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Lately I’ve taken to over-reacting to things by conventional societal standards. Adam Smith recognized that the world was not perfect, and that for any society to work well a great deal of compassion, understanding, sympathy, empathy, patience and tolerance was necessary to be had by all citizens. I tend to agree. But that does not mean that each of us should stand idly by while some among us steamroll over us, or set the stage for others to steamroll over us.

So we came home yesterday to find an SUV parked with its right side up on our lawn. There is generally no parking on the streets where we live, everyone spends a good deal of effort trying to keep their yards neat and clean, and it had just finished downpouring for the 20th time in the last 20 days (that is exagerrating). The car remained there for a good 6 or 7 hours. And after reading the President strong-arming folks into passing the Climate (Not Small) Change Bill, I was a little peeved. I left the owner of the car a note on their windshield that went something like:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Despite what Lord Obama and his Congregation have been doing, there is still a strong property rights tradition in this country.

We work hard to keep our property neat and in good order and do not welcome tire tracks from a 3 ton SUV, particularly after a heavy rain storm.

We did not give you permission to trespass as such, and legal precedent would suggest that there wa sno compelling reason for you to have to park on our grass (as opposed to say, this).

You might think I am getting worked up over nothing, but it is the complete disregard for persons and property, in matters even this small, that condition people to accept large scale intrusion and confiscation of property as not only necessary, but also just and fair.

I have had enough. I expect an apology at a minimum (I’d prefer a recognition of the larger issue I raise), but in either case I’ll have to deal with the impacted soil myself.

And I invited the owner to take this up with me here. No response yet. Being around lots of students, I am particularly sensitive to not encouraging them to behave in “gateway drug” social behavior. By that I mean engaging in seemingly harmless behavior now, but that when practiced as professionals and later in life, have the potential to be extraordinarily harmful. I’ll provide some explicit examples of what I mean when the semester begins in the fall.

Am I over-reacting? Perhaps. But how many times has anyone, anywhere, spoken up about these things? How many times have you gone to the market and found customers leaving shopping carts in the lots (and not returning them) and said nothing? How many times have folks been obnoxious and loud at a public event and said nothing? And so on. What would the behavioralists say about this? In the early-to-middle part of this excellent podcast, you can learn something useful about it.

3 Responses to “Over-reaction?”

  1. Econobran says:

    You could have deflated the tires that were in your yard. That probably would’ve been over-reacting. So, I would say that you did not overreact. I find people to be increasingly inconsiderate in today’s society and you have witnessed a prime example. As another, I cannot count the number of times I have went to pull in a parking space, only to find someone park directly over the line and taking up two spaces. Although this does not infringe on my personal property, it is the kind of “gateway behavior” of which I think you speak. Kudos to you for doing something about it.


    You once taught me that voting was a waste of time as my vote holds no significance in the election and the costs of voting outweigh any benefits. I think that’s the way most people think about assholes to. We would LIKE to call them out, but in the end the costs and energy spent are not normally equal to the satisfaction or progress earned.

    So what do we do about it? Is there any way we can collectively shift the mindset from CEObama’s ideals to Adam Smith’s???

    My Verdict: You overreacted to the SUV unless you gained more satisfaction in your note than the discomfort, energy and time you lost writing it. But you’ve under reacted to the greater problem that faces this country because it’s still driving you nuts. Until your satisfaction at your progress outweighs your frustration I’d argue you are under reacting.

  3. Harry says:


    My first question would be, “What are you trying to accomplish?”

    I think you wasted your time, but I share your frustration and think it is always worthwhile to write out one’s thoughts to clarify them. That’s what you do on this blog, and so do we in answering, often wasting our time, but preparing for the next time. For me, I learn something every time I visit.

    You cannot, however, enter into any discusson of classical economics when directing crowds to stand still and be quiet. This comment will perplex Speedmaster and your other international economist friends.

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