Jeff Neal for C.U.R.E. - Certain Unalienable Rights Endowment

Externalities or Pharoah Cures the Common Cold

In Humor, Opinion on April 19, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Professor Don Boudreaux of George Mason University writes (link here) on his blog about climate change (sort of).  He notes that politicians often fail to take into account “externalities” (i.e., the effects their decisions, made to advance their own personal agendas, have on third parties).  It brought to mind that many of my interlocutors on various blogs and in everyday conversations tend to make a similar “externality error” in reverse, so to speak.

“Oh, ok, so you want lower taxes – well then, who will pay for the government that invented the internet, makes laws so the air will be clean, the streets paved and water/food you drink/eat healthy?” they ask.  It must be taught in a rote memorization class – it never varies!

They seem to think that the government one day waved its magic wand and made the air clean and rid the streets of horse manure and flies, then fancy automobiles came along because the streets were cleaned up – thank you Professor B for the exact right counter-point.

In my next discussion, I’m going to ask one of those pro-government bloggers why that all-knowing and omnipotent government doesn’t simply pass a new law that outlaws global warming, per se.  It’ll be a law that is short and sweet:  “Earth, we command you to stop warming.”  If good things happen at the stroke of the POTUS’s pen, then, by golly, start writing some laws, would ya!?  Next on the list, we’ll outlaw, forever!, the common cold, skinned knees, body odor, heart-burn,  restless leg syndrome (also known as RLS on TV) and erectile dysfunction.  Who needs doctors and pills when we have legislators!

As Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments would say: So let it be written, so let it be done.

  1. Can you elaborate on how it is an externality error in reverse? Not a specific example, but the line of thought. Thanks.

    • The error in reverse was a figure of speech that I conjured up – some people fail to take externalities into account. By “in reverse” I meant to suggest that the people in my debates sort of take externalities for granted.

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