Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Best Thing an Economist Can Do


I am becoming ever more convinced that the best thing an economist can do is to talk to "average" people. These people want to help others but they often don't know how their good intentions can lead to unwanted consequences. However, I find that academic economists only pay lip service to the ideal of "educating the public". Most of them like to talk to other academic economists in a language only they understand and about issues only they and, maybe, some government agency, care about. And then we complain no one listens to us, economists. Even if someone tried to listen, he or she would not understand much. Ironically, we, who talk about efficiency so much, blame others for being efficient with their time by not using it on listening to those they can't understand.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pet zabluda o radu "na crno"

1. Ako radnici odbiju da rade "na crno", poslodavac neće imati drugog izbora nego da ih zaposli legalno.

Jako je važno ovom pitanju prići hladne glave. Postoji ekonomska teorija iza rada "na crno" i očigledno je da mnogi koji su za strogu osudu i kažnjavanje rada "na crno" ne razumiju tu teoriju. I ja sam u Kanadi radio "na crno", a radio sam zato sto sam jedino tako mogao da budem profitabilan tome gazdi. Drugim riječima, moj doprinos profitu firme nije bio dovoljno velik da bi se od njega izdvojila davanja državi. Ako bi morao da plaća sve te dadžbine, gazdi bi bilo bolje da me ni ne zapošljava jer zapošljavajući me samo gubi novac. Dakle, mnogi (možda ne svi, ali mnogi sigurno da) od tih ljudi koji rade "na crno", ne bi ni dobili taj posao ako bi trazili da budu zaposleni legalno. 

Zato je u mnogim slučajevima rad "na crno" najbolja opcija ne samo za tog radnika i poslodavca nego i za ostale građane. Ako taj radnik ne bi radio "na crno", bio bi nezaposlen i onda bi ostali gradjani morali da ga izdržavaju.

2. Rad "na crno" je protivzakonit i zato ga treba oštro osuditi i oštro kažnjavati. 

Činjenica da je nešto protivzakonito ne znači automatski da je to i samo po sebi loše ili nemoralno. Često koristim primjer držanja crnih mačaka u srednjem vijeku da bih ovo ilustrovao. Držanje crnih mačaka je u srednjem vijeku bilo protivzakonito, a sada vidimo sav besmisao tog zakona. Slično tome, recimo da država sada izglasa novi zakon koji od svakog poslodavca zahtijeva da poveća za 25% po radniku izdvajanje u državni budžet. Istog momenta kad se taj zakon izglasa, svi oni koji su zaposleni po starom zakonu postaju "ilegalci". U tom slučaju bi neki poslodavci bili primorani da ili otpuste neke radnike ili da ih zaposle "na crno". Znači, rad "na crno" je način na koji tržiste (i poslodavac i radnik) pokušava da zaobiđe državne namete, a ti državni nameti su rezultat arbitrarnih odluka vlastodržaca. 

3. Rad "na crno" poslodavcu uvijek daje ekstra profit i zato uvijek predstavlja iskoristavanje siromašnih od strane bogatih. 

Ta teorija da rad "na crno" poslodavcu daje ekstra profit je tačna samo u slučaju onih radnika čiji marginalni vrednosni produkat (doprinos profitu firme) je znatno veći od njihove trenutne plate. Za sve ostale, rad "na crno" poslodavcu daje samo dovoljno profita da marginalne radnike (radnike čiji je marginalni vrednosni produkat samo malo veci od njihove plate) zadrži na poslu. Legalizovanjem bi ti radnici postali preskupi za poslodavca i on bi morao naći načina da ih se oslobodi.

4. Rad "na crno" uništava legalnu konkurenciju.

Nije rad "na crno" to što uništava konkurenciju nego propisi. Zašto? Recimo da poslodavac odluči da ne zaposli nekog radnika "na crno" zato što ne želi da "prevari državu". Ako tom poslodavcu nije isplativo da ga zaposli legalno, onda to nije isplativo ni nekom drugom poslodavcu i taj radnik će ići na biro za zapošljavanje ili će biti na teret familiji. Znači, odbijanjem da radnika zaposli "na crno" poslodavac nije pomogao nekome ko bi htio da tog istog radnika zaposli legalno. Samo je dodao još jednu osobu na teret platiša poreza.

5. Naša država je siromašna jer rad "na crno" ne puni državni budžet.

U stvari, ova uzročno-posljedična veza ide u suprotnom smjeru. Rad "na crno" je čest u siromašnim zemljama baš zato što je poštovanje propisa skupo. Za poštovanje svakog novog propisa potrebno je da neko stvori zalihe dobara koje će se utrošiti na poštovanje tog propisa. Propisi su dodatni zahtjevi na račun proizvođača dobara i ti dodatni zahtjevi uvijek podrazumijevaju utrošak sredstava koja neko prije toga mora da proizvede. Dakle, poštovanje raznih državnih nameta je luksuz koji samo bogate ekonomije mogu da si priušte.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Intimidation by Confusion: The Case of Natural Rights and Self-Ownership


Many commentators try to invalidate the concept of self-ownership by using slavery as a purported contradiction to the self-ownership of slaves. This is a mistake. The following conversation on a recent blog post by Robert Wenzel, Designed Rights versus Natural Rights, is illustrative of the common misconception when it comes to the concept of natural self-ownership. It is also illustrative of a rhetorical technique I call intimidation by confusion. Below is an excerpt from the blog conversation between Wenzel, an unnamed supporter of Wenzel's view, and myself. I will let the reader judge who is using intimidation by confusion as a rhetorical technique here.

Predrag Rajsic February 16, 2013 at 10:16 AM
The slave owner may control the consequences of slave's actions, but it is still the slave that chooses his own actions based his own evaluation of those consequences. In that sense, the slave's self-ownership is no different than any other individual's self-ownership.

Replies

So you would be in favor of slaves because they "own themselves" in your view?

Who cares what I would be in favour of. My point was that the concept of natural rights is independent of actual human relations. 

Pedrag,

You are shifting the conversation. You said "slave's self-ownership is no different than any other individual's self-ownership."

Wenzel, thus, has a very legitimate question, just how does self-ownership work, if it exists for a slave?

You are attempting to shift the debate. You did not say "the concept of natural rights is independent of actual human relations," you said slaves have self-ownership.

Do you still believe this? 

No, I don't think I am shifting the debate. The debate is not about my beliefs or preferences. It is about the concept of natural rights. I think I explained above the context in which the slave's natural self-ownership is defined. It is defined by the existence of slave's choosing of his own actions. It is not defined by slave's relationship with the slave owner. If it was, the concept of natural rights would depend on the specifics of every particular situation. The idea implied in my first comment was that the existence of natural rights does not depend on the particulars of a situation, so there is no inconsistency here.

So, if there is anyone shifting the conversation here, it is the one who asked if "I would favor slaves" because "they 'own themselves'". (I am guessing "slaves" was supposed to be "slavery" here.) I may favour slavery because slaves own themselves or I may favour slavery for hundred other reasons. I also may oppose slavery because slaves own themselves if I dislike their self-ownership as is defined above. However I decide to form my preferences around slavery, it has nothing to do with whether or not natural rights exist independently of the relationship between two humans.

Even you, The Cleaner, finish your post with asking about my beliefs. If I am not mistaken, you are asking if I believe slaves have natural self-ownership. So, you are asking me if I believe slaves have free will, because insofar as they have free will, they have self-ownership. Do I know if anyone, including myself, has free will? I don't. Do I believe humans, including slaves, have free will? Yes. But, who cares about my beliefs. It is flattering to know that someone does care, but my beliefs are not the topic here. Or are they?


I am still waiting for a reply.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Intimidation by Confusion: The Case of Inflation

One of the common sins of media commentators and pundits of all colours is what I will call intimidation by confusion. This is a situation when a phenomenon is made incomprehensible by the use of unclear terminology and by invoking even less clear relationships. This makes the audience reluctant to ask for clarification because they assume the commentator’s explanation is confusing not because it is wrong but because it is too complicated to be understood by someone with “non-technical” knowledge.

One such case of intimidation by confusion is the recently often heard explanation of the general rise in prices, popularly called—inflation. The popular assertion made by many commentators is that increases in prices result from an increased “cost of production” of goods and services. Most people at that point would feel like asking: Well, yes, I see my bills rising over time, but where does this increase in the "cost of production" come from; what's causing it? Most people, however, do not ask this question fearing it is a stupid question. It is not, and I'll explain why.

The Cost of Production Fallacy

Note first that the concept of money supply is nowhere to be found in this "cost of production" argument. While it is true that there is a logical link between the price consumers are willing to pay for the final product and the total expenditure producers are willing to incur to produce that product, careful examination shows two key points.

First, the logical direction of this link between input and output prices runs from final consumer goods to inputs used to produce those final goods. It does not run from inputs to final products. Inputs are only valued insofar as they can be used to produce goods that someone is willing to buy. The producer's willingness to pay for inputs is limited by the amount of money consumers are willing to pay for the final product.

For example, the amount of money a baker is willing to pay for a pound of flour is limited by how much consumers are willing to pay for a loaf of bread. The baker cannot simply start charging $500 for a loaf of bread and justify this to his customers by claiming that his flour supplier is asking $400 for a pound of flour. At that price of bread, most or all consumers would stop buying bread. Thus, it is not "cost of production" that drives prices of consumer goods. It is the willingness of consumers to pay for different consumer goods that determines how much money producers can spend on inputs.

The second point that becomes evident from this is that the link between the final product prices and the producers' expenditures on inputs  is established through the process of exchange of goods and services and money. In most simple terms, our willingness to pay for goods and services will depend on how much money we actually have and how much of that money we are willing to exchange for goods and services. The portion of all the money within an economy that people are willing to exchange for goods and services at any point in time is key for understanding inflation. Let us call this portion—the money supply.

The Money Supply and Prices

The link between the money supply, the demand for goods and services and the expenditure producers are willing to incur to produce those goods and services is established through the process of market exchange and competition. At any point in time, there are some individuals offering money in exchange for goods and services, and there are other individuals offering goods and services in exchange for money. The shortcut label economists use for the first group is the consumers, while they label the latter group as the producers.

Imagine now you are a consumer that have had a monthly income of $3000 for the last two years, and your income increases to $3500. You will have $500 more to spend on things you could not have bought before. You may decide to save a portion of those $500, say $200, and spend the remaining $300.

Now imagine the government decided to add $500 to the paycheque of every public service employee in your country. For this purpose governments generally use the central national bank whereby the bank adds new currency (i.e., money) into the government's budget. If most of these public service employees are like you and I, they will want to spend a portion of that new money.

Now we have hundreds of thousands or millions of people wanting to buy more goods and services than before. But, if the quantity of goods and services available on the market did not increase compared to the last two years, we will have millions of people competing to buy the goods and services they were not buying before.

This will lead to a faster emptying of the producers' stocks of goods and longer line-ups for different services. The producers will interpret this as a signal that their prices are too low—a signal that they can increase their profit by increasing prices since so many people want to buy their products. Thus, this increase in the frequency of market exchanges will prompt the producers to increase their prices.

As the producers' shelves are being emptied faster than before, they will want to replenish them faster, so they will try to buy more inputs than before. This will signal the input suppliers to increase their prices as their stocks are being depleted faster than before. Finally, as the prices of inputs and final products rise, the increase in the frequency of exchanges will slow down until we end up with the frequency of exchanges similar to the one before the increase in the money supply and with prices of final products and inputs higher than before. At this point, the new money created by the central bank will be circulating within the economy.

This is the basic mechanism of the percolation of new money into the market economy. The more money your central bank creates in a given period of time, the faster will the prices of most or all products rise if most people decide to use this money in market exchanges rather than accumulate it.

Conclusion

This brings us to the conclusion that, if we see money prices of all or most goods rising over time, this rise is a symptom of the money supply rising faster that the available stock of goods and services. People are offering more money per unit of goods and services purchased in a given period of time.

Now that we understand the mechanism behind the general increase in prices, we can no longer allow various commentators confuse us with buzz-phrases  like "rising cost of production" or "rising input costs" or, worse, "rising costs of living". In my experience, the best way of fighting intimidation by confusion is by actually asking the "stupid" question that is brewing at the back of your mind while someone is "explaining" to you how the world works. Thus, I encourage you to do the same after reading this article.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ljepota tržišta

Prošlog proljeća sam otišao da stavim set ljetnih guma na moje kolekcionarske BMW felne, ali ta rutinska operacija nije išla po planu. E-mail u nastavku daje prilično potpunu predstavu tog događaja. Taj e-mail sam poslao dotičnoj kompaniji da bih opisao svoje iskustvo njihovom uslugom.

Dragi Menadžeru,

Otišao sam juče do radnje na Victoria St. (Kitchener) da mi instaliraju i balansiraju četiri gume na BBS točkovima (sa E30 serije BMW-a). Kada sam pokupio točkove u popodnevnim satima, primijetio sam da je jedna of centar-kapa slomljena. Vaš radnik je imao priliku da mi na to ukaže prije nego što sam primijetio, ali nije. Kada sam ga upitao šta se dogodilo, on je rekao da je plastika stara i krhka i da je to razlog zašto je centar-kapa pukla. Te felne su u mom vlasništvu osam godina, i the kape, ako se njima rukuje ispravno, se uvijek lako odvajaju. Međutim, ne mogu da dokažem da je vaš radnik njima nepropisno rukovao. To ionako nije svrha ovog e-maila. Bio sam uvrijeđen ponašanjem vašeg radnika. Slomljena centar-kapa možda i nije skupa, ali to nije poenta. Nedostatak profesionalizma, poštenja i poštovanja je ono što mi smeta. Bio sam previše uzrujan da bih išta rekao poslovođi koji, nadam se, ne zna ništa ovome. Sada obavještavam vas u nadi da se slično iskustvo ne ponovi nekome od vaših ostalih mušterija. Razmišljam o tome da prestanem da koristim usluge ove radnje, a možda čak i cijelog lanca ako ne dobijem neku vrstu garancije da se ovako nešto neće dogoditi opet.

Da bih bio siguran da će dobiti ovu poruku, poslao sam istu poruku i kroz službeni internet obrazac za kontakt i na službenu e-mail adresu kompanije. Prošlo je više od šest mjeseci od tada, ali nisam dobio nikakav odgovor. Dakle, možemo slobodno pretpostaviti da menadžer nije našao za shodno da učini išta u vezi sa mojom žalbom. Pretpostavljm da je uzeo u obzir negativan uticaj koji bi njegovo neodazivanje moglo imati na posao i zaključio da taj uticaj nije dovoljno velik da bi on bilo šta preduzeo. To je velika kompanija i ako ne dobiju previše pritužbi poput ove moje, vjerovatno se neće gnjaviti njihovim rješavanjm.

Naravno, održao sam obećanje i nisam ponovo koristio usluge ove kompanije. Umjesto toga sam ove zime otišao da instaliram zimske gume u malu radnju preko puta. Cijena je bila čak i niža, a usluga je bila odlična. Nisam čak ni morao ostaviti auto u radnji. Oni su montirali gume na felne istog dana i pozvali me telefonom da mi jave kad su bile spremne za ugradnju. Nikad više ne idem u onu bivšu radnju.

To je ljepota tržišta. Iako je povremen gubitak mušterije vjerovatno uključen u proračun one velike kompanije i iako moj prelazak u drugu radnju možda ni najmanje ne utiče na profit te velike kompanije, ja sam ipak imao priliku da nađem nekoga ko je pokazao više poštovanja prema mojoj ličnosti i imovini. Ipak sam mogao naći nekoga ko brine čak o "malim" stvarima. Na posljetku, dobio sam bolju uslugu za manje novca.

To je pravi smisao tržišne konkurancije i to je razlog zašto je slobodniji pristup tržištu važan. Tržište stalno radi na tome da vas učini zadovoljnijima. Ako jedan davalac usluga ne može ili ne želi da zadovolji vaše potrebe, to otvara priliku za dobit nekom drugom davaocu usluga. Ovaj drugi ponuđač će učiniti sve da bi što bolje zadovoljio vaše potrebe i istovremeno će ostvariti profit. Tržište stvara pozitivan ishod i za vas i za njega.

Sada zamislite da se požalite na kvalitet usluge vaše lokalne hitne medicinske službe ili škole vašeg djeteta ili usluge bilo koje druge državne službe. Ako vaša žalba bude zanemarena prvi put, vjerovatno nećete insistirati da se vaš glas ipak čuje jer to zahtijeva značajan utrošak vašeg vremena i truda. Većina nas obično radije koristiti to vrijeme i trud na druge, produktivnije i svrsishodnije aktivnosti kao što su provođenje vremena s porodicom, čišćenje kuće ili pomaganje djeci da urade domaći zadatak. Mnogi se ne bi gnjavili žalbama višim nivoima vlasti, što je uglavnom jedini način na koji bi ikad iko nešto učinio povodom vaše žalbe.

Za razliku od moje priče o gumama, ako biste se požalili na dugo čekanje na hitne bolničke usluge, na nedostatak njegovanja kritičkog razmišljanja u našem obrazovnom programu, ili na hronični nedostatak uljudnog ophođenja od strane radnika Ministarstva saobraćaja, ne postoji bolja alternativa "preko puta". Ne samo da nema "momka preko puta" koji bi vam pružio bolju uslugu nego ni u cijeloj državi ne postoji alternativa za ovu vrstu usluga. Ove usluge pružaju monopoli stvoreni državnim zakonima. Dakle, konkurencija je, ili potpuno protivzakonita ili vrlo ograničena važećim zakonima.

Staviću na stranu bilo kakve rasprave o mogućnosti privatnog pružanja zdravstvene zaštite, obrazovanja ili regulisanja saobraćaja. To nije svrha ovog posta. Za sada je dovoljno da budemo zahvalni za slobodu izbora koju nam tržište pruža. Zaustavimo se na trenutak i vrednujmo postojanje "čovjeka preko puta" koji je stalno u potrazi za novim načinima pružanja bolje i jeftinije usluge za nas.

Napomenimo takođe da je "preko puta" samo metafora. To bi moglo biti preko rijeke, planine, mora, ili okeana. Princip je isti. Ako negdje postoji neko ko vam može pomoći, to je dobro za vas oboje. Dakle, kad god razmišljate o glasanju za "zaštitu industrije x" od inostrane konkurencije, zamislite nekoga ko glasa o tome da li bi vama trebalo biti dozvoljeno da odete u drugi dućan nakon što ste otkrili da niste zadovoljni proizvodima i uslugama dućana x. Zamislite da neko odluči da ne ne smijete da idete kod "čovjeka preko puta" za bolju uslugu jer taj neko želi zaštititi čovjeka koji ne mari da li će oštetiti vašu imovinu ili ne.

Neki će reći da su ovo trivijalne primjedbe. Neki bi mogli reći: Koga je još briga za slomljenu trideset godina staru centar-kapu?! Spreman sam na takve opaske, ali onda imajmo na umu da, ako želimo koristiti ovu liniju razmišljanja, moramo prihvatiti činjenicu da bi neko mogao označiti kao trivijalno nešto što mi smatramo iznimno dragim i važnim. Neko bi mogao, na primjer, reći da vama stvarno ne treba automobil s klima-uređajem i vazdušnim jastucima. Stara LADA iz 1985-te će za vas biti sasvim u redu. Neko bi mogao reći: Koga briga da li vaše dijete jede narandže, banane ili kivi zimi. Stare jabuke iz mog podruma će im biti sasvim dovoljne.

Mogli bismo ići dalje s ovim hipotetičkim slučajevima, ali ono što je važno je princip u osnovi tih slučajeva. Vrijednost je subjektivna i ono što neko smatra važnim, neko drugi može smatrati potpuno trivijalnim. Međutim, koristiti silu zakona za ograničavanje naše sposobnosti da odredimo koje od naših potreba su trivijalne, a koje su neophodne, znači dati  moralnu superiornost subjektivnim preferencama nekih ljudi u odnosu na jednako subjektivne preference ostalih ljudi.

Možda, nakon što sve ovo uzmete u obzir, ipak i dalje želite da glasate za intervencionističku politiku koja sprečava "tipa preko puta" da zadovolji potrebe vaših sugrađana. Ali, ako barem na trenutak zastanete da razmislite o implikacijama vašeg glasa, smatraću svoju misiju ostvarenom.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Beauty of the Market

Last spring, I went to put a set of summer tires on my vintage BMW alloy wheels, but this routine operation did not turn out as planned. The e-mail below gives a fairly complete account of the event. I sent the e-mail to this tire company to describe my experience with their service.

Dear Manager,

I went to the Victoria St. (Kitchener) shop yesterday to install and rotate four tires on BBS wheels (off a BMW E30 series). When I picked up the wheels in the afternoon, I noticed that one of the center caps was broken. The employee had the chance to let me know about this before I noticed, but he didn't. When I asked him what happened, he said that the plastic is old and brittle and this is why the center cap broke. I have had those wheels for eight years now, and the caps, if handled properly, would come off quite nicely. However, I can't prove that your worker handled them improperly. That is not the purpose of this e-mail anyway. I was insulted by your employee's conduct. The broken center cap may not be expensive, but that's not the point. The lack of professionalism, honesty and respect is what bothers me. I was too upset to say anything to the manager who, I hope, did not know about this. Now I am informing you in hope that some of your other customers won't have similar experiences. I am considering not using the services of this shop and maybe even the entire chain any more if I don't get some sort of reassurance that something like this won't happen again.

To make sure they receive this message, I sent the same message both through the company’s official online contact form and to the company’s official e-mail address. More than six months have passed since then, but I have not received any response. Thus, it is safe to assume that the manager did not find it beneficial to do anything about my complaint. I am assuming he took into account the negative impact his non-response could have had on the business and concluded that this effect is not large enough to warrant any action. This is a large company and if they don’t get too many complaints like mine, they probably won’t bother addressing them.

Of course, I followed through my promise, and I have not returned to this shop. Instead, this winter I went to install my winter tires at a small shop just across the road. The price was even lower, and the service was excellent. I didn’t even have to leave my car at the shop. They mounted the tires on the rims the same day and called me to let me know when they were ready for installation. I am never going back to my former tire shop. 

This is the beauty of the market. Even though losing a customer once in a while may have been calculated into the bottom line of this large company, and even though my switch may not have affected them at all, I still had an opportunity to find someone who showed better respect for my person and property. I could still find someone who cares even about the “little” things. Ultimately, I received better service for less money. 

This is the true meaning of competition, and this is why freer market access is important. The market constantly works to make you happier. If one service provider cannot or won’t meet your needs, this opens a profit opportunity for some other provider. This other provider will do his or her best to meet your needs and at the same time make profit. This is the win-win outcome that the market creates. 

Now imagine having a complaint at your local medical emergency room, or at your child’s school or any government provided service. If they ignore your complaint the first time, you will probably not insist on being heard because this requires significant portions of your time and effort. Most of us would generally rather use this time and effort for other, more productive and fulfilling activities like spending time with family, cleaning our house, or doing homework with our children. Not many people would bother complaining to the higher levels of government, which is generally the only way something could ever be done about these complaints. 

If your complaint was about long wait times in hospital emergency rooms, lack of critical thinking training in our children’s curriculum, or about the chronic lack of respectful discourse by the Ministry of Transportation employees, there is no better alternative “just across the road” like in my tire story. Not only is there no “guy across the road” that would provide better service, but there is no alternative for this sort of services in the entire country. These services are provided by legally instituted monopolies. Thus, competition is either completely outlawed or extremely limited by the current laws. 

I will put aside any discussion of the possibility of private provision of healthcare, education or transportation regulation services. This is not the purpose of this post. For now, let us just be grateful for the freedom of choice that the market provides. Let us stop for a moment and appreciate the existence of the “guy across the road” that is constantly looking for ways to provide a better and cheaper service for us. 

Let us also note that “across the road” is just a metaphor. It could be across the river, mountain, sea, or ocean. The principle is the same. If there is someone somewhere that can help you, this is a win-win situation for both of you. Thus, whenever you consider voting for “protecting industry X” from foreign competition, imagine someone voting on whether you should be stopped from going to another store after discovering that you don’t really like the products or services of store X. Imagine someone deciding you are not allowed to go to the “guy across the road” for better service because that someone wants to protect the guy that does not care if he damages your property or not.

Some may say these are trivial complaints. Some might say: Who cares about a broken 30-year-old wheel center cap! I am fine with these remarks, but let us note that if we want to use this line of reasoning, we have to accept that someone could label as trivial something you consider extremely dear and important. Someone could, for example say to you; you don’t really need a car with air conditioning and air bags. An old 1985 LADA will do for you just fine. Someone could say: Who cares if your child eats oranges, bananas, or kiwis in the winter. Old apples from this fall stored in my basement will do just fine. 

We could go further with these hypothetical cases, but what is important is the underlying principle. Value is subjective and what one considers important others may consider trivial. However, using the force of the law to limit our ability to determine which of our needs are trivial and which are essential, involves giving moral superiority to the subjective preferences of some people over the equally subjective preferences of other people. 

After considering all this, maybe you still want to vote for an interventionist policy that prevents “the guy across the road” to satisfy the needs of your fellow citizens. But if you at least stop for a moment and think about the implications of your vote, I will consider my task accomplished.