Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Why should Public Property have restrictions attached to its use?

Reader Mind Your Own Business commented "Why should something that is essentially public property (e.g., a parking spot) be priced in ways that make it more painful for them (less affluent people) to utilize? There are lots of prices that are so high that they shut out whole groups of people from gaining access."

Two images kept popping into my head as I let this question incubate overnight.

One image was of bison being shot from passing trains in the early days of America's western expansion.

The second image was of serve-yourself recycling bins filled with bags of household trash.

Resources that appear to be infinite

Some resources are so vast as to appear to be infinite. The common myth of the American bison is one such resource. There appeared to be so many of them that it was inconceivable to the people of the time that human harvesting could make a dent in the population.

That leads to the kind of thinking that leaves the hot-water tap running continuously so the users can have instant hot-water. This kind of thinking nearly always occurs among the classes who do not have to pay the utility bill.

If you grew up thinking that you should have instant access to hot-water then you will get testy when you encounter limits.

History demonstrated that the bison population was not infinite. 

If every person who wanted to eat buffalo burgers was allowed to kill a Bison because the Grand Duke of Arsch-Lenker paid $10k to kill one on safari then Bison would be extinct and nobody would ever be able to see a living one. Furthermore, the genetics would be unavailable should it ever be desirable to ingress Bison genetics into domestic cattle.

The recycling bins

Eaton Rapids recently announced that they are discontinuing their public recycling program.

The program was fairly economical and low-tech. They had separate bins for clear glass, green glass, brown glass, steel, aluminum and plastics.

Civic minded people who wanted to save the environment were expected to separate their recycleables and put them in the correct bins.

Eventually, some folks realized they could drive up and pitch bags of unsorted trash into the bins and then drive off. That saved them the cost of properly disposing of their trash.

Any resources, even one that is of very low value, is subject to abuse when it is tossed into the public domain without "guardrails" around its use. Some people are going to bitch about the restrictions regardless of how much prior abuses justify those restrictions.


  1. They have found that recycling here in the Buckeye serves several purposes . Even though those pretty bins of separated materials goes straight to the dump with all the rest of the plastics it makes a certain class of pseudo intellectuals get the feelz . It also supports a number of high paying jobs for a preferred group of hive members that would otherwise be mooching from their uncle the mayor .

  2. Go rent a construction dumpster. You have to race to use it or others fill it for you. Roger

    1. Roger, I volunteer at an animal shelter, and we have exactly the same problem. People seem to consider any empty trash bin a potential dumping place for their materials, because apparently it all goes to the same place.

    2. We had a well paid engineer bring his weekly trash from home and put it in the work dumpster, The owner said nothing. Only when the engineer filled the dumpster with his home construction debris did the owner mention it. The engineer could not understand why it was an issue. He was just too cheap to pay for trash removal.

    3. My construction dumpster arrived on my job two days before I did. By the time I got there, the 30 yard dumpster was half full. I was standing there amazed at the chutzpah of these people, when someone in a new caddy drove up and started to put their trash in my dumpster. I said whoa there buddy, what do you think you're doing. I don't have time to go to the regular "recycling" center. I told him that this was my dumpster and if I caught him again, I had his tag number and I would have him arrested for theft by taking. But really there's nothing you can do other than keep a guard on the dumpster 24/7 until the job is over.

      I would let people who asked, go through the dumpster for scrap metal as long as they didn't make a mess, though.

  3. Same problem happened in my town.

    Welfare types screw up public works EVERY TIME.

  4. It's called the Tragedy of the Commons. When something belongs to everybody, it belongs to nobody and nobody maintains it or takes care of it.
    The British saw this centuries ago with common land, so they came up with various deeded accesses so people would maintain it.

  5. ERJ, one of the great intellectual disconnects I have seen is between the use of resources and recycling. Plastics are now in virtually every environment and we are highly encouraged to recycle them - but no one asks the original underlying question, do you really need them and are you willing to do without them. Imagine the amount of energy and raw material usage that would be saved if they were just not used in the first place.

    Sure, it makes modern living a lot less possibly, but really, would that not be worth it? Instead, compromises to the conscience are found, like disposable coffee cups for large coffee companies that are compostable or recyclable, which eases the guilt (rather than just bringing one's own cup).

    1. I agree we should go back to the use and reuse mentality we had when I was a kid. Micro plastics are beginning to be a real concern to humanity.

  6. Jonathan beat me to it. Re recycling, in NOVA, back around 2013, they did away with it for 'commercial' buildings. I was talking to one of the truck drivers one day and he said words to the effect that "It was all BS, they dumped all the trash in the trucks and hauled it all to the dump, that trying to recycle cost them too much money for too little return."

  7. Image One: a diminishing perishable resource if overused. Otherwise, renewable if you maintain the ecosystem.

    The solution is not an auction, but a raffle or lottery. Otherwise, what incentive do poor people who could never win at an auction have to follow the rules?

    Image Two: misuse of the resource.

    I've seen rich people dump their trash and junk at Goodwill boxes just as much as poor people. And having money to pay someone else to do your disposal for you doesn't make your hands clean.

    Your original example of parking spaces didn't have either of those two characteristics. The parking space is getting used over and over again. There may be a finite number of them, but that is no reason to make them only available to rich people.

    Yeah, recycling is a scam. Except for aluminum, none of it ever made economic sense unless government regs manipulated the market.

    Plastics burn quite nicely in power producing incinerators, which have modern APCs. Only a small percentage of plastics are recyclable, and even then for only a finite number of times. But plastics have reduced transportation costs (weight reduction), reduced food wastage, improved hygiene, and proven their worth many times over. Are there times something more permanent could be used? Sure. Have at it. Do they have a down side? Tell me something that doesn't.

  8. Sadly everything in life must be created with the lowest comment denominator in mind. If something can be abused there will ALWAYS be people out there who WILL abuse it. Guaranteed. We are a clever species, not an intelligent one.

  9. Tragedy of the Commons. Enclosure Movement in pre-industrial England. Free means available to destroy, use up. Make useless, make a menace to others, so there just HAVE TO BE LIMITS imposed by force and enforced.


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