Thursday, October 09, 2008

There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (Or A Free Concert)

A couple of weeks ago jazz legend Dave Brubeck and his quartet were the headline act for "Jazz Alive" here in San Antonio. It took place in Travis Park. But it was free. So was it worth it to go? My wife and I went and since it was free it was very crowded. So we were not able to sit to close to the stage. Then the speakers were not on very loud, either. So we had to walk around to the side and we did get a good look at Dave Brubeck playing the piano and could hear the speakers better. But lots of people were talking and moving around. For them, the jazz fest was just an excuse to hang out downtown and party. They may not even have been that interested in jazz. So the bottom line is that we did not hear the music that well and the noise and the congestion from the crowd raised the cost of the "free" concert. The benefit of going to the concert was marginal at best.

This also illustrates what economist Steven Landsburg calls the "Indifference Principle." "Except when people have unusual tastes or unusual talents, all activities must be equally desirable."

Going to the concert was no more desirable than staying at home (for most people). I am glad I went since I am a Brubeck fan, so my tastes are unusual. But even so, we did not stay very long. So what sounds like a great deal, a free Brubeck concert, really wasn't.

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