Asymmetric Information in the Age of Trump

Information asymmetry commonly exists in a myriad of markets. From the equities market to professional sports, the seller many times has access to more information about the product that he is selling than does a potential buyer. 

Consider the used-car market or professional baseball. Someone who is trying to sell his car knows very well whether or not his vehicle is a “lemon” or is in good repair, and a major league baseball team’s manager knows far better the health of his star pitcher’s rotator cuff than do other teams’ managers.

As economist George Akerlof demonstrated in “The Market for “Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism,” if a buyer cannot distinguish between good cars and bad cars, then both good cars and bad cars will sell at the same price. This phenomenon in turn pushes good cars out of the market. After all, who wants to sell their good car at such a discount? Akerlof further posited that it is “quite possible to have the bad driving out the not-so-bad driving out the medium driving out the not-so good driving out the good in such a sequence of events that no market exists at all.”

The collapse of a market would be horrible, and that is why we put safeguards in place to eliminate or at least to reduce asymmetric information and its effects. Such safeguards and tools within various markets may include Carfax, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, credit ratings, Consumer Reports, mandatory disclosure statements, home inspections, and warranties, all of which most importantly are reinforced by a fair and impartial justice system.

If we examine the present political system through such a market lens, we can consider today’s politicians to be both the seller and the product; the electorate is the buyer who “purchases” its candidates with votes through fair and free elections.  In theory, an unbiased press would report the facts, and the justice system would ensure that no laws are broken, all the time providing equal protection under the law. Life would be good.

Today this is not the case, as the very safeguards and institutions designed to reduce information asymmetry in the political market are actually increasing it. The most recent revelation comes from Donna Brazile. She “centered herself” by lighting a candle and listening to Gospel music so that she could then outline to Bernie Sanders how the Clinton campaign took control over the DNC and rigged the Democratic primary. 

However, None of the major networks’ evening newscasts even covered this bombshell report. This shouldn’t come as any surprise as the media is overwhelmingly liberal; only 7% of reporters identify as Republicans, and from Jan. 1, 2015 - Aug 30, 2106, 96% of the political donations of those working in the media went to Hillary Clinton. I foresee a lot of candle lighting in the near future.

Now look at the Justice Department. A staggering 97% of its employees’ donations went to Hillary Clinton. It is no wonder that they couldn’t even bring a case against Lois Lerner who publically acknowledged (we used to call this a confession) that the IRS targeted conservative groups and then pleaded the Fifth about it. I guess law and order can’t win them all…or shall we light another candle?

And then there is the FBI. Then FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe oversaw the Clinton email server investigation after his wife received $700,000 from longtime Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe. James Comey drafted a letter exonerating Clinton months before the investigation ended, before he even interviewed Clinton. No prosecution, but five Hillary Clinton’s staffers did get immunity, so at least we have that.

At least Hollywood is still a beacon of purity and hope.

So, as Comey’s friend, Robert Mueller, now investigates Russia interference into our political system, a skeptic might wager that none of his findings will include anything regarding the Uranium One deal that was approved while Mueller was FBI Director.

Because much of the electorate generally recognizes the effects of asymmetric information in the political market and that this asymmetry has worsened as a result of the very institutions designed to reduce it, more unfavorable news stories against Trump, and not Clinton, have already been anticipated and accounted for. In other words, negative Trump stories, like a Flynn indictment, for example, are already “priced in.” The best expression of a politician’s value or “price” is his approval ratings; no one knows how much negative news is priced in, and only time will tell. However, market forces similar to Akerlof’s “Market for Lemons” are clearly at work. 

Information asymmetry commonly exists in a myriad of markets. From the equities market to professional sports, the seller many times has access to more information about the product that he is selling than does a potential buyer. 

Consider the used-car market or professional baseball. Someone who is trying to sell his car knows very well whether or not his vehicle is a “lemon” or is in good repair, and a major league baseball team’s manager knows far better the health of his star pitcher’s rotator cuff than do other teams’ managers.

As economist George Akerlof demonstrated in “The Market for “Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism,” if a buyer cannot distinguish between good cars and bad cars, then both good cars and bad cars will sell at the same price. This phenomenon in turn pushes good cars out of the market. After all, who wants to sell their good car at such a discount? Akerlof further posited that it is “quite possible to have the bad driving out the not-so-bad driving out the medium driving out the not-so good driving out the good in such a sequence of events that no market exists at all.”

The collapse of a market would be horrible, and that is why we put safeguards in place to eliminate or at least to reduce asymmetric information and its effects. Such safeguards and tools within various markets may include Carfax, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, credit ratings, Consumer Reports, mandatory disclosure statements, home inspections, and warranties, all of which most importantly are reinforced by a fair and impartial justice system.

If we examine the present political system through such a market lens, we can consider today’s politicians to be both the seller and the product; the electorate is the buyer who “purchases” its candidates with votes through fair and free elections.  In theory, an unbiased press would report the facts, and the justice system would ensure that no laws are broken, all the time providing equal protection under the law. Life would be good.

Today this is not the case, as the very safeguards and institutions designed to reduce information asymmetry in the political market are actually increasing it. The most recent revelation comes from Donna Brazile. She “centered herself” by lighting a candle and listening to Gospel music so that she could then outline to Bernie Sanders how the Clinton campaign took control over the DNC and rigged the Democratic primary. 

However, None of the major networks’ evening newscasts even covered this bombshell report. This shouldn’t come as any surprise as the media is overwhelmingly liberal; only 7% of reporters identify as Republicans, and from Jan. 1, 2015 - Aug 30, 2106, 96% of the political donations of those working in the media went to Hillary Clinton. I foresee a lot of candle lighting in the near future.

Now look at the Justice Department. A staggering 97% of its employees’ donations went to Hillary Clinton. It is no wonder that they couldn’t even bring a case against Lois Lerner who publically acknowledged (we used to call this a confession) that the IRS targeted conservative groups and then pleaded the Fifth about it. I guess law and order can’t win them all…or shall we light another candle?

And then there is the FBI. Then FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe oversaw the Clinton email server investigation after his wife received $700,000 from longtime Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe. James Comey drafted a letter exonerating Clinton months before the investigation ended, before he even interviewed Clinton. No prosecution, but five Hillary Clinton’s staffers did get immunity, so at least we have that.

At least Hollywood is still a beacon of purity and hope.

So, as Comey’s friend, Robert Mueller, now investigates Russia interference into our political system, a skeptic might wager that none of his findings will include anything regarding the Uranium One deal that was approved while Mueller was FBI Director.

Because much of the electorate generally recognizes the effects of asymmetric information in the political market and that this asymmetry has worsened as a result of the very institutions designed to reduce it, more unfavorable news stories against Trump, and not Clinton, have already been anticipated and accounted for. In other words, negative Trump stories, like a Flynn indictment, for example, are already “priced in.” The best expression of a politician’s value or “price” is his approval ratings; no one knows how much negative news is priced in, and only time will tell. However, market forces similar to Akerlof’s “Market for Lemons” are clearly at work. 

RECENT VIDEOS