Telemarketing Schizophrenia

TELEMARKETING SCHIZOPHRENIA….Tyler Cowen, who consistently writes posts over at the Volokh Conspiracy that I have a hard time making sense of, has one today about a possible downside of the telemarketing Do-Not-Call list recently started up by the federal government:

Take those people who have put themselves on the list. Do they really not want to be called? Maybe they are afraid that they really like being called. That they will buy things. That they will be impulsive.

Arguably those people have a rational controlling self, and an impulsive buying self, to borrow some language from Thomas Schelling. Why should we assume that the rational controlling self is the only one who counts (do you really want a life devoid of spontaneity?)? Why should our government be in the business of altering this balance in one direction or the other? Isn’t the market a better mechanism for balancing the interests of the conflicting selves?

I’d venture to guess that on virtually every subject imaginable a lot of us have conflicting feelings. Every once in a while I feel like killing someone, for example, but I’d just as soon not let the market sort out my conflicting feelings on that. (Actually, more to the point, I’d just as soon not let the market sort out your conflicting feelings on that.)

Anyway, to answer Tyler’s question: yes, that’s exactly right, and it’s why telemarketers hate the Do-Not-Call list. It’s well known in the sales world that people with low sales resistance go out of their way to try and avoid salespeople, and those are precisely the people you most want to talk to. The telemarketers are well aware that the Do-Not-Call list is going to cost them millions of their very best prospects.

I think I can live with that. Unfortunately, via the Conservation of Annoyance Law, I imagine they’ll make up for it through a massive increase in internet pop-up ads or something similar….