“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, April 6, 1816
Monday, January 12, 2015
Some thoughts on what it means to be "ripped off"
What follows is my Op-Ed in the January 10, 2015 edition of The Orlando Sentinel. Enjoy. Or not... ____________
Last week, I
attended the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl with my 14-year old son. As fans of
the Minnesota Gophers, we were excited to spend the day together in the newly
renovated Citrus Bowl. Of course, as anyone who has attended an event there
knows, the parking has not been renovated, so I braced my son for what could be
a tough search.
As it turned
out, it was a day for learning about the difference between free-market
entrepreneurship and government inefficiency.
exited onto Tampa Avenue, within seconds a man came running alongside my
vehicle telling us to follow him if we wanted to park. I had seen signs for
$25, but as a typical economist, I think 25 cents for parking is worth haggling
over; $25 is worth driving a few miles away.
I asked the
man his price as he ran, sweat pouring from his face; $20 was his offer. I
countered with $15, and he agreed and instructed me to follow him.
As I turned
right onto a side street, I saw a police officer on a motorcycle who, with the
aid of a loudspeaker, said, "Do not pay to park on the city streets! If
you do, you are being ripped off!"
When the man
who led me to a parking spot — on the city street — guided me in, I asked him
if this was what the officer meant. Another officer came by proclaiming the
same, and the fellow I agreed to give $15 to quickly left — with none of my
When I got
closer to the stadium, I spotted him and gave him money anyway. The way I
looked at it was simple: He and I reached an agreement through the spirit of
mutual self-interest. I did not agree to pay $15 as long as the parking was not
on the street. I agreed to pay $15 for help finding parking. His service was
worth it to me: I did not have to keep driving, and he guided me to a great
spot. The police officer had no business telling me I was being ripped off when
I was fine with the arrangement.
mind, millions of dollars of taxpayer money went into the remodeling of the
Citrus Bowl. That includes some dollars that could be used for city services.
After these tax dollars are taken from us to make the stadium nicer, the city
allows corporations to come in and charge $11 for a beer and $25 for
cheaply-made T-shirts, to name only two items that folks could claim are priced
at "rip-off" levels.
game, my son and I sat in a section in the upper deck. The section next to us
was filled with beer-swilling Minnesota fans — most of whom looked much closer
to 18 than the legal age of 21. By the third quarter, public drunkenness and
profanity filled that section.
A few feet
away, an Orlando police officer stood by. Near my section, not the Minnesota
kids'. I walked over to him and asked him how often he finds himself thinking,
"There is no way that person is 21."
He said he
finds himself thinking that he missed his days in college — but he did not do
anything about the possibility of underage drinking or drunkenness.
So I wonder,
in which case was the city of Orlando served best — by the young man who ran
alongside my truck to help me park on the taxpayers' streets, or the person
paid by the taxpayers to maintain order?
phrase "ripped off" is appropriate after all.