Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Drop in the Economic Bucket

This will not make sense if you don't live in the USA, or are unaware of one of the most extraordinary features of American life. Drug stores (pharmacies) sell tobacco and beer. If you grew up in the USA, that last sentence is deeply weird in the rest of the world. It's all part of what makes the USA exceptional, I guess.

When I get back to the USA, I shall change drug stores. Rite Aid has the closest pharmacy to me, and I would have switched long ago, since it is the slowest pharmacy, and the slowest drug store in the universe.

The next closest drug store to me is an additional long block away. That might not seem like much, but walking one more long block each way is a lot of work for me. Walking, and staying balanced, is still substantially harder than swimming.

What's prompted this change is the fact that CVS, the competing drug store, has announced that it will stop selling tobacco. The company will lose about $2B, which is less than 2% of their profit, but they have decided, as they treat more and more consumers with heart disease, high blood pressure, and other diseases linked to tobacco use, that the right thing to do is, in fact, the right thing to do.

I know that small incremental changes add up to large, visible effects. There may well be cases where individual action is good for nothing (although I can't think of one), but this is certainly not one of those cases. In a way, as in neurology, so in economics: I shall be making my own small difference.