Agents of the state

This is what happens when you ignore those most basic of economic truisms.

“Neighbor tells on neighbor in LA”

Van Beveren has assumed the role of a Drought Buster who reports violators, going so far as to get the DWP to write a strongly worded letter to Caltrans when the agency violated water restrictions.

The Department of Water and Power wishes more residents were like Van Beveren – whose own water use is already below the mandated 15 percent reduction – as the first week of tougher water restrictions went into effect.

We want neighbors to alert each other that they might be in violation so they don’t have to pay a monetary fine,” DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo said. “That’s why we sent out door-hangers that people can give to a neighbor to inform them about the new program.”

The utility also is taking calls, at 800-DIALDWP, where people can call in anonymously to report violations.

The first offense draws a warning and a second violation carries a penalty of $100, with subsequent violations increasing by $100. After the fifth violation, water restrictive devices can be installed.

“Most people comply immediately,” Ramallo said. “We gave out 3,500 warning citations under Phase Two and only a handful of people ended up paying fines. Most people want to cooperate.”

Since the new phase went into effect, Ramallo said there has been an increase in calls and hits on the agency’s Web site, http://www.ladwp.com, for information about what people are allowed to do.

The program remains under constant review and the DWP is prepared to make changes as necessary, Ramallo said.

One group that says it has been hurt by the restrictions is landscapers.

Syrus Rasekhi, who owns ZM Green Yard Maintenance in Tarzana, said the designation of Mondays and Thursdays creates problems for landscapers.

Isn’t this lovely.  The government is encouraging people to report their neighbors to the authorities in order that the state can extract fines.  I thought this sort of action only took place in the Soviet Union.

Of course, there is a much better way to handle this situation.  The answer comes from of all places Harvard.

Managing Water Demand

In an extremely insightful report on water usage, the authors, Shiela Olmstead of Yale and Robert Stavins of Harvard, discovered that, sacre bleu

 

Price-based approaches to water conservation are more cost-effective than non-price approaches
The gains from using prices as an incentive for conservation come from allowing households to respond to increased water prices in the manner of their choice, rather than by installing a particular technology or reducing particular uses, as prescribed by non-price approaches
A recent study of 12 cities in the United States and Canada suggests that replacing two-day-per-week outdoor watering restrictions with drought pricing could achieve the same level of aggregate water savings, along with welfare gains of approximately $81 per household per summer drought. 

Price-based approaches to water conservation are more cost-effective than non-price approaches

The gains from using prices as an incentive for conservation come from allowing households to respond to increased water prices in the manner of their choice, rather than by installing a particular technology or reducing particular uses, as prescribed by non-price approaches

A recent study of 12 cities in the United States and Canada suggests that replacing two-day-per-week outdoor watering restrictions with drought pricing could achieve the same level of aggregate water savings, along with welfare gains of approximately $81 per household per summer drought. 

You don’t say.  How come nobody ever thought of this before, using prices to ration usage of scarce resources?  Perhaps somebody did.
Nevertheless within these limits, which in economic life it never oversteps, monetary calculation fulfils all the requirements of economic calculation. It affords us a guide through the oppressive plenitude of economic potentialities. It enables us to extend to all goods of a higher order the judgment of value, which is bound up with and clearly evident in, the case of goods ready for consumption, or at best of production goods of the lowest order. It renders their value capable of computation and thereby gives us the primary basis for all economic operations with goods of a higher order. Without it, all production involving processes stretching well back in time and all the longer roundabout processes of capitalistic production would be gropings in the dark.
Thankfully we have Ludvig von Mises’ work to assist our benevolent dictators.  Without prices, economic calculation is impossible.  Without prices, we are forced into belligerent relationships with out neighbors by the state.  The state alone decides who gets water, and how they get, without concern for valuation.  Those who comply with state mandates feel somewhat better than their peers, and feel entitled to turn them over to the state when they don’t comply.
“Most people comply immediately”.  Yes, I bet they do.  And they have ways of making us speak.  
You really have to appreciate the increase in calls.  What better way to increase the power of the state than to turn otherwise peaceful citizens into agents of the state.  And of course, let’s not forget the glazers, those landscapers whose business will suffer.
Markets work, always, everywhere, and without fail.  
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One Response to Agents of the state

  1. Markets especially work for fungible goods like water.

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