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Comment author: Velorien 16 February 2015 11:56:38AM 4 points [-]

More generally, a gun can be used to disable Harry in all sorts of not-necessarily-fatal ways, something Voldemort cannot do using magic.

With that said, Voldemort is also surrounded by the bodies of Harry's unconscious friends, so it's not like he urgently needs extra leverage.

Comment author: pjeby 16 February 2015 05:00:55PM 1 point [-]

More generally, a gun can be used to disable Harry in all sorts of not-necessarily-fatal ways,

And that's apparently his intent, since it's "pointed at Harry's wand arm". He's not threatening to kill Harry, but only preventing him from using his wand to do anything.

Comment author: Vaniver 11 February 2015 02:37:33PM *  4 points [-]

removing many drives that would have been better used as rocket fuel toward action.

I think this is a recipe for getting burned. Most of the time, working smarter is better than working harder, which leads us back to:

it tends to draw people into classifying nearly all problems as Type 3

So, I have not noticed this in my application of it, but I have noticed this in how she presents it. (In particular, one chapter of the work deals with death, and I remember reading thinking "hmm, I probably can't recommend this book to any rationalists without minimizing that claim somehow.") I found watching Youtube videos of her doing work with people as more effective than reading the book, I think, because there was a clear sense of "I now know the right way to go about this problem" whereas the book had more of a feeling of "I have now accepted the inevitable." (Sometimes the latter is the right way to go about the problem, of course.)

I think the two tools she presents--the "is it true?" question and the reversal--both mostly solve this problem.

First, "is it true?" separates the is from the should, which helps in classifying something as type 3 or type 5. If I say something like "my lawyer shouldn't have told the other side's lawyer fact X," and I ask myself "Is that true?" and the answer comes back "well, it's a violation of his professional code of conduct, and I can sue him for that breach," then I'm in a more useful place than I was before. If I say something like "Bob shouldn't have told Joe fact X," and I ask myself "Is that true?" and the answer comes back "well, I never actually made it clear to Bob that I wanted fact X private, and Bob never gave me the impression of being someone who was willing to keep secrets," then I'm in a more useful place than I was before.

Second, the reversal points out the many ways in which it's possible to minimize or avoid harm, which helps determine whether or not a problem actually is one you can do something about. I think pjeby's point with regards to the munching noises works well here; when you reverse "he shouldn't be making munching noises" to get "I shouldn't be making munching noises," the desired end goal is realizing that it takes one entity to make a sound and another entity to hear it. There are a vast number of unpleasant noises generated throughout the world, and you can't hear most of them, because of distance or muffling or so on. You could leave, or plug in earplugs, or ask them to stop, all of which might be better than suffering to prove how much you don't suffer!

Comment author: pjeby 11 February 2015 08:59:42PM *  2 points [-]

You could leave, or plug in earplugs, or ask them to stop, all of which might be better than suffering to prove how much you don't suffer!

Yep. This is one area where I differ in application from Byron Katie; I tend to focus heavily on self-applied judgments -- i.e. "I should(n't) X" -- rather than other-applied ones. So in AnnaSalomon's story it seemed to me the real problem was the thought "I shouldn't be petty", since there didn't seem to be any moral judgment being levied against the muncher, vs. against herself.

That being said, Byron Katie is correct that it's a lot easier to work on other-applied judgments and that it's better to learn the method using those first.

(I also sometimes find, oddly enough, that when I get to "who would I be without this thought?" on a self-applied judgment, my mind will sometimes object that if I didn't have this thought, then I'd have to stop being mad at other people for doing the same thing that I'm upset with myself about! I then have to reflect on whether on balance it actually benefits me to be upset at those other people, considering that it rarely motivates them and that the self-judgment is impairing me.)

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 10 February 2015 11:37:29PM 1 point [-]

I expect that The Work of Byron Katie will be particularly useful for your type 3 classification, as it's specifically intended for getting system 1 to update on "X should/shouldn't be/do Y" beliefs. (e.g. "that person shouldn't be making munching sounds")

Hmm... I actually read "The Work" a year or two ago, and mostly intentionally avoid recommending it to people: it seems to me that it contains powerful techniques for helping with the Type 3 classification above (as you say), but that it tends to draw people into classifying nearly all problems as Type 3, and into removing many drives that would have been better used as rocket fuel toward action.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on how Byron Katie interacts with Type 5 (worthy uses of shower thoughts and of persistent drive/energy) , or whether you think there are Type 5 cases of persistent wishing/drive that are worth keeping.

Comment author: pjeby 11 February 2015 08:51:40PM *  1 point [-]

removing many drives that would have been better used as rocket fuel toward action.

That's just it, though: a "should" is not "rocket fuel towards action", unless the most useful action to take is instinctual social punishment fueled by moral indignation.

For example, the only action that's motivated by the thought, "I shouldn't be petty", is self-directed judgment and feelings of guilt, and a futile effort to suppress a feeling of annoyance that you in fact already have.

Our brains seem to have a certain class of counterfactuals whose "intended" evolutionary function is to support the maintenance of social rules through moral indignation. When we think of things in this type of "should" or "shouldn't" mode, it makes us want to punish the entity perceived to be responsible, while at the same time rejecting any personal course of action that doesn't revolve around "setting things right" or "setting people straight".

It's this machinery that drives us to pursue "irrational" levels of revenge, and to expend lots of energy arguing for "the principle of the thing"... but not one bit of energy on actually solving the problem.

And it's deactivating this indignation machinery that the Work is actually all about. That's why all of the worksheets begin with "Judging Your Neighbor" -- specifically directing the intended user to blame some individual for the perceived problem, to amplify the judgmental aspect of the problem to make it easier to spot the implicit (moral) "should" at work

Type 5 problems generally lack such a party, or even if there is one (e.g. blaming somebody for the state of your relationship), getting that blame out of the way then clears a space for working on the actual problem and what you can do about it. (Note again the turnarounds, which highlight what things you actually control.)

I'd be interested in your thoughts on how Byron Katie interacts with Type 5 (worthy uses of shower thoughts and of persistent drive/energy) , or whether you think there are Type 5 cases of persistent wishing/drive that are worth keeping.

I can wish for something without insisting that I should already have it. In fact, I have personally found these two states to be mutually incompatible: if I am insisting I should have done something already, all my energy is tied up in mentally punishing myself for not doing it, rather than being directed towards doing it. Once the "should" is dropped, I can pay attention to whether or not I actually want to do it now, whether it would be a good idea, etc.

In System 2 thinking, there is no difference in types of "should" and "want", and there is symmetry as well. If you don't want something bad, you must want something good, etc.

In System 1, however, there are many different types of toward and away-from motivations, each with different biases for behavior. "Should" thinking biases towards punishment and away from solving the problem, because evolutionarily speaking System 1 doesn't want to clean up somebody else's mess: they should be punished for violating group norms and made to clean up the mess themselves. This makes "should"-motivation the opposite of a "rocket fuel towards action".

Luckily, because there is not only one kind of motivational drive, using a technique that shuts down only one of them does not have any negative impact on your motivation. In practical terms, it actually increases your motivation, as long as there is some consequentialist reason for you to do the thing, not just a programmed injunction regarding what's moral behavior in your tribe.

The tl;dr version: there's no moral "should" in a type 5 problem, and if there were one, then you wouldn't be thinking effectively about it anyway. You'd be stewing over how bad the problem is and why isn't it solved and does nobody recognize the importance, blah blah blah. Get rid of the "should", and as long as there's still a consequentialist reason for you to pursue the matter, you'll actually be able to think effectively about it. Getting rid of "people shouldn't die" doesn't affect "I don't like that people die" or " it would be much better if they didn't, and I'd like to do something about that".

(As a practical matter, asking "is that true?" about many shoulds leads to the insight that no, it isn't true, what's true is that I wish things were different. "I wish I were less petty" is actually more actionable than "I shouldn't be petty", and the same is true for quite a lot of things we have should-feelings about.)

it tends to draw people into classifying nearly all problems as Type 3

Is that true? How do you know? ;-)

It does seem a bit odd for a rationalist to avoid recommending a technique whose first three questions are:

  1. Is that true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that that's true?
  3. How do you act/react when you think that thought?

On the basis that people might conclude too many things they previously believed are false. ;-)

The rest of the technique consists of considering counterfactuals, e.g. "who would I be without that thought?" as a simulation, and finding reasons why contrary/alternate positions could be true... pretty much textbook countering for confirmation bias, cached thoughts, and the like.

"Should"-beliefs can't survive this gauntlet of questions, but factual ones can and do. So ISTM that the Work is a basic form of (perhaps the most basic form) of a Procedure For Changing One's Mind.

Comment author: FeepingCreature 06 February 2015 01:25:13PM *  4 points [-]

Yeah but it's also easy to falsely label a genuine problem as "practically already solved". The proof is in the pudding.

The next day, the novice approached Ougi and related the events, and said, "Master, I am constantly consumed by worry that this is all really a cult, and that your teachings are only dogma." Ougi replied, "If you find a hammer lying in the road and sell it, you may ask a low price or a high one. But if you keep the hammer and use it to drive nails, who can doubt its worth?"

--Two Cult Koans

Conversely, to show the worth of clarity you actually have to go drive some nails with it.

Comment author: pjeby 07 February 2015 06:01:36PM 4 points [-]

Yeah but it's also easy to falsely label a genuine problem as "practically already solved".

Yeah... but then that's your second problem. ;-)

And that problem exists only in the map, and can be resolved by getting clarity. ;-)

Comment author: pjeby 07 February 2015 05:50:35PM 9 points [-]

I expect that The Work of Byron Katie will be particularly useful for your type 3 classification, as it's specifically intended for getting system 1 to update on "X should/shouldn't be/do Y" beliefs. (e.g. "that person shouldn't be making munching sounds")

Per note 6, The Work actually involves a process of asking "Is that true?" about your beliefs, along with some other questions, and some pattern reversals... eg. "I shouldn't be making munching sounds", which helps in realizing that you actually have options.

For example, options that were not obvious before because system 1 was so stuck on the idea that things just shouldn't be that way. (For example, you might suddenly realize that you can wear earplugs, leave the room, politely ask someone to stop, etc.)

Of course, it might be even more helpful to question the belief "I shouldn't be petty", as it would have an even broader positive impact. ;-)

I say that because I've noticed in general that the impulses which propel people to self-improve are precisely the impulses that need to be negated in order for them to actually improve. That, e.g. a desire to "not be petty" leads precisely to a continued experience of one's self as being petty... in much the same way that the desire to not be an inadequate writer leads to a continued experience of feeling inadequate as a writer.

The thing that distinguishes these desires from healthy ones is that they're about you (the generic "you", not you, Anna Salomon specifically), rather than about the world, and that they are trying to avoid a perceived negative about the self, rather than being a desire to improve who you already are. (Even if the surface phrasing of the desire is positive, it's the emotional "tone" (as you called it) that matters.)

"Not being petty" or "being a good enough writer" are self-descriptions, not goals. A goal is, "have a good relationship with person X" or "have a good ad written". These are 1) not about one's self, and 2) can be reduced to positively-stated sensory descriptions of outside-world phenomena, without reference to your internal state.

Conversely, self-directed improvement goals (what Heidi Grant Halvorson calls "be good" goals) are negative descriptions of internal state, and lead to lots of back-and-forth and frustration because there isn't actually anything for you to optimize or move towards. All you can do is continually run headfirst into whatever you are trying to prohibit yourself from experiencing: i.e., the awareness of yourself as being "petty" or an "inadequate writer". Awareness of these self-descriptions triggers a negative self-judgment, which is painful. So your brain tries to avoid awareness, but this only perpetuates whatever outside situation is triggering the awareness (munching, needing to have a finished ad), because you're not doing anything to actually resolve the situation.

So, the solution is to question the belief that one ought not to be petty (or ought to be a good writer, or whatever), so as to discover that it is not necessary to achieve some state of perfect internal grace in order to accomplish one's true, external goals. Systems 1 and 2 will usually object, of course, because System 1 thinks that if you give up on not being petty, something awful is going to happen, and System 2 will back System 1 up with perfectly logical reasons why giving up the injunction to not be petty will in due course lead to the fall of civilization as we know it. ;-)

One of the peculiar side-effects of the way our brains render these personal injunctions is that they act like an override on both System 1 and System 2. We can't actually think about solutions to the problem of a munching noise, if the injunction is triggered by the mere thought of our not liking the noise. (Because in our mind, "not liking a noise" equates to "being petty".) So we don't even get so far as considering solutions, because we're barely even allowed to admit there's a problem.

Which is why just admitting to problems is often a helpful first step. Admitting to one's self that, "yes, actually, I am petty, if petty means disliking munching noises. And yes, I am an inadequate writer, if I define that as "not having written this ad yet"." In each case, the problem isn't the (accurate!) self-definitions, but rather, the belief that the self-definition is horrible and ought to be avoided at all costs. (And/or, the belief that the pejorative labels "petty" and "inadequate" are truly relevant or applicable to the neutral facts of the situation.)

Anyway, an awful lot of stuff is like this. Enough so that I've chosen to primarily specialize in the field of just problems that work like this. Tons of addictive and self-sabotaging behaviors build on things just like this, so I'm not going to run out of people to help any time soon. ;-)

Comment author: pjeby 07 February 2015 05:10:54PM 6 points [-]

Now I don't have to write the LW article on this that I've been meaning to write for years. Thanks! ;-) (I might still write it, but now I don't have to.)

Comment author: Vaniver 05 February 2015 09:56:57PM 0 points [-]

As I said, if you charge somebody more for something, there has to be some added value.

I think this is symmetric, though. The 'added value' of paying the non-coupon price is that you get the time you would have spent managing coupons and to conspicuously consume non-coupons; the 'added value' of paying the enterprise price is often just the conspicuous consumption of non-hobbyism. But if I want coupons to represent price discrimination, then it makes sense to see the enterprise tier as also price discrimination.

And if we use the 'capture as much consumer surplus as possible' definition, both of those are clearly serving the same general function.

Anyway, the point is that most SaaS/PaaS companies' pricing tiers are based on varying costs between the tiers, which makes them product differentiation, not price discrimination per Wikipedia.

The Kalzumeus response to this is that it leaves immense amounts of money on the table to sell software based on varying cost rather than capturing consumer surplus by price discrimination. When he sells Appointment Reminder, he encourages people to pick a tier based on the cost of one missed appointment rather than based on their particular needs (i.e. the cost of serving them).

Comment author: pjeby 05 February 2015 11:40:28PM *  1 point [-]

When he sells Appointment Reminder, he encourages people to pick a tier based on the cost of one missed appointment rather than based on their particular needs (i.e. the cost of serving them).

It's insanity to ever ask a buyer to value a product based on your cost; that's like an elementary principle of business. But there is a difference in cost, in that in the article you linked, the author talked about 25 extra hours of work he put in just to land that enterprise deal. That is a different cost of the offering, and has to be priced in.

if we use the 'capture as much consumer surplus as possible' definition, both of those are clearly serving the same general function.

There are LOTS of ways to "capture as much consumer surplus as possible". Marketing and sales, for example, are the process of communicating the benefits of your product to a customer in such a way as to make them willing to pay more -- thereby capturing more of their surplus.

Well-run business are always trying to capture as much consumer surplus as possible, so that's not a differentiating factor for what makes something price discrimination, IMO. The portion of consumer surplus a business captures is called profit, so if you're not trying to capture as much of it as you can, you're probably doing something wrong. ;-)

I think this is symmetric, though. The 'added value' of paying the non-coupon price is that you get the time you would have spent managing coupons and to conspicuously consume non-coupons; the 'added value' of paying the enterprise price is often just the conspicuous consumption of non-hobbyism. But if I want coupons to represent price discrimination, then it makes sense to see the enterprise tier as also price discrimination.

The difference is that in the case of the coupons and most other discounted offers, the differentiation is acheived by making a worse product: a factory second, something you have to take more time for, stay over Saturday for, etc.

I think what I'm trying to say is that if your higher-priced customers are trying to bypass your tiering to pay a lower price, then you have price discrimination. If your higher-priced customers are happy to pay more, you have product differentiation. This isn't a perfect bright line, because some customers will always want the better deal. But a good question to differentiate is whether you created your new product by tacking conditions, restrictions, and other annoyances onto a perfectly good product to keep your higher-end people from wanting it, or whether you added premium features onto an existing product to capture people with lower price sensitivity or greater desire to signal their consumption. The latter IMO is product differentiation, the former price discrimination.

There's also an important point you're missing about "enterprise" deals. Yes, enterprises do engage in a certain amount of conspicuous consumption... though it's usually at the multi-milion dollar level. (As the linked article points out, $5K is just a rounding error for an enterprise.) And yes, enterprises can overspend due to it not being the decision maker's money.

BUT... there is a good reason for that. An enterprise values stability over optimum performance, because it relies on lots and lots of mediocre people rather than a few talented ones. The public enterprise's "real" product in some sense is an attractive investment for institutional investors, and that requires actions and systems that look stupid on the surface to people who don't have their money invested in the business (as opposed to say, their time).

It helps to realize that an enterprise is not about making the most money, but making its bosses happy... and the real bosses are the investors, who want their investment to be safe as much as they want it to perform. The downside risk of a bad purchasing choice for a large organization can be immense compared to the upside benefit of the best possible choice. That's why they do what they do, and it's ultimately the investors who are paying for that extra insurance.

Is there waste? Sure. But it's a form of insurance, which is also waste if you never actually need it. The thing is, you don't know (institutionally) whether you're gong to need it, so it's a bad idea to take the risk. Especially since none of the people actually working in the organization get to partake of the upside of a good decision, but will personally be penalized for the bad decision. These factors have zip-all to do with conspicuous consumption. Plenty of employees within a company will happily pay the hobbyist price, but are bound by policies that e.g. require support or SLAs for all software purchases, etc. Or else they have requirements like auditing or whatever it is that trips the "enterprise" flag.

IME, you have to get up to a somewhat higher level of management to have conspicuous consumption as part of turf wars or signaling personal importance, and you're talking six/seven/eight figure deals there, not four or five. The closer you get to the trenches, the less people care about signaling to other managers vs. getting something to help get themselves through the day.

Comment author: Vaniver 05 February 2015 07:53:38PM 3 points [-]

And every real-world example of price discrimination I know of works like this.

That might be availability bias, though. If you deliberately try to not waste money, you're probably avoiding many of the ways that you can price discriminate up. Software as a service has many examples of price discrimination the other direction; here's Patrick MacKenzie on the subject. (It's a recurring subject, there might be a better place to jump in, but that'll get the idea across.) Many people in companies are willing to pay 10X in order to say they're getting the Enterprise version of software instead of the Hobby version of that software, even if the hobby version covers their use case entirely, for signalling reasons.

Comment author: pjeby 05 February 2015 08:55:31PM 0 points [-]

Software as a service has many examples of price discrimination the other direction

As I said, if you charge somebody more for something, there has to be some added value. Making a deluxe or enterprise version of something where the customer freely chooses to pay more for the extra goodies isn't price discrimination, as I understand the term. That's just "having a range of products".

To be price discrimination, you need to be offering something that's substantially the same, but you want to get more business by not selling it at just one price. Airlines, coupons, etc., as I mentioned above.

You can quibble whether this is the "true" definition of price discrimination, but at that point we're arguing the meaning of words. This is what I mean by price discrimination in this discussion. I consider raising prices without adding extra value to be either "monopoly price gouging" or "correcting your dumb mistake of not charging enough in the first place". ;-)

Many people in companies are willing to pay 10X in order to say they're getting the Enterprise version of software instead of the Hobby version of that software, even if the hobby version covers their use case entirely, for signalling reasons.

Enterprise versions of software generally come with support contracts or SLAs, not to mention features that require more support (such as API access, single sign-on, integrations, etc.) that justify the higher price because they come with higher ongoing costs for the service provider.

Even if the software itself is otherwise identical, an enterprise offering is different, speaking from having personally been on both sides of that particular business. Even if most of the "enterprise" users don't actually end up needing that extra support on a regular basis, it's a legitimate added value to have the protection of choosing the more expensive plan that comes with those guarantees. They're basically paying more for the option to get more help when they need it, or to sue you if something goes wrong.

But even if it were entirely for signaling reasons, that still wouldn't make it price discrimination. It's the buyer's choice whether to take a lower-priced offering, and if the seller adds an enterprise package, it's usually not because they're trying to squeeze more money out of customers they already have. They're doing it because they wouldn't get the enterprise customers at all with their existing offer. (It'd be price discrimination if they needed some way to prevent the enterprise customers from buying the hobby offering.)

While SaaS and PaaS vendors may also have price-discrimination offerings in their lineups (closeouts, old servers, "free" tiers, etc.), their mainline plans are usually priced so that the vendor is indifferent to which pricing plan you buy: they're making a decent living even if everybody picks just one plan, whether it's the lowest or highest priced one.

Again, "price discrimination" as I'm using the term is something used to eke additional revenue out of excess supply without destroying your ability to get your regular price for your regular supply. Merely having a range of products isn't. Even Wikipedia says:

Price differentiation is distinguished from product differentiation by the more substantial difference in production cost for the differently priced products involved in the latter strategy

This is a bit tricky, because as I explained earlier, "production cost" is a bit of a chimera, due to the question of allocating fixed costs and semi-variable costs. But if you offer an enterprise package with support, you have to pay for some extra support staff capacity just to have them available in the event that this is the month the customer decides to use it. Few of a business's production costs are truly variable, unless you're somebody like Uber, who can instantly hire/fire their drivers. (And they still have lots of fixed and semi-variable costs.)

Anyway, the point is that most SaaS/PaaS companies' pricing tiers are based on varying costs between the tiers, which makes them product differentiation, not price discrimination per Wikipedia.

That being said, the Wikipedia article is actually pretty vague about the distinction at times and notes that only "some" economists argue that signaling premiums make something price discrimination rather than product differentiation. My personal opinion is that perceived value, not "production cost" forms a relatively bright line between price discrimination and product differentiation. If the buyer considers the higher-priced product more valuable, IMO that's product differentiation. If they consider it the "same thing" (e.g. DVDs, airline flights), it's price discrimination.

Comment author: Vaniver 05 February 2015 02:04:38PM 1 point [-]

Those look equivalent; one is defined in terms of intention, and the other in terms of mechanism.

Comment author: pjeby 05 February 2015 05:13:02PM 1 point [-]

Those look equivalent; one is defined in terms of intention, and the other in terms of mechanism.

Pretty much. Except that the type of discrimination I've been discussing is capturing low end surplus, by making use of a seller's excess supply that would go to waste unsold at a higher price. For example, if a factory can produce X many widgets a month, but the market will only support Y widget sales at their full price, then they can sell X-Y widgets at any price higher than the truly variable costs (i.e., consumables only) and receive the difference as pure profit. This is extremely lucrative for the company, and benefits consumers who would or could not have bought the widgets at the higher price. But it only works if the company can prevent its full-price buyers from getting them at the lower price.

And every real-world example of price discrimination I know of works like this. Coupons, loss-leaders, rebates, special fares, sales, closeouts, last-minute vs. advance prices, factory outlets/seconds... heck, I just saw a real estate agent's ad offering to sell your house at no commission... if you use him to buy your next house. Granted, that's not exactly a tiny market segment, and is probably a bit more like a specialization than it is true price discrimination.

Anyway, the idea that a business raises prices to squeeze more money out of a select group is mostly silly; only a poorly managed business would establish its going rate any lower than what the top end of the market can bear in the first place! Ergo, any other prices offered for the "same" widgets are going to be lower, and any new higher prices will be justified by added value in the new offering, or else the market won't pay the higher price.

(Absent monopoly power, of course. Comcast keeps raising the rental rate for its modems, for example, without providing any new benefits. And that is price gouging, not price discrimination. In a market with real competition, you can't price discriminate by raising prices for a select group without some sort of justification, if you want to keep making sales to that group.)

Comment author: Ishaan 05 February 2015 01:11:15AM *  3 points [-]

Thanks for answering!

This does fall under "price gouging" just as I suspected (though you use the more morally neutral term "price discrimination", which I aught to have used but I didn't know the term. Price discrimination is not unethical. However, I'm not certain that avoiding price discrimination is unethical either.

Price discrimination operates in coffee shops too - most of the cost is the building and the employee, and the actual drinks don't really effect anything - the differential pricing of the drinks is price discrimination. Similarly at the grocery store, using coupons is price discrimination - only people who put in the time and effort to use coupons pay less, and people who don't use coupons subsidize that. Would it be unethical to have a device that automatically generates coupons for everything? It certainly "defects" in that it raises prices for everyone and lowers prices for yourself.

...yet, it's not the same thing, because you did sign a contract with the airline to take the entire flight, not to mention the empty seat. It is morally gray to break contract. I do find it ... counter-intuitive ... to morally chastise defection strategies fighting price gouging on the part of consumers, because of how incredibly often businesses defect against consumers. Businesses break unenforceable contracts constantly, so it's hard to be persuasive when appealing to the "little guy" consumer's honor against the airline industry as a whole.

Unenforceable contracts in general create an incentive structure (What Yvain describes as "Moloch") where defection means winning and cooperation means losing. I haven't yet determined my position on whether or not moral people aught to allow themselves to lose within incentive structures rewarding immorality... on one hand, morality means being willing to lose self-interest to win community interest, but on the other hand this stance naturally causes moral people to lose and immoral people to win, and that shifts the good-evil power balance in a dangerous way. (I realize that's a really simplistic way to put it).

I'm curious as to whether you in-general support that "moral" people should allow themselves to lose and cede power to those who are willing to be "immoral" in these incentive structures, although I suppose you've tapped out on discussing the moral aspects on this.

In any case, I guess the upcoming court case will soon decide whether or not these contracts are enforceable, and that avoids the philosophical debate.

Comment author: pjeby 05 February 2015 02:33:30AM *  1 point [-]

This does fall under "price gouging" just as I suspected (though you use the more morally neutral term "price discrimination",

These aren't synonyms. "Gouging" implies that somebody is raising prices in order to make extra profit than the usual. Price discrimination is generally someone lowering prices to a market segment in order to pick up extra business, without lowering all their prices, in order to get the advantages I described above. AFAIK, the airlines didn't actually raise their rates when they were deregulated -- they lowered some of them to get more business. (I could be wrong about that though.)

I do find it ... counter-intuitive ... to morally chastise defection strategies fighting price gouging on the part of consumers, because of how incredibly often businesses defect against consumers. Businesses break unenforceable contracts constantly, so it's hard to be persuasive when appealing to the "little guy" consumer's honor against the airline industry as a whole.

I think it's a mistake to think this is a you-vs-the-airline scenario, precisely because the airline has more power than individuals. The airline can't be forced to do business at a loss, which means that non-cheaters will -- one way or another -- be paying to subsidize the cheaters. (Whether it's in higher cost or lower availability.)

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