Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Parable on Environmental Zeal

An email from BW in Logan Utah, reproduced in its entirety...

Issac Hammon’s restaurant wasn’t doing well. People in the community had many dining-out options and business volume at Issac’s restaurant was insufficient to break even, let alone earn a profit. 

But Issac had friends in local government, so approached them with a proposal. “Let’s mandate that every household in the community eat at my restaurant at least twice each month. With increased volume, I can cover my costs while keeping meal prices reasonable. This will benefit the community by creating more jobs and adding to tax revenues."  (More below the jump)

 Members of the Community Council were intrigued with his idea. [Ed's note:  Hey, Bishop!  Maybe you could do this in Providence?] But Mr. Lime, the administrator, raised a concern, “Won’t some people object to being forced to eat at your restaurant? How can we sell this idea to the community?” 

Issac responded, “I’ve heard that clichés can be effective advertising slogans and, if stated often and with authority, are rarely challenged. How about ‘It’s The Right Thing To Do’?” 

“Brilliant!” exclaimed Lime. “Let’s do it!” Councilman Paulsen wasn’t convinced. He taught at the local college and had studied cases of government involvement in the market. “If folks are forced to spend more at your restaurant, they'll have less money available for other purchases, including meals at other restaurants. This would seem to cancel out the projected increase in jobs and tax revenues you assert. Also, if people aren’t willingly coming to your restaurant, might this suggest …” 

Councilman Gifford interrupted. “Think about all the other things people are forced to buy, like driver’s licenses and such. What’s the big deal with requiring one more?” 

“Besides,” offered Administrator Lime, “the way it is now, some people choose to eat at Issac's, but it's fairly expensive. With this mandatory plan, he can keep his meal prices low for everyone. The new plan is much fairer. Once people get used to the idea, they’ll like it! It's the right thing to do.” 

That seemed to be the clincher. A majority of the Council voted for the proposal and the “It’s The Right Thing To Do” campaign was launched. 

Several weeks went by and folks in the community began to object to being told where to eat. “I don’t like the food.” “The service is terrible.” “You can’t make me eat there!” Issac decided to appease the citizens by introducing a less coercive option. 

“You don’t have to eat here, but you’ll still have to pay for at least two meals a month. I can keep my prices reasonable and the community benefits. Need I remind you, it's the right ...” 

At that point, I awoke. “Wow, what a nightmare! I’m glad nothing like this could ever really happen.” The phone rang. It was my neighbor reminding me it was recycling day and that I needed to sort the trash and wheel my blue bin to the curb.


W.E. Heasley said...


Unknown said...

I'm laughing and crying at the same time.

Randy Simmons said...

I need to meet BW.

G Wolf said...

Eh, I think the tie-in to the environmental stuff at the end is a bit of a stretch. There's probably a whole host of other governmental programs with which it could work better.

Anonymous said...

The parable works for any situation in which taxpayers are coerced into funding programs that advocates attempt to rationalize on the basis of "it's the right thing to do," job creation, expand participation to lower cost to average user, etc. This includes mandatory recycling.