Billy Foster, PhD

Billy Foster

Clinical Assistant Professor of Economics at

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Quotations

The state — or, to make matters more concrete, the government — consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting ‘A’ to satisfy ‘B’. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods. — Henry Louis Mencken, Prejudices, First Series (1919)

Baseball and Opportunity Cost

Economists and accountants are often thrown into the same category. Accountants look at dollar values. What differentiates the economist is the addition of a concept called opportunity cost. One of my favorite examples of this involves a friend offering you $500 to help him move. If this is an uneventful day, you will probably help. If it is a holiday, you may decline. If it is Super Bowl Sunday and you have tickets to the game, you most likely will decline. The key is that you have to weigh all of your other options before making a decision.

Jack ClementsIn his book, The Baseball Economist, J.C. Bradbury offers one of the most intelligent arguments I have ever heard for the absence of left-handed catchers. Since 1902, a left-handed catcher has been used in only sixty-three games. Bradbury sifts through some of the common arguments of why they rarely exist (difficulty throwing to third base, coordination with pitchers, throwing errors, etc.). Through cost-benefit analysis, he dismisses most of these as insignificant.

Where he concludes is extremely insightful. Being a catcher requires intelligence, a strong arm, and good vision. If you are left-handed and have these qualities, your coach is most likely not going to position you as a catcher. He will use you where your talents are most valuable–as a pitcher. No real bias against left-handed catchers exists. The cost is just too great to waste a southpaw at catcher when he could be stepping on the mound.

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