Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I just had a thought about a post of Greg Mankiw's on social multipliers. They provide a way to dress up in fancy economic terms an argument for the blue laws of old: leisure is probably more valuable if we all take our leisure at the same time. (I very conservatively used "probably" because of things like congestion costs.) I'm wary of blue laws for the same reasons I'm wary of the state in general, but voluntary coordination of leisure time is a good thing that most of us already do on the scale of personal acquaintences. Coordination among larger groups, such as the many Christians who observe a Sunday sabbath, produces bigger social multipliers. This all seems so obvious; surely there's already an economics paper out there that's done some rudimentary quantification of the social multiplier benefits of Blue laws in comparison with things like their productivity costs? In the comments, Mankiw states that this sort of problem is still open to the best of his knowledge.

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