"The notion of “externalities” has become familiar in environmental
circles. It refers to costs imposed by businesses that are not paid for
by those businesses. For instance, industrial processes can put
pollutants in the air that increase public health costs, but the public,
not the polluting businesses, picks up the tab. In this way, businesses
privatize profits and publicize costs.
While the notion is incredibly useful, especially in folding ecological
concerns into economics, I’ve always had my reservations about it.
Environmentalists these days love speaking in the language of economics
— it makes them sound Serious — but I worry that wrapping this notion in
a bloodless technical term tends to have a narcotizing effect. It brings
to mind incrementalism: boost a few taxes here, tighten a regulation
there, and the industrial juggernaut can keep right on chugging.
However, if we take the idea seriously, not just as an accounting
phenomenon but as a deep description of current human practices, its
implications are positively revolutionary."
Via Quinquagenarian Cathugger.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics