An obvious case of a negative externality

Every morning, when I go to work, I see a fellow tossing advertising circulars at the brownstones in the neighborhood. In our lobby we often find 30 or 40 of them stacked up in the foyer. Almost every one of those gets thrown away. I have no doubt that the people advertising in the circular Would not do so unless they found it profitable for them to do so. However, this profit calculation takes no account of the time it takes for the residents to throw out all this rubbish, or the environmental cost in terms of carbon footprint for these things to be created.

Wouldn't banning this practice be an obvious gain for everyone?

5 comments:

  1. Wouldn't banning this practice be an obvious gain for everyone?

    You mean if you compensated the advertisers? Otherwise it might be a net gain but not a gain for everyone, even in mainstream terms.

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    Replies
    1. Well, Bob, "everyone" can have several uses, right? "Everyone would be better off if we could get these child molesters off the street" usually doesn't include the child molesters, right?

      But it COULD, if we gives up recognizes the subjective theory of value is just a postulate and not a reality: yes, even the child molesters would be better off, since they would cease sinning.

      The same for the advertisers here: they would cease littering my neighborhood every morning, and might not feel so yucky when they wake up.

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    2. Wow I'm actually surprised at the certainty of your stance. How do we determine when the situation flips from being analogous to child molesters and is more akin to emitting carbon? I'm assuming you don't want to ban all carbon emissions but instead think a tax or some other solution might be appropriate to internalize the externality.

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    3. Oh boy, here we go ...

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  2. I actually get more of these than actual mail. Luckily my landlord is nice enough to leave a trashcan right next to the mailboxes so that we can more conveniently throw these away.

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