Friday, January 10, 2014

Quote of the Day

If smoke from my factory causes a housewife to spend more on laundry soap (and spend more time at the washing machine), the cost is called an external cost of the business enterprise, or an 'externality'. What a marvelous euphemism! The implied meaning is clearly this: 'external to the accounting books of the firm producing the pollution.' The euphemism illustrates well the principle that language is as much action as it is description. The word 'externality' has the effect of pushing costs away from the speaker and toward an otherwhere too vague to evoke emotion. An external cost is a cost imposed on the public without its consent. How one wishes Marshall had proposed the word 'imposition' for these 'external' costs! . . . Perhaps an even better term would have been the word 'excretion.' . . . We no longer permit an individual to deposit the excretions of his body wherever he likes; neither should we permit factories promiscuously to broadcast theirs.

- Garrett Hardin, Filters Against Folly: How To Survive Despite Economists, Ecologists, and the Merely Eloquent

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