Home > Economics - General > My bet with Bryan Caplan

My bet with Bryan Caplan

January 16th, 2010

Since Europe-US comparisons are in the air again, it seems like a good time to report on the first year of my bet with Bryan Caplan, the terms of which are

The stake is $US100 and the agreed criterion is that, for Bryan to win, the average Eurostat harmonised unemployment rate for the EU-15 over the period 2009-18 inclusive should exceed that for the US by at least 1.5 percentage points

The relevant figures are at Eurostat and, with December still to come in, I estimate that the EU-15 rate will be 0.3 percentage points below that for the US for 2009, so that I beat the spread by 1.8 percentage points.

My first response is that, instead of asking Bryan to raise the spread from his initial offer of 1 percentage point to 1.5, I should have asked to shorten the term of bet to 5 years, which would bring the settlement date within my normal time horizon. If Bryan is up for this change, I’m willing to offer it now.

Second, looking at the sharp decline in labor force participation in the US, any reduction in unemployment rates there is likely to be slow. I don’t have comparable EU-15 figures to hand, but claims about the dynamism and flexibility of the US labor market are looking much less plausible now than they did a few years ago, let alone in the boom times of the 1990s.

I don’t have a full explanation for the apparent failure of economic liberalism in the labor market, but increasingly entrenched inequalities in education (which exist everywhere, but are worse in the US) and the associated lack of social mobility must play a role, I think. I had a go at some of this in the ‘Trickle Down’ chapter of my book.

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  1. Freelander
    January 16th, 2010 at 21:11 | #1

    With the extraordinary shock, one of the US’s dynamic labour market clearing mechanisms, incarceration, is this time probably feeling the strain. Not to worry, the US still has time for an incarceration led recovery.

  2. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 16th, 2010 at 22:08 | #2

    The EU has no centrally fixes minimum wage whilst the US does. The EU has very little in the way of centralised tax powers whilst the US does. Both regions use a common currency and are free trade zones and also permit labour mobility. Both regions are relatively open to outside trade. Both regions suffer from a central bank but the EU version seems to be more sane. The EU also sensibly doesn’t centralise responsibility for government debt. I’m not certain of the facts but bases on media reports it also seems that the US have been more into stimulus spending than the EU crowd. Finally it is worth noting that the US spends a lot more on military things and has military bases in hundreds of countries around the world.

    On what grounds is one expected to do better than the other on unemployment?

  3. Nick R
    January 16th, 2010 at 23:18 | #3

    I remember reading something similar (maybe here?) from Caplan where a proposed bet was to focus on the U.S. vs. Scandinavian performance on the Human Development Index. Caplan did not take the bet, citing some methodological difficulties in the design of the HDI and claiming that the Scandinavian countries performed well on this metric because it is essentially a measure of how ‘Scandinavian’ a country is. I found this argument pretty unconvincing as Caplan made no attempt to show that GDP was a better measure of economic performance than HDI, rather he merely argued that the latter was imperfect, something which we all already knew.

    If libertarians like Caplan genuinely believe in the economic policy they have been prescribing they should be prepared to construct their own sets of indices to demonstrate their case. Such an index should however place a reasonable emphasis on health, literacy, inequality, pollution, other factors outlined by Stiglitz and Sen, and crime and incarceration as suggested by JQ. That they don’t do this (at least not to my limited knowledge anyway) appears to be a serious weakness, suggesting a real lack of confidence in the position they advocate so strongly.

  4. observa
    January 17th, 2010 at 00:30 | #4

    Terje asks- “On what grounds is one expected to do better than the other on unemployment?” to which I’d surmise it pays to start off well in the black and not be responsible for printing the world’s reserve currencies or subsequently getting too involved in world banking and the credit creation process. However if you do get a bit carried away with these pursuits and take your eye off the ball with inflating asset prices and creating malinvestments, at least have a lot of expensive dirt per capita to cover your butt. Either that or be unimportant enough to be able to have a referendum to put the repayments in the too hard basket. As for the military adventure expenditure, be unimportant enough to be able to stick to testing and fine tuning the manuals and equipment and if it all gets a bit sticky you can easily pull out of any bad war for any good war going round. That should just about halve any peak unemployment shocks by the looks of things.

  5. Alice
    January 17th, 2010 at 07:00 | #5

    @Freelander
    LOL Freelander…you are funny! ( incarceration does lower labour costs and make the inmates more flexible …especially after a good beating).

  6. Socrates
    January 17th, 2010 at 07:18 | #6

    Sounds like a pretty good bet. I understand that demographcally a lot of the Euro 15 countries are headed for shortages of skilled labor thanks to ageing populations. As more of their populations go into retirement age and out of the labor force, the unemployment stats for Euro 15 nations will naturally trend down, just as ours are doing now. Whereas the US population has a higher birth rate (and has had for some years) and higher immigration, so their labor force is still expanding. Thus even if both economies were equally efficient it would be remarkable if US unemployment beat Euro 15 unemployment. For all the reasons Terje cited they should be similar in performance. Thus USA beating Euro15 unemployment rates by 1.5% in the long term would be quite amazing.

  7. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 17th, 2010 at 07:36 | #7

    The Scandinavian countries don’t generally have a centrally set minimum wage. Typically it is set at the enterprise. Abolishing centrally set minimum wage laws and replacing them with a minimum wage set at the enterprise level would be a good labour market reform for both the USA and Australia. And the hire and fire laws in Denmark are said to be amoungst the most liberal in the world.

    The main problem Europe has is excessive taxes. And in general I would not expect that to effect employment levels if wages are calibrated. Most of Europe ought to cut taxes but then both the French and the Germans are doing this already. In fact given the institutional structure of the EU and give no institutional reform beyond the Lisborn treaty they are ripe for significant internal tax competition. So long as they can keep the tax power of the EU government constitutionally limited (and the veto rules suggest it would be hard to amend this) then long term I’m quite bullish about the EU.

  8. wilful
    January 17th, 2010 at 14:21 | #8

    Before commnetating about the why of this bet, maybe you should go back and read the original deal?

    Terje, while the EU-15 may not have these things centralised, they certainly have them shared amongst most if not all of their governments, so I’m not sure what difference that would make.

  9. plaasmatron
    January 17th, 2010 at 20:01 | #9

    The HDI as a measure of “how Scandinavian a country is” does not surprise me, but is quite painfully funny. Having just spent a bit over a year living in Sweden I was amazed how the general aim of the populace was to be “above average”. In terms of competing on international indexes of livability and development this might be a good way to rank well; but in terms of an actual livability scale (where the emphasis should be on living as opposed to existing) I would put Sweden at close to the bottom of all countries I have visited or lived in. Brave New World came to mind quite often. Most of the interesting Swedes get out to live in “europe” before the system can trap them into immobility; nice job, nice house, nice car, nice red wooden farm in the country, nice boat, nice wife, nice kids. “Nice” ended up being an insult in the end.

  10. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 18th, 2010 at 05:29 | #10

    Wilful – a minimum wage set nationally will generally be worse than one set regionally. A minimum wage that suits Sydney may not suit Grafton. Short of abolishing the minimum wage the ideal would be to decentralise it to enterprises. This is in fact the situation in Sweden. They have no national minimum wage but instead they determine one for each enterprise as part of enterprise bargaining. An alternative for Australia might be to allow the relevant regulator to accept applicatons for regional variations in the minimum wage and to then make an assessment specific to that regional economy. For instance a remote community with double digit unemployment but relatively low housing costs might be assigned a discount of 55% off the standard national minimum wage. Canada and the EU are examples of places where the minimum wage varies by region.

  11. Freelander
    January 18th, 2010 at 05:36 | #11

    @TerjeP (say Tay-a)

    Abolishing the minimum wage is not ideal. The minimum wage can improve efficiency both in theory and practice. Enterprise bargaining is ridiculous and evil nonsense. It is just a way to exploit employers bargaining power to the detriment of workers. It has no theoretical justification; in fact it is contrary to the competitive model.

  12. Socrates
    January 18th, 2010 at 06:38 | #12

    Apologiers for the slightly off-topic post but I have a question. To those who are expert on labor market reform, I have often wondered, does anyone calculate the loss to the economy of skills made redundant when people have to change jobs? Obviously while economists focus on flexibility individuals focus on how much they lose/gain when they change jobs. Many cases of the reforms in the 80s saw people worse off from such changes. The same would apply to some in the 90s as manufacturing industries were transferred offshore to lower cost producers. Does the cost to those here who had skils in the departed industry get counted as a negative? I ask because when you look at questions such as minimum wages (which I support as a policy) it will affect some marginal industries. The loss of skills may not be trivial. I can think of qualified mechanical engineers and skilled tradesmen here in Adelaide who have lost jobs when car plants have closed.

  13. Freelander
    January 18th, 2010 at 07:03 | #13

    @Socrates

    Loss of skills, I would think is rarely calculated (I could be wrong as I am not a labour ecoomist). I imagine it would be in the ‘too hard basket’. The rule often is for policy research ignore everything in the ‘too hard basket’ regardless of how important the ignored item is. Then in the report, if what is missing is mentioned at all, there would typically be some bland statement suggesting that the omission doesn’t really matter, and inclusion would not materially change the results.

    There is research on ‘learning by doing’ and some research on ‘forgetting by not doing’. The ‘learning by doing’ shows that enterprises get better at what they do the longer they are doing it (this is separate to readily identifiable changes in technology or processes). The more recent ‘forgetting’ stuff also shows that if an enterprise stops doing something they begin to lose the implicit corporate knowledge (a form of capital) that they have gained from experience. Of course, at the individual level experience and the accumulation and loss of implicit knowledge are much the same.

    I think you have identified an important issue that should be included amongst the impacts of a labour market policy. If there are any labour economists reading the blog, they (or JQ) might be able to provide a better informed answer.

  14. Tim Peterson
    January 18th, 2010 at 09:14 | #14

    @Freelander

    The minimum wage improves efficiency only if firms are monopsonistic buyers of labour. This is not usually the case.

    Most studies in the US find that increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment, particularly amongst the young, unskilled and ethnic minorities.

  15. January 18th, 2010 at 10:29 | #15

    “I don’t have a full explanation for the apparent failure of economic liberalism in the labor market”

    I don’t know why you leap to this conclusion from one year’s data, especially when you consider what a year it was – the US the epicentre of a financial crisis, and then the victim of a stupendous, misguided spending program that has dismally failed to address unemployment.

    I’m not surprised you want to shorten the bet timescale – the effects of the recession would be relatively magnified.

  16. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 18th, 2010 at 11:24 | #16

    Freelander – you may not like enterprise bargaining but my key point is that the impact, both good and bad, of minimum wages are dependent on circumstance. If you applied Australias minimum wage in parts of China the impact could be dire for those effected. All I’m really arguing for is more context sensitivity. The minimum wage that works in Sydney may not work so well in Grafton where housing costs and nominal wages are lower.

    My other point is that the notion that the US has more liberal labour laws than the US is open to contention. It depends where you sit in terms of skills. The scandinavian nations will at times offer more freedom for some employers than the US. No legislates minimum wage in Sweden easy options to hire and fire in Denmark. In terms of unemployment the liberalism of labour laws as they apply to the most marginal workers will be the key determinent along with welfare benefits.

  17. Freelander
    January 18th, 2010 at 11:58 | #17

    @Tim Peterson

    “The minimum wage improves efficiency only if firms are monopsonistic buyers of labour.”

    That is always the case in this universe!

  18. Freelander
    January 18th, 2010 at 12:00 | #18

    @TerjeP (say Tay-a)

    Re: Enterprise bargaining

    Give me a reference to a peer reviewed article in a proper journal (not from a loony toons think tank) the provides a convincing rationale for enterprise bargaining?

    Go ahead. Make my day!

  19. Monkey’s Uncle
    January 18th, 2010 at 12:06 | #19

    Terje, you are absolutely correct that having high national minimum wages is bad policy when you consider that economic activity, cost-of-living and average earnings vary considerably across different parts of the country. A minimum wage that might barely keep you off the streets in parts of the country will destroy jobs in other parts of the country.

    In Australia the minimum wage is almost 60% of the average wage, much higher than in most developed countries. But when you consider that average wages are lower in some parts of the country, the minimum wage as a share of average wages is substantially higher in those places.

    Is it any wonder that parts of the country have long had stubbornly high unemployment levels? Who in their right mind would choose to invest in new businesses and industries in economically depressed regions when you will also have to pay more for low-skilled labour than it is worth? Indeed, outside of major recessions high unemployment tends to be concentrated in a limited number of regions. This must be at least partly exacerbated by the distortion of high national minimum wages.

  20. Freelander
    January 18th, 2010 at 12:18 | #20

    @Monkey’s Uncle

    Of course a minimum wage can be too high. If this statement is not oxymoronic then it is a tautology. Given that it is not an oxymoron, it is a tautology.

    Apt moniker…

  21. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 18th, 2010 at 12:21 | #21

    Freelander – It seems to me that you are pusuing me on some imagined point of disagreement merely to change the topic of discussion. If you don’t like enterprise bargaining then tell it to the Swedes.

  22. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 18th, 2010 at 12:41 | #22

    Monkeys Uncle – a modest reform for Australia would be to allow the relevant regulator (I can’t recall the new name) to take the same economic criteria it uses to determine the national minimum wage and to apply it to a specific region to set a modified minimum wage for that locality. So for instance if cost of living, medium wage and unemployment are the key criteria it uses to set the minimum wage nationally then it might apply a different minimum wage for Port Macquarie based on the cost of living in Port Macquarie, the medium wage in Port Macquarie and the rate of unemployment in Port Macquarie. From a practical perspective there would need to be some criteria around what constituted an economic region.

  23. sdfc
    January 18th, 2010 at 12:46 | #23

    Jarrah

    “I don’t know why you leap to this conclusion from one year’s data, especially when you consider what a year it was – the US the epicentre of a financial crisis, and then the victim of a stupendous, misguided spending program that has dismally failed to address unemployment.”

    How do you know Jarrah? Mankiw certainly doesn’t say that. Given the government’s fingerprints were all over Q3 growth I would say it is very likely that government spending has mitigated the rise in unemployment to some extent.

  24. Monkey’s Uncle
    January 18th, 2010 at 14:44 | #24

    Freelander @ 12:18,

    Nice straw man.

    If my point was merely that it is possible for minimum wages to be set too high, this might well be a redundant and self-evident point. But that wasn’t my point. My point is that:
    a) the national minimum wage in Australia is probably too high, and
    b) setting minimum wages on a national rather than regional level is often bad policy

    Unless everyone agrees that a) and b) are obviously true and self-evident, then the point still needs to be made and is in no way superfluous or redundant.

  25. 2 tanners
    January 18th, 2010 at 19:37 | #25

    Partly O/T but back then you agreed to differ/did not agree to agree on interpretations back at the start.

    My observation is that education is crucial to employment. Look at the economic miracle countries and, for that matter, any nation which has made greater strides forward than comparable countries. And look at the losers.

    Education is not the only factor by any means but it is a necessary, if not sufficient condition to keep up with the developmental and employment Joneses.

  26. Freelander
    January 18th, 2010 at 20:07 | #26

    @Monkey’s Uncle

    Of course they can be set to high. If the minimum wage was set at a million dollars a week there would definitely be a problem. Do you think you have discovered this? Don’t you think most of the people here know that?

    What straw man? I simply pointed out that your statement was a tautology (given that it was not an oxymoron). There is nothing straw man about that. Why not use Wikipedia and see if you can find out what ‘a straw man’ means? While you are at it, maybe you also need to brush up on ‘tautology’ and ‘oxymoron’?

  27. Alice
    January 18th, 2010 at 20:38 | #27

    @TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    Terje – are you advocating the use of a moderate regulator?

  28. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 18th, 2010 at 20:39 | #28

    Freeman – do you accept that a minimum wage that may work fine in one economic region may be quite harmful in another? Do you object to regional variations to the national minimum wage for regions that have economic circumstances quite different to the national average? Or is there cause to stick with one size fits all?

    I don’t actually mind if you disagree it is just that if that is the case I’m interested to understand why? And if you actually agree then I’m keen to stop troubling myself to understand the disagreement.

  29. TerjeP (say Tay-a)
    January 18th, 2010 at 21:12 | #29

    Alice – no I’m advocating the reform of a regulator which will achieve 90% of what full deregulation would achieve without offending the objectives that most pro-regulation people want from a minimum wage regulator. In short I’m trying to figure out what political compromise might achieve if anything. I could retreat to my prefered position of no minimum wage but I already know that most people here disagree with that position so I’m endeavouring to be creative in steering a middle course. I know that some people view such political compromise with great cynicism but so long as people are honest about the fact that they are engaged in compromise the cyncism isn’t necessary. Freelander has already agreed that a minimum wage can be too high so all we are really exploring is boundary conditions. Personally I think the welfare objectives of the minimum wage are better achieved via direct subsidy (eg a social wage) and low income tax relief.

  30. Freelander
    January 18th, 2010 at 21:18 | #30

    Different minimum wages in different regions have pluses and minuses. They may have static advantages, but dynamically the result may be quite different. People and businesses can move, hence, in what circumstances and what regime of regional variation might be better than a national minimum wage is not something that is at all clear.

    Of course, I imagine it is all clear to you? Do you have a reference for, or have you written a paper elaborating the analysis underpinning your preference for, and the detail of your regional variation preference? Or is it just a seat of the pants, gut feeling thing, like the underpinnings of your views on anthropogenic climate change and other things?

    Where is your reference for you belief that enterprise bargaining is so wonderful?

    Or is this just another, “I may not know much about economics (or anything else) but I know what I like”?

  31. Freelander
    January 18th, 2010 at 21:27 | #31

    @TerjeP (say Tay-a)

    Further, what about the efficiency benefits of a minimum wage?

    With your targeting ‘welfare objectives’ via a subsidy, and low income tax relief, are you not concerned about churn,loses through the costs of administration, and the marginal burden of taxation, as well as the ‘welfare’ costs of various distortions induced?

    A minimum wage policy can be implemented without an objective of targeting welfare to a particular group. The policy can be implemented simply to improve efficiency. In that case, given that your alternatives reduce efficiency your instruments cannot achieve the same result.

  32. derrida derider
    January 19th, 2010 at 09:18 | #32

    “The minimum wage improves efficiency only if firms are monopsonistic buyers of labour. This is not usually the case.” – Tim Petersen @14

    A very common misunderstanding. The “new labour economics” is driven by the insight that high search and information costs mean that an employer ALWAYS has a local monoposony over their current employees because it is risky and expensive to change jobs. So a rational profit-maximising employer will pay their employees less than their marginal product – IOW exploit them in the technical, Marxist sense.

    Mind you I think the models are incomplete – it’s a bilateral monopoly situation rather than a pure monopsony one because the employee will also impose costs on the employer by leaving. This “balance of terror” varies enormously from job to job though – factory fodder and checkout chicks cause employers relatively little pain by leaving so the pure monopsony model might be a reasonable approximation for them, and they’re the relevant case for setting minimum wages. But not so much for, say, a distinguished professor of economics who is in a positon to appropriate the rents from his talent; John should be hard-nosed in his salary negotiations :-) .

    Generalising to other markets you soon realise that information costs mean local bilateral monopoly is the norm, not the exception. Pure marginalist models of supply and demand are usually only very rough approximations to reality at best and models of choice and human welfare adhering rigidly to them are very flawed.

  33. Monkey’s Uncle
    January 19th, 2010 at 09:42 | #33

    Freelander, you are obviously a troll so I won’t waste my time debating back and forth with you any further. Despite twice clarifying the issue, you continue to trivialise and misrepresent the argument for the sake of taking a cheap shot.

    I I was to apply the same kind of argument ad absurdum, it would go something like this:
    Another poster might write ‘minimum wages are barely enough for families to survive on. And yet business is constantly putting pressure on governments to keep wages as low as possible.’
    To which I might reply ‘Of course wages can be too low. Do you think you are the only person to have discovered that? If this is not an oxymoron it is a tautology. If the minimum wage was 5 cents a day then of course it would affect the living standards of the working poor and incentives to work.’

    According to your reasoning, you can never actually make a point because if you take the argument through to its logical extreme it will become so self-evident and tautological that the point becomes redundant. This is sophistry and rhetorical nonsense of the highest order. Indeed, it is sometimes said that the way to determine if an argument is sound or not is to take it to its logical extreme. Yet according to you, the fact that an argument taken to its logical extreme becomes self-evident and obvious is a reason why the argument should not be made at all. Wonderful logic.

  34. Tim Peterson
    January 19th, 2010 at 11:40 | #34

    @Freelander

    I don’t think that a little local cafe takes into account its (negligible) impact on local wage rates when it hires employees. Ditto for plumbers, shops, market gardeners etc.

  35. Tim Peterson
    January 19th, 2010 at 11:53 | #35

    @derrida derider

    That is very interesting.

    I have read Ed Phelp’s work on customer markets: it links the value of matches in the search process to the stockmarket valuation of the firm. Higher stock prices increase the NPV of good matches, and cause more search/lower markups by firms. The same sort of thing applies to labour markets.

  36. Freelander
    January 19th, 2010 at 15:02 | #36

    @Tim Peterson

    They don’t take into account the impact on ‘local wages’. But neither does any other monopsonist. They know that if they want another employee they will have to pay more and pay their existing ones more. Thats monopsony. How about you do a bit of reading?

    Maybe get an economics degree from a good university?

  37. Tim Peterson
    January 19th, 2010 at 20:34 | #37

    @derrida derider

    The bileteral monopoly situation you describe should also incorporate efficiency wages – firms may not want to set wages as low as they could in the interests of labour productivity.

  38. Tim Peterson
    January 19th, 2010 at 20:36 | #38

    By “local wages” I meant the wage rates that the firm pays -assuming all firms pay the same wage. No need to be gratuitously insulting!!!

  39. Freelander
    January 19th, 2010 at 23:26 | #39

    Tim Peterson :
    No need to be gratuitously insulting!!!

    Sorry, maybe I am tiring from providing a gratuitous education?

  40. Lucas
    January 20th, 2010 at 09:08 | #40

    @JQ,
    “I don’t have a full explanation for the apparent failure of economic liberalism in the labor market, but increasingly entrenched inequalities in education (which exist everywhere, but are worse in the US) and the associated lack of social mobility must play a role, I think.”
    Evidence for your theory here: http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/930

  41. charles
    January 20th, 2010 at 09:15 | #41

    Freelander
    January 19th, 2010 at 15:02 | #36
    Reply | Quote

    …..

    Maybe get an economics degree from a good university?

    Strange comment in a thread discussing the failure of economics to deal with reality.

  42. Freelander
    January 20th, 2010 at 09:59 | #42

    @charles

    Maybe the comment was gratuitous?

  43. Freelander
    January 20th, 2010 at 10:07 | #43

    @charles

    A problem with many so-called economists is that they barely know first-year economics. Any clown, especially one with a loud voice and a thick hide, can fool some print or TV journalist into interviewing them and disseminating their views, no matter how absurd.

    As for those experts who have led many to our current failures with their free market mantra, often they are narrowly read, and even where they are not, the assumptions underpinning their understanding are at best tangential to reality. Problem is, rather than using their models to operate in the vicinity of where they do touch reality, they like to follow them off into the ether.

  44. Freelander
    January 20th, 2010 at 19:50 | #44

    @Monkey’s Uncle

    You don’t seem to understand that what holds at the extreme, that a very high minimum wage is bad for the economy and everyone and reduces efficiency, doesn’t hold over the whole range. It is your thinking that is flawed.

    If you drink too much water in too short a period of time, it can kill you because the water dilutes your electrolytes. It does not follow that water is bad for you and should be avoided.

    Are you going to pay me for the lesson, or will it turn out to have been gratuitous?

    Also, you don’t appear to know what a tautology is. You can look it up you know? The internet is quite handy for that sort of thing…

  45. Alice
    January 20th, 2010 at 21:50 | #45

    @Freelander
    LOL Freelander “Are you going to pay me for the lesson, or will it turn out to have been gratuitous?”

  46. Monkey’s Uncle
    January 21st, 2010 at 16:33 | #46

    “You don’t seem to understand that what holds at the extreme, that a very high minimum wage is bad for the economy and everyone and reduces efficiency, doesn’t hold over the whole range. It is your thinking that is flawed.”

    This is an entirely false mutual exclusivity. What holds for the extreme sometimes holds for more moderate cases, only to a lesser degree. While with some things what holds for the extreme does not hold for less extreme cases. In the case of minimum wages, it is true that the minimum wage does not destroy as many jobs as if it was double or triple the current rate, but it still does some damage nonetheless.

    Your logic seems to be that if you take my argument through to its extreme point it makes sense, ergo I must be wrong because we all know that what holds for the extreme does not hold over the whole range. You are obviously in line to win the Nobel Prize for logic with this.

    “Are you going to pay me for the lesson, or will it turn out to have been gratuitous?”

    I will pay you the cost of a local phone call so you can tell someone who appreciates undergraduate sophistry more than I do.

  47. Freelander
    January 21st, 2010 at 18:03 | #47

    No more gifts, for you…

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