Markets in everything

by on December 20, 2012 at 1:47 am in Law | Permalink

Very, very sad:

Our ballistic backpack provides built-in ballistic protection in a backpack that weighs just ounces more than a non-armored backpack. RynoHide carbon nanotube armor is lined in the back panel of the backpack. Sewn into the rear of the pack, you can always be confident that the armor hasn’t been accidentally left at home and that you or your child are protected in case of the unthinkable. The backpack can be quickly brought to the front as a shield or can serve as center of mass protection while fleeing the scene of the shooting.

Maybe it is some kind of sorry joke but still a sign of an especially bad year for mass shootings.  For the pointer I thank FM.

Addendum: These seem to be real, and also fairly popular.

1 Enrique December 20, 2012 at 2:59 am

How much is that backpack going for? In the arms race between deranged madmen and innocent bystanders, it sounds like a cheap and effective way of staying protected.

P.S. what is the relevant data point: (i) number of mass shootings, or (ii) number of individuals killed?

2 Ronald Brak December 20, 2012 at 6:41 am

Unfortunately a madman capable of using a gun is also capable of using armour.

3 JVA December 20, 2012 at 6:57 am

Re: data point.

Both. Number of mass shootings is important because that means it is on the news more often and thus increases probability of copycats. Number of individuals killed is important because that is the probability of you being affected by it.

4 prior_approval December 20, 2012 at 3:57 am

The culture that is America.

5 Jamie December 20, 2012 at 5:11 am

Remember, easy access to guns by crazy people don’t kill people, video games kill people.

6 Vernunft December 20, 2012 at 6:10 am

Soooo institutionalization will be making a comeback? Yes?

Or just disarm everyone, because civil rights? lolnah

7 Andrew' December 20, 2012 at 7:57 am

Easy access is now murdering someone to steal them. And it happens a couple times per year. And the guys usually end up dead. And only in government gun-free killzones. And yet one can of pepper spray would have been enough. These guys get 8 minutes to do their deed. Every minute we slow them down or stop them early is a handful of lives. The government, against all odds, is finally getting its head out of its ass and having cops go in solo, their best simulation of having someone already inside with a can of pepper spray.

Remarkably ineffective violence, and yet remarkably effective terrorism. So we buy some stupid Kevlar backpacks with no chance of utility.

8 prior_approval December 20, 2012 at 11:58 am

Or maybe, we could follow the examples of countries like Australia (where the response to a mass slaughter was effective – if measured by mass murder deaths caused by gunfire being 0 since the introduction of stricter laws is considered successful ), the UK (where the response to a mass slaughter in a school was extremely strict laws, and a notable lack of any further such mass murder incidents), or Germany (where after one school massacre, emergency response and training were implemented, which didn’t help enough with the second mass murder event – though in that case, the police were able to respond much more effectively after their policies had been changed to shoot the murderer as quickly as possible, the shooter’s father went to jail for not keeping his weapons properly, and Germany implemented even stricter gun controls).

But no, in the culture that is America, we decide that bullet proof backpacks may be a reasonable response.

This would be hilarious, except for the number of dead children in a classroom, killed by a weapon designed to penetrate NATO/Soviet standard bullet proof armor (no word on the ammunition used, admittedly – guns don’t kill people, bullets do – something all too easily overlooked in these discussions, especially in the context about the eternal arms race between weapons and armor).

9 Willitts December 20, 2012 at 4:28 am

After 911, several people tried to sell us parachutes so we could escape if a plane hit our building. That idea is more plausible than the backpack. BASE jumping from a burning skyscraper is perilous for several reasons, but maybe not as much as staying in the building.

Every tragedy breeds opportunists – political, social, and economic.

10 Rahul December 20, 2012 at 4:50 am

What’s the opportunist part? Are we doubting the efficacy of the backpack? Or you think it is overpriced? Or a probabilistic argument about the low chance you’ll be in such a shootout?

11 Andrew' December 20, 2012 at 8:20 am

The kids will never be wearing the backpack when the shooting happens. It might be useful for sniper situations.

On the other hand, if Kevlar were free it would be a no-brainer.

12 dan1111 December 20, 2012 at 10:31 am

It is opportunistic because it is a useless item offered in response to people’s fears.

The backpack only covers a small portion of the vulnerable part of your body, and only when you are wearing it (Andrew – hopefully the snipers don’t aim for the head or see your front). And note that even a normal backpack is likely to stop a bullet if you have a textbook or a few notebooks in it. So, the added safety value of this is almost nonexistent. Certainly there are many more effective ways to use $200 to increase safety.

13 Fletcher December 20, 2012 at 11:40 am

I’ll make sure to send my kids to school with copies of Mas-Colell’s Microeconomic Theory.

14 Careless December 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I think the joke here should have been “finally a good use for Atlas Shrugged”

15 Careless December 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Although I know Mythbusters tried phone books for armor, and I think it took several back to back to stop a rifle bullet, and that was with a thin shell of metal (side of a car) in the way first.

16 dan1111 December 21, 2012 at 8:20 am

Amusingly, my original assertion was based on another Mythbusters test in which a couple hundred pages stopped a handgun bullet. I had not stopped to think about how different the results might be with a rifle.

17 Ray Lopez December 20, 2012 at 5:00 am

Why is this product sad Tyler? If it gives peace of mind then the marginal utility may exceeds the marginal cost to society in making this device, so no waste. Question for you economists (I’m not one): if I take $1000 in USD bills and burn them up, who benefits? Is this a potlatch in this sense of the term ( (“In some cases, goods were actually destroyed after being received, or instead of being given away”)), or, does the US government benefit somehow (money supply reduced)? Or, as is ‘common sense’, is this a net l loss to society? Rahul? Steve Sailor? Other econ savants, including of course TC?

18 dan1111 December 20, 2012 at 5:56 am

At a minimum, it is sad that this product is needed (or perceived to be needed).

19 Ray Lopez December 20, 2012 at 5:59 am

Is slavery sad? A certain economist once calculated that the direct economic benefits of slavery outweighed their costs (otherwise it would not be profitable to be a slaver). Is airplane flight insurance sad? By every conceivable metric it’s a waste of money, but people who would not fly without it are flying. That sort of Freakonomics answer I’m looking for…

20 dan1111 December 20, 2012 at 6:23 am

My point was that Tyler’s comment doesn’t necessarily mean the product itself is sad, as you have taken it. It could simply mean that it is a sad state of affairs when such a product has a market.

No one doubts the efficacy of putting iron bars over one’s windows in reducing burglary. But I would still think it sad if everyone in my neighborhood started putting up iron bars, because of what it says about the neighborhood.

I have no idea what you are getting at with your slavery comment. The primary argument against slavery is moral, not economic.

21 Urso December 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

I think this is a version of the broken windows fallacy. Your post could be rephrased as “the homeowner’s perceived value in having a repaired window is clearly higher than the cost he pays to have it fixed. Therefore, there’s nothing sad about breaking windows.”

22 Urso December 20, 2012 at 10:01 am

Of course, “sad” is an odd word choice with respect to windows, but when you’re talking about dead 6 year olds, it’s quite an understatement.

23 dan1111 December 20, 2012 at 10:51 am

Call it the unbroken backpack fallacy.

24 bob December 20, 2012 at 5:35 am

Dude, sad will be the day that ballistic backpacks with RFID trackers and drug-detecting equipment which alert the local SWAT team of a strange odor are required of every schoolchild for their security. In the name of Michael Chertoff or whoever he represents, that day is coming sooner than expected, mark my words.

25 JVA December 20, 2012 at 6:53 am

Required? When that technology becomes cheap enough majority of children will have those backpacks voluntarily before you can even say “regulation”.

26 Andrew' December 20, 2012 at 6:40 am

Sad is one can of peppers spray hanging on the key hook.

27 8 December 20, 2012 at 8:03 am

School shooters are more likely to use the backpack and other body armor.

28 The Other Jim December 20, 2012 at 9:42 am

I don’t understand why anyone would ever need kevlar in a Gun-Free Zone.

29 prior_approval December 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm

‘Gun-Free Zone’

You know, I keep hearing this term, and I have to admit, it seems a bit confusing to me.

Some of the places I’m familiar with as a ‘gun free zone’ –

1. Military bases, not including training facilities, ranges, armories, etc. Barracks (not counting war zones, of course) are gun free zones.

2. Various nuclear facilities

3. Oil refineries, chemical plants, etc.

4. Passenger aircraft

5. Hospitals

6. Museums

What I find most strange about this sudden mockery of ‘gun free zones’ (do these really exist in any sense different from the examples listed above? – because guns were never allowed at my NoVa high school in the late 70s, though it wasn’t called a ‘gun free zone’ specifically) is its notable absence after a terrorist mass murderer killed killed 13 people and wounded 29 others, specifically targetting those in uniform, at Ft. Hood in 2009.

The American military has a quite strict policy against carrying weapons, at least during normal affairs at a domestic base. Yet only now, after the mass murder of children in a school do people start wondering, in a disturbing fashion leading to things like bullet proof backpacks, why school personnel are no better armed than weapons trained American servicemen going about their daily routine, unarmed.

30 JWatts December 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

“You know, I keep hearing this term, and I have to admit, it seems a bit confusing to me.”

Schools and the areas around them are considered gun free zones. It’s illegal to carry a gun within 1000 feet of a school unless you are a police officer.

“The Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)) is a federal United States law that prohibits any individual from knowingly possessing a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.”

31 prior_approval December 20, 2012 at 10:34 pm

‘Schools and the areas around them are considered gun free zones. It’s illegal to carry a gun within 1000 feet of a school unless you are a police officer.’

I flat out don’t believe this the way it is written – this would mean that anyone living within a 1000 feet of my old high school (dozens and dozens of families – it is not exactly an urban area) would be breaking the law.

And reading the useful link, these are the exceptions to this originally Reagan/Bush era law –

‘(i) on private property not part of school grounds;

(ii) as part of a program approved by a school in the school zone, by an individual who is participating in the program;

(iii) by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in a school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual; or

(iv) by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity.’

Sounds just like the sort of ‘gun free zone’ a military base is – (ii) clearly indicates the idea of a range and armory, with only those authorized to be carrying weapons allowed to be carrying weapons, while (iii) covers the idea that individuals may be carrying and using weapons that are not exactly member of the military – contractors come to mind.

This is a very strange discussion – no one working there would have thought to carry weapons to that NoVa high school, back in the considerably more violent days of the late 1970s. The idea that people think such a law is a problem are truly baffling to me, especially with the exceptions, which would allow a shooting range, for example, or allow JROTC programs where weapon basics would be included – basic care, for example, with a gun as example (or guns – one showing what happens to an uncared for weapon, another demonstrating the difference made by careful cleaning and maintenance).

Again, the incident at Ft. Hood took over 10 minutes, the murderer managed to kill several people that charged him, shoot and disarm the first armed officer that responded, and a total of 214 rounds were fired (by everyone involved) – yet no one demanded that soldiers be provided more weaponry while on base, nor seemed to want the military to changes its long established regulations.

32 Some Random Economist December 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I think the existence of a market for civilian body armor is less sad than the fact that people want to abolish that market.

33 Ronald Brak December 21, 2012 at 4:53 am

Australia had early experience with a heavily armed gang of bank robbers with bullet proof armour. In the final shoot out the gang basically took a small town hostage and the seige ended with six victims shot dead, including a child. It’s something we hope not to repeat.

34 Ronald Brak December 21, 2012 at 7:00 am

Sorry, two were killed in the final shootout, others were killed earlier. Sorry, for the mistake, but at least I was more accurate than the movie where they showed a large number of police being gunned down to make for a more dramatic last stand when actually only one police officer was shot and he carried on until forced to stop from blood loss.

35 Craig December 22, 2012 at 7:09 am

Every gun shop I’ve been in (even one with a pistol range) has a sign outside that reads “Firearms must be unloaded before entering.” Every gun show I’ve been to has the same sign outside, but also requires you to submit your firearm for inspection before entering the building, the inspector using a zip tie to lock the weapon. Yet these same people would flip out if the local mall required that your weapon be inspected.

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