JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: ROB FORD WRITES DEFENDING HIS OBTUSE ACTIONS – THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WANTS AND DEMANDS – POLITICIANS’ MEANINGLESS QUESTIONS TO THE PUBLIC   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY ROB FORD IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

A reader writes:

“Rob, I’ve read that you quote the “man on the street” and people “in Tim Hortons” telling you that they want subways. In fact, I believe you just recently said that “everyone” tells you that they want subways.”

In economics we distinguish between what people want and what they demand.

If “wants” ruled the world, beggars would be kings. Wants are only wishes, and generally uninformed wishes.

Demands are wants backed up by the willingness to pay for them, and demands are a large part of what all of economics deals with.

People may want subways – I’m not even sure of that – but are they willing to pay for them?

Do they even have any notion of what they cost? Of how totally insignificant a distance you can build for even a hundred million dollars?

No, they mostly do not.

Add to that the troubled economic times we are in, and people’s genuine demands – what they are willing to pay for through taxes at all levels – will be markedly different to simplistic responses to a politician’s simplistic questions in a subway car.

Rob Ford’s questions only sharply define one of the fundamental problems of our politics: politicians offer glamorous schemes without taking any trouble or responsibility to cost them and explain their costs. It is a practice which is irresponsible.

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