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Friday, March 30, 2012

Do Nobel Economists Understand Broccoli?

Paul Krugman writes:

the second day of hearings suggested that the justices most hostile to the law don’t understand, or choose not to understand, how insurance works. …

Let’s start with the already famous exchange in which Justice Antonin Scalia compared the purchase of health insurance to the purchase of broccoli, with the implication that if the government can compel you to do the former, it can also compel you to do the latter. That comparison horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli.

Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it.

Does Krugman not understand supermarkets? That’s certainly possible because he may not actually do his own shopping.

If not enough people buy a product, it ceases to be manufactured, or at least have product distribution in an area. That’s why grits is on the menu of every breakfast place in Alabama, but almost no breakfast places up here in Chicago.

That’s why you see things in markets in foreign countries that you don’t see in the U.S.  Enough people buy them there. Not enough people buy them here.

If enough people choose not to  buy broccoli, broccoli will become unavailable to those who want it. Stores won’t carry it. Farmers won’t plant it.