Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jury Duty

I have been on jury duty all week.  This has caused me some anxiety because I am teaching this quarter and I have many responsibilities related to research, advising and teaching.  Peter Gordon told me that information technology (IT) has greatly reduced the inefficiency caused by our democracy.  In the "bad old days", those on jury duty had to go to City Hall (10 miles away and plenty of traffic congestion to get downtown) and sit and wait to be called.  In this new IT age, each potential juror is given a PIN # and calls in the day before to see if we must report the next day.  Think of how much time this saves.  Suppose there are two million adults in Los Angeles county who are at risk of being called for jury duty.  You are expected to serve one week a year; so 2 million divided by 50 is 40000.  Suppose that 400 jurors are needed each day so that with replacement; each weekly juror has a 400/40000 probability of being selected= 1 in 100 chance.   So, the 99% of the population was commuting in and back for no reason.  IT has eliminated this wasteful commuting.

For each day this week I haven't been called in to perform my civic duty.  Somebody must have told the LA Court about what type of person I am.

What have I done with my windfall of extra time? I have held extra office hours, and I have spoken to colleagues.  I had my first "In and Out" burger today as an old friend who is an economist at a big hedge fund was in town for the Milken Conference.   He wanted to eat there so I paid for our $11 power lunch.

My co-author Siqi Zheng sent me two revised chapters of our book manuscript and I will sit down and edit that.  I submitted a paper to a journal and I finished editing a new paper with Nils Kok and John Quigley that I will blog about in the near future.   I even had a couple of new ideas that I typed into my rolling file of random thoughts.  So, the point of this boring post is simple;  there is a cost of jury duty.  Is there a social benefit?  The LA Court tries to convince you of the importance of participating in our democracy.  I'm not allowed to link the orientation video that I watched but this video will give you a taste.  I bet that most economists would embrace comparative advantage and would say that we should be able to contract with somebody else to take our place.