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A Cup of Coffee with Richard Epstein, Or, Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie

Over a cup of coffee at the Hoover Institution this afternoon, Ricochet’s own, the inimitable Richard Epstein, provided a neat if distressing insight into the nature that politics are likely to display during Barack Obama’s second term.

“When I was a young man,” Richard said, “a wise lawyer taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten:  You can tell a good business deal because everybody’s happy.  And you can tell a good settlement because everybody’s unhappy.”

Why is everybody happy in a good business deal?  Because everybody expects to profit.  That’s the whole point of business.  It produces growth–a bigger and bigger pie.  Why then is everybody unhappy in a good settlement?  Because each party recognizes the resources they’re dividing among themselves are limited–that is, there is only so much pie–and wishes he could have figured out how to get more.

imgres.jpg“Which is the problem with our politics,” Richard continued. “When economic growth was still running at the postwar norm of between three and four percent, there was enough pie to go around.  Democrats and Republicans can compromise in the expectation that both sides will benefit.  But at two percent growth?  There’s a lot less pie–and fighting over who gets what will get very ugly very fast.”

Thank God that life consists of more than politics.

  1. Lavaux
    Paul Dougherty: Happy days are here again, right? Is it wishful thinking on the right that its all coming to an end?

    I’m a doomer as well for several reasons. First and foremost, when the state decides how most of the economic increase is to be distributed, then the worst kind of people get paid and the best kind of people get screwed. This in turn leads to creators and producers withdrawing from economic activity and taking their capital with them to greener pastures. In the meantime the economy ossifies, productive capital depreciates, corruption – public and private alike – increases, and ennui grips the culture.

    This has been going in Europe for the past 50 years to dramatic effect. America won’t last as long because (1) we’re a union of sovereign states, many of which won’t travel all the way down this road, and (2) too many of us still like to believe that we’re free individuals granted liberty by God to pursue happiness. Virtually no one in Europe believes this, which is why they go along to get along.

  2. dash

    Thank God that life consists of more than politics.

    I feel a spate of pie recipes coming on.

    Joan?

  3. Last Outpost on the Right
    EJHill

    Such is The Life of Pie. · 6 hours ago

    Am I the only who pines to be as smart as EJH?

    Anyway … The inhabitants of Murray’s Fishtown are convinced that the pie we have is the only pie there is. Class warfare memes and demagogues fuel this misconception and embed it in their core beliefs – which no amount of debate, campaign advertising and charisma will ever change.

    Once the population of Fishtown consistently outvotes the rest of us (this may already be happening), we have reached the point of no return.

  4. Indaba

    Look at the upside, terrorists are not happy either because Obama can kill them with drones, even surrounded by children, and the voters do not care. Obama can kill anyone and there is not a word said.

  5. Fricosis Guy

    I’m worry that this belief has infected our side as well.  Think of the “redoubtists” on our side… aren’t they saying “let’s carve ours out” now while we can?

    Of course they see it as something to be tended, not something to be consumed.  However, it still is a philosophy of limits, not growth.

    Last Outpost on the Right

    EJHill

    Such is The Life of Pie. · 6 hours ago

    Am I the only who pines to be as smart as EJH?

    Anyway … The inhabitants of Murray’s Fishtown are convinced that the pie we have is the only pie there is. Class warfare memes and demagogues fuel this misconception and embed it in their core beliefs – which no amount of debate, campaign advertising and charisma will ever change.

    Once the population of Fishtown consistently outvotes the rest of us (this may already be happening), we have reached the point of no return. · 35 minutes ago

  6. Scott R
    Last Outpost on the Right

     

     

    Once the population of Fishtown consistently outvotes the rest of us (this may already be happening), we have reached the point of no return. · 35 minutes ago

    The Fishtowners are prone to zero-sum thinking, yes, but the irony is that conservative voters are just as likely to be Fishtowners as not — maybe more likely, in fact. 

     “Complicated American politics are.”  — Yoda 

  7. Nick Stuart

    The pie grows bigger and bigger. Why just yesterday Governor Pat Quinn of the People’s Republic of Illinois announced we would end 2013 with a budget surplus.

    http://illinoispolicy.org/blog/blog.asp?ArticleSource=5442

    321477_10151252919458667_1958569905_n.png

  8. Scott R
    Indaba: Look at the upside, terrorists are not happy either because Obama can kill them with drones, even surrounded by children, and the voters do not care. Obama can kill anyone and there is not a word said. · 26 minutes ago

    As a technical matter, Indaba, it’s OK as long as the executioner doesn’t simulate the sensation of drowning in the suspect before he incinerates the suspect and his family.  

  9. Jan-Michael Rives
    Peter Robinson

    Thank God that life consists of more than politics. · · 9 hours ago

    I’m not sure that it does anymore.

  10. The Mugwump

    In the Boy Scouts we were taught that the guy who cuts the pie gets the last piece.  Today the guy who cuts the pie not only gets first choice, but he gets to decide who gets how much as well.  Meanwhile, the baker is worried about getting paid.  Uncle Barack, tell me the story about the greedy rich again.   

  11. Leslie Watkins

    The biggest problem, mindset-wise, is the metaphor of the pie—limited resources fully cooked. Better would be the stew—no one has trouble seeing how it is ever-expanding and never completely done. 

  12. Devereaux
    Nick Stuart: The pie grows bigger and bigger. Why just yesterday Governor Pat Quinn of the People’s Republic of Illinois announced we would end 2013 with a budget surplus.

    http://illinoispolicy.org/blog/blog.asp?ArticleSource=5442 · 2 hours ago

    Oh, I’m holding my breath for that to occur! And the City of Chicago won’t have any murders either!

  13. Peter Robinson
    C
    Last Outpost on the Right

    EJHill

    Such is The Life of Pie. · 6 hours ago

    Am I the only who pines to be as smart as EJH?

     · 4 hours ago

    No, Last Outpost, you’re not the only one.  There are at least two of us.

  14. EJHill

    Pie-Cherry-Pie.jpgI was going to try to find some way to photoshop Peter’s head onto Sean Connery’s body for a third time this week… but pie doesn’t do it.

    I guess that’s what they really want. Less pie to go around. The environmentalists think we all have too much pie, the socialist thinks the slices are too unequal, the pacifists think there’s too much military pie and the young are too uneducated to know where the pie comes from.

    Such is The Life of Pie.

  15. James Of England

    As the fighting gets nastier, the realm of politics gets larger. When you don’t have to think about physical security, worry about where you bank, or remember the affiliation of your accountant, the waiter near your table or the policeman down the street, it’s easy to focus on the things that ought to matter. The hidden costs of tyranny and factionalism can rise disturbingly fast.

    Peter Robinson

    “When I was a young man,” Richard said, “a wise lawyer taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten:  You can tell a good business deal because everybody’s happy.  And you can tell a good settlement because everybody’s unhappy.”

    This is one of the reasons that I so enjoy working at the creation of joint ventures rather than in any other field of law. Everywhere else, it seems like hate and anger are important parts of what’s going on. In forward looking corporate law, it’s all about love, with everyone wanting everyone else to be happy. Bizarrely, though, the reputation of the international corporate lawyer in the media is very different to the reputation of members of other hippy-like communities.

  16. Paul Dougherty

    Isn’t everyone happy? I just heard on NPR’s All Things Considered that Gov. Brown has balanced the budget of California. That, and the Dow closed at historic highs (well for the last five years). Housing starts are up. Gas prices are trending down (rumor of a glut with all this production). The auto show in Detroit was a resounding success, the Corvette excited the NPR reviewer to the point of gushing. Happy days are here again, right? Is it wishful thinking on the right that its all coming to an end? Shouldn’t our predictions of such doom, produce at least one zombie apocalypse?

  17. Last Outpost on the Right
    Not JMR

    Peter Robinson

    Thank God that life consists of more than politics. · · 9 hours ago

    I’m not sure that it does anymore. · 7 hours ago

    I agree.

    Think about how many friendships have been damaged or destroyed by an honest, respectful Facebook post or Tweet, only to be crushed by an intolerant fanatic’s demonizing attacks.

    The intrusiveness of government – through regulation, tax policy, and entitlements – has made the the political, personal. And that’s truly unfortunate.

  18. Severely Ltd.
    Peter Robinson: Thank God that life consists of more than politics.

    There’s a mutiny going on over in the member feed to turn Ricochet into a book club. You’re welcome to join. (The mutiny, I mean. The book club too of course, but that’s after the revolution.)

  19. Free Radical

    On the small side of the wine business deals are still done with hand shakes or at most a one page contract. It is a pleasure to work with grape growers who love their land and their fruit. The collaborative effort benefits everyone down the supply chain to the consumers. Happiness is everywhere during the process. This accomplishment occurs only because each party operates with trust of the other. There are places in business where win-win and happiness are a daily occurrence.

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