Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lord, Forgive the Economists, For They Know Not What They Do

A remarkable disruption in the force.  How anyone could understand the complex rules of threat, deterrence, and protection as "profit-maximizing" per se is beyond me.  But it does illustrate how bizarrely intellectually impoverished economics is as a field.

Fighting as a profit maximizing strategy in the National Hockey League: More evidence 

Duane Rockerbie 
Applied Economics, forthcoming 

Abstract: This article estimates the effect of fighting in hockey games on attendance in the National Hockey League (NHL) over the 1997–1998 through 2009–2010 seasons. After estimating a system of equations developed from a model of a profit-maximizing club owner, it was found that fighting had a small negative effect on attendance implying that encouraging fighting on the ice is not a profit-maximizing strategy. The results are quite robust when incorporating capacity constraints on attendance and exogenous ticket pricing. Other factors that determine club performance and market size were found to significantly affect attendance. The empirical results also suggest that NHL club owners are maximizing profit.

Look, folks, hockey fights, like stylized fights in the animal kingdom, prevent actual violence and injury.  Having specialized goons makes the game cleaner.  And, in equilibrium, there is less violence.  Selecting on instances of violence and then drawing inferences is not just a misunderstanding of hockey, but a show of ignorance of basic game theory.  If you have a reputation for effective violence, you won't have to fight.  And you won't get that stick handle poke-check to your star forward's chest, breaking his rib.  Gretzky pretty much never got touched.  'Cause if he did, there would be a fight.  Gretzky wouldn't fight, and not because he was a pussweiler.  Gretzky didn't fight because he was too valuable, TO BOTH TEAMS.  Nobody wanted Gretzky hurt, and someone who hurt Gretzky was gonna get an ass-whuppin'.  Knowing that, the "no violence" equilibrium could be supported.

For a Canadian (and Duane Rockerbie is clearly a Canadian, eh?) to make this mistake is even more inexcusable.

For those seeking enlightenment, the answer (as always) is one of my appearances on EconTalk.  This one, in fact.  This recent book does a nice job of discussing when violence is "virtuous."  And, like any literate people, they know enough to reference EconTalk as THE authoritative source. Or, something like that.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

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