Tag Archives: government

Environmental Quandaries

I try to implement some sense when faced with choices that are, on the face, or as dictated by the masses, environmental, ecological and/or related to sustainability. The problem I run into more often than not, however, is that the so-called quandaries I encounter are not in the slightest bit rational. On the surface, they very well could make sense, but are typically conflated to such levels that invariably render them nonsensical.

For me, it nearly always comes down to the unintended consequences of the environmentally friendly choice. As an example, consider cloth, or reusable diapers. Putting aside the carbon footprint argument, (which I don’t put much stock in, but has, in this case, found to be on equal grounds, more or less) what about the immediate environmental consequences of choosing the cloth diaper? Compared to the parent of the child with the disposable diaper, you would inevitably be using more water to clean the diapers and more energy to run the washing machine. This point never seems to be considered. The argument, of course, against the disposable diaper is that it is plastic and will end up in a landfill someplace, spoiling the earth. I am skeptical of this claim. And frankly, it seems to me that if these landfills were a problem, that we’d find a way to strip-mine for petroleum products to be used as a fuel source.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, there are certain things that just make sense. Sustainable living, for instance, need not require the worship of Gaia. A certain level of respect, surely, but I don’t intend to sacrifice myself, or others, for its sake.

Another aspect of this argument I must comment on is its tendency to pervert or retard the market process. A perfect example of this is the decision of the federal and state governments to ban the use of incandescent light bulbs of 72 watts or more starting in January of 2012 (this wattage will gradually decrease until 2014 where it will cease at the 29 watt maximum). Now, if it made sense for the consumer to purchase more expensive, less effective light bulbs, they would. But it doesn’t. There is a reason why the attempted ban in New Zealand was overthrown, and that people are stockpiling 100-watt bulbs in droves. Also, what about the proper disposal of these new light bulbs? According to the new guidelines, one has to recycle them, but not as part of your regular recycling, because there is neon in them, which is a hazardous material. Does one need to drive them to a special disposal site; maintain a bin of neon in the corner of your living room so as to point out to future guest, “here’s the living room, and over there the lovely bin of neon.”

To back up for a moment, I do think the shift towards more effective, less energy consuming light bulbs will happen. It makes sense, surely. But I don’t think that should be up to the government to decide. It’s no surprise that big box retailers are following suit, reducing their inventory of incandescent light bulbs. With the pressure of the federal and state government on their shoulders, and the looming “ban,” how could they not? They need to survive.

At the end of the day, I want to make rational choices. Some of these rational choices are, in fact, mindful of sustainability. I think that’s important. On the other side, however, I wish for cognizance of certain invariable unintended consequences.

Go Green or Die, Bitches

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Feed the Homeless, Go To Jail: Part Two

As I wrote last week, people are being thrown in jail for exercising their own goddamn right to feed whomever they goddamn wish. Why are we concerned with the volitional interactions between those that wish to provide a service to those in need of said service, or product?

Sadly, the incarceration continues.

(HT: Hit & Run)

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Subsidized Bike Rentals in Paris – Failure

From the NY Times, via the Mises Blog:

Many of the specially designed bikes, which, when the system’s startup and maintenance expenses are included, cost $3,500 each, are showing up on black markets in Eastern Europe and northern Africa. Many others are being spirited away for urban joy rides, then ditched by roadsides, their wheels bent and tires stripped.

With 80 percent of the initial 20,600 bicycles stolen or damaged, the program’s organizers have had to hire several hundred people just to fix them. And along with the dent in the city-subsidized budget has been a blow to the Parisian psyche.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, while possibly well-intended, the bicycle sharing idea, with the lack of rules and measures of protection, is wholly irrational. Such is the case for many “well intended” government-subsidized ventures. Would such an operation exist in the real marketplace? Absolutely not. Without any of the proper, rational mechanisms to protect the investment in the product/operation (i.e. GPS, collateral, et al), it will invariably fail, as is seen in Paris.

Alternatively, if measures were put into place to prevent theft and hold both the business (the bike rental company) and the renter accountable, then there would be a stronger chance for success. Bureaucrats and government bodies can’t make decisions about business. And with the backing of said government, where is the incentive to make a profit, be successful? Businesses need to be mindful of the long-term. They need to understand their target audience, their market, and act accordingly. They need, above all, to be cognizant of what it is that makes them a successful, healthy, thriving operation.

This venture, sadly, is not one of these.

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To Litter or to Proselytize

A friend of mine asked me recently why it was legal to leave pamphlets and, as it is called, “junk mail” on doorsteps and pinned by windshield wipers of cars, and yet it was illegal to remove said junk mail or pamphlet. He has a good point.

If the mail man, or paper boy, can drop junk mail rolled up and fastened with rubber bands on my driveway (private property, by the way) or on my car (also private property), why is it not okay to remove it? If I toss it aside, and it lands on public property, it’s considered littering, which I would be fined for. But if they toss it onto my private property, it’s considered advertising or , which is fully protected by law. Let’s say I remove it from my private property and place on the private property of another. Would that be legal, or right?

It doesn’t make much sense that people can put papers on my car or on my driveway, yet I can’t remove the papers without having to find a garbage bin to toss them in, or find another private parcel of land, or car, to put them on. And why is it that I cannot opt out of these sorts of things? If, for instance, you like them, and you read them, and you find value in them, you can surely say to the deliverer that you’d like for them to continue. But if you don’t want them on your property, and your reaction is to toss them aside or in the garbage, then you should have a choice to opt out of it.

There’s a similar sort of scenario in proselytizing. But they do it right. We have all experienced religious folk waving little messianic related pamphlets in our faces on the way to the grocery store or airport gate. The only difference is that, while they are certainly annoying, the biblical pamphleteers aren’t putting the literature in our pockets, stapling them to our shirts or leaving them on our cars (well, most of them anyway). They are simply, if not altogether illogically, attempting to bring another into the “flock.”

Let’s say for a moment that I was the one throwing papers on your property. And my papers, for instance, consisted of profane and graphic representations of sex, all with the intention of advertising a new sex shop in the area. Would you be displeased? And does the content make a difference in your decision? Would you be more inclined to advocate for property rights if the content was offensive to your beliefs or sensibilities?

What do you do when you find papers on your car, or in your driveway? Do you toss aside without looking at it? Do you take it to the trash? What are your thoughts?

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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