Arnold Kling  

Clive Crook on Milton Friedman

Who is Harvesting Cash?... Culture and Prosperity, Again...

he writes (link may expire soon),

Much of what is wrong with popular attitudes to capitalism comes down to one thing: a lack of wonder at what uncoordinated markets can achieve. Going to a grocery store for the hundredth or thousandth time is a pretty humdrum experience. As a rule it isn't going to elicit much of an intellectual response -- though if it does, the response might be one of two kinds. The commentator Robert Kuttner once wrote of his dismay at the great number of breakfast cereals on offer in his local grocery. What a waste, was his point; who could possibly need all these different cereals? Can't we arrange things more intelligently? This is a leftist kind of response: "Put somebody sensible in charge and plan things better." The liberal response (in the proper sense of "liberal") is different: "How amazing that all these choices are available, so that every taste is catered to, and it's all so cheap."

Read the whole thing. Even if you've read a lot of odes to Friedman, Crook's is one of the most interesting.

The point quoted above is quite interesting. It is easy to think that you as an individual can come up with wiser decisions than the market. It is more difficult to appreciate how effective the market really is.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (3 to date)

I'm always shocked at how rapidly great products disappear from local grocery shelves.

As a child, I remember the introduction of Cookie Crisp cereal, which came in three varieties: chocolate chip, vanilla wafer, and ginger snap. The ginger snap variety was fantastic. Then my dad was stationed overseas, so we left the country, and when we came back - no ginger snap Cookie Crisp! WTF!

More recently, my wife and I found at our local Safeway this amazing product called Cruncheros. These were frozen chicken quesadillas. They were amazing. We ate them two or thre times a week for about a month and a half. Then they were gone. We put in one of the cards to request them, but they'd been discontinued.

I'm starting to wonder if anyone has ever put any effort into examining when and why markets fail. Not in the sense that the market itself doesn't work and collapses, but in the sense that a good product is removed from the market because consumers don't really have an active voice in the process today.

Scott writes:

Is it a market failure because a product that you found to be great is taken off the shelves? What if your family was the only one to purchase that product?

Isn't customers decisions to purchase or NOT to purchase a product an active voice?

Tim Buktu writes:

So the market decides with time what cereal will be available for public purchase.

But what about the classic Wal-Mart syndrome... where the cereal stretches for an entire isle.. yet the cereal most customers want i.e. "Post honey bunches of oates" the allocated shelf area is bare or empty...

Therefore forcing customers to purchase what they don't want from all the other BS, or return to the store another day.

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