this for a second:

You are one of a large number of people who are upset after having being stranded for a very long time. Being "understandably" upset you approach some frazzled employee who has been dealing with many people like you for an extended period. There is nothing useful that can emerge from such interaction. However, it could end badly and, sadly, in this case it did.

As to "hearing" about such instances, that implies they are relatively uncommon as otherwise they would not be reported in the media.

In relation to why such incidents occur, consider the quotation below from the blog by learned counsel.

"In the meantime, those who want extra legroom (and don’t have elite status on the airlines they fly) will have to pay for it."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/07/28/d-c-circuit-tackles-the-case-of-the-incredible-shrinking-airline-seat/?utm_term=.878df7b44a75

Clearly this legal scholar, who is a recognized authority in his field, has made the cardinal error of choosing the wrong governing law.

The applicable law here is the law of demand in the context of an oligopolistic regulated market.

Another young legal scholar, of whom we will hear much in the coming years, believes there is a fundamental problem with the conceptual basis of antitrust law in dealing with the modern economy.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/is-amazon-getting-too-big/2017/07/28/ff38b9ca-722e-11e7-9eac-
d56bd5568db8_story.html?hpid=hp_regional-hp-cards_rhp-card-business%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.4299e07efdff

While the 24,000 word treatise this scholar has produced is an extraordinary feat of intellectual rigor, it still errs in choice of governing law, overlooks the alchemist fallacy, and several other critical considerations that actually are the truly important ones in this instance.

Chapeau mon cher Docteur!

Yes, today's world, though not maybe the best of all possible worlds, is pretty darn enjoyable compared to the past times or worlds we humans have inhabited. The Louie C. K. video clip is humorous as well as insightful about our time, and the "50 Reasons" article is informative and insightful, too. For the most part, each generation has its share of pain and suffering, but each generation, on the whole, is probably better off than the preceding one, though there are exceptions. So what we have today is the best we can do so far.

The Nice airport incident brings to mind the notion of don't kill the messenger, or the I'm just the messenger plea. Verbally abusing someone who did not cause or cannot alter the outcome of someone's predicament is fruitless. On the other hand , throwing a punch at the abuser, when one's job requires one to remain calm in these situations, is also fruitless.

Lisa Khan: She certainly has a bright future before her, and she certainly has the ability to look at old legal practise with fresh eyes. She gets and understands the Amazon phenomenon better than most in the antitrust community. If her principles did not dictate otherwise, Amazon might offer her a lucrative position.
The fact that many people did not understand and take Amazon seriously for many years, and for her to come along and show why Amazon is so special in an antitrust context is quite a feat.

My son, who has been involved with some significant antitrust cases, as well as patent law cases, has also mentioned that the current laws and interpretations of these laws are not sufficient to deal with the modern world of technology, and has also said that some judges understanding of this dilemma is not what it should be. But justice has never been totally blind, and when things are decided in the courtroom, each party hopes it will emerge with its glass half full. In the court of public opinion, thus far, Amazon is winning its case by keeping its customer's glasses half full, and its infrastructure a mystery to many.

I think law is an effective way to resolve disputes. By that I mean it provides a framework in which to determine whether someone has violated society's norms (a criminal matter) or whether the terms of a contract (a civil matter) have been breached and the appropriate remedy in each case and all cases of that type.

The problem is not there. Rather the problem lies in the implicit assumption that such a system can work effectively in a dynamic setting, i.e. a market, as opposed to a static situation (did defendant rob the bank, did party X comply with the terms of the lease). Once the law is set in stone, market participants immediately move to mitigate its consequences and exploit the new, and ofter more lucrative opportunities it creates. It is tough for even the most able legislators to compete with an infinitely large army of economic agents all aided by a tireless superhuman force with an invisible hand.

The evidence seems overwhelming that in a dynamic situation, law produces unintended consequences that are far more serious than the evil it set out to remedy.

On Amazon, as Doug Kass over at the Street.com mentioned just recently, the antitrust crusaders together with the others who would benefit are working to "tackle" the "Amazon problem."

I imagine they will after Labor Day be calling the venerable law firm of McConnell, Schumer, Ryan & Pelosi whose experts are unquestionably the leading authorities on all matters of antitrust legislation. Once that boutique firm has completed its work, consumers will no longer need to fear the spectre of higher prices because of Amazon--such higher prices will already be a reality.:frowning:

"The evidence seems overwhelming that in a dynamic situation, law produces unintended consequences that are far more serious than the evil it set out to remedy."

The uncertainty that goes with applying past laws to an ever changing social, economic, and political process does, I believe, lead to consequences that were not foreseen. We can see, when a Noble prize winning economist such as Paul Kruger, and other experts, incorrectly predicted that the economy would go south after Trump was elected, how even experts can be baffled by new and dynamic circumstances. Just as there have been paradigm shifts or revolutions in the infrastructures of scientific thought, there have also been, perhaps to a lesser extent, paradigm shifts in business methodology, or the way in which companies operate. So attempting to apply the same established antitrust laws to businesses with different methodologies in different periods of economic history may result in the unexpected. In this day and age, we most likely need to reexamine and change our thinking about antitrust, patent, and other laws concerned with economic processes, and endeavor to keep, if possible, political bias in check when doing so.

The 1st ingredient in most stress reduction programs or courses:
Eliminate ALL news sources.

From personal experiences since over 30 years ago, I can truthfully affirm that this works quite well.

Between your revelation and your testimonial, this breakthrough in stress reduction sounds like BREAKING NEWS to me! :slight_smile:

Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full ??
Yes.
(Or, 42, if you prefer.)

I think, even if one could somehow leave out any "political bias" (highly doubtful), it really would not change much.

By way of example, there is an interesting OP-ED in today's NYT by EDWARD D. KLEINBARD who is a law professor and clearly knowledgeable about the Debt Ceiling issue which is the subject of the piece.

The article seems to be be a thoughtful and reasoned argument that explains the dangers of the failing to raise the debt ceiling as needed next month, an outcome the author views as likely.

However, in addition to containing purely factual statements, that are demonstrably true, it is interlaced with personal views about how economic agents would respond to particular outcomes and associates dollar amounts with these outcomes.

This in not analysis, but rather wild speculation that is almost certainly wrong. However, the author seems unaware of this fact and unless a reader has some familiarity with how the market for Treasuries of all maturities operate the problems in the piece are not obvious.

Legislation responds to a static situation--that is all it can do--however, economic agents look at the situation through the perspective of a multidimensional prism since they consider, short, medium-run, and long-run implications. Statutes are not flexible enough to address these issues and so practical implementation is turned over to functionaries who are not equipped to deal with market realities either. The market moves at the speed of a cheetah while the regulator who is armed only with bevy of irrelevant memos, rules, regulations, and learned opinions which slow his progress as he tries in vain to pursue on foot, just falls further behind. So the call for a new statute arises, typically from the stalwarts of the SJW class, and the cycle begins again.

It is certainly asking too much that one person, no matter how bright and learned, should be able to comprehend all facets of a particular problem or field, and I believe that is why human cooperation or teamwork is essential for many tasks. But when problems involve an amalgam of social, political, and economic facets, we become all too human and serious cooperation is hard to come by. NASA has accomplished many wonderful things via the teamwork of many people and scientists, but this is mainly scientific and engineering cooperation, with little need to venture into the grey areas of the social sciences, which are rife with interpretation and moral and ethical grey areas. I mean, a chemistry experiment can be repeated over and over again all ending in the same result, and all chemists can agree on the matter. Not so with the social sciences. What is to be done? Just keep doing our best. Ambrose Bierce once said something to the effect that the problem with history is that it does repeat itself. I might disagree by saying that many of the bad parts of history do recur, but, on the whole, history does not repeat itself, but progresses.

I would distinguish between this piece on the debt ceiling where the author, I imagine but have no evidence to offer, is genuinely sharing a set of convictions based on a very good understanding of some key facets of a complex problem and the piece today by Krugman, also in the NYT, on the health care issue.

Krugman is very persuasive here and sounds as if he is making a case that is grounded in economics. However, that is not true--he is simply selecting some economic facts to support what is essentially a political position. The glaring omission, which he has certainly done consciously, is the fact that the real problem is on the cost side as a result of what can be called the medical cartel.

The link provides some background on this but is also subject to the same criticism as the Krugman piece, namely a wanton sin of omission.

To some extent all of this is understandable and unavoidable. If an article in a newspaper is sufficiently clear that the "average" reader can enjoy it, then corners must be cut. Technical journals deal with the complications but of course the "average" reader does not consult them.