My Big Fat Consumer Surplus
By David Henderson
My original idea for this post was to share my intense happiness at getting my computer fixed quickly. Then I realized that what’s really going on is that I got huge consumer surplus. I’ll tell you my story and then ask you to share yours.
This morning, in the middle of my most productive time, I suddenly couldn’t send gmails. I could receive fine; I just couldn’t send. I had to get some materials to my students and I didn’t have their e-mails all in one place other than in my gmail account. So I had to send a problem set to an admin assistant at school and ask her to send things on to the students. I was anticipating the enormous hassle from using my school account.
So I went to the Apple Genius Bar looking for a quick fix. The guy got on his iPhone and told me that the next time slot wouldn’t be for 14–“Oh, no,” I said to myself, “not 14 days”–minutes. I was delighted. I went to the nearly Starbuck’s, got my favorite–a tall mocha–and was back in 10 minutes. Ten minutes later, I was called to the front and the guy fixed it in about 5 minutes. I tried to send an e-mail to my wife and it worked. I left ecstatic. What would I have paid to have it fixed today instead of tomorrow? At least $100. What would I have paid to have it fixed today instead of two weeks from now? At least $500. Now that’s consumer surplus!
I find that occasionally computing consumer surplus is a great way to appreciate economic freedom. It also is one more reason, besides the ones dealt with here, not to take GDP as a sufficient measure of economic well-being. GDP leaves out every penny of consumer surplus.
So what’s your favorite story about your big fat consumer surplus?