Bryan Caplan  

The Competitive Sieve and the Burden of Proof

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A great quote, from someone you wouldn't expect.  Your guesses in the comments.

Competition is like water held in a sieve.  To argue that competition does not exist because it is absent somewhere is like saying water is not leaking because one of the holes of the sieve is plugged.  Thus the burden of proof in the competitive-versus-noncompetitive debate is on those who would argue lack of competition.  The proponents of the noncompetitive view have demonstrated that only a few of these holes in the competitive sieve are plugged.

Please don't Google-and-guess!

Update: The answer, as Don Boudreaux correctly guessed, is my honorable nemesis Donald Wittman.  It's not surprising, of course, that Wittman would claim that democracy is competitive.  What's surprising is that he makes a general claim about competition which, if true, undermines a wide range of democracies' efforts to "increase market competition."


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COMMENTS (16 to date)
David R. Henderson writes:

I didn’t google. Robert Reich.

Don Boudreaux writes:

I didn't google, but I'm quite sure that the author is Don Wittmann.

Don Boudreaux writes:

P.S. Had Bryan not said that the author is someone we "wouldn't expect," I would have jumped to the conclusion that the author is Tom Hazlett. But Hazlett - being a great UCLA-trained Masonomist - would have surprised no one by writing such a thing. (I recall a conversion, long ago, with Tom on the very topic of the ubiquity of the margins of competition.)

Arnold Kling writes:

I'll guess Jean Tirole. It's an industrial organization type of quote, he just won a Nobel in IO, and he has a lot of respect for market subtleties. I would expect him to say something like this.

Kevin writes:

I would have guessed Tirole also, but since that was taken, my guess is Galbraith.

vikingvista writes:

I don't know who it is, but I'd sure like to see Bryan Caplan debate him.

Enial Cattesi writes:

I don't really understand why someone like Donald Wittman wouldn't say something like this. One would think that competition would be at the core of his theory about democratic efficiency.

Or maybe Professor Caplan critiques another book/person/theory without reading it first. I mean, it happened before.

Sean writes:

I think this has something of the Bastiat spirit about it - seen snd unseen, etc.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Enial Cattesi,
I agree. That Wittman would say this doesn’t surprise me at all.

LD Bottorff writes:

As long as it's just a guessing game, and the hint is that it is someone we wouldn't expect, I'll guess Paul Krugman.

MikeP writes:

As long as it's just a guessing game, and the hint is that it is someone we wouldn't expect, I'll go meta and guess Bryan Caplan.

Yaakov writes:

I know nothing about the author and never heard his name before. But from the context of the passage it is very clear why Bryan said the excerpt is surprising when it comes from the author.

As to the author's main point, it seems to me very surprising, given the existence of the Interstate Commerce Commission up to 1995, many years after it was universally agreed that the commission should be abolished. I could not find mention of this in the book.

EclectEcon writes:

The quote seems like something that would be penned by anyone from the Chicago/UCLA industrial organization camp. I'll guess George Hinton.
The placement of the word "only" confuses me, though.

David Condon writes:

I googled his name to make sure I had the right person, but I'll go with Dean Baker.

Les writes:

Peter Dorman

E. Harding writes:

Wouldn't the opposite be true, though? Since it's easier to prove competition than non-competition, wouldn't the burden of proof rest on those claiming competition?

Also, never heard of the author before I Googled him. And it sounds like something he'd say, anyway.

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