Feed on

Or not. Saturday we linked to a “Sustainability” post about opinions on plastic bags. There is a hidden gem in the comments:

and those of us who do not want to use them every time we shop will not be paying for them as an overhead cost in the price of goods

A common argument made against moving toward a more private property oriented world, a more “anarchist” one if you will, is that property owners in a private property world would charge every single person every single time they entertained the use of private property. So, imagine a private park. Every bench would have a coin slot on it that unless you fed a few quarters in it, the bench would be electrically charged and unavailable for sitting. Then the water fountain would of course only accept Paypal. The running track? Cash only. You get the gist. Of course, this is an extreme caricature of what a private property world would look like. Even if owners wished to charge for everything, both the technology for doing so and the transactions costs of actually doing so would make this impossible – leading to the bundling of products that we have become familiar with.

Which takes us to the above quote. It seems to be proof of course that a private property regime would not be one that has a price tag on everything. I am fairly certain that if you asked people if they thought this was plausible they’d hysterically laugh at us. But take that comment a little more seriously for the moment. Why is it that our Sustainabilite is unhappy paying for plastic bags as overhead costs. Almost the entire cost of food shopping consists of embedded overhead costs. For example, there are covered cart returns all over the parking lot. Some people never even use wagons, and if they do they prefer to walk them back into the store. Isn’t it unbearable that they have to pay for the overhead costs of all of those cart covers and even the carts? Or think about all of the shelving in aisles that some of us have never stepped foot in. For example, since I hate Mother Earth, I never go into the “Organic” aisle. Yet those aisles require construction, cleaning, stacking, etc. that I have to pay for. Wouldn’t it be better if our markets charged us for the carts a la carte? Wouldn’t it be better if each aisle had a toll gate on it? Surely it would, using the logic above.

And it would be far more enjoyable to extend our question to the university itself. Surely a lot of us are paying for a heck of a lot of “overhead cost” at the university not only for things that we don’t patronize but perhaps for things we view as harmful to the mission of a real university or the advancement of humankind. I’d say over half of what happens at universities falls into that category. I look forward to the Sustainabilite movement for ala carte higher education. This way, some of my salary does not get siphoned off to pay for Sustainability Initiatives on campus. That Solar-Dok is overhead, isn’t it? And wouldn’t it be better if the few people that really liked it and needed it and wanted to make a statement actually paid for it? In this case, I entirely agree with Team Green. Non-athletes would not be forced to subsidize sports teams. Economics majors would not be forced to subsidize majors in Cherokee Poetry Studies. Undergrads would not be forced to subsidize grad schools. There’s no value in any of it anyway, right? We’re all just expressing our opinions, raising consciousness and the like. So, our university should have the Team Green students pay for their green dorm and LEED building and Solar powered trash compactors and leave the rest of the non-Team Green (after all, if “they” are team “green” does that mean the rest of us are????) to not have to  deal with what they feel is unnecessary and wasteful. How do we know this stuff is unnecessary and wasteful? We don’t have to know. It just “feels” wasteful. We’re too busy to research whether those initiatives are wasteful, and it is really hard to “prove” any of this with data anyway. Research is not necessary. It pretty much seems like common sense to many folks that these initiatives are wasteful. So, proponents of “Sustainability” still “have a right” to push that idea so long as they pay their fee for doing it, and those of “us” who are not persuaded by offerings are not forced to pay for it through our lower salaries and higher tuition.

And there’s no need to provide facts or anything for my view here. Research on sustainability may or may not mean anything (except of course when “they” refer to research on Climate Change – oh, my head is spinning). And since research is pretty useless, there’s really no way to settle any problem where “our opinions don’t match.” And since there is no way to settle any problem where our opinions don’t match (which pretty much means the end of Democracy and getting anything done, right?), we just should let each of our little tribes stay isolated (Local!) in our little tribes not bothering anyone else. Fine.

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