Tyler deserts Hayek
By Arnold Kling
In my view we do have duties to behave more responsibly at the dinner table but the simple admonition “eat less meat” will do.
In this context, “behave more responsibly” means “waste fewer resources and leave more for others.” But it is an odd admonition from an economic perspective, and quite contrary to what Hayek would say.
The economic perspective is that all the information you need about the cost of a good is in its price. You don’t need to compute an input-output table–hence the utter irrelevance of “food miles.”
To argue that you need to “behave more responsibly” is to argue that there is something wrong with prices. If externalities are present (so that carbon-intensive consumption is under-priced, for example), then you need (a) a Pigouvian tax or (b) to be able to work through the input-output table. And I don’t trust even research specialists to do (b) accurately.
So what is wrong with price of meat, in Tyler’s view? Implicitly, he is saying that meat is too cheap, so we waste it. But I don’t see a strong reason to believe that.
Compare this Kling parody of Tyler: we have duties to behave more responsibly at the doctor’s office, and we should follow the admonition not to go for every MRI that is recommended.
The parody actually has some economic merit. Because of insurance, many of us face distorted prices in health care, and we waste medical procedures.
I’m not a big fan of meat at all. I’m just getting ready to sit down to a plate of mixed vegetables, and trying to decide whether peanut sauce is a good idea for them. And I understand that I could turn grain into energy more efficiently if I digested it myself than if I got it indirectly by eating a cow or a chicken. But that does not mean that eating meat is irresponsible. Just expensive.