Looking at issues ‘rationally’


I recently received an ad noting that I could be taught to think like an economist. I would be taught rational decision making.

As I recently had to make a decision on how to dispose of all the used batteries that my portable equipment requires I wondered.

As I have portable devices, I have a large quantity of non-rechargeable batteries that I have saved up to bring “somewhere” for disposal. I remembered that Staples and Radio Shack used to accept used batteries, but just learned these large organizations that sell these products no longer accept used batteries for disposal, though Radio Shack still accepts rechargeable ones.

So I thought about this issue “rationally.”

As a rational, American, individualistic adherent of laissez faire capitalism, I decided the rational thing to do was to externalize my costs of disposal by chucking all this stuff in the garbage to eventually end up in landfill.

This essentially moves my problem forward to the future when someone else, probably those pesky environmentalists, would have to decide how to eliminate these pollutants from the groundwater. Clearly the cost-benefit is in my favor.

Of course, another approach would be to demand the producers and sellers of these batteries pay for their disposal. As most of the batteries are produced in China, we could then even ship them back there.

But this would require time and effort on my part to raise the question of why there is no way locally to dispose of such material except to actually drive to the landfill at my cost. Clearly, there is no benefit doing the latter, only costs for me to drive, so as a rational decision maker, moving the problem forward in time is to my benefit and so is clearly the rational thing to do.

I note that almost all portable equipment that use batteries are made in China, as are the batteries required to operate them. Thus China has found a way to ship large quantities of potential pollutants to America as one more part of maintaining its economy. It is clearly rational.

Sound like Congress and most large corporations (Is there a difference between these?) also have the right idea. They do this all the time.

Dick Swenson

Walla Walla


Chas 7 months, 1 week ago

I think the first error is thinking that economics follow rational concepts. The difference of the face on the bill changes its worth? It's a piece of paper!


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