Quick Hits

• Can the greater embrace of free market principles in the United States as opposed to Europe be traced back to differences between the philosophies of the English enlightenment and the Continental enlightenment?

• It’s better to beg forgiveness than offer money: “You might think that if the apology is costless then customers would ignore it as nothing but cheap talk – which is what it is. But this research shows apologies really do influence customers’ behaviour – surprisingly, much more so than a cash sweetener.” However, I doubt these results would carry over to businesses outside of the eBay sales that this study followed. On eBay, most transactions involve no human interaction at all, but rather merely clicking a series of buttons. When things go wrong, receiving an apology from a real live person can do a lot to make you feel as if you weren’t deliberately ripped off by a computer scam, but rather were the victim of a common human screw up.

And saying sorry apparently doesn’t have any sort of magical effect if you happen to be a doctor: “Apologizing for a medical error in full and accepting responsibility may boost patients’ perceptions of physicians but may not stop them from suing[.]”

• Meet the Asgarda: a tribe of Amazons in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine.

The rent-seeking behaviors of law schools and law professors: Law schools are notorious for their attempts to climb up the US News rankings by gaming the system — “Aside from hiring their own graduates to up the employment level, they all employ squads of people whose jobs are to create social costs (of course, most lawyers do the same thing), produce huge glossy magazines that go straight to the trash, weasel around with who is a first year student as opposed to a transfer student or a part time student, [and] select students with an eye to increasing one rating or another.”

This sort of rent seeking behavior occurs in all industries, but there’s something even more disquieting about it when all that effort is wasted pursuing the nebulous goals of legal academia. “Very little of [law school rent seeking] seems designed to produce new wealth. If fact, think of the actual welfare-producing activities that could be undertaken with the same levels of energy — smaller classes, more sections of needed courses, possibly even research into areas that are risky in terms of self promotion but could pay off big if something new or insightful were discovered or said. But this is the part that puzzles me. Whether the thief in Tullock’s case or monopolist in Posner’s, the prize is clear. What is the prize for law professors? Are these social costs expended to acquire rents that really do not exist or are only imagined? What are the rents law professors seek?”

-Susan

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