Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'm Not a Grinch; I Just Don't Like Negative Externalities

I don't remember how it came up, but I couldn't help myself. And when it started, I couldn't stop. Today I told my managerial class that I don't like Christmas. Or, more accurately, the Christmas season. They were surprised, and so of course I had to tell them why. But my hatred for the season really stems for a hatred of any negative externality people blissfully ignore, things people don't think are externalities.

A negative externality is when something imposes a cost onto others. We are familiar with examples: pollution, cigarette smoke, screaming/crying babies, traffic. Basically anything someone does which makes people who had nothing to do with the transaction worse off. I buy power from the power company, but neither of us pay the cost of the pollution which poisons the water downstream from the power plant.

We're all well aware of these problems and there are attempts to correct for them. But what I find endless annoying are those negative externalties which so many refuse to acknowledge. And that brings me to the  Christmas season.

Christmas Season. For one month, everything becomes about Christmas. I must endure the decorations, the constant Christmas references in all media, the music on the radio, the Christmas theme in virtually every article, the extra traffic, and, most of all, the cheeriness of everyone who assumes you are as excited about the season as they are. Don't get me wrong: there are things I've found enjoyable. I like time with the family, I like my neighbor's Christmas cookies she bakes every year, I like the time off from work. But if we were to at least diversify the season for a month, I would welcome the change.

Sports. If you like sports, that's fine, but shut up about it. Don't be surprised when other people think slaying dragons is more interesting than watching football. Don't think me a fool because I don't know if the Raiders and the Cubs play the same game. Don't run around screaming and honking horns when the team you like wins. Or loses. (I really don't understand what motivates you.)

Dogs. Again, I don't hate dogs as much as the externalities they create. And really, I don't like how dog-lovers don't understand how inconsiderate they can be when they assume no one cares about these externalities. Dogs are not angels: they bark, they smell, their "kisses" are slobber. Dog poop, even when I see it to avoid it (which isn't always) stinks. Not to mention, they bite (and yes, they do bite; they of course don't bite you because you're the one who feeds them).

I am well aware that all of these things are better existing than not; the total annoyance they create is probably outweighed by the total joy they create. Benefits probably exceed costs, including the external, and in my book that's the thumbs up even if I'm not a fan.

But, for the love of all that is good and holy (religion: that's another one; not everyone's religious you know) stop assuming everyone's like you. I'm not excited that Christmas is coming, I don't want to pet your dog, and no, I didn't watch the #%$%^ game last night.

A Very Interesting Sentence

Within two or three decades the difference between automated driving and human driving will be so great you may not be legally allowed to drive your own car...
From The New Yorker