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I would love to know how many hours per month that a typical person or student spends on Facebook or other social networking sites each month. My back of the envelope guess would be that in the US, we spend over 300 million hours per month on such sites.

It seems extraordinarily strange and inconsistent to me that so many of my students have absolutely no problem with our police-state cracking down on our use of cigarettes, aluminum bats, trans-fats, and all manner of other “bad things” simply because they are bad for you. Why am I astonished? Because among the many reasons why it is wrong for anyone at the point of a gun to prevent me from eating a bear claw or chocolate glazed donut is because I really like it, and I freely chose it.

But “it’s bad for me,” is the common outcry from our students, who have faith that political leaders are not only smarter than everyone else, that are not only interested in helping out everyone else, but also have the proper incentives to actually make policies that are in their interests. Don’t laugh. My impression is that many, many, many young people simply believe as a matter of faith that our political class has their best interests in mind, and rarely, if ever, screws things up. That is probably a more ludicrous thought as believing in unicorns, but were I to suggest that in an open forum, I would likely be drawn and quartered … or simply dismissed as some brainwashed, numbskull neocon …

The other astonishing thing is that my students all have faith that when our nanny government does these things in our best interests, that we little children of America would simply take it without changing our behavior (why do you think taxing the rich is such a popular idea … ask the students that after their favorite restaurant shuts down, or when they can no longer shop at A&F, etc.), and furthermore, that these instances of policy making are isolated, and cannot possibly lead to a slippery slope of additional regulations and restrictions on behavior, followed up by rules and regulations to prevent the original rules from not working too badly, followed up by more rules to prevent the newer ones from working … or additional restrictions on our behavior. Who cares about the Constitution and Declaration anyway?

In any case, I would support the following new paternalistic rules. Every single minute than an American spends on a social networking site, I think $20.00 in taxes per hour should be charged to the users. Just think about all of the revenue we would collect! If we spend 300 million hours per month, that would be $6 billion in additional revenues every single month. And with those revenues, we can simply subsidize health insurance for all of the 45 million uninsured Americans (it would amount to $133 per month). All that time on social networking sites is wasted anyway. It takes time away from reading, studying, exercising, preparing meals with family, going to church, doing charitable work, and working … and we just know that all of those things are better for you and for “society.” For example, if a typical person earns $20 per hour at a job, then spending all this time on Facebook is costing America over $36 billion in lost wages each month. Over the course of one year, if people weren’t wasting time on Facebook, we’d have enough money produced to pay for half of the current financial bailout, or a quarter of the Obamessiah’s new stimulus package. So we can dramatically increase social welfare by imposing such a tax. Let’s go for it. Why nickel and dime us with these tiny paternalistic half measures? If you want it, let’s go all the way. After all, I don’t use Facebook much anyway, how could it possibly make MY life any worse off if we do it? And people will still use it … they are rich enough to afford it.

2 Responses to “Waste-Book”

  1. Michael says:

    We have to be sure to write in an exception for this site; reading about econ is beneficial for society. In fact, I think we should subsidize you!

  2. Patrick says:

    It depends which student you ask, I think. I get e-mails when I get a facebook wall post or inbox or anything, so I usually check my e-mail not my facebook. But I lie, even with that benefit I spend a lot of time on the site. Probably…oh, I’d guess 25 hours a month. That’s twelve and a half days a year. Yikes. What’s more I usually keep the website open when I’m doing other things, so probably sheer time on the site (inactive) even higher.

    I’ve got an idea though. Let’s heavily tax the NFL. I can’t think of a better way to make money. I mean, when people sit at home watching football they’re clearly not working, and probably drinking beer, which is bad for their health. We’ll make a ton of money, AND people won’t watch football as much. Somehow at the same time.

    What about the addiction factor in smoking? I imagine cigarettes have a pretty inelastic demand curve due to the nicotine. If it’s expensive you probably will get less people going out and starting smoking though, so after a few years I guess an excise tax would have a big effect.

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