These seem to be the two main points the Internet has taken from the 1,925 emails that were released by the State Department around 9 P.M. last night.
Sure, there were other interesting tidbits. She had a meeting in July with someone listed as “Santa.” She and her husband seem to be communicating through their assistants. Her staff tracks favorability ratings for her coats. Oh, and she probably lied about not having classified information on her private server.
But the emails about iced tea and fax machines really seem to resonate with people.
There’s a middle man between Hillary Clinton and the person who gets her iced tea pic.twitter.com/pc26RRP306— Alex Pappas (@AlexPappas) July 1, 2015
On the one hand, I guess it’s easy to scoff. Most of us will never be able to email someone for beverages on command, much less email a beverage middleman. And on some level, the idea that one of the most powerful people in the world can’t use a fax machine is amusing, and even a little disturbing.
But on the other hand, why in the hell would we want the Secretary of State wasting time with fax machines or getting her own beverages? That’s time she could be spending brokering a peace treaty or negotiating the release of hostages.
At a certain point, your time is so valuable that spending it on menial tasks no longer makes sense. A lawyer making $500 an hour should not be running to Staples to buy more pens. Every moment spent away from the office, he or she would not be making money. This is known as an opportunity cost. As Emily Oster explains:
How much is an hour of your time worth? It’s worth whatever wage you would get if you spent that hour working. If you work for an hourly rate, this is an easy calculation. Even if you work for a salary and a fixed number of hours, the principle is the same: It’s whatever your salary works out to per hour. (I realize that your boss probably won’t pay you more if you work more hours. But you could always get a second job, probably at the same wage rate, so don’t overanalyze it.) Same logic if you don’t work at all: If you did get a job, what would the wage be?
For me, the crucial application is in thinking about household chores. Specifically, whether I should do them or not. Consider grocery shopping. There are really two options: I can order online and have the groceries delivered by a company like FreshDirect or Peapod, or I can go out and spend two hours wandering the aisles at my local supermarket. There’s a delivery fee for the former, maybe a markup also. So which is the better way to shop? This opportunity-cost idea makes the decision easy: Is the fee plus markup smaller than the value of two hours of my time? If yes, delivery. If no, head to the car.
While we can’t view the role of Secretary of State solely in monetary terms, we can certainly agree that the time of the person holding that position is extremely valuable. So it makes no sense for this person to be sending their own faxes.
In fact, maybe if someone had been faxing things for Hillary Clinton, or had at least kept her office stocked with delicious iced teas, Libya might not have devolved into a failed state run by Islamic Extremists.
So if you want to bitch about any number of things Hillary Clinton has done wrong, be my guest. But just don’t give her shit for not getting her own iced tea.