Norm Enforcement is Hard, But People Do It Anyway

by Kieran Healy on July 18, 2008

Via John Gruber, here is Lance Arthur standing in line for three hours for a new iPhone. He gets inside the door of the Apple Store and finds someone has skipped into the queue right behind him.

So, the interminable line outside comes at last to an end, the Apple Security guard walks over and counts “One, two, three, four, five,” and I am lucky Number Five, allowed access at last to the inside of the store. … I am now at the end of another line. Much shorter, certainly, but also much crueler, for now I can see others getting their phones … my feet hurt and my shoulders are aching and even now, so near the end, I’m asking myself, why did I do this? Is it all worth it? Am I the idiot, now?

I am contemplating this, sinking into a sudden round of pre-buyer’s regret or something like that, when I turn around and find a stranger standing behind me. Certain, he is nothing at all like the young Asian girl I was joking with for precious hours of my life. And the game commences.

“Are you standing in line?”

“Yeah.”

“Were you standing in line behind me outside for three and a half hours.”

“Yeah, I was.” Grin.

He stares at me. I instantly hate him. A lot. I hate everything about his self-congratulatory smart-assed grin and his cheating little heart and his idea of how life should work for him, where he can outsmart us all and get what he wants and get away with it. “No, you weren’t.”

“Yeah, I was.”

I point out to the front of the store. “She was behind me in line. You weren’t.”

“Are you gonna tell on me?” He asks this while still grinning that grin. I want nothing more than to kill him with something sharp.

“I am.” I start looking for someone to tell.

“How does it hurt you?”

I look at him like he’s insane. “I waited for hours. You didn’t. If you want one, that’s what you have to do. You don’t wander into the front of the line.”

“How does it hurt you?”

He’s trying to show that I shouldn’t care about anyone else. Like he does. “It hurts her. It hurts everyone behind her. Look at her. Turn around and look at her. She’s the one standing outside with her arms folded across her chest.”

He doesn’t turn around. He’s still grinning. I’m feeling adrenaline pumping through me. I feel shaky and hot and angrier than I have in, like, ever. She’s standing out in the line frowning as I argue with him. I start waving my arms to get someone’s attention. Where are all the blue shirts now? Why does no one see what’s happened? My God, this is important! Someone pay attention!

“So, you’re really going to tell on me.” He says it like I’m the dick. He says it like we’re in this together, him and me, like we’re suddenly pals and this is like school and he’s the cool crowd and I’m the little fat nerd all over again. God, it’s infuriating!

“You bet your ass I am.”

He shakes his head, grinning still, and turns around and leaves the line. I watch him like a hawk as he saunters across the blonde wood floors and exits the store.

I should feel victorious and redeemed, but I still feel angry. How did he do that? Make me feel like the bad guy. I think about the people outside. Did it make any difference, really? Is the line suddenly moving faster, like he was the only bowel blockage? There’s no one, now, to point all this rage at anymore. He’s gone.

“How does it hurt you?” That, my friends, is the coolly rational voice of homo economicus. While H.E. has his virtues, and can often help you think straight, sometimes you just have to tell him to fuck off.

More seriously, the emotional dynamics of a situation like this are very interesting. Norms are not easy to enforce when then target of the enforcement is insouciant or otherwise resistant to the threat of being shamed or embarrassed. Lance’s experience (suddenly feeling like he’s the jerk, anger channeling into embarrassment, etc) is likely very common.

This strong, unpleasant emotional reaction could be thought of as part of the cost of enforcing a general norm when you personally don’t have much to gain from doing it, and thus a reason to pass it by. But there seems to be more to it than that, as the emotional upset also pushes the interaction forward. The relationship between the emotional state of each participant and their self-presentation is also interesting: did Lance come across as upset as he felt, I wonder? How was the queue-jumper feeling behind his grin, once he got called out? Did he get a queasy rush of adrenalin in the pit of his stomach, too?

If I were Randy Collins, or Erving Goffman, I might say that this is one of those cases that reveals how attuned people are to the microdynamics of interactions, how predisposed we are to consensus, and how much most people want to keep things running smoothly in order to avoid or quickly repair breaches. Many norms depend on some kind of common-knowledge of commitment or an internalized aversion to being sanctioned. Failing that, you get some tangible reminder of the potential for punishment (e.g., warning signs, or a cop walking around, or whatever). The hardest cases seem to be like this one, where those things are lacking. You have two parties on an equal footing, no strong reason for the observer to act when a norm is violated, and indeed a nasty set of feelings in the process—especially when there’s no buildup or context-setting to get you ready for a confrontation.

{ 161 comments }

1

geo 07.18.08 at 3:36 am

While H.E. has his virtues, and can often help you think straight, sometimes you just have to tell him to fuck off.

Yes, exactly. Whose idea was homo economicus, anyway?

2

Rich Puchalsky 07.18.08 at 3:59 am

Some of the most important experience you can get is in how to stand up to norm enforcement. Most norms are designed to (literally in this case) keep you in line. I’d rather have a society in which people keep testing the line-makers than one where they all obediently line up.

3

Peter 07.18.08 at 4:03 am

Kieran, every time my partner and I pass an airport ‘family/disabled’ bathroom, we tip our cap to your small act of norm-enforcement bravery. If you were making this up, I’m a little crushed.

Aside from the sadness of making me more of a jerk, living in NYC has also made me appreciate more that if you cut a line here, someone will tell you, loudly and with expectation that you will obey, to f-off back to the end.

4

Kieran Healy 07.18.08 at 4:05 am

If you were making this up, I’m a little crushed.

No, that happened all right.

5

bi 07.18.08 at 4:13 am

“How does it hurt you?” That, my friends, is the coolly rational voice of homo economicus.

Well, as someone put it: First they came for the…

Rational voice it is, this Homo Economicus.

6

noen 07.18.08 at 4:18 am

“How does it hurt you?”

It hurts me because allowing you to cheat increases the odds that the next time I’ll be the pissed off Asian girl.

Whose idea was homo economicus, anyway?

John Forbes Nash?

7

Ben Alpers 07.18.08 at 4:29 am

You know what that story reminds me of? Life in a refugee camp!

Someone should really write a blog post about how similar the experiences of purchasing an iPhone and being a refugee are!

8

Bruce Baugh 07.18.08 at 4:30 am

Lance Arthur gave exactly the right answer.

9

bdbd 07.18.08 at 4:35 am

some info on whence cometh H E? is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_economicus of course. Something about people who didn’t like J S Mill.

I had a slightly similar smack down experience, while entering a very crowded IMAX theater for a showing of one of the Potter movies. It was me, my wife and my then 10 or 11 yr old son. We got to the place where one begins peering around for seats, and there was, oddly, a long stretch of seats right in the middle, a few rows back of the front. I moved toward them, and a middle aged woman with some sort of Christianist shirt logo pops up and tells me that all these prime seats are “saved” (she wasn’t making a Christianist pun, I don’t think). I”m talking about 15 or 20 seats here. I began to turn away, and thought, “she can’t do that!” If she wants a block of seats together for a group she can choose some funkier seats, but she can’t stake out a claim to prime seats on the basis of “dibs” or something like that. So we plopped down (to some surprising applause from the row behind — the Christianist woman was pretty obnoxious), and another couple followed our lead.

Typically, I quickly began feeling sheepish and “pushy” myself, but luckily the bunch for whom the seats were being saved was made up of a bunch of teenagers — 16 to 18 I’d say — with similar shirt logos and an apparent disinclination to stand in line like the rest of us shlubs — a perfectly reasonable disinclination, especially in a teen ager, but there are consequences for that, or trade offs if you like.

Anyway, the movie didn’t lend itself to the IMAX screening, but it was a memorable evening.

for the record I”m an economist, though maybe not an example of homo economicus (that’s who economists study or fret about, maybe. I expect the prime homo economicus types are the guys who sit through the first few weeks of Econ 101, and then move on)

10

Kieran Healy 07.18.08 at 4:56 am

I expect the prime homo economicus types are the guys who sit through the first few weeks of Econ 101, and then move on

I did say it was the voice of homo economicus, rather than the voice of Economics.

As for calling dibs, I remember ages ago reading some research on how long seats could be held in a busy library reading room, with the use of various impersonal and personal objects (from yellow legal pad and pen to a sweater & bag, or whatever).

11

blah 07.18.08 at 5:11 am

In grade school, cutting was a big offense. But strangely, we never minded if kids cut in line behind us. If somebody tried to cut in front of you, you told that kid to get behind you. The cutter just had to find somebody weak enough to cut in front of who couldn’t enforce the no cutting rule.

I guess grade school was more law of the jungle than the Apple Store.

12

Adrian Bardon 07.18.08 at 5:15 am

A few years ago my wife and I were leaving the gym at UVA in Charlottesville during a snowstorm. We backed into a parked car and dented it. We pulled over a few spaces away to look for a piece of paper and a pen to leave a note on the other car. While we were doing this, unbeknownst to us the owner of the other car got in his/her vehicle and left. We hadn’t taken down the license, so we had to way of contacting the owner. Should we have felt guilty? Or relieved to be off the hook by having the right intentions without having to pay the consequences?

13

Adrian Bardon 07.18.08 at 5:18 am

By the way, Robert Frank’s book Passions Within Reason makes a compelling case for the evolutionary advantages of irrational responses like Arthur’s.

14

Guest 07.18.08 at 5:42 am

that’s a great interaction, because both participants had guts. the line jumper was…what? i don’t know. was he a “bad guy”? he took a shot and he got pushed back. the protagonist might be a complete shit “in real life.” who knows? i enjoy reading about situations where people aren’t constrained by shame or fear.

15

Chris Bertram 07.18.08 at 6:07 am

But if you tell stories like this to economists (well the one I have lunch with a lot, anyway) they’ll just tell you that Lance’s norm enforcing behaviour reveals a preference for norm enforcement and so he (assuming consistency, blah, blah, blah) can be understood as a utility maximizer.

(And he’d tell you that Lance’s subjective response is a problem for the psychologists to worry about, and that econ bypasses psychology.)

16

Martin James 07.18.08 at 6:30 am

The real homo economicus question is why Lance Arthur didn’t ask for hush money.

17

sharon 07.18.08 at 7:08 am

Um, you’ve got people standing in queues for several hours to buy a mass-produced product. Fascinating behaviour sociologically, but I’m not sure that much cool rationality can be expected in that context.

18

SG 07.18.08 at 7:28 am

I once asked a guy to move one seat over in the cinema so that me and my mate could sit next to each other. He refused, and when challenged refused to give any reason at all except he didn’t have to (like the opposite of norm enforcement or something – “show me your fuckin’ norm mate”). We argued and he refused to relent.

Only after I told a friend about this did the solution hit on us – sit each side of him and talk all through the movie, pass drinks to each other, maybe spill one.

There’s a subtler example of queue-rorting which I noticed in an airport when leaving Japan. Always in the departure lounge, half the passengers line up straightaway and the other half stay smugly sitting, waiting for the queue to go down. But the half sitting can’t benefit from sitting unless the other half sacrifice their comfort to stand, because if no-one stood in line the queue wouldn’t move. So the sitters are really taking advantage of the people who consider queueing to be important.

19

dan 07.18.08 at 7:56 am

sit each side of him and talk all through the movie

So because you couldn’t successfully inconvenience one guy, your backup plan is to irritate everybody around him? Nice.

20

aaron_m 07.18.08 at 8:00 am

#18

Ya, but the people sitting down are not harming anybody so it can’t make sense to say that they are taking advantage of somebody in the normal free-rider sense.

Note that the people lining up in that situation are the people that would feel anxiety if they were forced to sit and wait to the end. Thus this situation seems to be optimal for everyone. The nervous people and the smug people are all satisfied.

21

abb1 07.18.08 at 8:00 am

This is not just economics, my impression is that the legal system works the same way – you can’t challenge a law (or some practice) unless you can demonstrate that it hurts you personally. For example, in order to challenge the “under God” in the pledge of allegiance you must have a child who is forced to recite it.

I think there is a certain logic in it. If the girl behind doesn’t protest, that, effectively, means that she consents and that’s all there is to it. This is a reasonable angle, I think.

22

Mike 07.18.08 at 8:02 am

the protagonist might be a complete shit “in real life.” who knows?

I know. The supercilious grin and the ‘How does it hurt you?’ line makes it quite clear.

23

abb1 07.18.08 at 8:20 am

And what about people enforcing other, less obvious norms – not obvious to you, but dear to them; what about that guy who stops you on a street and tells you to get a haircut or more appropriate clothes? I know, it doesn’t happen much anymore, but isn’t it the same sort of thing? Isn’t guy a jerk and you the innocent victim?

24

bad Jim 07.18.08 at 8:52 am

I’m such a hardass that I have no problem shouldering aside line crashers face to face. I ushered my father out of my brother’s wedding. Enough said? There was also a guy in line to buy train tickets in Rome, a jerk pushing past nearly everyone. He didn’t get past me.

Ensconced in my automobile, however, negotiations become difficult. Any courtesy I offer to the driver before me may be an affront to the drivers behind me.

I’m such a hardass that when I evaluate a utility function over the trailing traffic and the cars about to back up in front of me, I’m inclined to privilege my followers over the latecomers WHO ARE IN MY WAY.

In practice, I avoid parking in places that exercise my ethics.

25

bad Jim 07.18.08 at 9:03 am

(The situation I found problematic was the simultaneous exit from our regional opera performance, if context be required.)

26

Luis Enrique 07.18.08 at 9:06 am

“How does it hurt you?” That, my friends, is the coolly rational voice of homo economicus.”

Umm, not if homo economicus is playing a repeated game with a co-operative queuing equilibrium and the ability to punish cheaters. Or something. Then homo economicus is right behind Lance.

Another case of home economicus getting unwarranted bad press.

27

mollymooly 07.18.08 at 9:56 am

So, Lance hooks up with the Asian girl, right?

28

John Quiggin 07.18.08 at 10:57 am

“Lance’s norm enforcing behaviour reveals a preference for norm enforcement “

And opium makes you sleepy because of its dormitive quality.

Admittedly, this kind of thing is embarrassingly common among certain kinds of economist, and even more (in my experience) among political scientists newly exposed to rational choice theory, but it would certainly be laughed at by any of the economists I have lunch with.

On homo economicus, I think Kieran is right. It’s unlikely that Lance would ever encounter this particular norm-violator again, or acquire a widespread reputation for norm enforcement, so HE wouldn’t enforce the norm. Another HE, playing Lance’s sociopathic acquaintance would predict this response and therefore cut in.

29

derek 07.18.08 at 11:42 am

What is the Irish expression? Ah yes, cute hoor.

Experiments with monkeys have shown that if you offer two monkeys a raisin each, or two monkeys a peanut, they’ll take them, but if you offer one monkey a raisin and the other a peanut, the first will accept the raisin with alacrity while the second may refuse their peanut.

You might say the second monkey is cutting his own nose off, but he’s doing norm enforcement: you don’t give that other monkey a raisin and try to fob me off with a lousy peanut, buster!

30

bdbd 07.18.08 at 11:43 am

“Lance’s norm enforcing behaviour reveals a preference for norm enforcement ”

My experience is that in conversations amongst economists, such a statement is delivered with the quotes attached, and with a wink and an ironic chuckle. It’s a within group way of saying, “the rationale for the behavior beats the hell out of me, let’s move on…”

The economist who says such a thing to a non economist is either having a bit of a joke, or is trying to move the conversation along in a misunderstood way.

or, of course, the economist in question could be a homo economicus who became an economist. It happens.

31

notsneaky 07.18.08 at 12:05 pm

Actually, this could potentially be a good illustration of the difference between pure alitruism/inequality aversion (in which case you wouldn’t do anything) and a preference for fairness.

“norm enforcing behaviour reveals a preference for norm enforcement”

Of course the key to making this non ridiculous is to ask whether changing the cost of enforcing a particular norm affects the frequency with which the norm is enforced.

Relatedly, the above situation is probably not pure “preference for fairness” but that + something else. The breaker probably signaled his inherent assholness – a sort of “I am a sort of person you dislike” – to the enforcer, (for example through his “self-congratulatory smart-assed grin”) making it easier/less costly for him to enforce that norm.

What if when Lane turned around, instead of seeing a guy with a “self-congratulatory smart-assed grin” he saw an old lady looking up at him sheepishly (in place of the Asian girl of course). Or a steamy super model looking at him coyly.

Another way – what if instead of being towards the front of the line the event occured while they were still towards the back of the line? Hence affecting many fewer people? This is also why abb1′s explanation doesn’t work.

32

Shashank 07.18.08 at 12:09 pm

On this: “Some of the most important experience you can get is in how to stand up to norm enforcement. Most norms are designed to (literally in this case) keep you in line. I’d rather have a society in which people keep testing the line-makers than one where they all obediently line up.”

I think that there’s a critical distinction to be made between norms that are clearly there to uphold some playing field-leveling procedure (everyone queues, because allowing one person to skip would induce others to do so, resulting in the strongest winning out) and norms that create arbitrary distinctions (those of a certain race may not mingle with those of another – even if everyone did so, the purported ‘ harm’ that would result is entirely inexplicable to those disadvantaged by the policy in any one instance). Pushing the boundaries of the latter norms is surely a good thing, but stretching the former seems to me to be enjoying the fruits of the rules-based regime without wanting it to apply in the cases where it disadvantages you in particular.

33

ROYT 07.18.08 at 12:17 pm

22. The protagonist is Lance. We figure the would-be queue jumper to have a decent probability of being a “real life” shit. Lance “might,” despite his decent behaviour here — “who knows?”

Re “rationality” — does no one agree with noen at 6 that the rational response is that the protagonist increases his odds of being hurt in future by acquiescing to the jumper?

34

Tom T. 07.18.08 at 12:27 pm

Come on, no one’s going to talk about the lurking illegal-immigration metaphor?

35

Ben Hyde 07.18.08 at 12:46 pm

I agree it’s norm enforcement, and to me the most interesting aspect of that is the force of those emotions. How they are like: “Ah, excuse me homo economicus, could you just step aside for a moment; I’ll take this one.” It is facinating in commercial contexts how much passion rises up when somebody starts bending the rules. “Yeah, that’s not how you qualify a mortgage!” I recently had a clerk call security because I was applying four coupons to my purchase.

But, just for giggles. At the end of the day Lance will own a iPhone. That wait in line will be a very large portion of what he paid for it. It seems plausible that allowing somebody to cut line behind him lowers the value of his waiting; and hence lowers the value of his phone by a large amount. So maybe his homo economicus does think that since it harms the value of his iPhone, it does harm to him personally.

One of the many reasons why the emotions rise so strongly in these situation is that suddenly the rules are unclear. That’s a risky situation and the body quite naturally goes on high alert.

36

Chris Bertram 07.18.08 at 1:04 pm

#28. John, yes, but I don’t think my lunch companion would claim that preferences are explanatory of behaviour in the way that is being presupposed here.

37

abb1 07.18.08 at 1:12 pm

Radek, why doesn’t my explanation work?

I’m assuming a norm here (pretty typical, by what I’ve seen) where any queuee has the right to let one person cut in front of him/her – the spouse or a friend.

In this case, the girl behind – by not protesting – simply exercised her right; no one else is affected.

Since there was not violence or threat of violence involved, the reason why she chose not to protest is irrelevant.

Thus the only reason to hassle the guy is, as you said, his appearance and manners. Obviously standing in line for hours make people cranky, but one should try to restrain oneself.

38

Rich Puchalsky 07.18.08 at 1:17 pm

“I think that there’s a critical distinction to be made between norms that are clearly there to uphold some playing field-leveling procedure (everyone queues, because allowing one person to skip would induce others to do so, resulting in the strongest winning out) and norms that create arbitrary distinctions (those of a certain race may not mingle with those of another [...]“

I actually disagree. In practice, they aren’t always so easy to distinguish, and more to the point, the same personality type that would buck one is more likely to buck the other. Look at this example, for instance. These aren’t British people queueing for food rations in WW II. They’re lining up for a carefully plotted condition of artificial scarcity for a luxury consumer product. Is homo economicus the guy cutting in line, or the guy standing in line?

39

bdbd 07.18.08 at 1:17 pm

May I suggest that a character be devised for sociologists et al to use, based on the visual and behavioral model of Dudley Dooright, to be named Norm N. Forcement? He could carry a clipboard, for example.

40

eszter 07.18.08 at 1:40 pm

In this case, the girl behind – by not protesting – simply exercised her right; no one else is affected.

Based on the description, it’s not clear that there is much she could have done. She was behind doors, she may not have even seen this, nor is it clear anyone would have listened on the inside to someone protesting from the outside. And other people are affected, everybody behind her is affected including the last person who may not even make it in that day.

I hate it when someone who’s about to cut in asks permission from just the one person in front of whom they’re about to step. That one person is not in a situation to say yes on behalf of everyone behind him/her.

A similar situation happened last weekend when I was in the immigration line at the airport. It was as chaotic as I’d ever seen it. No one cut right in front of me, which would have made commenting much easier, so I let it go. This was also in part because I don’t think US immigration is a place to look for confrontation.

41

Kieran Healy 07.18.08 at 1:47 pm

Norm N. Forcement?

Norman Forcement.

42

bdbd 07.18.08 at 1:51 pm

I believe there is a norm (or there should be) that somewhat goofy personifications have an awkward middle initial in their names. Besides, there’s a risk of confusion with the Norman Conquest…

43

Tom T. 07.18.08 at 1:51 pm

Isn’t this incident just an expression of wounded pride? Lance spent hours waiting in line for his gadget. The man behind him implicitly tells him that only losers wait in line for hours for this gadget; ergo, Lance is a loser. Lance gets angry and invokes authority (“I’m going to tell”) until the guy backs down. Lance proves he’s not a loser.

44

roac 07.18.08 at 1:58 pm

In the airplane-boarding situation, surely the people who line up do so because they are competing for overhead baggage space, and the ones who sit do so because they don’t need it.

As a substitute for discussion I propose my coworker who — in the days before TSA — told me she made a point of not showing up at the airport until the last possible moment. Behavior which apparently worked for her, but which would paralyze the system if everybody did it.

45

engels 07.18.08 at 2:16 pm

I hate it when someone who’s about to cut in asks permission from just the one person in front of whom they’re about to step. That one person is not in a situation to say yes on behalf of everyone behind him/her.

Why isn’t she? It’s not feasible to ask all of them. She seems to be in as good a position to take such the decision as anybody…

46

engels 07.18.08 at 2:20 pm

For myself, I am pleased when anyone comes in behind it, as it makes me feel that in relative terms I am closer to the front…

47

abb1 07.18.08 at 2:24 pm

@40: Based on the description, it’s not clear that there is much she could have done. She was behind doors, she may not have even seen this, nor is it clear anyone would have listened on the inside to someone protesting from the outside.

Based on the description, they could see her outside “with her arms folded across her chest”, so I assume she could see them as well. And since she’s now the first to get in, there’s gotta be someone right there, the guy who guards the door.

…everybody behind her is affected…

But what if it was her boyfriend – would the norm allow him to cut in front of her? I think so. In that case, like I said, she simply exercised her “can let one person cut in front of you” right and while everybody behind her is, indeed, affected, they have no grounds for complaining.

48

Dave 07.18.08 at 2:33 pm

But if she protested, maybe started banging on the door, the security guards would probably have tossed her out of the line. This is a depressingly common approach by such people to any spark of tension/conflict – grab the nearest person moving and make an example…

49

abb1 07.18.08 at 2:44 pm

This is a depressingly common approach by such people to any spark of tension/conflict…

This is not an approach, it’s another ‘norm’ – control yourself, don’t get agitated. This Lance guy violated this very important norm and now he feels that might be an asshole too.

50

Witt 07.18.08 at 3:00 pm

In this case, the girl behind – by not protesting – simply exercised her right; no one else is affected.

Not to be tediously obvious, but the “girl” doesn’t exist in a vacuum. She has an age, gender, ethnicity, social class etc. that make it more or less likely that if she does speak up about the violation of a norm, the people surrounding her will be more or less likely to back her up.

(To put it more bluntly, when I was a teenage girl, there were plenty of times when I wanted to object to the violation of a norm, but I didn’t because I had no confidence that my right to object would be honored by the man himself, or the other spectators.)

51

bdbd 07.18.08 at 3:04 pm

The points made in the discussion convince me that the behavior being described — the line cutting and dibs-on-seats-making — can be given an economic read as free riding on norm observance by the vast majority. It’s something one sees often in traffic — a person driving recklessly or agressively and maintaining personal safety by relying on the defensive driving habits of everyone around him (usually “him”).

As roac observes above, it’s behavior that would probably not be advantageous without the majority behavior.

52

aaron_m 07.18.08 at 3:08 pm

Abb1,

1) The obvious: if she lets her boyfriend go in her place nobody has ‘cut in’ on her.

2) The nearly as obvious: why does her not protesting mean that a norm has not been violated? If my wallet gets stolen and I do not call the cops has no crime been committed and no norm broken? Of course not!

In a sensible justice system passiveness on the part of victims does not make criminal activity acceptable not does the wish of a victim to set a criminal free have any weight in determining what institutions do. In the posted example non-protest by the victim does not obviously give one a good reason for avoiding norm enforcement. In fact if on your best judgement she is being passive simply because she is conflict adverse or because she missed what happened then you may have an extra reason to engage in norm enforcement.

53

novakant 07.18.08 at 3:15 pm

I don’t know if this is an urban legend or not (it inspired Vladimir Sorokin to write a book about it, so presumably there is some basis in fact), but apparently people in the Warsaw Pact states used to join queues without knowing what was actually on sale once they would get to the front of the line.

And the longer the queue, so the thinking went, the more scarce and desirable the product must be, an assumption that would increase the size of already long queues significantly.

54

engels 07.18.08 at 3:16 pm

While I don’t think abb1 is making a very coherent case, I must say that my understanding of queuing norms is that it falls to people situated behind those who attempt to push in to protest. It sounds like this case is unusual because the girl behind Lance was not in position to do so so perhaps Lance felt obliged to act on her behalf. Had it not been for that detail I think it would be fair to criticise Lance for violating the higher order norm of ‘don’t be a busybody’.

55

abb1 07.18.08 at 3:30 pm

Aaron_m,
‘crime’ is a different concept than a ‘norm’.

When a crime is committed, the government (‘the people’) is the offended party.

When a norm is violated (for example, someone insulted you on a street or cut in front of you), you’re on your own. If ‘the people’ thought that cutting in is such a terrible and harmful thing to do, ‘the people’ would’ve made it a crime. Call your elected representative.

Your first point is correct, it’s exactly what I’m saying: the girl is the one, and the only one here who can decide if the guy is cutting in or has been allowed to get in. Without the girl protesting you have nothing, absolutely no grounds to intervene. If you do decide to intervene, then you are the one who’s breaking a norm.

56

"Q" the Enchanter 07.18.08 at 3:32 pm

“And opium makes you sleepy because of its dormitive quality.”

I’d always thought it was because of its soporific properties.

57

Eszter 07.18.08 at 3:57 pm

the girl is the one, and the only one here who can decide if the guy is cutting in or has been allowed to get in

I do’nt understand how you can argue that not everyone behind her is affected by this as well and thus would have reason to complain.

Why isn’t she? It’s not feasible to ask all of them. She seems to be in as good a position to take such the decision as anybody…

Because every other person is also being cut. How can just the one person right behind speak for everyone else?

apparently people in the Warsaw Pact states used to join queues without knowing what was actually on sale

Having grown up in such a country, I have no recollection of this. (I suspect the issue, however, wouldn’t be that something is on sale, rather, that it’s available at all.) However, I do have a recollection of people making fun of those countries on these grounds. I do recall seeing plenty of queues in the US when I got here though. (From those jokes, you’d think no one ever queued up for anything in other countries.)

58

Eszter 07.18.08 at 4:05 pm

Oh, and agreed with dave and witt above regarding other reasons for why the girl probably didn’t have many options here.

59

engels 07.18.08 at 4:13 pm

Because every other person is also being cut. How can just the one person right behind speak for everyone else?

Because she knows all that as well as you do. As I said, it’s not possible to ask everybody who will be affected so allowing one person (who seems to be disinterested and representative) to make the decision on their behalf seems eminently sensible to me.

60

abb1 07.18.08 at 4:17 pm

OK, let’s talk about the people behind her. If I’m the guy standing directly behind her, and I feel agitated, it would be logical for me ask: “is that guy over there your husband or somethin’?”.

If she says “Yes”, I’ll say “Okay” (and think “Damn!”).

If she says “No, it’s someone cutting in”, then it would be logical for me to say: “well, why don’t you do something about that, or else, in case you choose not to, please move behind me.”

Does it make sense?

61

Alex 07.18.08 at 4:18 pm

May I suggest that a character be devised for sociologists et al to use, based on the visual and behavioral model of Dudley Dooright, to be named Norm N. Forcement? He could carry a clipboard, for example.

So Norm N. Forcement would, like Dudley Dooright, be Canadian I assume?

This would seem to be appropriate – since I’ve moved from the States to Toronto, I’ve found that Canadians can have startlingly complex queuing norms.

For example, Torontonians spontaneously form into one line feeding into several cashiers, ATMs, etc. whenever space permits and even when there’s no signage enforcing this rule. I’ve even enforced this norm myself, saying to a woman at a grocery store, “The line for both registers is over there.” (Like Lance, I had not been personally inconvenienced – I was already at register 2 while the woman jumped the queue to get served at register 1.)

An even more complex example is in a particular streetcar loading area in one of Toronto’s subway stations (Spadina & Bloor, for locals). When the streetcar stops for loading, both the front and rear doors are available. People line up in an orderly double-queue for the rear doors, but the people going in the front doors are always an unruly mob where the first ones to get to the doors get in. This allows both those who prefer unqueued entry (mostly recent immigrants from East Asia, it seems) and those who prefer to queue (mostly people raised in Canada) to choose their preferred method. As far as I know, this local norm arose spontaneously (there are no signs dictating either behavior), but it’s been perfectly consistent for at least the six years that I’ve passed through this station.

62

bernard Yomtov 07.18.08 at 4:20 pm

#17 has it.

Any discussion of this incident has to begin with the fact that the participants are waiting in a long line in order to be among the first iPhone owners.

In other words, they’re nuts.

63

Uncle Kvetch 07.18.08 at 4:26 pm

Maybe there’s something about the Apple Store itself that gives rise to this sort of thing.

A few years ago I went down to the store in Soho (NYC) because of trouble with my iPod. I waited patiently for a full hour to talk to someone at the “Genius Bar.” Finally my number was called, and as I approached my assigned genius, another guy walked up alongside me and proceeded to address said genius: “I just have a quick question–I want to get a new [Mac something or other], but I want to make sure that they’re not still using the chips made in Thailand, because my last one had chips made in Thailand and it gave me a lot of trouble and then I heard that a lot of people had trouble with them.” “Sorry, sir, I really don’t know where the chips on the new [MacSomething] are made.” “OK…I was just wondering if you knew, ’cause like I said, I heard the problem was this one manufacturer in Thailand…” “Sorry sir, I can’t help you with that.” “So you don’t know if they’re made in Thailand are not?” “No, sorry sir.” “Well, I just thought you guys might know, because I really want to make sure that I don’t get stuck with the chips made in Thailand again…”

Finally I pipe up: “I’m sorry, but I just waited an entire hour to get up to the counter. There’s no reason why you can’t take a number and do the same.”

Guy looks at me incredulously for a couple of seconds, snorts out a huffy “Excuse ME!”, and stomps off.

File under “Rude New Yorker Story III.A.2.xxiv,” or “Rude Apple customer Story”? You be the judge.

64

engels 07.18.08 at 4:26 pm

(Just to be clear, #59 refers to the hypothetical case Eszter mentioned, not to the case under discussion. And pace abb1 I don’t think that when somebody pushes into a queue the only person entitled to say anything is the person directly behind her: that would be ridiculous.)

65

Dave 07.18.08 at 4:30 pm

Regarding whether it’s acceptable to allow a spouse/significant other/etc. to cut in line, I don’t think it’s always necessarily okay.

I think it’s almost always okay if you intend to carry out a single transaction between the both of you, and therefore the person isn’t really holding anyone up.

I think it’s borderline in cases like boarding a plane where you’re making everyone in back of you wait longer but not really because it’s easier for a family to get on as a group since they’ll be in adjacent seats.

And I think it’s not acceptable when you’re bringing someone into line for a completely separate transaction. For example, it’s fine if a person waiting for an iPhone brings their spouse into line so they can buy one together, but it’s not okay if they’re each going to buy their own phone.

I definitely don’t think it’s okay to always assume you have one “free pass” to get someone into line – if everybody did this, the people at the back of the line would never actually get to the front.

66

TLB 07.18.08 at 4:36 pm

Tom T.: Come on, no one’s going to talk about the lurking illegal-immigration metaphor?

Many of the “liberal” useful idiots for the MexicanGovernment et al can’t see the similarities. They can imagine them being in the situation described above, but they can’t relate that to millions of people entering illegally and taking benefits from their fellow citizens or interfering with the applications of those in foreign countries. Plus, the person who cut in line above is one of them; those who cut in line immigrations-wise are different.

67

JR1 07.18.08 at 4:39 pm

When a norm is violated (for example, someone insulted you on a street or cut in front of you), you’re on your own. If ‘the people’ thought that cutting in is such a terrible and harmful thing to do, ‘the people’ would’ve made it a crime. Call your elected representative.

Your first point is correct, it’s exactly what I’m saying: the girl is the one, and the only one here who can decide if the guy is cutting in or has been allowed to get in. Without the girl protesting you have nothing, absolutely no grounds to intervene. If you do decide to intervene, then you are the one who’s breaking a norm.

I believe the norm is to err on the side of polite disagreement, but then again when someone violates that norm by posting a crock of nonsense with such arrogance I’m not sure it’s necessary to do so.

When a norm is violated you’re by definition “not on your own” in the sense that otherwise it wouldn’t have been a norm that had been violated.

The assertion that you are “on your own” in terms of responding to the violation is a fabrication part that I see no reason to accept. What page of the norm guidebook is this one pulled from?

Regarding crime vs. norm, yes there are actions that “the people” think are terrible and harmful and have opted to classify as crimes.

There are also behaviors the people think are lesser evils, but do value as important enough to have evolved group standards around. These are often called norms!

One can probably think of norms that one personally wishes weren’t so, but this is no more an argument that all norms should be rejected, then the existence of some bad law about chewing gum is sufficient to argue that we should therefore not have laws against murder.

To counter your flippant remark of “call your elected representative” one could just as easily say “lobby your peers and neighbors to adjust their norms”.

In this case I’d say what motivates this queueing norm hinges on the value “the people” place on the idea that bullies shouldn’t just be allowed to run roughshod over the less assertive.

The assertion that the girl is the one and only one who has any grounds to intervene is another totally arbitrary invention.

In fact, basically it sounds like most of your argument could be boiled down to this:

“I’ve decided that violations of group norms can only be considered to affect one person at a time”

IMO, there’s a much stronger argument in favor of the claim that every person who waited in that line legitimately has grounds to intervene, whether they are in front of the woman, behind the woman or already at outside playing with their new iPod.

The alternative of an anarchy in which the most aggressive bullies get to the front of the line may be your vision of a better world, but thankfully I don’t think it’s the norm.

68

JR1 07.18.08 at 4:45 pm


When a norm is violated (for example, someone insulted you on a street or cut in front of you), you’re on your own. If ‘the people’ thought that cutting in is such a terrible and harmful thing to do, ‘the people’ would’ve made it a crime. Call your elected representative.

Your first point is correct, it’s exactly what I’m saying: the girl is the one, and the only one here who can decide if the guy is cutting in or has been allowed to get in. Without the girl protesting you have nothing, absolutely no grounds to intervene. If you do decide to intervene, then you are the one who’s breaking a norm.

I believe the norm is to err on the side of polite disagreement, but then again when someone violates that norm by posting a crock of nonsense with such arrogance I’m not sure it’s necessary to do so.

When a norm is violated you’re by definition “not on your own” in the sense that otherwise it wouldn’t have been a norm that had been violated.

The assertion that you are “on your own” in terms of responding to the violation is a fabrication part that I see no reason to accept. What page of the norm guidebook is this one pulled from?

Regarding crime vs. norm, yes there are actions that “the people” think are terrible and harmful and have opted to classify as crimes.

There are also behaviors the people think are lesser evils, but do value as important enough to have evolved group standards around. These are often called norms!

One can probably think of norms that one personally wishes weren’t so, but this is no more an argument that all norms should be rejected, then the existence of some bad law about chewing gum is sufficient to argue that we should therefore not have laws against murder.

To counter your flippant remark of “call your elected representative” one could just as easily say “lobby your peers and neighbors to adjust their norms”.

In this case I’d say what motivates this queueing norm hinges on the value “the people” place on the idea that bullies shouldn’t just be allowed to run roughshod over the less assertive.

The assertion that the girl is the one and only one who has any grounds to intervene is another totally arbitrary invention.

In fact, basically it sounds like most of your argument could be boiled down to this:

“I’ve decided that violations of group norms can only be considered to affect one person at a time”

IMO, there’s a much stronger argument in favor of the claim that every person who waited in that line legitimately has grounds to intervene, whether they are in front of the woman, behind the woman or already at outside playing with their new iPod.

The alternative of an anarchy in which the most aggressive bullies get to the front of the line may be your vision of a better world, but thankfully I don’t think it’s the norm.

NOTE: my apologies for dual post if it shows up that way, but quote didn’t work out

69

noen 07.18.08 at 5:05 pm

She’s the one standing outside with her arms folded across her chest.”

She’s standing out in the line frowning as I argue with him.

Contrary to what Abb1 is saying the Asian girl is protesting. She is also on the outside of the store with, one would presume, glass doors separating her from the inside. She is at the head of the outside line and Lance is at the tail of the inside line.

70

The Navigator 07.18.08 at 5:05 pm

#34 tom t: I don’t think the specific case is a very good analogy for illegal immigration – they’re not really jumping to the front of the line, or taking up a limited number of visas – they’re just coming in by a whole different line, which moves much faster but results in the loss of many privileges. At a more abstract level, there’s an analogy about Norman Forcement I guess, but – no mainstream, influential voices are calling for complete amnesty with no penalty; everyone thinks there should be some penalty, so no one really thinks the norm should go unenforced. The debate is just over where the penalty should fall, on a spectrum from fines to incarceration followed by deportation.

#37 abb1:
I don’t think it’s always true that people can let in one other person, but not a larger group. It depends upon the purpose of the line. If you’re at the movie theater, then most likely only one person in the group is going to make the transaction – the whole family may as well join Mom in line because they’re together as a group and Mom’s just going to say “five tickets, please.”
With iphones, I take it there’s some kind of limit – like one per customer? If you let another person, even a spouse, cut in with you, and that person’s going to make a wholly separate transaction, then I don’t recognize a norm that would permit such cut-allowance.

71

Socrates 07.18.08 at 5:08 pm

Good grief. I think most people feel, intuitively, that cutting in line to buy the latest fad toy gizmo is wrong.

Kant’s categorical imperative, right? Or the golden rule.

I think most of us don’t want to be around people who behave this way, nor do we want to be around the people who defend it.

72

abb1 07.18.08 at 5:12 pm

No, I’m not saying it’s always one person, bit in this case it is (IMO), for the reasons I already stated half a dozen times.

And yes, you’re definitely on your own, in the sense that there’s no authority to act for you in your behalf. There is no judge, no jury to evaluate the incident and find out what exactly had happened there.

So, yeah, it seems that a rule of etiquette (a norm) might’ve been broken – well, I hear the cultured folks like to pretend they haven’t noticed.

But, yeah – there are always those who will rush to restore the order and tell the (alleged) offender everything they think about him. I find it obnoxious, but clearly it’s a matter of opinion.

73

notsneaky 07.18.08 at 5:15 pm

“I’m assuming a norm here (pretty typical, by what I’ve seen) where any queuee has the right to let one person cut in front of him/her – the spouse or a friend.

In this case, the girl behind – by not protesting – simply exercised her right; no one else is affected.”

Sorry for not elaborating earlier – I was being rushed out the door as I typed last comment.

A person standing in a queue imposes a cost (an externality) on everyone behind them – essentially, their “processing time” (there’s a whole Queue Theory on this). Furthermore, the thing about queues is that knowledge of what’s happening is local. The people at the end of the line have only a vague idea of what’s going on in the middle and no idea of what’s going on in front.

Suppose that the queue-breaker has processing time of dt which is then added to everyone behind him’s waiting time. The person immediately behind him might have all the time in the world, value her own time lightly and hence might not much this extra dt she has to weight. But there maybe a person towards the end of the line who puts a much higher value on their time and they might very well have protested vigorously if they had been aware of the line-breaking.
However, a person at the end of the queue may not be aware that this extra cost has all of sudden been imposed on them. They might not even become aware of it after completing their transaction though they may have a vague idea that for some reason the whole process took a lot of time. In either case they do not know the SOURCE of the extra waiting time (maybe clerks went on break).

So it’s a (hidden) cost for many, and they all should have the right to protest, even if the person immediately after the line breakers doesn’t care.

74

abb1 07.18.08 at 5:16 pm

Even if there is no allowance to cut in, still it seems to be responsibility of the cutee to fight off the cuter. You don’t suppose the whole queue should jump on him, do you?

75

anon 07.18.08 at 5:22 pm

No way am I believing that people that want iPhones would cut in line…..

That’s what the PC would do, not the Mac!

Take it back!

76

notsneaky 07.18.08 at 5:23 pm

As far as the story about people in Eastern Europe seeing a queue and rushing to join it without bothering to find out what was for sale since 1) there was SOMETHING for sale and 2) if there was a queue it meant that it was good enough – it’s perhaps an exaggeration but there is large an element of truth to it and I can attest for that part personally (here again my experience seem to differ widely from that of Eszter).

The large element of truth is that the “join queue first, ask question later” strategy was fairly optimal though not necessarily universal. On several occasion when with my parents or other adult family members, when we came upon a queue and we didn’t know what it was for, the adults would put the kids in the queue to save the place and only then rush to the front to find out what was being sold. And how much, since usually they’d sell out of whatever it was before all got served.

77

Socrates 07.18.08 at 5:25 pm

The only reason this all works (for the most part) is that most of us are willing to play by the rules, or to treat others as we would like to be treated, most of the time.

After all, if everyone felt as privileged as the line-butter, or his intellectual defenders, there’d be no line at all – just a mob where everyone thinks they deserve to be first.

78

Socrates 07.18.08 at 5:26 pm

“You don’t suppose the whole queue should jump on him, do you?”

Yes, I do.

79

abb1 07.18.08 at 5:28 pm

Radek, I addressed your objection in comment 60. Standing in line is a privilege but it’s also a great responsibility. I argue that the girl should be kicked out, if she refuses to perform her queue-maintaining duties.

80

TLB 07.18.08 at 5:38 pm

Thank you to The Navigator for proving my point. In the case of the “path to citizenship”, there’s only one line, and people are constantly joining the line. Thus, any IllegalAlien who’d be legalized would have an impact not only on those already in line, but those who want to join it in the future. And, that impact would be great. (Or, we’d just do slap-dash checks and thousands of criminals and potential terrorists would be legalized).

Likewise with college educations, which are not an infinite resource. Every one of those that goes to an IllegalAlien is one that’s taken from a U.S. citizen.

81

Socrates 07.18.08 at 5:39 pm

“You don’t suppose the whole queue should jump on him, do you?”

So, each person must stand alone against the boors and bullys and selfish slobs (and worse!?)

As some sort of social philosophy, that really sucks.

82

JR1 07.18.08 at 5:40 pm


No, I’m not saying it’s always one person, bit in this case it is (IMO), for the reasons I already stated half a dozen times.

Then I think you’ve made the same arbitrary assessment a half dozen times which I completely disagree with. If a person cuts in line, I think you could more easily make the case that everyone who supports the norm of waiting your turn in queues has grounds to intervene. Whether they will do so is another matter, but I see no reason to accept the a priori assertion that only one person has grounds to intervene in this case.

What if there’s a 3-hour wait between each batch of people accepted? Are you saying that if person 7812 cuts in front of person 12, then only person 12 has grounds to intervene?
This is your own invention, and apparently your argument depends entirely on it.


And yes, you’re definitely on your own, in the sense that there’s no authority to act for you in your behalf. There is no judge, no jury to evaluate the incident and find out what exactly had happened there.

Again, this is your invention. There’s no legal authority because it’s not a crime, but that’s tautological. It’s a norm so the authority is the group belief in the norm however strong that may be. Judges and juries are very simply not the only way people “adjudicate” their daily interactions, they only come into play in a small percentage of these interactions.

But, yeah – there are always those who will rush to restore the order and tell the (alleged) offender everything they think about him. I find it obnoxious, but clearly it’s a matter of opinion.

Actually my guess is that if you were the 5th person in line immediately behind the Asian woman, you’d be grateful to Lance, but that’s just my opinion too.

83

abb1 07.18.08 at 5:41 pm

In fact, economically speaking the “join queue first, ask question later” strategy makes sense in any healthy, non-decadent society. Queue = good value for the money.

84

Tom T. 07.18.08 at 5:43 pm

When a norm is violated (for example, someone insulted you on a street or cut in front of you), you’re on your own.

But that’s not the situation here. Lance wasn’t on his own. The primary reason he was successful is because he was threatening to invoke an authority (the Apple Store) with the power to eject the offender.

85

abb1 07.18.08 at 5:45 pm

All right, all right, JR. You’re right. Sorry about that.

86

JR1 07.18.08 at 5:47 pm


Radek, I addressed your objection in comment 60. Standing in line is a privilege but it’s also a great responsibility. I argue that the girl should be kicked out, if she refuses to perform her queue-maintaining duties

I think that’s silly too. What if the person is 6 years old or doesn’t speak English or doesn’t speak at all?
Maybe we should just go ahead and kick those people out of line at the outset since they might not be able to perform their “queue-maintaining” duties.
That’s an interesting world you’ve got going there. So only one person has grounds to object to someone cutting in line, except that everyone has grounds to kick other people out of line who do not do this adequately?

It sounds like you do think that everyone actually does have grounds, they just also have the privilege of acting out against an Asian girl who doesn’t defend those grounds for them.

87

pj 07.18.08 at 5:58 pm

abb1 – so are you a line cutter?

88

abb1 07.18.08 at 5:59 pm

Well, JR, are you saying that the person who is being cut in front of has exactly the same grounds/responsibilities to intervene as anyone else in the whole world? Then I’ll say your world is rather eccentric too.

89

Eszter 07.18.08 at 5:59 pm

N otsneaky perhaps it’s wrong to generalize to all Warsaw Pact countries or to all times in them? That is, it may have been true in some of them throughout the decades, but perhaps it was less common in some (e.g., by the time I was around).

Abb1, no, your example made no sense to me.

Best comment in this thread goes to anon.

90

abb1 07.18.08 at 6:11 pm

so are you a line cutter

Normally no, but I could, depending on the circumstances.

What I really like is getting in where I’m not allowed; you wouldn’t believe what’s going on in those places.

A couple of months ago my colleague and I walked into a big art exhibition in Basel that was open for the artists and buyers/agents only that day. We just walked in looking straight ahead, the guards hesitated and didn’t stop us. Well, they were pouring free champaign in there, wine, beer, giving away cigars and all kinds of food. Very nice, highly recommend.

91

Dave 07.18.08 at 6:15 pm

Norm, schmorm. Give ‘em all shotguns, let Darwin sort it out…

92

Tom T. 07.18.08 at 6:47 pm

Norm, schmorm. Give ‘em all shotguns, let Darwin sort it out…

This was San Francisco, not Oakland.

93

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 6:54 pm

Herbert Gintis and coauthors discussed this in “Moral Sentiments and Material Interests”. Group solidarity only works if free riders are altruistically punished by those who are not losing directly themselves. Otherwise free riders look for the weakesr individual and take advantage of them, and in the long run the law of the jungle hierarchy goes into effect.

94

engels 07.18.08 at 7:00 pm

Radek, I think your analysis supports what I am saying (that it is generally for the people behind in the queue rather than those in front to protest someone pushing in) rather than Lance’s defenders. Having said that I don’t think your conclusion–that everyone behind in the queue has a (equal?) ‘right’ to protest–follows. Yes, that’s one way of arranging things so as to protect everybody’s legitimate interests, but another is to grant those close to the transgression the ‘right’ and the responsibility to protest it if they feel this is justified in the light of their own and everybody else’s interests. I suspect that this may be closer to what we actually do in practice. (My hunch is that people at the back of a queue are less likely to protest people pushing in at the front than those close to them are, even when everybody can see clearly what is going on. Of course I could be wrong about that.)

95

bdbd 07.18.08 at 7:04 pm

re: abb1: “In fact, economically speaking the “join queue first, ask question later” strategy makes sense in any healthy, non-decadent society. Queue = good value for the money.”

ahh, preferences are pretty uniform across individuals…that simplifies things for homo economicus! (unless they’re lining up for the opportunity to find a $20 bill on the street)

96

engels 07.18.08 at 7:05 pm

(To be clear again, I’m not arguing that people should have a right to protest iff. they bear a cost. Afaict that is close to Eszter and Radek’s position. I am just saying that to my knowedlge in real life people don’t usually take it upon themselves to pcik fights with people who have pushed in behind them.)

97

SG 07.18.08 at 7:07 pm

regarding the warsaw pact countries urban myth, I have heard the same story about the UK (just last week 2 british women behind me at the Brett Anderson concert made this comment – “we’re typical british aren’t we, we see a queue and we join it”); and I have also heard it said about Japan. I think it’s a joke about countries where queuing is very common and/or taken seriously.

(Interestingly, Japanese queue-reduction skills are very very good – no matter how long the line, you always know it will shrink fast).

Bad Jim, if you think that being asked to move one seat over in the cinema so two people can sit together is an “inconvenience”, you already don’t understand basic social norms. Further commentary hardly seems necessary.

Regarding my airline queuing example, I am always one of the sitters (what a bastard) and have never had a problem with luggage space. But in any case I don’t think the problem is exclusive to planes, it’s a general form of freeloading.

Abb1, you stick it to ‘em!

98

abb1 07.18.08 at 7:26 pm

ahh, preferences are pretty uniform across individuals…that simplifies things for homo economicus!

Yes, they usually are. Unless it’s a decadent society where seemingly ordinary people are likely to line up and wait for hours to get a useless overpriced piece of junk.

99

Righteous Bubba 07.18.08 at 7:30 pm

useless overpriced piece of junk.

I hear you can make phone calls with it.

100

DrBB 07.18.08 at 7:36 pm

Just as a sideline on this: my wife and I recently spent a month or so traveling in China, and one of the things we noticed particularly in queueing for transport–airplanes, particularly–was that there was a lot of line-cutting and no one seemed to mind particularly. Basically we learned that you had to just push in like everyone else, and if you were bigger and pushier you got better seats. And that was fine. Similarly, the reactions to infractions of right of way when driving seemed to be equally complacent. Coming from Boston, rated 3rd nationally in driver anger, I was amazed to see the equanimity with which people accepted getting cut off, having to drive on the shoulder because of oncoming cars crossing the center line to pass, lunatic u-turns in the middle of the street etc. Never saw any of our drivers display much of any reaction to that kind of thing. Just avoid the obstacle and move on. Frequent (incessant, actually) honking, but none of it seemed to be an expression of emotion or violated rights, as it is here. The rule seemed to be more like just, “If I’m driving, I’m honking.”

Not sure what that says about the underlying economics of queueing but it certainly was a distinctly different set of norms that took some getting used to.

101

Patrick 07.18.08 at 7:50 pm

abb1 isn’t arguing that only one person has the right to complain when a group norm is violated resulting in harm to many people, he’s arguing that in this specific case, only the person immediately behind the cutter has “standing” to do anything about it.

That means his opinion is silly for reasons entirely unrelated to the ones for which he’s taking criticism.

His opinion is silly because it relies on mixing up a whole bunch of details about entirely different lines and social contexts, and using them to try to derive hard and fast rules about the social norms surrounding line cutting. Imagine Morbo here, screaming at you from your TV: NORMS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY! Norms are often extremely multifaceted, context sensitive sets of rules.

You can’t conclude that because a general norm exists permitting someone to permit a significant other to cut in line, that therefore every person has the right to let approximately one person cut in line. NORMS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!

And that’s just a start. The type of line matters, the needs of the people waiting in line and those of the cutter, the importance of reaching the front of the line, the relative harm created by adding one additional person to the middle of the line, the characteristics of the person immediately behind the cutter’s point of entrance, their ability or inability to protest, the characteristics of the cutter, etc, etc, etc.

It would be a huge muddle if processing these sorts of fairness norms weren’t one of the tasks at which human beings most excel, but they are and we can and we all know that cutting in front of a young woman without her permission because you want to buy a consumer good is something that makes you a douche.

102

LanceThruster 07.18.08 at 8:13 pm

Homer to Bart: Hey! No cuts!

Bart: How about back cuts?

Homer: Eh, what do I care?

103

abb1 07.18.08 at 8:14 pm

we all know that cutting in front of a young woman without her permission because you want to buy a consumer good is something that makes you a douche

Yes, we do. So what? Every day, especially if you live in a city, you interact with dozens of jerks; and you’re probably one of them too (I know I am). People spit on the sidewalk, step on your toes, blow smoke in your face. They yell at their kids, they don’t pick up their dogs’ crap, get in the “10 items or less” line with 13 items.

Yes, we are jerks, most of us anyway, but it’s bearable enough as far as I am concerned.

Is it your purpose in life to set us all straight? Fine, but I’d rather wait for the guy with 13 items to get thru than listen to you lecturing him for 13 minutes.

104

notsneaky 07.18.08 at 8:27 pm

“N otsneaky perhaps it’s wrong to generalize to all Warsaw Pact countries or to all times in them? That is, it may have been true in some of them throughout the decades, but perhaps it was less common in some (e.g., by the time I was around).”

Sure, that was why I was qualifying my anecdote – it may not be universal but rather particular time period and place.

105

notsneaky 07.18.08 at 8:31 pm

“Is it your purpose in life to set us all straight? Fine, but I’d rather wait for the guy with 13 items to get thru than listen to you lecturing him for 13 minutes.”

This homo economicus assesment I agree with, partially. It’s good when self appointed enforcers of social norms know how to pick their battles. Sometimes they provide us with a social good, sometimes they cause more trouble than the original infraction. I think Lance is in the first camp, though like others above I agree that the group of people who’d stand in line for 3+ hrs to be “one of the first” to get an Ipod are one that has self selected for … well, not quite irrationality, but weirdo preferences, certainly.

106

notsneaky 07.18.08 at 8:39 pm

“Yes, that’s one way of arranging things so as to protect everybody’s legitimate interests, but another is to grant those close to the transgression the ‘right’ and the responsibility to protest it if they feel this is justified in the light of their own and everybody else’s interests”

But this sort of arrangement – that it’s up to those who are “close” (how close?) to the transgression to try and correct it (at a personal cost to themselves) – just follows from the localized nature of knowledge in a queue. That’s why we do things usually as you describe, not because that’s the way we’d like to do things.

Think about this differently – suppose everyone has a number assigned to them, which they wear on their t-shirt, and instead of standing in a queue they all hang around in a circle waiting for their number to be called. Then suppose that when the number “18″ gets called up, a person who very obviously and transparently has the number “197″ on their t-shirt jumps up and says “Me! That’s me! I’m 18″. Supposing that whoever is at the other end of transaction doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the transgression, is it only numbers 19, 20 and 21 that have the responsibility to say anything?

107

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 8:39 pm

Abb1 is hard to believe. As I understand, for him it’s OK to be a jerk, but it’s very, very wrong to be angry at a jerk, much less express your anger at one, except in certain narrow circumstances personally approved by Abb1.

Because if everyone in the world cut to the front of the line, the whole world would be free and everyone would be first in line. There would be no losers, and the kingdom of heaven would be with us.

Queuing rules are the nagging parent, and Abb1 is the rebellious kid. The world is like that, folks! Freedom is cutting to the front of the line! And screw you, mom!

108

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 8:42 pm

Oddly, Acephalous Kaufman just recently told the story about a horrible old man who cut to the front of a very long line, in front of an old Asian woman who didn’t speak English. Kaufman did not realize that the horrible old man wasn’t a free spirit fighting for liberation, and he supported the inarticulate old foreigner lady. Too bad Abb1 wasn’t there to explain things.

109

notsneaky 07.18.08 at 8:44 pm

“Herbert Gintis and coauthors discussed this in “Moral Sentiments and Material Interests”.”

I was thinking of Gintis when I made my comment above about there being a difference between a preference for fairness and (unconditional) altruism/inequality aversion. An unconditionally altruistic person would not care about this transgression since total waiting time for everyone has not changed. A person for fairness makes his altruism conditional on some kind of observable action.
And as Gintis says, people don’t really care about inequality, what they care about is fairness. It’s ok if someone’s a millionaire while I’m poor as long as I have a sense that that person earned their millions through some fair means (hard work, etc.)

110

abb1 07.18.08 at 8:45 pm

It’s not very, very wrong to be angry at a jerk. It’s just another way of being a jerk.

111

Randy Paul 07.18.08 at 8:49 pm

I was at a grocery store in the express line (15 items or less in this case) and there was a woman in front of me with two carts filled with groceries. When the cashier told her that she couldn’t serve her in the express line, the woman then responded with the utterly useless suggestion of breaking her purchases in into several units of fifteen and ringing them through that way.

The cashier, to her credit, stood firm, at which point the woman commented that she didn’t see the sign, notwithstanding the fact that she bumped her head on the sign twice. When I pointed this out to her, she glared at men and bellowed “Who asked you?”

“We’re all playing by the rules here, ma’am. There’s no reason for you to try to obtain an advantage you’re not entitled to.”

Her response to me was a venomous shriek of “You eat shit!” The other customers and the cashier gasped.

I looked at her and replied, “If I do, I urge you to start running as I came here hungry and these delays are making ravenous.”

At that point, she stalked off and went to another line.

Public shaming is the key here.

112

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 8:51 pm

I argue that the girl should be kicked out, if she refuses to perform her queue-maintaining duties.

Probably Abb1 is just an annoying (though all too familiar) troll whose words should never be taken seriously about anything.

Were one to take his words at face value, you’d point out to him that there’s an element of bullying in queue jumping. The guy didn’t jump in front of a martial artist with tattoos.

In China no one trusts the law and in many respects it’s the law of the jungle. People don’t get mad at line-cutters and aggressive drivers, and they’re very passive about governmental abuses too. Anarchist utopia!

113

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 8:52 pm

Oooooh, parity! Such a smart argument, Abb1! What a clever little boy!

114

abb1 07.18.08 at 8:54 pm

and he supported the inarticulate old foreigner lady

Thank God. Without his support she would’ve been horribly traumatized for the rest of her life, no doubt.

115

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 8:55 pm

Probably Abb1 is just an annoying (though all too familiar) troll whose words should never be taken seriously about anything.

116

abb1 07.18.08 at 9:01 pm

There no “element of bullying” in the original story, other than by the protagonist, Lance. And I specifically noted above somewhere that any threat of violences, intimidation is, of course, totally unacceptable. So there.

117

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 9:02 pm

Most likely Abb1 is just an annoying (though all too familiar) troll whose words should never be taken seriously about anything.

118

abb1 07.18.08 at 9:07 pm

A slight kick in the head might help with the repetition problem, John. And how can any of this be serious, what are you talking about?

119

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 9:08 pm

Almost certainly Abb1 is just an annoying (though all too familiar) troll whose words should never be taken seriously about anything.

I’m medium sized, oldish guy, and I’ve had bigger, younger guys cut in front of me and give me a hard look. And the guy in the story in the post, hoping for an audience of Abb1s, made a creepy attempt to shame the guy who protested, and played the stupid anarchist card.

120

abb1 07.18.08 at 9:30 pm

I’ve had bigger, younger guys cut in front of me and give me a hard look

How many times? Two, three times in the last 20 years someone cut in front of you and gave you that look? Can’t be more than three times. How many times did you yourself break a norm in the last 20 years? What about when you were young, say, between 16 and 36?

121

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 9:35 pm

Many have felt for a long time that Abb1 is just an annoying (though all too familiar) troll whose words should never be taken seriously about anything.

For example, his “kick in the head” bullshit.

I’m just as willing to waste my time on the internet as you are, Abb1. If someone reports a linecutter to the authorities, I’m cool with that and for some reason you’re not. That’s your problem, as far as I’m concerned.

I have never been a line cutter. I do not understand your affection for linecutters, much less your indignation against anyone who reports one.

In general, I suspect that linecutters are multi-talented jerks who do other shitty stuff. They’re message is a mix of “I’m so charming that this will all be OK with you” and “I dare you to complain about this”. Either way I dislike them. In some cases there’s an element of physical threat, and in others there’s just the threat to stink up the place with whining and insults.

122

djw 07.18.08 at 9:42 pm

This probably goes without saying, but abb1 is a weird, weird dude.

123

abb1 07.18.08 at 9:49 pm

You’re not a line-cutter, but then you’re something else, assuming that you’re human living among other humans, of course. Maybe you’re dog-shitter-on-the-neighbor’s-lawn. Or you’re scribbler-on-the-margins-of-library-books.

You’re certainly someone who calls someone else “annoying troll” 5 times in a row, which must a violation of some very important norm for sure. You don’t see any problem with that, but that’s the point.

124

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 9:58 pm

Can we all agree that Abb1 is just an annoying (though all too familiar) troll whose words should never be taken seriously about anything?

Abb1, there’s no brotherhood of linecutters. We aren’t all in this together. Linecutters aren’t free spirits liberating the world by violating norms. They’re just guys who are taking advantage of others in a small way, on the principle that if you rip off a lot of people for a small amount, you’ll get away with it even though the total amount is significant. I’m baffled by your indignation at anyone who calls their bluff.

My preface here is based on a lot of random stuff you’ve posted, though it was this particular comment that especially annoyed me today: I argue that the girl should be kicked out, if she refuses to perform her queue-maintaining duties.

125

Righteous Bubba 07.18.08 at 10:02 pm

Get out of the way! I’m never going to get to comment #1!

126

abb1 07.18.08 at 10:03 pm

I actually think my suggestion to kick the girl out was kinda brilliant. You sound like a very dull old man who doesn’t appreciate a good twist. Sorry.

127

John Emerson 07.18.08 at 10:09 pm

Opinions differ about your brilliance.

128

Martin Wisse 07.18.08 at 10:17 pm

In a civilised country, line cutters would be stoned to death.

129

blah 07.18.08 at 10:26 pm

In Singapore, line cutting will cost you 50 cane strokes.

130

abb1 07.18.08 at 11:07 pm

I remember now, I once confronted a cutter. It was in Europa Park, South-West Germany, line to the big roller coaster. I was with my daughter. This German kid, I’d say about 15-16, was behind us and he was slowly step by step getting ahead of us, purposely. I easily bullied the bastard back where he belonged. I guess I probably felt I had to do it to teach my daughter some sort of lesson or to show her that I’m not a wuss. It was an unpleasant incident; I’m not sure it was the right thing to do.

131

Cryptic Ned 07.18.08 at 11:15 pm

Even if there is no allowance to cut in, still it seems to be responsibility of the cutee to fight off the cuter. You don’t suppose the whole queue should jump on him, do you?

Do you realize that everyone behind the place where he chose to cut has equal standing as a “cutee”? His cutting in line has changed the status of the person 200 feet behind him to the exact same extent that it has changed the status of the person immediately behind him. As such, your first sentence indicates that you believe everyone in line behind the “cuter”, but nobody in front of him, should gang up on him.

132

Cryptic Ned 07.18.08 at 11:19 pm

Also, I wonder what would happen if I got in line for one of these things and told anyone who was wandering by that they could get in line ahead of me if they want. Maybe I’d do this for free, or maybe I’d say they can stand in front of me for $2. Either way, as a homo economicus I am taking advantage of the fact that they are more eager than I am to get to the front of the line.

If I did this for, say, 300 people, there might be a point at which the people behind me would get annoyed.

133

novakant 07.18.08 at 11:36 pm

Well, abb1 actually has a point here: line-cutting is a terribly trivial infraction and the harm done to society by doing it is minimal.

There are many, many more serious infractions that do much more harm, but we regularly shrug off or even condone with a wink and a nod because we have committed them or might commit them ourselves one day: ever downloaded something illegally from the net? ever left a little litter in the streets? ever put everything in one big bag instead of sorting it for recycling? ever cheated on exams? ever been not a 100% upright in your tax return or other financial matters? ever driven slightly over the limit or ignored some traffic rules?

Unless the CT readership is made up of angels, I think it’s a fair bet that many of us have committed one or more of those antisocial acts. We don’t get overly excited about them because the harm done is indirect and long-term. Conversely we don’t cut lines ourselves and get so incensed by the line-cutting of others because it’s so in your face and the punishment is usually dished out immediately and publicly.

That said, line-cutting sucks, lol.

134

lemmy caution 07.18.08 at 11:58 pm

I remember now, I once confronted a cutter. It was in Europa Park, South-West Germany, line to the big roller coaster. I was with my daughter. This German kid, I’d say about 15-16, was behind us and he was slowly step by step getting ahead of us, purposely. I easily bullied the bastard back where he belonged. I guess I probably felt I had to do it to teach my daughter some sort of lesson or to show her that I’m not a wuss. It was an unpleasant incident; I’m not sure it was the right thing to do.

In real life, Abb1 is a human being.

135

John Emerson 07.19.08 at 2:14 am

Novakant, Abb1 was criticizing someone for not agreeing to someone else’s linecutting, even though the linecutter was behaving in a transparently and egregiously jerkish fashion. We were defending the right of someone to refuse to agree to someone else’s linecutting. Abb1 seemed to be doing it on principles derived from fratboy anarchism, as though there were a high Kantian obligation to be a good sport about offenses declared petty.

The self-righteous, narrow-minded bastard.

136

almostinfamous 07.19.08 at 2:39 am

when standing in line for student bus passes(issued here in Hyderabad for 8 days in a month valid for 3 months) there’s about 8 counters and maybe 100-200 students at any one time in queues. the folding and organization of a particular queue line is probably a very interesting topic in itself. but where there are queues, there are obviously queue-jumpers. there are variations here too. there’s the amateurs, like the ones in the original topic who do it for convenience. then there’s the professional ones. these guys stand next to the actual counter, with sheafs of application forms, and try and hand you a couple of forms for their ‘friends’, usually someone whom they’ve charged a fee to get their passes made. both the types do get routinely shouted at, with people at all points in the line feeling entitled to do their bit.

137

almostinfamous 07.19.08 at 2:42 am

my point was that ‘the norm’ is probably an entirely local phenomenon and has no larger bearing on what we do as a society.

and the ‘queue first’ thing was a joke i have heard about some places in India as well…

138

Witt 07.19.08 at 2:51 am

Now I am wondering what happens to line-cutters at House and Senate hearings. In many cases the lines wait for hours before the hearing, and are mostly made up of paid “line-standers,” who hold their place in line until the person who paid them arrives (typically a few minutes before the event is scheduled to start). When the buyer arrives, s/he gives a business card to the line-stander, to prove that s/he is the correct person who gets to take the place.

So for hours and hours, the line is made up of people who have a financial stake in not allowing someone to cut in. I wonder how this affects enforcement of norms.

139

abb1 07.19.08 at 7:25 am

Cryptic Ned 131: Do you realize that everyone behind the place where he chose to cut has equal standing as a “cutee”?

Everyone behind the place suffers equal damage, which doesn’t necessarily mean they all have equal standing. As a member of the queue you are responsible for maintaining the element between you and the person in front of you. That’s the norm and it makes sense, because otherwise the queue would descent into anarchy, and we don’t like anarchy. Is this so complicated?

140

abb1 07.19.08 at 7:53 am

I bet self-righteous Mr. Emerson cut in line quite a few times in his life. I bet every time it felt so natural that it didn’t register in his head at all. He just was in a hurry and needed to buy some aspirin, what’s the big deal, it only takes a second. Or, I imagine, he is at the end of the line, new cash registry opens and he rushes to it. Tsk, tsk, tsk, John, a real gentleman would never do such a thing.

141

bad Jim 07.19.08 at 8:13 am

if you think that being asked to move one seat over in the cinema so two people can sit together is an “inconvenience”

?

142

Chris Bertram 07.19.08 at 10:51 am

#133 Unless the CT readership is made up of angels …

Please don’t puncture my illusions!

143

sg 07.19.08 at 11:41 am

sorry bad jim, I meant “dan”. oooops.

144

sanbikinoraion 07.19.08 at 12:25 pm

If everyone in the line didn’t buy an iphone and instead sent the money to Africa that would pretty much save hundreds of lives. #133 is right – we’re all jerks, and we’re all hypocrites. It’s only because this situation is so local and physical that we can all imagine it and all care, and all think that queuejumpers are dicks, whilst simultaneously creatively accounting the state out of a hundred quid on our tax return, updating our car tax a week late, speeding, pirating software – you name it, we’ll try it on to get ahead. Just so long as no-one else is looking.

145

Slocum 07.19.08 at 1:16 pm

Only after I told a friend about this did the solution hit on us – sit each side of him and talk all through the movie, pass drinks to each other, maybe spill one.

Once my wife and I and our kids were just finishing paying for our food at the counter in a little cafe when a group of middle-aged women walked in the door and immediately grabbed the last table before we could walk back to it (without yet having ordered any food, of course). We walked over and I pointed out we’d been waiting and had bought our food and were just on our way to sit down. He response was “You snooze, you lose”. So we all just stood there near their table, our young children trying to balance their food and drink while eating. It didn’t take long for the women to (angrily) surrender the table and leave.

As for H Economicus — I believe H.E. is in favor of secure property rights and clear, strongly enforced contract law, etc. This strikes me as clearly falling within that domain.

146

Socrates 07.19.08 at 2:32 pm

I think everyone is forgetting that they could have run out of iPhones somewhere in the middle of the line – it’s even possible that the line-butter could get the last one.

In any event, if they run out, he clearly took someone else’s toy.

Also, “Everyone is a jerk” doesn’t really come close to describing the world around me.

In fact, I’d say that most of the time, the vast majority of people are pretty civil. It makes the dicks even more irritating.

And last, I get the feeling that abb1 wants others to see it as somehow admirable that he confesses to being a jerk sometimes.

But – I think most of us figured that out by ourselves.

147

John Emerson 07.19.08 at 7:57 pm

Jesus, Abb1 is an annoying motherfucker.

148

paul 07.19.08 at 8:19 pm

Unless the utility preferences for time spent in line are exactly proportional rather than logarithmic (the usual case for this kind of thing) then the people further back in line don’t sustain equal damage. I think recognition of that idea is the reason that (in some schoolyards) frontsies are considered OK while backsies are just wrong.

With most reasonable simple methods for calculating utility here, the person who allows someone to cut in front of them is losing the most, because their wait time increases by a larger fraction than anyone else. (Of course, that’s no reason for them to gain all the compensation from the transaction, as they typically do, but in a repeated-interaction world this should all balance out.) Then again, simple models aren’t really appropriate when stores have limited stock or limited open hours, or a significant number of people have hard constraints on their time (e.g. lunch hour). In those cases, cutting should be a capital offense, and the person who offers to let someone cut in front of them should be considered a co-conspirator.

149

abb1 07.19.08 at 9:11 pm

I don’t think the logarithmic approach has anything to do with the “no backsies” rule. It’s simply that the backsies are totally unnatural; the line member granting a backsie makes no sacrifice whatsoever, and thus has no incentive to refrain from making this cutsie; this is clearly a gross injustice on the people behind this member.

Otherwise – very good point.

I still don’t understand why no one here would support the idea that the line member who allowed the breach is the one who deserves the death penalty. This member has committed treason, she is one of us who has betrayed us all. The cutter himself isn’t doing anything unconscionable like that; nothing shocking really, we all understand that everybody wants to be a member of our line.

150

abb1 07.19.08 at 9:21 pm

…could it be because this treasonous member is identified as “Asian girl” in this case and Asian girls incite sympathy somehow? How very superficial of you, people.

151

Jesus 07.20.08 at 12:16 am

Abb1, John Emerson is annoying motherfucker.

152

paul 07.20.08 at 1:41 am

Pretty much any non-absurd utility function will lead to the “no backsies” rule. But the point of something logarithmic (or at least with decreasing pain allocated to the same increment depending on how long you wait) is that the person allowing frontsies is at the very least more entitled than anyone else to make the decision, because they are suffering the largest loss of utility.

Btw, in some hierarchical situations backsies is a perfect expression of clique-based precedence: “My gang/entourage goes ahead of your gang.”

153

abb1 07.20.08 at 8:28 am

Nah, he’s not a motherfucker, just a grumpy old man, grampa Abe Simpson. Give him a break.

154

Dave 07.20.08 at 10:46 am

It’s his daughter I feel sorry for, does she know his hobby is being an asshole?

155

belle le triste 07.20.08 at 10:47 am

variant a friend of my sister’s told me at this party last night, offered for commentary if anyone cares:

earlier in the evening, FomS and her pal had been in line for a club (£10 entry, limited capacity): an exciteable guy (and HIS pal) had pleaded with them to be let in line before them, and offered to pay for all their entries if they allowed him in — they accepted this if he also paid for the girl behind them, which he quite happily did… they rationalised this by a. finding it all a very strange and amusing adventure, and b. feeling that entry manifestly meant more to him than to them and probably many others in the queue, as witness how much more than the going rate he was prepared to shell out, so why not?

(also: they said the club turned out to be lame, even if you’d paid £0 for it, but i don’t suppose this should be included in the moral equation)

156

abb1 07.20.08 at 10:53 am

She has to write 150 times every day: “better an asshole than self-righteous hypocrite.”

157

sg 07.20.08 at 5:37 pm

Dave, all daughters know that about their dads.

158

Patty 07.21.08 at 5:35 pm

How ’bout just calling a narcissist a narcissist? Being from a small town in the South, it’s not so much the calling out from Lance that’d be a problem it’s that your mother would know about this rude behavior by the time you got home. This method of enforcement works whether you live at home or not : )

159

weichi 07.22.08 at 6:05 am

Does anything change if, like me, you misread the guy’s name as Lance Armstrong?

160

Keith M Ellis 07.22.08 at 9:55 pm

“I bet self-righteous Mr. Emerson cut in line quite a few times in his life. I bet every time it felt so natural that it didn’t register in his head at all. He just was in a hurry and needed to buy some aspirin, what’s the big deal, it only takes a second.”

I moderately sure that I’ve never cut in line in my life, except by accident. For me, the importance of this norm has a lot to do with its triviality—that is to say, it’s a tragedy of the commons sort of thing.

In contrast, there’s a large number of social norms that I violate. The difference between what I violate and what I accept is generally how I evaluate the utilitarian function of the norm. I do have a moderate compulsion to rebellion, but believe that rebellion for rebellion’s sake to be immature and counter-productive.

Abb1′s simplistic argument assumes that people are either conformists or rebels with no distinctions made beyond these temperaments.

161

abb1 07.23.08 at 6:29 am

Where did I say anything about any rebels? It has nothing to do with any rebels and everything to do with circumstances.

Now look, the guy was already in the Apple store.
It probably was John Holbo who came to replace his hallucinating USB port.
He gets in thru some other entrance, tech-support entrance.
He replaces the USB port and he walk in to the store.
He sees the queue, he realizes it’s that day when crazies line up for the new iphone.
He thinks it would be cool to get one now, today – what a story to tell in the university canteen.
He gets in line – the part of the line that’s inside the store – because he is already inside the store!
Yes, technically it’s cutting in, but is this really so terrible?

Comments on this entry are closed.