A frequent annoyance: the dishonesty of "deals" that require arbitrary, unnecessary, economically inefficient actions to claim. Want that box of cereal for 50 cents off? Clip a scrap of paper from a magazine, carry it to a store, and give it to a cashier with your purchase. The merchant then must send it back to the manufacturer to close the loop and get reimbursed, at a cost that often exceeds the discount. Likewise kickbacks and mail-in rebates and "enter your special code here" online offers. The only logic behind these irrational systems is to produce the illusion of savings among the large fraction of purchasers who won't go to the effort and expense of actually following through.

Even more sadly, and orders of magnitude larger in waste, consider many aspects of modern tax law: complex deductions, targeted credits, special exemptions, pre-withholding spending-accounts, etc. Why fritter away social resources on these circuitous routes to encourage particular activities? The only rationale is that lots people won't take advantage of them. The real subsidy, therefore, goes to the writers of the laws (who get to say they've cut taxes) and to those who have the time and/or energy (and/or hired servants) to reap the benefits. For the rest, it's a shell game ...

TopicSociety - TopicEconomics - 2006-08-22

(correlates: SoulNumbingTedium, ChallengeGrantFiction, TheNewTwenty, ...)