tv Antony Davies Cooperation Coercion CSPAN October 12, 2021 6:37am-7:01am EDT
professor davies, in your book you write that early on, children learn a word for people who tell others how to live their lives. busybodies. why is thatincluded, why is that important to the theme of your book . >> it is the subtitle for the book is how busybodies became busybodies and what that means for economics and politics and a busybody of course we all know from children up to our aunts who stick their noses in our business at thanksgiving but when you pair busybodies with governments coercion, they transform into busybodies. people who decide how it is you should live your life and they're going to use the force of government to see to it you live your life the way they think you should and ultimately the idea of busybodies ironically is a repudiation of diversity because if you take diversity seriously, we're alldifferent .
we have different preferences, different constraints and what might be a good and right decision for you may not be a good and right decision for me. and when a busybody comes along the busybody house in the back of his or her head out everybody is just like that person is. and whatever works for this person must work for everybody else.it's such a good idea, let's employ the government to force everybody to act this way. >> when did you come up with the term busybody? >> my co-author james harrigan and i in writing op-ed about topics like this and i think the thing that really came to the four with that term was what happened in philadelphia and this was perhaps a year and a half to two years ago. the city council there decided that teenagers were drinking too much sugary drinks. so they're going to impose a 30 percent tax on sugary drinks.
because the city council, the busybodies decided other people should live the way that they believe they should live. and what happened interestingly is sales of sugary drinks dropped tremendously following this tax and the people who were proposed to the tax pointed to it and said this is exactly what wehad in mind. you put attacks on things like coke and pepsi and mountain dew, what happens ? people will buy less of it to which economists replied hang on a second. i thought your concern was how much sugary drinks before drinking. to which the components said look, if sales of sugary drinks have declined really people are drinking less. the economist did some studies and what they found was that consumption of sugary drinks in philadelphia did not decline. after the tax and that raises a question how can that be the sales of sugary drinks are declining but the consumption isn't and what was going on is people with
this 30 percent tax on sugary drinks were driving outside of philadelphia's city limits divider sugary drinks. and while they're driving outside of philadelphia divider sugary drinks what else are they going to do? by their groceries and all of a sudden there was a tremendous decline in grocery sales within the city of philadelphia. this is an unintended consequence of busy bullying and you see this time and again when people who for good and noble reasons think that they should tell other people how to live their lives more often than not what you get is an unintended consequence or a sequence of unintended consequences where the outcome that you end up with is not at all what you had in mind when in you pass the legislation. >> is that tax still on drinks in philadelphia? >> to my knowledge it is. as with taxes, taxes are somewhat easy to come by but they're really difficult to get rid of.
and i give you a case in point and we talk about this in our cooperation and coercion, the johnstown ajax, this is johnstown's pennsylvania in the 50s. it was decimated by a flood so pennsylvania said we're going to put attacks on alcohol and the proceeds from this tax will rebuild johnstown after its flood and of course the tax generated lots of money and rebuilt johnstown but once johnstown was rebuilt the tax didn't go away and we still have the tax today and in fact today pennsylvania has collected enough revenue from the tax to rebuild johnstown six times over. and of the tax willnot go away because once government gets attacks likes to hang onto it . >> professor you write in your book the essence of government isforce . >> the essence of government is force. when we wrote this book, what motivated it was we look back through history and what we notice is anytime humans come
together to do anything, they organize themselves either according to principles of cooperation or principles of coercion. principles of cooperation means you come together voluntarily and you do something and things work out that's great, if they don't you're free to walk away. everything going on is cooperative, it's voluntary and then we also organize ourselves from time to time according to principles of coercion. we have somebody who says okay, this is what's going to happen and if you're going to do this we have to or spied this edict that we're imposing on you. and typically when you think about coercion youthink about government , that is a major tool we use for coercion. when you think about cooperation people go to markets and markets are included an example of cooperation but also other things as well that you might not think of, things like your parish church community is a cooperative venture. a social club for cooperative venture, your friday night
poker game is a cooperative venture. families are in large part a cooperative venture cooperation is this form of organization by which we come together voluntarily agreedto do things . as we started this book are intent was to say look, collaboration is good , coercion is bad and that'sthe story . and the book proceeded along those lines until we got to the last chapter and the last chapter just wasn't fitting. things didn't fit together and we realize this is not the story of cooperation, good coercion back. rather it's a story of faced with all sorts of problems, we have these two tools in front of us, cooperation and
coercion. most problems cooperation is the appropriate tool. butthere are some problems they tend to be limited but there are some problems for which coercion is the appropriate tool. once we came to that realization that these are 2 tools and the trick is to apply the right tool to the right problem the book all came together into some nice uniform flow . but you're correct, what we end up with his government is the tool we use for coercion and people will say government is not coercion, government is what we do together . cooperation is what we do together. coercion, the government is what i do to you and you do to me. and anyone who has any doubt about that just ask yourself what would happen if you stopped doing what the government told you. i think a simplecase like a parking ticket, i get a parking ticket, what if i don't pay it . what if i don't pay that, i guess what if i ignore that, the gentleman with and thoughts and guns show up to drive me before the judge so what happens if i resist them western mark now we have force and at the end of every edict the government makes is
this threat of violence. that threat of violence is appropriate in certain limited circumstances. a problem with come to is that we have come to use coercion almost as a default mechanism. when we see a problem we turn to the government and wesay fix this . the government isn't designed to fix many of the problems we throw at it. yet politicians are happy to try because in trying they getelected and they get more tax revenue , all the things the politicians want in a lot of ways, politicians use government as a and its coercive force as a way to get elected. >> professor, what about community standards. i'm thinking about issues such as pornography, prostitution, tobacco use, marijuana use, alcohol. should committee standards be allowed to rise to the top? >> this is a good question and it raises a secondary question which is what is the community standard.
you have your idea of what community standards are, i have my idea and i'm sure are two ideas of community standards overlap tremendously. but i'm also sure that around the edges there are places where we will disagree and there will be other people who disagree markedly with the two of us. and so we end up where the founders intended us to be when they designed the federal government. and that is the place in which the federal government's role is not to establish community standards , rather it is to prevent you from harming me and prevents me from harming you. not just in terms of physical harm but also in terms of fraud, of deception, of environmental pollution, if i don't my trash in your yard this is armed to you and an appropriate use of coercion of government is in preventing that harm but beyond that you leave it to cooperation and what you'll find is that in these
standards you're talking about merge because you'll have a, you live in a community and the people around you are like-minded and you say this is the way we want to grow and these are the things we want to do and i'll look at that and say that's nice, i want to live there, i want to be part of that so i come and i move and i joined and if a point i think this is going the wrong direction, i don't want to be part of this i'm free to walk away, that's cooperation . kind of free joining and leaving when we agree and disagree doesn't happen with coercion and so consequently, if you get the right people in government have the right idea about community standards, you might have a decent society. however, the odds of that happening are very low. what's more likely is that you'll get people in power whose ideas of community standards deviate significantly from yours and now they've got the power to use force to enforce what they perceive tobe community standards . >> what do you do at duquesne
university? >> i'm a professor of economics so i teach economics, my specialty is statistical analysis but i spend time writing off heads with podcasts, words and numbers which i encourage you all to listen to and we talk about the application of economic fall to current events so for example in the book we have a chapter on the knowledge problem and the knowledge problem says simply look, a single person can't contain in his or her head all of the information necessary to make decisions for others that are better than those others can make for themselves . so when we allow these governments to take on too large a role in making decisions for us, we end up with bad outcomes. i give you a good case in point is our war on poverty. the poverty rate in this country was falling dramatically up until we
reinstituted the war on poverty. once reinstituted the war on poverty this decline in the poverty rateflatlined . and it stayed at about 13 percent ever since the war on poverty began. and we have devoted trillions, literally trillions of dollars to this war on poverty . in fact we have devoted so much money to the war on poverty that we could have actually completely eradicated poverty if we hadn't used the government to do it. if we had simply said okay, we're going to collect these taxes, to eradicate poverty and we're not going to build poverty programs, currently we have over 100 different programs in the federal level alone to help deal with poverty. instead of establishing those programs each of which takes on a life of its own and starts to have people involved in it who have their own incentives in keeping the program going, if instead of doing that we cut checks.
every poor household gets a check every year for $10,000. not even every four households, every poor person check, every year for $10,000 we could have been doing that for the past 50 years. eradicating poverty. for a lesser price tag than what our war on poverty costs . in our war on poverty has left us with a 13 percent pretty constant plus or minus poverty rate. so as i talk about economics one of the things that i emphasized with my students is that economics is not about making profit. economics is about thinking about how humans behave and once you understand how humans behave that applies of course to the business world but it applies to politicians and to voters also and you can better understand how government in society interact . >> tell us about your co-author james harrigan. >> james harrigan is a political scientist so
between the two of us we have all the bases covered between all the economics and political science and much of the politics that you see in the book come from james. >> he's at the university of arizona, is that correct? >> he is at the university, he's a professor of political science there and he and i have written together in probably 200, 300 off heads throughout the country over the past decade. we have podcast words and numbers and probably several hundred videos on economics, public policy and government and all of this in an effort to educate the public. whatever age you happen to be from trade school up till retirement. the key to building a more healthy society, to ending all the wonderful things the united states has done and progressing forward in the next generation, the key to it and it sounds trite but
it's true . the key is an educated populace and by educated populace i don't mean people who can read proust" shakespeare. i mean people who understand how a shared system we live in works. the cause if they don't, they become fodder for politicians and the politicians come along and say elect me and i will give you free college. then everybody tears and says yes, i want free college elect this guy and you find out after it's too late that there is no such thing as free college and you just made your own life worse off because you didn't understand the system in which we were working. the incentives that you should have to offer offer something you couldn'tdeliver and what subsequently happens to the economy when you attempt to do so . >> professor, you have a case study on the minimum wage and the number of 550,000 here, what is that? >> we have a chapter on the minimum wage and economists
have written a tremendous amount on the minimum wage. people will say to from time to time the minimum wage is such a bad idea: economists don't write about it and there's hundreds of academic peer-reviewed studies on the minimum wage. and of these hundred studies, i would say 90 percent of them find the minimum wage actually is harmful to the people it attempts to help. there's maybe one and a half percent that says it's unclear what's going on with minimum wage and maybe half a percent that say it's beneficial of course what happens is the politicians and media focus on that one half of a percent largely speaking what happens with the minimum wage is you have the government coming in and saying to workers if you cannot find someone willing to pay you $15 an hour, you may not work. now, thought of that weight
seems horrible because the way it's presented is well, were going to have this minimum wage and forced the employers to pay you more and what comes across is this image of the minimum wage is about a conflict between workers and employers and the government is going to come down on the side of the worker and force them to play pay more and in practice that's not what happens. the minimum wage is not about workers versus employers, it's about high skilled horses versus low skilled workers so if the government comes along and says okay, all you businesses have to pay your workers $15 an hour the first thing that an employer does is he looks around at his current workers and he asks who here is worth $15 an hour. those who are worth $15 an hour keep their jobs. those who aren't lose them. and if you want to think about an example of this, we all do this every single day. think to yourself how many people do you hire to clean your house, to makeyour meds , to do your dishes.
and people say well, nobody. i do that stuff myself. why? because to hire somebody to do that is going to be more costly than what it's worth to you. imagine hiring somebody coming in every day making your bed and cleaning your room, what is that worth to you and they say well, it's worth maybe about an hour, maybe two bucks an hour and i'd rather do it myself no one's willing to do that one or two dollars an hour so notice what just happened,you put a value on the completed work . it was low and you concluded that it's not worth hiring somebody todo this work . this is exactly what the employer does. and when the minimum wage comes along what the government is saying is you got to pay $15 an hour and the employer says what is the worth work worth that i'm hiring people for, if it's not worth it you lose your job so you can look at the data and what you find is as we raise the minimum wage who gets not in every case but on
average who gets hurt are the low skilled, low educated, low experience workers. the very workers who are most concerned about helping. >> what surprised me in your analysis was you say only about 550,000 americans actually get the minimum wage . >> that's correct. there are a couple of misconceptions here. and i asked people how many americans are in the minimum wage i'll get numbers like 30 percent, 40 percent because people repeating sorts of things they hear in the news. the actual number of americans who earn theminimum wage is around one percent . one percent of the workforce. it's a very small number and in fact what you find if you track these workers over time, take a bunch of minimum-wage workers today
within one year 60 percent of them have moved on to earn a higher wage. within five years virtually all of them that moved on to earn ahigher wage. these minimum-wage jobs are entry-level positions . their places principally not exclusively but principally for people who have no job experience . someone that you're asking employers to take a chance on. >> at five bucks an hour and employer would take a chance on a worker . at 15 not so much so if we raise this minimum wage we make it harder and harder for employers to take chances on new workers and that delays those new workersfrom entering the workforce .and when we're done as you say we end up with trying to solve a problem that just is pushing only about one percent of the workers. i'm not saying we should ignore these workers but what i'm saying is the problem is much much smaller than what is perceived in the media and why is that so? because politicians want to get elected and how do they get elected, they get on the news and say we have a problem and they show you people are suffering from thisproblem and they say a
lot to me and i'll fix this . quite literally politicians are machines that turn problems into votes for themselves. >> almost no part of our lives is free from regulation by some level of government if not multiple levels . government has its hands in everything. that's from cooperation and coercion, how busybodies became busybodies and what that means for economics and politics . the authors are our guests anthony davies and james
booktv.org. here's a look at the late civil rights leader john lewis. >> welcome and goodevening . on behalf of harvard bookstore i'm delighted to introduce this virtual event with andrew aydin, nick powell and l. fury celebrating the release of their book run. thank you so much for joining us virtually tonight . harvard bookstore continues to bring authors and their works from communities and our new digital community during this time .