Paul Langley asks about consumer surplus

What non-subsidized common products and services do you think have the highest average consumer surplus? Cell phones? Shampoo? Antibiotics? Just wondering.

Obviously it depends what margin you are at; for many people antibiotics or pharmaceuticals mean the difference for life or death but right now they do not for me.  And surely we cannot answer with "all food" or "all water."  For average value, I'll go with antibiotics, but a separate question is about median value.

I'm not sure cell phones have a positive marginal utility for a lot of people.  I would be happy with an email-only iPhone and I know people — close to us all right now — who don't even own a cell phone.

How about a toothbrush?  Eyeglasses?  The median adult wears them.  Often it's a car, though in the longer run you can adjust by moving to a walkable city.  A properly functioning toilet and waste disposal system?  Television?  Painkillers?

I thank the lunch group for a useful conversation on this topic.


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