Incentives Matter

     The world of the Utopian is blessedly free of incentive effects and their more remote consequences. This allows the Utopian to say things like: “Well, just print a lot more money and give everyone $1,000,000, and that way everyone will be rich!”

     Mind you, I haven’t actually heard a Utopian say exactly what’s above. But I have heard one say: “Why stop at a minimum wage of $15? Raise it to $25 and everyone with a job will be middle class!” No, she was not trying to be funny.

     I’ve also heard a Utopian say: “Punishing lawbreakers just teaches them that violence works!” And: “Don’t sell your house when blacks move into your neighborhood; that’s racist! Show them some support instead.” And: “If we could just get rid of guns, we wouldn’t have a crime problem!” Perhaps you’ve been privy to similar gems of wisdom.

     Yes, yes: I know that not all Utopians are on the political Left. However, that’s where the Utopian attitude dominates. The paternalistic Utopianism once prevalent on the Right – i.e., the variety that thinks police power and plenty of prisons can put an end to prostitution, gambling, drug abuse, and other vices – has been in decline for decades. Today it’s near to extinction. Conservatives tend to learn from experience better than do liberals. Either that or we get tired faster of being slapped in the face by our mistakes and foolish presumptions.

     A lot of Utopianism arises from an unwillingness to look beyond the immediate. Those of us with a deep interest in economics are baffled by that. The uses of the economic mode of thought – specifically, the need to look at second-order, third-order, and further-out effects of particular decisions and events – aren’t limited to dollars-and-cents calculations.

     Charles Murray understands this:

     People respond to incentives and disincentives. Sticks and carrots work.

     That’s the economic mode of thought in a nutshell. But it’s unpopular on the Left, and among others who believe government decrees can “solve” “problems.” And yes, those are “sneer quotes.”


     Today’s first hollow laugh is provided by the worthy Ace:

     Locust Nation.

     A sticky-fingered mob of shoplifting teens has almost entirely cleaned out a Washington, DC-area CVS outlet — leaving the retailer’s shelves almost bare.
     Startling images from inside the chain pharmacy in DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood show row after row of empty shelves, thanks to about 45 youngsters who have been targeting the store, Fox affiliate WTTG-TV reported.

     “Youngsters.” Whatever euphemisms we can think of to make hardened thieves appear to be innocent scamps.

     “When you walk into this CVS, you’d think the store is closing because there’s barely anything on the shelves,” WTTG reporter Sierra Fox said.

     Spoiler: is closing. CVS will close 900 locations by the end of 2024.
     What are the odds that the Columbia Heights, DC store will remain open?
     Or that any stores in DC will remain open?
     How long do these idiots think that people are going to continue spending good money so that human-shaped locusts can steal them blind?
     There will be no shops left in Washington DC, and then they’ll start whining about “food deserts” and “CVS deserts.”

     “In fact, the only items in stock are the ones that are locked up. I did ask an employee what gets stolen the most, and they just laughed and said, ‘Everything,'” she added.
     According to store employees, the rowdy mob of minors routinely raid the store for chips, drinks and other items — and claim street vendors also pay the teens to pocket items for the store that they later sell at a profit on the sidewalk.
     “It makes me not want to shop there, to be honest,” customer Ilana Miller told the outlet.
     “I just go in there and get my prescription and then when I need other things, I go elsewhere because there’s nothing there to get,” she said.

     But what else could we have expected? For three years now, we’ve been watching as mobs looted every kind of store under the sun…and listened to politicians and their spokesdroids excuse such criminality as “a justified response to oppression,” or similar tommyrot. The behavior has been most prevalent in cities, especially the larger ones. Which political party, pray tell, has held hegemony in America’s cities these past few decades? Which mayor of a city so afflicted has ordered his police and prosecutors to crack down on crime of this sort?

     Success inspires emulation. It’s distressing to have to keep saying this, but the message doesn’t seem to be getting through.


     Here’s another instructive citation:

     It would be fair to argue that the title of this article could have been shortened considerably because pretty much all of New York City is overwhelmed by migrants now. Even the Mayor and the Governor have admitted as much and asked people arriving at the southern border to go elsewhere. (They’re ignoring that request so far.) But the city’s hospitals have been hit particularly hard. It’s nearly as difficult to find an empty hospital bed now as it was at the height of the pandemic. Many of the migrants arrive with or develop serious medical issues. And the vast majority of them have no jobs or money, they have no insurance, and they have no accessible medical records. This is placing a huge strain on the city’s hospitals and sucking up resources that legal residents still require. (NBC News)

     In the past year alone, medical centers across the five boroughs have received nearly 30,000 visits from undocumented migrants seeking medical care, according to data from New York City Health + Hospitals, which operates the city’s public hospitals and clinics. About 300 new babies have been born to migrant moms during that period, most at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, which has seen one-quarter of the overall migrant visits.
     “This has been the hardest work I’ve ever done,” said Dr. Ted Long, a senior vice president for New York City Health + Hospitals who helps oversee the city’s health response to the migrants.
     “But it’s been the most impactful work that I’ve ever done,” added Long, who also holds a weekly clinic for patients at Bellevue in need of primary care.

     New York is a big city with multiple hospitals and a sizable public medical system, but those facilities were already busy enough taking care of the legal population of residents. You can’t simply dump another 30,000 patients into the mix without causing serious issues. Also, many people, particularly those in lower-income neighborhoods receive care at public clinics that are at least partially funded by the taxpayers. Those clinics are also overwhelmed, with many of the migrants reportedly being treated on an emergency basis while residents sit through long waiting periods for an appointment.

     New York City openly promotes itself as a “sanctuary city.” Why is it dismayed when illegal aliens flock to it for the free goodies it promises? Isn’t that exactly the behavior it incentivized? A sensible man is forced to conclude that the city’s policy makers are idiots…as are the voters who keep returning them to office.

     Are there any villages in need of idiots? New York City has a large number in need of loving homes.


     Let’s close with a little Ralph Waldo Emerson:

     You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong….Justice is not postponed….Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty.
     Though no checks to a new evil appear, the checks exist, and will appear. If the government is cruel, the governor’s life is not safe. If you tax too high, the revenue will yield nothing. If you make the criminal code sanguinary, juries will not convict. If the law is too mild, private vengeance comes in.

     And if you allow some to victimize others, the “some” will wax in number while the “others” flee to safer precincts.

     But try getting a Utopian to see that.


Skip to comment form

    • OneGuy on October 5, 2023 at 8:57 AM

    Congress should pass a law requiring deportation within 24 hours of custody of any illegal alien.  Also a law requiring that not one cent of federal money can be spent on illegals except for the cost of deportation.  And require that existing laws on immigration be vigorously enforced.   I would also add no public school for illegals but I expect that wouldn’t pass muster so instead require that when an illegal child is enrolled that is used as evidence and the police take custody of the child and then find the parents through the child and deport them.  One last law would be to insist no non-citizen could work in this country and  companies/individuals hiring non-citizens pay a fine; $1000 a day seems about right,

    • Alex Lund on October 5, 2023 at 10:47 AM

    Just imagine a retailer would get imaginative.

    They re-equip the store, announce that it opens the day after tomorrow but tomorrow the door is left open by “accident” and when the “youngsters” steal the food items (and only they are in the shelves) they will shortly after eating and drinking them have a very painful reaction: stomach cramps of the worst variety and everything they eat wants to leave their bodies the fastest way possible: either upper entrance or lower opening.

    And when they complain: “Oops, sorry, we bought this stuff in Puerto Rico from the cheapest company and they had a problem with cleanliness etc.”

    And before the company can be sued, it just desintegrates and nothing of value is left. Oops.

    1. Oooh, that’s evil. I like it!

    • Chris on October 5, 2023 at 1:07 PM

    I predict a return of private membership clubs. Pay a fee, get a card which is checked one at a time as you enter. It is not a public accomodation so avoids many of the nanny state laws. The number in the store is limited at any one time. Groups pushing their way in are breaking and entering so castle defense laws apply. Most merchandise is “in the back” so go to a counter and request what you wish to purchase with money that you show first.

    It worked in the old days….

    • June J on October 6, 2023 at 9:14 AM

    If NYC is struggling with invaders and their illnesses, can you image what it’s like in southern Texas?

    • SiG on October 6, 2023 at 4:04 PM

    I don’t think I can embed a cartoon here, but Michael Ramirez has a good take on the shoplifting and crime rampage.  I’ll link to his website here.


  1. They are what might be called one level thinkers.  They just don’t think on past the first stop and consider consequences.

Comments have been disabled.