Did Greg Mankiw really just brandish his $170 textbook as evidence of the benefits of unfettered competition?
There’s plenty wrong with this Greg Mankiw article (see here), but one thing I haven’t seen pointed out yet [ah, here's somebody else pointing it out, with a little less snark than this post] is the strangeness of Mankiw using his textbook as an example of fierce competition in a crowded market, unburdened by meddlesome government.
What’s strange about this? Well, what keeps me from selling PDFs of Mankiw’s textbook for $5 each online? The same thing that keeps his own students (who are, by the way, assigned this textbook by Mankiw himself; I wonder if he’s ever once decided, based on the merits, that anybody else had a superior text on the market?) from scanning the book and passing it back and forth for free: government enforcement of copyright law.
Is having government act as a bill collector for textbook companies and authors good economic policy? Probably not, but I think it’s safe to say that textbook authors pretending as if the price tag on their books reflects only supply and demand curves functioning in perfectly competitive markets probably shouldn’t be trusted on sweeping claims about the proper role of government in determining economic outcomes.