But why did this person pay for the food instead of waiting in line to get it for free? Well, that person’s time was more valuable spent doing something else than standing in line like the other people. Luckily, in this situation, he had the option of representing his desire for Las Trojes Mexican using money instead of human time. The price mechanism is far more efficient in allocating resources fairly as evidently seen by the hours people spent waiting to get food that day. Where normally it may take up to five minutes to get food on a busy day, that day it took much, much longer. Paying for a service with money, such as a burrito, represents an exchange of claims over resource ownership. Paying for the same services with human time is outright resource destruction. Think about all the productive things those people could have been doing that day if they weren’t waiting in that line…
Public Goods Inevitably Lead to Over Consumption
The second most blatant observation about the event was the rampant over consumption of goods and services. When prices are absent, the natural rationing that occur through the price mechanism are removed and there are no signals preventing people from over consuming. During the Katrina hurricane disaster, people criticized the price of water being “exploitative” and “evil” because a gallon of water was extremely expensive. However, without such a mechanism in place, the people at the front of the line would have taken as much as they could and left the rest to go without water. This is exactly what happened with the Tragedy of the Trojes, where the people at the front of the lined consumed as much as possible and left the people waiting in line to starve:
Public Goods Inevitably Lead to Lower Quality
What incentive did the workers in the kitchen have to keep the quality of the food high? Operating outside a market economy where price and competition were no longer an issue allowed them to throw together food which was noticeably worse than what they usually provide. Perhaps if we, the government, mandated that they provide higher quality food they would have. But that is simply untenable, and the natural propensity for the quality of subsidized goods to deteriorate over time can clearly be seen throughout history.
Public Goods Inevitably Lead to Shortages or Rationing
We live in a world where there are unlimited wants but limited resources. Just as there are limited resources on earth, there is also a limited time in which we are alive. In order for society to deal with this predicament, either rationing or shortages must occur. However, the difference between a market system and a priceless system is that those who really want a service are easily able to communicate that want with money. If people were forced to wait in the line in our example, the wants and desires of the varying people would be different. What if one of the people were really hungry and were willing to pay a premium while another in the line was just stopping by to grab some for his dog? Without prices, there would be no way for them to communicate this desire:
Public Goods Inevitably Lead to Higher Prices
If our event were to last for a year, what rational business owner would try and slash inefficiency to keep prices low? Any types of services which are funded through tax dollars have no incentive to slash costs since, again, they operate outside of the market. What incentive does public education have in keeping prices low? One only has to see the ever increasing costs of government bureaucracy to recognize the rampant waste and bloated budgets of their departments and salaries. Las Trojes, I predict, would be no exception.
Public Goods Inevitable Disrupt the Capital Structure
For all intents and purposes, the reason why Las Trojes was chosen above any other food venue on campus was that it’s a low quality Mexican food joint (go ahead and disagree with me Barry). If one were to poll the student body population and ask them to compare and rank the tastiness of the various food venues on campus, Las Trojes would probably be at the bottom of the list. In a market economy, a company which does not satisfy the wants and needs of consumers become poorer and can eventually go out of business. However, government subsidization allows goods to operate outside the marketplace which skews demand, disrupt savings, and confuses investors. If people valued Port of Subs over Las Trojes, they would be unable to communicate this fact in such a system and it would be Port of Subs that would begin to get poorer and may eventually go out of business. Governments could try resolving this by giving everybody a single vote, but those who are not interested in fast food, for example, may ignorantly cast their vote towards Las Trojes and hurt those that do participate in fast food. Prices, not voting, are the only way to efficiently maximize the wants of consumers and keep the capital structure of the economy (or UNR campus) in a position to satisfy wants.
Public Goods Inevitably are Unfair
People waiting in line were super pissed off – and for good reason. They noticed that people ahead of them were consuming so much more than what they would have normally used. They called them “greedy” and “selfish”, and though that is true, it is because of the policy in place which made them so. We have the tendency to view the world in a way where we only look at the actions of individuals, without really stepping back and recognizing why they are acting that way. The individuals were merely acting rational in an irrational and immoral system. Only through the elimination of such a system could we ever begin to recognize and produce the good that arises in a truly free market.