George Hilton on Utility Regulation and Digestive Tracts
By David Henderson
When George got to the part of the course looking at public utility regulation, he would remind us that in unregulated markets the prices and market values of inputs were determined as a derived demand from the value that consumers put on the final product being produced (ie, the economics of factor markets). George would then explain that the procedure in public utility regulation of trying to determine the price of a product by adding up the costs of the inputs is, as George would say, “like trying to reverse the flow of the digestive tract.”
I have a couple more to add, that have little to do with economics. One is total trivia; the other is about life.
George, learning that I was from Canada, asked me whom the McDonald-Cartier Freeway in Toronto was named after. I had not realized I was walking into a trap. I answered “Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada and Jacques Cartier, the 16th century French explorer, who claimed Canada for the French government.” I think I smiled slightly, happy to have been thrown a softball. But I noticed Hilton beaming. “Why should he be so happy to have that answer?,” I wondered. I soon found out.
“Right on Macdonald, wrong on Cartier,” he said. “It’s named after George-Etienne Cartier, one of the fathers of Confederation. So many Canadians get that wrong.”
My guess is that Hilton said what I’m about to quote when I was fretting that I had made this or that career mistake. I used to do that a lot. Hilton said, “Never worry about the thing you didn’t do, because if you had done it, you might have been hit by a truck.”