June 5th, 2005

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Too many decisions

I dislike buying lattés at most coffee shops. Why? Because you can't just tell them Make me a soy latté. The coffee seller will then ask you more questions than your girlfriend's mother and your next interview combined. Gimme my damned latté and let me out of there.

What gets me started on this rant is that I decided to try selling one of my unwanted books on Ebay. First of all, what kind of fucking name is ebay? Granted, I work for a subsidiary of InterActiveCorp called Expedia, but that only gives me the following insight into such made up names: such names make no fucking sense whatsoever! Anyway, trying to list this on e-fucking-bay was so long and involved that I gave up. It's just a goddamn book! So if you look on ebay now, you will not find a signed copy of Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned being sold by me. Because they made it too damned complicated.

In other ranty news, I gave up on finishing The Meq. Wooden and flat does not even begin to describe this book. Corkboard maybe. Pressboard maybe. But it does not rise to the level of plywood even.

School

Eco 200: property rights

(group) What are the property-rights claims that are in conflict in each of the cases described below? How would you prefer that they be resolved (assuming that you are an impartial observer)?

  1. Owners of motorcycles want to remove their mufflers to obtain more efficient engine performance, but the law limits the noise that any motorcycle may emit.

    The two rights in conflict are the right of motorcyclists to run their property how they see fit (which many want to do more efficiently) and the right of neighbors to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. I'd resolve it the way it's already been resolved, but leaving the law on the books and letting the courts ajudicate questions of individual bikers noise levels should complaints arise.

  2. A group wants to prohibit billboards along rural highways, but farmers claim they have a right to erect any kind of sign they want on their own property.

    The rights in conflict are those of the farmers and those who wish to enjoy idyllic scenery. While I'm not too sympathetic to the drivers themselves, other local property owners may see their property values go down in their neighbors erect multitudes of signs. As I am generally against flat prohibitions on forms of speech, I could not support prohibiting billboards. Perhaps a limit on the characteristics which would significantly lower adjacent property values (such as limiting the number per mile of highway). (I'm not completely an impartial person in this regard. I've allowed large political signs on my property in Idaho, to the consternation of some local right-wingers.)

  3. A Missouri state legislator introduces a bill making it a crime to blow your nose in a loud or offensive manner in a restaurant.

    It's the right to sneeze vs. the right to not hear sneezes. While I am all for banning sneezing onto someone else's food, I'd heartily laugh at and reject any property right to be free of loud sneezes. Still, I'd hardly endorse any property right to sneeze either. Probably the best way to ajudicate the condlict is for the sneezer and the offended person to duel at 10 paces.

  4. A Connecticut state legislator proposes a bill that would ban the throwing of rice at weddings on the grounds that uncooked rice is unhealthful for birds.

    The right of wedding participants to enjoy themselves conflicts with the right of locals to enjoy live birds landing in their bird feeders. While I'm generally against harming birds, banning the practice would do little to help local birds. People should have better things to do than argue over such piddly things. Ban it and then send offenders to Judge Judy who will yell at everyone involved for wasting her time.

  5. Restaurant owners want to exclude people whose dress doesn't satisfy certain standards. (Should this be legal?)

    Rights to use ones property as one sees fit conflicts with the right to wear whatever one wants upon their person. I'd side with the owners.

  6. People who never bathe want to use city buses. People who never brush or comb their hair want to sit and stroll in public parks. (Should the unwashed be barred from the buses? The unkempt from the parks?)

    In this case, the property right is the same. It's the right of a person to the enjoyment of the public transportation or public parks for which they've paid with their quarters and/or taxes. It's just that both can't enjoy it at the same time. I say to those who want smell-free buses that they should wait for the next bus.

And finally, what a bunch of petty whiners the whole lot of these folks are.

School

Eco 200: environmentalists

(group) According to a poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, eight out of ten Americans say that they are environmentalists. Do their buying and consumption practices support that claim?

  1. Sixty-seven percent of those polled said they would be willing to pay 15 to 20 cents a gallon more for gasoline that causes much less pollution than the current blends. One major refiner responded that it had developed such a blend, but it wasn't selling. Would you say that members of the 67 percent who do not purchase a less-polluting blend when it becomes when it becomes available are not sincere in claiming to be environmentalists?

    Leaving aside the fact that the 1000 or so people who are usually polled in such situations are unlikely to have ever run across this less-polluting petrol, I do think those who do not put their own money where their mouth is aren't not as sincere as they claim. I think Heyne's implication that environmentalism is an all or nothing proposition is kind of absurd though. It's not pregnancy.

  2. When asked whether they would favor at 25-cent addition to the gasoline tax to encourage less driving and more conservation, 69 percent of those polled opposed the tax and only 27 percent supported it. Can you reconcile this position with the claim of two-thirds of those polled that they are environmentalists?

    Yes. Perhaps they believe there are better ways to discourage driving. Perhaps their environmental concerns are focused in other arenas than vehicle emissions. Perhaps they want someone else to pay for it. None of those preclude being an environmentalist.

  3. Eighty-five percent of those polled wanted the government to require cars to be more fuel-efficient and less polluting even if that made them more expensive, although only 51 percent were willing to see cars made smaller and less safe in order to protect the environment. Can you provide a plausible explanation for these combinations of attitudes?

    Both kill people. Less safe kills people faster and in greater numbers. The plausible explanation is these people don't want to see others killed.

School

Eco 200: bison

(group) History books often lament the destruction of the gret herds of bison that roamed the western prairies prior to the arrival of white men.

  1. Why were so many white men willing to shoot these animals and leave their meat and hide to rot? Wasn't this highly wasteful? Why did so many people apparently place such a high value on a moment of sport as to kill these animals for no other reason than the excitement of it?

    Because of the lack of institutions with guns that supported property rights in those days. When it comes down to it property rights can only be enforced by agreement or by gun. The aboriginal owners of North America couldn't get agreement and they didn't have the arms to enforce their property rights.

  2. Who bore the costs when a hunter shot a bison or buffalo from the window of a passing train?

    Indigenous tribes.

  3. Was the near extinction of the buffalo an irreversible act? Or could we bring those huge herds of buffalo back within a few years if the proper incentives existed?

    You cannot bring back the buffalo quickly because the killing of vast numbers of them reduced the genetic diversity. It'd be the same as killing all rotweilers and then trying to bring them back by breeding rotweilers from the remaining dog breeds. Though with proper incentives the number of bison could be increased quickly. Just not the same kind of bison.

  4. What is the animal that has replaced the buffalo on the western prairies? Why do the numerous vast herds of cattle that cover the country not suffer the fate of the buffalo? What do you think would happen to the relative size of cattle and buffalo herds if Americans lost their laste for beef and acquired an intense love of buffalo meat?

    People don't kill random cattle because they fear the guns of cattle owners (or the government which recognizes their ownership but didn't recognize indigenous ownership of bison). Cattle and bison herds would likely switch positions in numbers, though this could hardly be called the same as bringing back the free-roaming herds of bison that existed in the 19th century.

MacCauley

Emotions

Sometimes I really wish I didn't have emotions. I mean, I like having joy and happiness and even my righteous anger sometimes. But there's a couple I could do without right now.
School

Eco 200: trading pollution credits

(group) A Tacoma, Washington electrical utlity purchased from a manufacturing firm, for $265,000, the right to add 60 tons of particulate matter to the air each year. The manufacturer had reduced its annual emissions by 69 tons a few years earlier through modernizing its plant. The representative of an environmental organization objected that the practice of selling rights to pollute simply meant that as soon as on air polluter drops out of the ring, there will be a ready substitute.

  1. What benefits of the system does this criticism ignore?

    All the benefits depend on fixing the total amount of pollution allowed at a constant number, then allowing trading to happen within that amount. The price of the credits will rise, giving incentives to those who hold them to modernize their plants so they can sell the credits. It also provides a way to pay for the modernization that does happen. However, if the total amount of pollution is allowed to rise, the public still is going to see greater levels of pollution, no matter who is issuing the particulate matter.

  2. The utility used the credits to renovate and operate a generating plant that would burn garbage as well as other fuels, thus reducing solid waste disposal problems. Is it better for the environment to bury or to incinerate garbage?

    I have no idea. I've never studied the costs of either in relation to the other. I assume the electrical utility thought it was better but whether they thought it was better for the environment or better for their shareholders I cannot say. Their fiduciary duties are toward their shareholders, not the environment.