Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 18, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

REDUCTIO....Via Matt Yglesias, I see that libertarian economics professor Alex Tabarrok doesn't believe that landlords should be required to makes their habitats habitable:

If tenants benefit from a law that says apartments must have hot water then surely a law that says tenants must have hot water and a dishwasher benefits them even more, right? What about a law that says tenants must have hot water, a dishwasher and cable tv? By now the students have cottoned on to the idea that the rent will increase.

No kidding. And increasing the size of the military by one division must be bad because, you know, increasing it by a thousand divisions would definitely be bad. So one division must be bad too. I sure wish I could get paid for standing in front of a blackboard and cranking out insights like this.

Reductio ad absurdum is a childish game. The fact that a minimum wage of $100/hour is ridiculous doesn't mean that a minimum wage of $7/hour is ridiculous. This is why God gave us brains: to make judgments about how far to take things and how to balance competing interests against each other. Insisting on a minimum level of habitability is partly an economic decision which explains why color TVs aren't mandated but partly a matter of both convenience and simple human decency which explains why hot water and lack of cockroaches are.

I'm really tired of reductio arguments.

Kevin Drum 4:01 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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