peneconomics Lamy followup misses the point

Jonathon Deans has posted some controversial stuff about Lamys future prospects and their current situation and competition. Many people (me included) have been critical of his points and the way he apparently comes to his conclusions. His latest followup seems to address some cherry picked feedback, but in my opinion avoids or misses the most important points. Here are my thoughts on what he has written.

Twsbi may have a real advantage when it comes to the US market, where both the Eco and Safari are roughly the same price, but Lamy hugely outperform in Europe where the price difference is more like 2:1 (even 3:1 in the UK). This is absolutely true and I’m afraid it reflects a bit of sloppiness on my part, and not specifying the market that I was discussing.

Deans makes pretty broad statements, like Lamys premium offerings not being successful and in earlier posts he claimed that the Eco would outsell the Safari (at least for some time). That makes it sound as if he is speaking about Lamys whole business. If he is looking at isolated segments of the market (enthusiasts, geographically…) he should clarify that. But that makes some of his statements (Lamy premium pens failing) even less sound.

[…]Twsbi […] haven’t really invested in European distribution yet. Once they do, their costs should fall, and we should see them become more competitive.

IF they do. IF they CAN. Again, he makes it sound like a certainty that we just need to wait for. If he has any info on that, tell us. If he doesnt, this is wishful thinking.

Ed raises a point on Twitter that comes up now and then, when he points out there’s no data or sources in the Lamy post. As regular readers have probably noticed, that’s standard for this blog even though I understand it can be frustrating for those who want to delve deeper.

Yeah, it’s frustrating alright. Not only for people that want to delve deeper, but mostly because it shows that many of Deans assumptions are baseless (which doesn’t mean they are wrong, we just can’t know), and arguments he builds on them become more and more strange. If he is aware of that I don’t see that in his posts, they read as if he presents assumptions as facts.

Nowadays, academic economics is largely about data, statistics, diagrams, etc and it becomes impenetrable to anyone without a master’s degree. While there are good reasons for this, it also means that economics is often inaccessible to the general public. As this blog is all about making economics more accessible, I decided that I wouldn’t use any equations, any statistics, any diagrams, nothing that would prevent someone with time and interest from understanding any posts.

Thats condescending. Never underestimate your audience. And not showing data, not talking about data, makes it look like you don’t have data. Deans has admitted to me that he doesn’t, and later in this post he dances around the fact but comes close to saying it, too.

The problem is that, even if one retailer or one brand decided to give you access to all of their numbers, it still wouldn’t necessarily be enough to make the kinds of certain judgements that Ed seems to be seeking.

Deans either doesn’t get it or he’s dishonest. It’s not about judgments his critics are seeking, it’s about the judgments HE is making without having data.

Lamy could open the kimono but without Twsbi’s data, it’s really hard to say much at all. […]

Deans should take this paragraph to heart.

My approach then is what’s known in economics as methodological individualism: you think about individual behaviour, either buyers or firms, and try to figure out what’s driving them or why they might do certain things. Thanks to the blogs and forums there’s often plenty of insights available with which to form hypotheses about general phenomena.

The plural of anecdote is not data.

[…]it’s for me to describe what I believe is happening, […]

If Deans is being honest here, if this is not just appeasement, he needd to work on his writing. I read his beliefs regularly stated as facts.

[…]where Lamy fans have had their feelings hurt and have grown critical. And that’s fair enough. There’s an idea called status politics, which claims that some people will closely identify with something — be it a brand, an idea, a lifestyle, a sports team, anything — and want to see it raised in social status. They react strongly against anything which they perceive to lower its status. So you might believe that the homeless lack status and therefore you’ll support any policy which raises their status, regardless of the actual costs and benefits.

Condescending and defensive. Branding critics as fans comes close to an ad hominem fallacy, since Deans are not talking about their points, but about a mechanism that could make them reflexively defensive.