David R. Henderson  

Local Knowledge in Monterey

Face-Saving and the Business C... Passover Thoughts...

As regular readers of my blog posts know, I'm a big fan of Friedrich Hayek's insight about "knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place," or what more-modern economists, applying his insight, often call "local knowledge." The basic idea is that central planners can't have all the information in real time that they would need to plan an economy well because that knowledge exists in dispersed bits in the minds of the millions of individuals in the economy.

But the insight also often applies to even private, non-coercive attempts to centralize information. I experienced an instance of that last Saturday morning. I had a reservation to fly from Monterey to San Francisco and then on to Las Vegas. The Monterey flight would leave at about 11:30 a.m. I got up at about 6:45 a.m., with plenty of time to surf the web, have breakfast, and pack. The airport is only 15 minutes away. My wife, though, had noticed how windy it was and got on the web to find out that my flight from Monterey to San Fran was delayed 2 hours. That meant I would miss my connection to Las Vegas. But the same web site, run by United Airlines, showed me arriving in San Fran on time. When she probed further on-line, it wasn't clear that there were any earlier flights.

I had to go to my downtown office anyway to get a couple of pages out of a book that I needed for a discussion with a co-author in Vegas. I had the pages copied by about 7:55 a.m. I started to head for home and then realized that the trip from that office to the airport was only about 6 minutes. So I hustled to the airport and, within 2 minutes of getting there, was looked after by a United Express employee. She told me that there was an earlier flight, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., that was delayed until 10:50 a.m. and she put me on that flight. That was hugely valuable information that I could not find on the web and that I got only by taking advantage of the local knowledge of the airline employee in Monterey. Her co-worker warned me, by the way, that things could change quickly and that the flight could leave on time. So I hustled home, packed more quickly than I ever had in my life, wolfed down an egg, and was at the airport by 9:10 a.m. The flight ended up leaving at about 9:50 a.m.

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COMMENTS (7 to date)
Thomas DeMeo writes:

The first thing that struck me about this story was that there was no longer any good reason why the information you took advantage of needed to be trapped locally anymore.

It may very well be that this insight will increasingly become anachronistic as time goes on.

NukemHill writes:

I know it really doesn't have anything to do with anything, but I graduated from Pacific Grove High in '83. The Monterey Peninsula is one of my favorite places in the whole world.

I keep threatening to my wife that we will move back there, but she just laughs at me and says go ahead, but I'm on my own. She can't stand the fog. Maybe we can find a nice ranch in Carmel Valley....

Where in Monterey are you? How long have you lived in the area?

David R. Henderson writes:

Carmel Valley is definitely the place to go if you don’t like fog. The big challenge is staying here between early June and early September, especially in Pacific Grove, where I live.

NukemHill writes:

PG? That rocks! What part?

I've lived on Granite St., 2nd St., and Candycane Lane (Morse Dr.). My grandmother lived on Funston for ... 40 years. I absolutely love the area, although the fog definitely left something to be desired.

My mother had a Reader's Digest "Humor" moment once when I was in high school. She came home one afternoon and looked around the house and couldn't figure out why it looked different. After about 10 seconds, she realized that the sun was out for the first time in 2 weeks.

Gotta love that onshore flow!

Still, I think the whole Monterey Peninsula is a little slice of paradise. Even though I've been in the Baltimore area for almost 17 years, I still get seriously homesick sometimes.

Congrats on living the dream. I'm jealous!

Steve Duke writes:
That was hugely valuable information that I could not find on the web and that I got only by taking advantage of the local knowledge of the airline employee in Monterey.

You couldn't get information on an earlier flight on the internet? Sounds odd to me.

Whenever I hear my flight is delayed I always check for other available flights.

David R. Henderson writes:

Near the P.G. Middle School.
Yes, it rocks, but the downside is the coming tsunami of pension payouts for P.G. government workers. The city council has been making a series of irresponsible commitments since about the early 2000s and shows little sign of understanding the hole we’re in. They’re keeping digging.
@Steve Duke,
You couldn't get information on an earlier flight on the internet? Sounds odd to me.
Me too. There was information but it wasn’t as accurate as what I got at the airport.

Ari Tai writes:

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