The ‘Sofetening Up’ begins…softly

February 24th, 2007

Here we have top sleeping policeman at BBQ trying to slow the momentum of the anti road pricing rage. He uses a straw man argument to try and pull it off. Lets see…

Here’s an old economist conundrum about queues.

Here we go.

Suppose there is a water fountain in a park. It’s a hot day and lots of people want to drink from the fountain. Being awfully British and civilised, they form an orderly queue at the fountain.

Now, if the number of thirsty people strolling past the fountain is large enough, the rate at which people join the queue will exceed the rate at which people satisfy their thirst and leave the queue. So the queue will get longer and longer.

So what. The point is that everyone has an expatiation of when they are going to be served. They choose to queue up for the water. It is fair. It is efficient. There is no problem here. Anyone can leave the queue at any time to seek another source of water…or even a coke.

But at some point, thirsty people will reason to themselves that the displeasure of waiting in the queue is not worth the pleasure of the drink at the end. They’ll avoid the wait, and the queue will grow no longer.

The market solves its own problems. Order emerges from chaotic systems automagically. There is no need for interference, tweaking and other salary addict tactics. People work out problems for themselvs, and their interactions constitute a dynamic system that is self balancing and self ordering.

So far so good. That’s how life works in many ways.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But this simple account has a devastating implication.

Are you a thespian or an economist?

If there are people who are not joining the queue because it’s not worth it, then the people who do join the queue are probably barely getting any positive benefit out of their drinking fountain experience at all.

This is bullshit. There is no such thing as ‘drinking fountain experience’. These people are thirsty. When they get to the end of the queue their thirst will be quenched. That is all there is to it. Your input, meddling and nanny stating is not needed to make this magic happen.

They enjoy the drink, but for them, it is only just worth the wait. It’s a close run thing between bothering to drink or not.

More dramatic nonsense. People are able to weigh for themselvs the cost benefit of joining a queue. In the UK, people learn to do this from a very young age. The fact that they have waited for the water means that they are satisfied with the trade off. They know perfectly well that they can go elsewhere and get water. You are simplifying the dynamics to fit your bogus argument. Well, we expect nothing less from BBQ staffers, the largest concentration of paid liars deceivers and opinion steerers in the UK.

In fact, you might as well not have a drinking fountain on the hot day, as no-one can enjoy it without paying a time penalty that more or less wipes out the benefit.

In your humble opinion the benefit is wiped out. Its a hot day. They get free water. Its up to them and not you, to decide what that is worth. This is a classic error made by people like you; you think you know what is good for other people. And its completely STUPID to say that, “you might as well not have a drinking fountain on the hot day”. If some people get satisfaction from it, it should be there. It should not have to exist according to your idiotic standards of ‘efficiency’. Typical; you would rather people suffer from dehydration than allow an ‘inefficient’ distribution system to continue unregulated. You Swine!

I hope I’ve explained this properly. It’s a simplified account, and it relies on all the people in the park having a similar taste for drinking and not queuing.

Its completely bogus. Like most arguments made by hack economists, they create totally false idealized models of human behavior and then start to write garbage about it. Nothing wrong with that, but when you do it on the licence fee payers back, its a different proposition altogether, especially when you use this false reasoning to justify evil like orwellian road pricing, by direct order of Bliar and his contractors.

But it shows that when queuing does the rationing, it does a really bad job.

No, it doesn’t show that at all. It shows that you are not very good at making an argument. You are admitting that its a simplified model, not fit for purpose, but then in the next line, you say its good enough for the argument! Holding two contradictory thoughts in your mind at the same time. You are a model citizen!

In the park, if you could get a warden to ban people from queuing, and who instead insisted that only random people could drink, (people whose surname begins with A to K for example), the fountain would give more benefit, (although that benefit would be distributed a little unfairly).

The police state option. The first line of choice from a BBQ animal. No surprise there.

There is another alternative that’s a little more equitable. If it’s practical, you can charge people to use the fountain.

‘Tax them’. Another ‘let the state control it’ ‘solution’. BBQ are the most unimaginative people out there. Its sickening.

Now, those who do pay, have the benefit of drinking without queuing,


There are many other options to knock down this straw man problem:

  • Put up a sign showing people alternative sources of water.
  • Put in more fountains.
  • Allow vendors to sell water in the park.
  • $insert_your_solution_here

I have always hated the ‘this or that’ style of posing an argument that journalists are so fond of; it precludes any other, perhaps better options and arguments. It narrows the dialogue. Constrains thought. Its bad.

but they have the cost of paying. So on balance they are better off using the fountain, but probably only just better off. As far as they’re concerned, we haven’t improved things much over the queuing situation: we’ve just changed the pain of queuing by the pain in the purse.

The state of being ‘well off’ depends on who is being asked. What a biased BBQ ‘economist’ thinks is better for you and I is, I assure you, not what is actually better for you and I. And that is a fact.

The difference is though, that the money they’ve handed over can be of benefit to someone else, or the population at large.

But the population at large will never know, because their monies are routinely misdirected and never properly accounted for.

There is an upside to the drinkers’ displeasure, unlike in the case where the queue does the rationing.

Or to put it another way: when you queue – I get no benefit from your pain. When you pay, I probably do.

Now that is a pretty good argument against the use of rationing by queues.

It may not be a good argument for road pricing, but it does explain why economists tend to think of the price mechanism as a better method of rationing things than congestion.


The Reporters at BBQ

This is a concatenation of utter gibberish.

What this moron leaves out is the fact that the road pricing scheme is more about surveillance than it is about relieving congestion. HMG already has plans to put cameras on every inch of road, “to deny criminals the use of the roads”. What that means is that the criminals will use the roads as they have done before, and all ordinary, non criminal drivers will have their every movement recorded by a Big Brother system.

This couldn’t be more far removed from a water fountain in a park could it?

If you want to eliminate congestion in any place, you simply have to take cars off of the roads.

Think about a pint glass in your local. The beautiful brown haired bar maid starts pulling your pint. As the golden nectar reaches the top, she stops pulling. If she were to keep pulling, the bitter would start to spill everywhere, the publican sees his money spilling onto the floor, and you have to wait longer for your pint, which will still have only a pint of beer in it when it is handed to you.

Now think about London. London has a finite road capacity. Lets say that it is 200,000 cars on the road, plus all parked cars that have the potential of getting on the road at any time. When London is full, it should be closed off to incoming traffic. That means that on every road around the whole of london, barriers come down and no more cars are allowed in.

Cars are allowed out of course, and for every car allowed out, one is allowed in.

There is no need to take down the license numbers of each car. This is a case of simple counting, and capacity, just like the pint glass. There is no need to count in every sweet molecule of brew as it enters the glass; gravity takes care of it for you automagically. What cars do when they get into London is their business. As long as the capacity of London is not exceeded, the mission is accomplished. The quality of life for all Londoners improves dramatically, no one is disadvantaged by an iniquitous Congestion charging scheme, there is no opportunity for a Big Brother surveillance system of absolutely hideous cameras despoiling the city and making its inhabitants feel like prisoners in their own town, and if each of the entry points is manned, well, its jobs for the boys. And economists like jobs don’t they?

The simple solutions are the best. Take your lead from Beer. It almost always works.

Now there are those who say that such a scheme would cause chaos. So what. There is a cost to driving that has been ignored for decades. Everyone has to understand that there is a limit to the number of cars that can be on the roads, and there is a limit to the number of roads that are possible in any country. By setting the capacity of cities and roads and then cutting off access, people will have to think hard before they take their car out. There will be many systems that will grow out of this method of flow control; imagine the GPS navigation systems overlaid with the capacity of the roads and cities in real time. You could use a system like that to plan your journey. As you approach, say, London at 7:45 in the morning, the capacity left would be shown. If there is no chance of you getting there before ‘LonCap’ reaches 100%, your GPS will tell you to get off of the M4 NOW and park so that you can get a train.

This is the sort of solution that is preferable to the orwell style Blair Brother ‘options’. All you need to do is THINK about the problem correctly, with the rights of people uppermost as you consider what needs to be done.

Without beer, its harder to do.

One Response to “The ‘Sofetening Up’ begins…softly”

  1. meaumeau Says:

    In the park, if you could get a warden to ban people from queuing, and who instead insisted that only random people could drink, (people whose surname begins with A to K for example), the fountain would give more benefit, (although that benefit would be distributed a little unfairly).

    This is flawed, the whole reason there is a queue at the fountain is because it has a limited water distribution capacity, you can’t increase this capacity by altering ‘demand’ it is a propety of the fountain. By limiting access to the fountain beyond its natural capacity can ONLY reduce the benefits it brings – If the flow of A-Kers is more than its capacity then the rationing is ineffective because they must still queue or go without. If the flow of A-Kers is less than the fountain’s capacity then the system is being LESS efficacious than with unrestricetd access.

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