Monday, September 21, 2009

Municipalized trash is 'uncivilized'

I came across this great article on the municipal monopoly of trash pickup and wanted to share it with you...certainly food for thought!

Some excerpts:

Municipalized Trash: It's Uncivilized
Mises Daily by Jeffrey A. Tucker

"Humanity has some experience with the results of failing to dispose of trash properly, and that experience is deadly."Driving into work today, I saw garbage bins overflowing and city dumpsters spilling out with trash. It stinks. It's disgusting. It's uncivilized. It's probably dangerous to some extent.

It's a holiday, so of course the government workers charged with picking up this nasty refuse can't work, even though construction workers in private firms are busy bees taking advantage of the extra time.

It's true with house trash too: pickup is once per week — on schedule — and there is nothing you can do to make it more frequent. It's part of the master plan, don't you know, and if you make more trash than the once-per-week pickup can contain, that is your problem, not the city's.

The very fear that people have about private trash collection — that it will pile up and no one will do anything about it — turns out to be a regular feature of government trash collection. But we look the other way. Why?


And we put up with this for the same reason that we put up with lost mail, potholes in roads, dilapidated schools, depreciated money, and a clogged court system: because these services are monopolized by government.

Now you can make all the public-goods arguments you want to about roads and courts, but trash disposal is not rocket science and could be easily handled by the market. Everyone wants trash removed, and the sooner the better.

That means that there is a market demand for the service. There is money to be made. The only way to keep something like this at bay is to make it illegal.

If the market were in charge, pickup would surely be more than once per week. We wouldn't have to drag our trash bins out to the curb. In fact, we would be faced with several or many possible options for trash pickup.

If we made more trash than we "should," we wouldn't get angry notes from the city government. The private pickup companies would be thrilled. We might be paying by frequency of pickup or perhaps by the pound. That would be for the market to decide.

In fact, trash pickup services might actually be characterized by — perish the thought — innovation, just as they were in the early part of the 20th century, when trash collection was mostly private. Our houses might be directly connected to underground trash-transmission services that would whisk it all away in an instant. Our kitchens might have highly effective trash chutes that would zap away trash as we make it.

But because of this ghastly tradition of municipalizing trash pickup (or we might call it Sovietizing), the entire industry is stuck in the past, utterly impervious to improvement and modernization.

We get our news through fiber optics, walk around with tiny wireless phones that can instantly connect with anyone anywhere, and shop digitally with any vendor in the world. But when it comes to trash, we are still relying on once-per-week, strictly scheduled pickups by tax-funded workers driving monstrous, old-model trucks.

In my town, even the trashcans are paid for and owned by the government, as if the private sector has yet to figure out on its own initiative how to make a tub for holding things.


It seems like a preposterously unobjectionable plan: open this system to private ownership and competition, and thereby innovation.

I don't just mean contracting out. I mean abolishing city trash pickup and letting private enterprise completely take over.


Kadim said...

Our houses might be directly connected to underground trash-transmission services that would whisk it all away in an instant.

That does exist, mostly outside of the US however.

That might be because you need a dense city for such a system to be appropriate.

Maggie Thurber said...

Kadim - that is just soooo cool! Thanks for the link.

I think there are certain areas in the city of Toledo that would benefit from such a system...We're already connected to the sewer and water systems. I wonder if we could piggy back on them.

Mad Jack said...

I doubt that the cost of construction could ever be justified for a system like this in Toledo.

I was on vacation in Northern Wisconsin recently. We rented a luxury cabin in the middle of a wilderness area owned by Native Americans. Our 'cabin' was a ranch style two bedroom home, 1 bath, with a magnificent layout and excellent construction. I learned later on that five of these cabins had been fully built in six weeks, start to finish. Of course all the laborers were Native Americans and so did not belong to a labor union.

I'd like to send you a few pix to illustrate my point, but I cannot imagine even one cabin getting finished in six weeks, let alone five. In Toledo, that is.

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