January 19, 2014

Political climate makes it hard to serve

Last week I argued that while economists abhor concentration of power, politics thrives on it.

The motto for economists may be everything in moderation, which perhaps is why you can’t name many exciting economics majors, Mick Jagger aside.

On the other hand, we see many examples of excess in politics and among politicians.

This week I suspect we witnessed another casualty from the ruthless world of politics.

Our congressman, Bill Owens, has decided not to run for a fourth term. While most agree it is our loss, I’m sure few begrudge him for it.

I could not imagine any politician making decisions that meet universal agreement. But, when one judges the lot of another, I conclude that Mr. Owens served our region well and honorably by seeking compromise and building integrity, trust and respect among his colleagues.

To paraphrase the social commentator Samuel Johnson, politics is the last refuge of scoundrels. To understand why, I hearken back to “The Market for Lemons,” a concept that won George Akerlof a Nobel Prize. He deduced something you may have discovered for yourself. Mr. Owens may have discovered that too.

Akerlof used an analogy. Cars are complex machines. Some work better than others, even within the same make and model. Owners only discover the problems and peculiarities of their particular car over time. If they buy a lemon, some would, unfortunately, like to unload it upon some unsuspecting sucker. However, there are also legitimate reasons to sell a car.

The problem is that it is next to impossible to signal to the unsuspecting public whether one is selling a good car or is peddling a lemon masquerading as of high quality. Only over time do we discover the true nature of what we have purchased. We may, by then, suffer “buyer’s remorse.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • ouellette.jpg Web doctor always gets it right

    I have access to the collected medical knowledge of all recorded history at my fingertips, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Airport projects can benefit local economy

    Using a local workforce keeps wages and spending in the community if it can be done in a cost-effective manner, according to columnist Colin Read.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Producers can recycle tubing

    Project allows maple-syrup makers to conveniently dispose of their used tubing in an environmentally friendly way, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Easter with doubters and the 'nones'

    Should more pastors ask this blunt question: "Do you really believe Jesus was raised from the dead?" wonders religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadiens are Canada's team

    The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal "suburb" of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • little_mug.jpg There's no saw like an old saw Kaye and I laughed ourselves silly the other day as we tried to top each other with our own sayings from childhood, columnist Gordie Little writes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Denenberg_Stu1.jpg Privacy concerns make a comeback

    There's a growing concern amongst the millennials, columnist Stu Denenberg writes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul_grasso.jpg Several options exist for downtown

    Pedestrian mall just one idea that could be good for city's economic future, according to columnist Paul Grasso.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Government can't create success on its own

    It takes a grass-roots community effort of people working together to assure future accomplishment, according to columnist Colin Read.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hagar_mug1.jpg Farmers strive for sustainability

    Conserving the land and assuring long-term profitability are two of the key goals for farmers these days, according to columnist Peter Hagar.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns
Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice

Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk

Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time