Choice is good

tony-soprano Naturally, I disagree entirely with John’s argument on trash collection. It may be a small issue – so long as your trash is collected, it doesn’t really matter that much who picks it up – but the Tea Partiers are right this time: having choice is a good thing, even for trash collection. If the government came in and said “You can only buy Dell computers from now on” people would be unhappy. We want to be able to choose what kind of computer we buy – and not just because maybe we prefer Apple, but because we know that competition keeps innovation up and prices down.

Now, in trash collection you probably won’t see too much innovation, but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high. If you don’t like the people picking up your trash, or the containers they provide, or the driver is rude, or whatever – you can switch.

Once the government has granted a monopoly, however, you’re stuck. It doesn’t matter what level of service you receive, whether prices go up – you have no choice. Many of us already have no choice when it comes to trash collection, so this is sort of a foreign concept. And that’s also why this isn’t really that big of a deal. Trash is basically a public utility in many places, and it works pretty well that way.

The mob, as far as I’m aware, isn’t really that big into the trash business anymore, but one way the mob made out like such bandits with trash collection (and still do in some places, like Italy…) in the first place was due to government-granted monopolies. Monopoly leads to corruption and there is no surer way to secure a monopoly than to have a government grant you one legally.

So even if this isn’t that big of a deal, there is certainly a principle at stake and it’s not so bizarre to stick up for one’s principles. Freedom of choice is something near and dear to most Americans of every political stripe. We just tend to snub our noses at other people’s choices – whether we’re talking about trash pickup or economic association on the one hand, or reproductive choice on the other – someone is always looking to limit what we can and cannot choose.

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186 replies
  1. 1
    John Cole says:

    You completely missed the point of my post, then. I’m not opposed to having choice in trash collection.

    My point is that it is absolutely insane to blow a fucking gasket over this issue like what is happening in that town in Arizona. They elected a group of people, they sat around and thought things through, and came to a decision. Don’t agree with it- fine! Elect someone to replace them and repeal the decision in a few years.

    But what is insane is to riot about it.

  2. 2
    Steve says:

    Do you think it costs more to have one company send one truck to pick up all the trash on your street, or to have five companies send five trucks to pick up the same trash? When the government grants a “monopoly,” there’s still competition – competition to get the government contract. If the company sucks at picking up the trash, or the government gets a lot of complaints about them, next year someone else will get the contract.

    There is the possibility of corruption, for sure. That’s the tradeoff. But choice is not the answer to every last dilemma in life. Should we be able to choose between different police departments to protect us? Why let the government grant a monopoly?

  3. 3
    cleek says:

    Once the government has granted a monopoly

    the govt didn’t “grant a monopoly”; it hired a company to perform a service, after a competitive bidding process.

  4. 4
    ploeg says:

    Choice is good if it is wanted. Practically always, choice means increased cost (which is why Henry Ford offered cars in any color, as long as that color was black). Sometimes you can count on entrepreneurs to innovate enough that they can nullify that cost and still provide themselves with a profit, but you can’t take that for granted.

  5. 5
    me says:

    Do you think it costs more to have one company send one truck to pick up all the trash on your street, or to have five companies send five trucks to pick up the same trash?

    This. If it isn’t cheaper to have one truck moving house by house picking up the trash as it goes, something’s wrong with the bidding.

  6. 6
    trollhattan says:

    Completely disagree. Most municipal services can’t be efficient (excellent quality, cost-effective) if they’re a scattershot part of a crazy quilt of overlapping services. And please spare me of having three separate fleets of garbage, recycling and yard waste trucks going down my street on three separate days collecting from every third house (ruining my pavemant three times faster). To hell with that idea.

    But why stop there? Let’s bring on private water and sewer systems with their own piping networks. Brawndo, straight to the tap!

  7. 7
    jeffreyw says:

    I’m just happy to have trash service. We have at least two trash haulers working the road I live on, one is a local outfit, the other is a multi state operation. I go with the local guys. I live at the end of a long drive and they come all the way down it to pick up my trash. The other folks just laughed when I suggested that.

  8. 8
    BGinCHI says:

    E.D., you skipped the recycling part, which I’m guessing is part of what the town was after and what some people felt was imposing Sharia/MarxismLeninism on them.

    Getting people to recycle needs an incentive (or at least it works better that way unless people are really motivated to do it). So, many places couple trash collecting and recycling to incentivize.

    In Ithaca, NY (where I used to live), your trash is a private affair (you contract with a company and pay by the bag), but the recycling is picked up by the county (if I’m remembering right) for free (yes, I know we pay taxes).

    So, in order to minimize the trash in bags you pay for, you get as much as you can in the recycling. It’s a great system. A lot of this falls under the heading of the kind of soft coercion that gets things done that aren’t all that popular at first.

  9. 9
    cleek says:

    @Steve:

    Do you think it costs more to have one company send one truck to pick up all the trash on your street, or to have five companies send five trucks to pick up the same trash?

    which means 5x the number of noisy trash trucks, driving over 5x the number of angry corner-dwellers’ lawns, and dropping 5x the amount of “oops, spilled a little!” crap on the streets.

  10. 10
    Duane says:

    We went through this in our rural township in central Oh a few years back..The contracted deal would actually lower costs bc of the efficiency of having just a 1 company run the roads and making every pickup. Having 5 different companies picking up trash on the same 10 miles of roads when 1 company can get the job done in 1 day…..does not lead to lower prices. The other issue was safety in our case, the roads are hilly and curving and lots of houses…..having 1 day a week designated for trash pick up would have been nice. But common sense didnt prevail and our trash pick up costs are now 50% higher than what the contracted cost would have been. Ours would have only been a 3 yr contract. So long as you have competition for the contract….you still have competition.

  11. 11

    @Steve: Seconded, and was the first thought in my mind upon reading this.

    Swiftly followed by: E. D., where are the actual case studies where municipalities have switched to private collection and saved money? As someone who lived in both gov’t run and private run waste collection areas in the last decade, from a personal perspective the govt’ run trash collection was far better, more efficient, and cheaper than the privately run one I used. And yes, I actually checked the “trash collection” part of my overall bill.

    And that is, yes, anecdote. Can you provide as such? Or, even better, data to refute this point? Especially given than we’d have to require people to pay for some trash collection, else we’d have a health hazard that other neighbors would have to deal with. How does that get managed in this “chose your own trash adventure” scenario you’ve cooked up?

  12. 12
    Dave says:

    E.D. – I like a lot of what you write here. But you are off on this one.

    It was a biddable contract for five years, not a monopoly. And the idea of competing companies for a limited job…the economics don’t work. There’s a limited revenue stream, and the only way multiple companies could make a profit would be in cutting corners, or limiting service, or something else that would make things worse than better.

    The invisible hand isn’t a universal solution. Choice in picking computers? Yes. But I think one company can handle collecting my trash just fine.

  13. 13
    Poopyman says:

    OK. So you don’t want the government messing with your trash. If I’m not mistaken, the government started getting into the trash business because some people didn’t want to be bothered with getting rid of their trash, or couldn’t afford it. It became a public health issue.

    Now out here in the exurbs around Chez Poopy we Do have public/private option. if you don’t want to pay to have your trash taken away, you can take it yourself to a public collection point, from where the county takes it to the landfill. But that won’t work so well in a densely populated area.

    Trash collection is a public health issue, and should be taken care of by the government. We can have a discussion about lengths of contracts and performance criteria, rebidding, etc, but trash collection is a public health issue.

    And why the hell has a Waste Management ad popped up on the left side? (Never mind, I know the answer.)

  14. 14
    alwhite says:

    They tried this with phones, airlines & electricity and yet the choices have not gotten us better service or cheaper rates. While it should do that in theory the reality is any apparent reduction in cost is reflected in shittier service. Options turn into confusing, and usually pointless, complexity yielding no improvement for the consumer.

    A case in point, the rest of the world has cheaper cell phone service with many more features under a much more regulated environment. Figuring out why that is would be much more valuable than simply believing that “free markets” and “choice” always lead to a better outcome.

  15. 15
    matoko_chan says:

    Are fetuses still slaves too?

  16. 16
    Judas Escargot says:

    It may be a small issue – so long as your trash is collected, it doesn’t really matter that much who picks it up

    Sigh.

    Once again: A business, by definition, must run a profit to justify its existence. No profit, no business.

    The public sector, in theory, can provide a service at cost. No owners. No CEO bonuses. No shareholders.

    When there’s shared public service involved (like trash collection), the best-run business will never, ever, ever beat the cost of the best-run public sector program. Ever. The math doesn’t work out.

    If your problem’s with corruption or too-high overhead expenses, then the solution is to find ways to reduce those overhead expenses (which you’d have in a private business, also, and then some).

    How is it ‘conservative’ to find yet another way to funnel taxpayer money into private business profits???

  17. 17
    Michael says:

    You realize that having heavy trash hauling trucks triple or quadruple routes down residential streets breaks them up on an accelerated schedule, thereby costing the community a helluvalot more money in the long run, right?

    Because the savings from having 3 haulers “compete” is scant, and doesn’t do shit for seeing to it that more money remains in consumer pockets.

  18. 18
    Calouste says:

    + 1 to everyone who points out that having multiple trash collectors working the same street isn’t exactly efficient.

    Why is it that according to libertarians (and yes, E.D. Kain, with this post I have to apply that insult to you as well), economy of scale doesn’t apply to the government or public services?

  19. 19
    azlib says:

    You all need to understand that Fountain Hills has had political squabbling for a very long time and they lurch from one political crisis to another. The debates are usually over taxes and what services the town should provide. The current trash debate is just another in a long line of squabbles. I doubt if it has much to do about trash.

  20. 20
    Greenhouse Guy says:

    Trash hauling? http://lacrossetribune.com/new.....002e0.html

    meet our mayor.

  21. 21
    redbeardjim says:

    @Duane:

    That sounds very similar to my situation, except that my township *did* go with the single-hauler solution (to a fair bit of bitching in the local paper, of course).

  22. 22
    MikeBoyScout says:

    E.D.,

    I hope some day you can come to understand that this ASSUMPTION is just wrong.

    but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high.

    Competition may or may not do those things. And competition very well could lead to higher prices and lower quality of service.

    There are no magical solutions to any problem.
    The solution (cost, quality) to any problem always gets down to the specifics.

  23. 23
    Paris says:

    I would really appreciate having more garbage trucks stopping traffic on my way to work. Or every day can be trash collection day for someone! My time has no value, especially for the fat ass retirees who have time to sit around and bitch about their lack of choice.

    Better yet – let everyone contract their own service. I love it when my neighbors burn their trash in their back yard to save a buck. Or when they dump bags of trash in my yard at night.

  24. 24
    JPL says:

    I just got home so I have not had the opportunity to read all the posts. The city that I live in provides mandatory trash pick-up for $22.00 a month. If it were not mandatory the cost would go up because they would still need the same amount of employees and trucks.
    It includes recycling, trash and lawn, leaf and limb pickup once a week. The recycling is handled by a private company. The city employees are well paid and have benefits. The recycling company employees are not paid as well and don’t have the benefits that the city employees do which is why the city chose them.

  25. 25
    matoko_chan says:

    @John Cole: the midterms were one big riot, Cole.
    the problem in America is Salam-Douthat stratification on cognitive ability.
    The conservative low-information base (aka the Tea Party) is no longer intelligent enough to understand that tax cuts dont lead to jobs, that tax cuts for the wealthy and deficit reduction are incompatible, and no matter how many muslims we waste, they are never going to embrace jesus-democracy.

  26. 26
    Sly says:

    Two points:

    1) I would generally agree with you, as others have said, if this contract was not awarded through a competitive bidding process.

    2) With multiple trash companies, you are still vulnerable to monopoly. Here’s how (and this, by the way, is how the mob used to do it):

    Lets say you live in an area with three waste management firms. Huzzah! Choice! Not so fast. The managers of those firms have come to a “gentleman’s agreement” about where they’ll offer their services, in order to divvy up the market and not compete over prices. So you call up one company and find that their fees are outrageously high, and think to yourself “Free Market! Yay!” and call up the other two. When you call them up, however, the nice receptionist tells you, “Sorry, Sir, but we don’t offer pickup services in your area. Have a nice day.”

    “But wait,” you say, “that’s against the law!”

    “Prove it!” replies the waste management firms.

    “I can’t!” You exclaim.

    “Sucks to be you!” Shouts the waste management firms.

    Then when no one picks up your garbage, the County Health Commissioner makes a “surprise” inspection.

  27. 27
    jacy says:

    The gist I got from Cole’s post was not so much that the crazy people were up in arms about not having “choice” as to providers, but that the socia1ist government was going to throw them into concentration camps for not properly recycling.

    Therefore the question was not so much about free-market, but about how people like the teabaggers demagogue any issue, no matter how benign, into a wacky conspiracy theory that ultimately ends up robbing real ‘Mericans of their freedom to burn stuff in their yards.

  28. 28
    Guster says:

    This is all about the recycling.

    Liberals favor recycling, hence Complete Irrational Meltdown.

    The bible doesn’t say anything about recycling.

  29. 29
    dan says:

    @Steve: Yeah, you got there first. I don’t want 10 trucks from 10 different companies coming down my block 7 days a week at all hours because neighbors all picked different companies.

    My town picks up the garbage Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30 AM. Seems to work for everyone. And if they make too much noise or make a mess anywhere in my town, I know who to complain to. Don’t need to track down some other companies who will tell me, since I am not their customer, to go f** myself.

  30. 30
    The Other Chuck says:

    What would happen, Kain, if the government said you can’t buy just Dell computers, but had to purchase hardware and service for Dell, Apple, Sun, IBM, and HP in order to have “competition”?

    It was a contract, the lowest bidder won. That’s competition. Besides, what the Arizonans are going apeshit over is the institution of curbside recycling, which as we all know is all a soshulist sharia plot.

  31. 31
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    As someone who lives in a libertarian paradise where we do have private trash service (Vermont!), I can say that having multiple trash companies is the stupidest eff-ing idea ever. We have trash cans on the street at least 3 different days of the week (the dogs, crows and bears (not kidding) love this though), multiple, multi-ton trucks pounding down our roads each of those days (can you say potholes?) and I still think my service is expensive. (I pay about 30 per month for pickup every other week. I’m guessing anybody with muni-service can beat that.) In addition, with fewer stops the trucks drive faster through residential neighborhoods endangering kids and animals. When I was VP of my HOA we instituted one company for all residents because we got sick of grading the dirt road every 6 weeks.

  32. 32
    Maude says:

    People vote for the town council.
    The town council takes bids from trash haulers.
    The best hauler gets the contract.
    The word monopoly doesn’t make sense in this context.
    There was more than one bid submitted.
    A choice was made by the elected town council.

  33. 33
    General Stuck says:

    @John Cole:

    I’m not opposed to having choice in trash collection.

    I am. The reason is it is a vital service that doesn’t fit into the capitalistic system very well, see Health Care, and utilities, etc…

    For health reasons, everyone’s garbage needs to be picked up on time, and competitive squabbling and confusion in it’s administration is not conducive to providing this vital service. It is why I hated and still do, deregulation of utilities so they could compete and perform all the shenanigans we see in the free market. Plus letting them invest in and branch out into other economic endeavors. It is why I am for single payer health care. These vital services are not always clear cut, like say in the oil and gas business, but as a basic formula, especially for local vital service providing, then I would rather have one provider focused only on providing that service and closely monitored by the local government to make sure they do. Everything else that is not vital can run wild in the free wheeling market, and folks can purchase or not their products, because they can live without them.

  34. 34
    les says:

    Piling on, I fear; but this is so Kain-ish. It is by definition less efficient to have multiple trash collectors, unless at a minimum you require (ooh, evil regulation) one collector in defined, contiguous areas. At some point, don’t even reasonable conservative/libertarian arguments have to consider reality?

    In addition, at least in areas of any significant population size, the monopoly power is on private business’ side–the capital investment required is way too high to permit significant competition among businesses, when the contract being bid is time limited. Gov’t is the only real competitive entity; there’s a reason there are only a couple of major trash collection companies in the country.

  35. 35
    jacy says:

    Pah, moderation.

    The gist I got from Cole’s post was not so much that the crazy people were up in arms about not having “choice” as to providers, but that the soshulist government was going to throw them into concentration camps for not properly recycling.

    Therefore the question was not so much about free-market, but about how people like the teabaggers demagogue any issue, no matter how benign, into a wacky conspiracy theory that ultimately ends up robbing real ‘Mericans of their freedom to burn stuff in their yards.

  36. 36
    Rook says:

    Having been in communities of one company picking up trash, and another with multiple companies, I can vouch for the lower costs. Substantially lower.

  37. 37
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    @Paris:

    I love it when my neighbors burn their trash in their back yard to save a buck.

    This too. Lived next door to someone who did just this and we lived below and downwind. Loved the smell of burning plastic jugs wafting in my toddler’s windows.

  38. 38
    dan says:

    Not to mention the stupid analogy between computers and trash hauling.

    Different computers can offer hundreds of different options, (speed, HD size, screen size, etc. ad infinitum) so limiting choice there REALLY limits choice.

    What is 1 hauler going to be able to offer that another would not be able to?

  39. 39
    matoko_chan says:

    Do you know what you still don’t seem to understand E.D.?
    Competing ideas do not deserve equal time when the ‘conservative’ ideas are WRONG, BAD, and STUPID.

  40. 40
    General Stuck says:

    @dan:

    What is 1 hauler going to be able to offer that another would not be able to?

    increased rates

  41. 41
    Mike G says:

    @Judas Escargot:

    How is it ‘conservative’ to find yet another way to funnel taxpayer money into private business profits???

    It’s “conservative politics”. Private businesses donate to Repigs/teabaggers, government-run services don’t.

    Methinks some private trash hauler manufactured this ‘outrage’ cloaked in “choice” rhetoric, and the teatards will jump on any excuse to get angry at something government-related or insufficiently-pro-corporate every time.

  42. 42
    seigen says:

    It’s not the disagreement, it’s *how* they chose to disagree — bringing everything to a standstill, making comparisons to socialism, bla bla bla.

  43. 43
    BR says:

    @General Stuck:

    There’s something to be said for the counterargument, which is that if you’re charged by the pound for the trash you produce and it’s not a utility service provided by the city, you might decrease the trash you produce. (This is my hope – that folks move towards zero trash production.)

  44. 44
    JohnR says:

    “competition will keep prices down and quality of service high. ”

    Oy! This is one of those unexamined articles of faith that drives me nuts. “and”? “AND”? You can do better than that, ED. In the world I live, it’s generally a choice: high quality or low price. You can take your pick, or try to hit some sort of adequate middle. Someone’s unhappy no matter how you slice it, of course, people being people.

  45. 45
    R. Johnston says:

    Uh, no. The economies of scale inherent in something like garbage collection are tremendous. Local monopolies are the natural situation. Having routes partially duplicated because of competition is a huge inefficiency because of the extra miles driven and the extra manpower that requires; if routes aren’t partially duplicated then competition is chimerical. Under conditions like this, a well regulated monopoly produces both the highest profits and the cheapest and highest quality product.

  46. 46
    John Bird says:

    Trash collection is usually a public monopoly in part because its comprehensive success is a necessity for a municipality’s interests.

    It’s not in the interests of any private contractor without a comprehensive contract to make sure that a city is clean overall. In fact, the more uneven the city is in cleanliness, the more a private contractor has to gain.

  47. 47
    jacy says:

    @BR:

    There’s something to be said for the counterargument, which is that if you’re charged by the pound for the trash you produce and it’s not a utility service provided by the city, you might decrease the trash you produce. (This is my hope – that folks move towards zero trash production.)

    Or, if you live in a relatively rural area like we do, people will just burn more of their trash in their yards or illegally dump it.

    Any guess as to how many people in the area accidentally set their homes on fire while burning trash? If you also take away the municipal firehouses and people have to contract individually for fire protection, soon the entire area can be a smoking pile of ash. It’s a win/win for freedom!

  48. 48

    The problem with libertarian theories is that they are based on what ifs, not concrete problems. Start with a vague, pleasant-sounding principle: Choice is good. What if we could choose our garbage collector? Great idea! Everyone loves choice. One of my neighbors is a tea-partier and he chooses to pay nothing–taxes are theft and he’s a boot-strappin’ man who doesn’t believe in “air pollution.” He burns it in an old metal trash can once a month. The rats are becoming a problem and the sparks and ash get mighty close to your roof, but choice is good!

    Another neighbor hires the company with the lowest rates. They show up erratically, since their low pay means they have many employee problems. One employee even showed up drunk and damaged your neighbor’s car while trying to back up. Good thing your neighbor had insurance. Too bad about the time lost from work, though. Bosses hate that.

    But at least that guy gets some service. You hired a company that went out of business a month after you signed a contract with them. The big guys undercut his rates, and after most of the little guys go under they’ll jack them up again. Because competition keeps prices down, and choice is always good.

  49. 49
    Jane2 says:

    You want choice in trash collection?? I think you need to read a book called “Victorian Values” to remind yourself why things like trash, sewers, and the like came to be municipal responsibilities in the first place.

  50. 50
    matoko_chan says:

    or reproductive choice on the other

    i’d relly appreciate an answer, E.D.
    Are the fetuses still slaves?

  51. 51
    va says:

    All you people talking about “efficiencies” and “practicality” are missing E.D.’s point: “there’s a principle at stake.”

    So I’d just like to add that insofar as there’s a principle at stake, the libertarian or “choice” principle is wrong. Also, not only is it not worth rioting over; it’s honestly uninteresting.

  52. 52
    General Stuck says:

    @BR:

    LOl, well, that is a great idea on paper. But I have my doubts folks would cut down on making trash in this country, and instead, rather than pay by the pound, donate it back to mother nature, by dumping the excess any place they could find without getting caught.

  53. 53
    John Bird says:

    Or, in other words, what R. Johnston said about partial duplication of routes.

  54. 54
    brantl says:

    Man, Kaine, you make the weakest-assed tea, and keep trying to serve it as gumbo. What, it this your vacation, and you’re just phoning it in?

    People here just took you apart, and you don’t seem to know it.

    A couple of them thought of things I didn’t think of, but not too many of them, and I thought of them within the first minute of reading your post.

    Take your ‘B’ game somewhere else, will you?

  55. 55
    trollhattan says:

    @Sly:

    Nice summary. To take things a bit further, our “theoretical” mobbed up waste hauler might not have a deep committment to following the, you know, rules. Hazardous waste? What’s that? Weight limits, emission limits and safety standards for trucks? Never hoid of ’em. Background checks for drivers? Yeah, I know his uncle. Not to mention, who owns the landfill the garbage is being hauled to?

    Sometimes the reason somebody’s a low bidder has nothing to do with “competitiveness.”

  56. 56
    oliver's Neck says:

    E.D.

    You are a captive of your ideology. Whether choice is or is not a “good” thing can be empirically studied both generally and for specific cases – and such studies have been done. I suggest you take the time to familiarize yourself with them.

  57. 57
    MobiusKlein says:

    @Comrade Javamanphil: Call the fire department on their asses.
    They’ll show up and make a mess of their house.

  58. 58
    SpotWeld says:

    Of course the simple point here is obvious.
    In the furor of getting choice to the consumer, you have signed up for an unregulated monopoly.

    Here’s what happens.

    People thoughout the community get to choose from 5 different haulers. There are a variety of options (recycling, daily pickup, grass clippings, bulky waste, package deals, etc..) And people get to have whatever they want. In competition the various companies cut the profit margins a bit to secure contracts.

    Then at least one company decides to back out. Somewhere in the fine print of that contract it says they only have to ensure service for the period of the contract.. not that they have to provide it.

    All of a sudden one or two companies buy up the contracts for the neighborhood. A few years down the line and the options that everyone wanted are gone. You still have to individually purchase your hauling contract. But yard waste pickup, yeah.. that’s extra. Want your TV taken away.. gotta pay for the special tag and schedule an appointment for between 8am and 3pm on a thrusday.

    This is exactly what happened with cable and phone.

    Home computers are not services, they are comsumer items with a shelf life and multiple points of purchase. I can vote with my feet if I don’t like the computer prices in town. I am locked geographically for my household services.

    The town was offfering the power of collective bargaining to get the best deal for everyone. Instead the town has apparently opted to turn that power over to companies that have no transparency and responcibility to coporate well-being over consumer satifaction.

  59. 59
    RalfW says:

    Well, ED, the thing is that if we follow your free-market a bit further, we get trash haulers competing on price and, hmmm, how to cut costs so that 1) they make a profit as pricing power drops and/or 2) undercut wildly to drive competitors under.

    How, indeed? Deregulation! And before we know it, by next Tuesday probably, trash is being dumped in every holler and ditch in rural America because free markets are better than landfills any day.

    Seriously, though, the bigger point really is:
    “This is how the American empire will end. With us rioting in the streets over the right to choose a trash collector, while the top 5% laugh all the way to the bank.”

    We got bigger fish to fry. Before we all fry due to green house gasses. But I’m a crazy liberal who believes scientists are not alarmists but actually cautious people who hate politicizing (otherwise they’d be, uhhh, politicians!).

  60. 60
    Duane says:

    @Mike G:

    This is what killed the deal in our township….. one of the local companies that wasnt going to get the contract, got some folks really riled up. They then took over and ground meeting to a halt. Thanks for nothing folks.

  61. 61
    superking says:

    There was a report I read a few years ago that said that after the mob collapsed in New York, several legitimate trash hauling companies started up in the city. As you can expect, the price for trash pickup dropped dramatically as the companies competed and as the mob was no longer artificially inflating the prices. But soon enough, efficiencies in scale became apparent the the companies started to consolidate. Eventually, one company finally took a dominant position and the others were either absorbed or stopped operating. At that point, the prices started to go back up and trash pick up now costs the same as it did under the mob.

    I can’t seem to find this story now, but I distinctly remember reading it.

  62. 62
    chopper says:

    wouldn’t make any sense where i live. in the city, the garbage truck takes 20 minutes to make it’s way down the block. if you made the mistake of making a turn before seeing it, you’re stuck for a while. skinny streets, lotsa skinny buildings.

    if there were 5 times the number of trucks, even if they were picking up less garbage each, the streets in my neighborhood would come to a complete stop.

    choice is good and all, but what people really want is their garbage taken away and taken away cheap. remove the municipal contract and have all manner of firms doing the job and townsfolk are going to go nuts when they find out they’re paying double for trash collection, either that or the absolute cheapest firm shows them exactly why they’re the cheapest of the bunch.

  63. 63
    Amir_Khalid says:

    The picture of James Gandolfini (in character as Tony Soprano, presumably) — is that intended as part of your comment, E.D.? Is it meant to imply that there is something gangsterish about the local government’s decision?

    All i see happening is that a local government has awarded a five-year trash-collection contract to one company and also instituted recycling. The one decision seems above-board, following as it did a competitive bidding process; presumably, if the contractor doesn’t perform the town can invoke penalty clauses in the contract. The other is an environmentally sound and usually uncontroversial decision, well, just about everywhere on Earth. Protesting these decisions as a first step on the slippery slope to tyranny is absurd and over the top.John Cole is quite right to say so.

  64. 64
    elm says:

    I’ve just had 5 companies’ garbage trucks + 5 recycling pickup trucks come down my little street this morning. Competition can go fuck itself.

  65. 65
    Ash Can says:

    Normally I don’t mind E.D.’s posts, and even like them. However, this one, for all the reasons already mentioned, is just spectacularly dumb.

  66. 66
    jrg says:

    “You can only buy Dell computers from now on” people would be unhappy. We want to be able to choose what kind of computer we buy – and not just because maybe we prefer Apple, but because we know that competition keeps innovation up and prices down.

    Yeah. This must be why my bill for cable and internet is down to only $150.00/month.

  67. 67
    kth says:

    @Duane: This, in parable form, is the entire story of the TEA party movement.

  68. 68
    Foxhunter says:

    That freedom of choice thing worked out great for my natural gas ‘provider’ here in Georgia.

    When Georgia deregulated the natural gas industry in 1998, we all got screwed. I lived in a home that only used natural gas for our furnace. Prior to 1998, in spring and summer months, we had a bill of $10.00 flat from Atlanta Gas Light for zero usage.

    Not long after deregulation, we had a shitload of choices for our ‘provider’ (read: bill collector). All of the sudden there are 30 providers, all ‘providing’ the same gas using AGL’s infrasctructure. My summer months of $10.00 charges for no usage evaportated. As of 2008, I was paying almost $40.00 per month for a ‘delivery fee’. Regardless of the amount of therms used – didn’t matter if it was zero of 2,000. In 2009, I moved into an all electric abode.

    So what do I think? That monopoly on gas providers was working out pretty well until Crazy Ass Zell Miller decided to let his buddies in on the con.

    I don’t mind one provider so long as there is oversight and fair rate adjustments to meet the needs of the people in a fair and equitable way. What I do mind is the increase in these fucked up phantom fees that pad the pockets of utilities and telcos.

  69. 69
    John Bird says:

    This also falls into the usual error demonstrated by many libertarians criticizing corrupt government contracts.

    That is, the nature of the contract is considered the source of the problem, instead of the process.

    As many have outlined here, a monopoly is a good idea in this case for a number of reasons.

    The complaint about corrupt contracts raises questions, instead, about competitive bidding processes for state contracts and whether they are necessarily open to corruption.

    That’s a different debate, and certainly one worth having.

    In fact, it’s the one that libertarians engage in when they’re being intellectually honest about these issues. The debate, practically, is over how to remedy problems when contracting. Hard-line libertarians will tell you that government contracts always suffer from information deficiencies between bidders due to collusion.

    I don’t think that’s the case, but that’s the debate to have over this issue, vs. the Tea Party shrieking about “trashcare”.

  70. 70
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    @MobiusKlein: I moved, thankfully. However, the firemen would come, have a little chat with said neighbor (Don’t do it again, nudge nudge. After all, his family has lived in this town for 4 generations and their parents went to school together) and then they’d swing by my place and tell me it would be fine, close my windows. It was a very small, very rural town. (This is extrapolated from an incident where I did in fact call the police on another neighbor who was threatening violence on his wife.) Small towns are highly overrated, imo.

  71. 71
    neill says:

    i love me some bright shiny deification of ‘competition’ in the morning.

    ..and all them garbage and recycling trucks rolling through the neighborhood all the time…

    oh, and pwned by atrios, suh.

  72. 72
    The Bobs says:

    competition will keep prices down and quality of service high

    How’s that working out for broadband service? We have the most expensive broadband in the industrialized world for lower quality connections. Not to mention that many potential customers are can’t afford it at all. The “competition” has figured out that the way to maximize profits is to provide expensive tiered service to only those customers that can pay inflated prices .

    The free market isn’t the ideal solution to everything. Many types of services are best provided by government. Ask that guy whose house burned down as the fire department watched.

  73. 73
    meander says:

    New York City’s trash is mostly handled by a government agency, the Department of Sanitation. My understanding is that this department was established to eliminate the mob’s influence in garbage collection, i.e., take the profit out of garbage and eliminate the various rackets that could be related to garbage, as well as improve the handling of the garbage (in a place like NYC, garbage is a major public health issue). In addition, centralizing the trash collection could reduce the number of trucks running around the over-crowded metropolis.

  74. 74
    Dave says:

    @Guster:

    The bible doesn’t say anything about recycling.

    Well… John 6:12 could be interpreted that way:

    “And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.””

    A stretch maybe…

  75. 75
    Zifnab says:

    @Foxhunter:

    So what do I think? That monopoly on gas providers was working out pretty well until Crazy Ass Zell Miller decided to let his buddies in on the con.

    The gas company wasn’t deregulated. The billing was deregulated. And the “choice” wasn’t really a choice because they all charged the same fee for the same service.

    Unfortunately, garbage collection functions about the same way. “Pick up your trash” isn’t the sort of service that gets heavily diversified. Either the garbage man does his job or he doesn’t. Beyond a few side line perks – curb side verses garage door pickup, for instance – it’s identical.

    I would love if I could buy electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority and get my garbage picked up by the North Dakota Trash Collection Agency and have all my tap water come from New York City. But those aren’t real options.

  76. 76
    MikeJ says:

    Something bad may happen somewhere. We could punish the people who do bad, or we could increase oversight to stop it, or we could say fuck it, we’re too stupid to manage garbage collection, let’s just wallow in our filth.

    Please, please, please won’t you idiots go Galt already? Just get the fuck away from us.

  77. 77
    russell says:

    Oddly enough, a buddy of mine actually used to own a trash business in a medium sized city in Western MA.

    Companies had to sign up for a certain quality of service level in order to play, beyond that everyone could pick whoever they wanted to have their trash hauled by. There were three or four companies active in the town when my friend was in the business.

    After a couple of years, Waste Management decided they wanted to whole pie. They aggressively undercut the locals on price. My buddy saw the handwriting on the wall and sold out.

    So, monopoly, with or without government.

    Regarding the mafia, I can assure you that government contracts is not what gave them a stranglehold on trash hauling.

    It was the guns.

  78. 78
    Derelict Dog says:

    An anecdote:
    I heard of a small town that decided to privatize their garbage service. Essentially, they felt that the cost of the staff and vehicles was too high and that a private contractor could do the job cheaper and better.
    Faced with the loss of their jobs – or of being forced to leave an employer they liked to work for the low bidder – the garbage crew analyzed the city’s costs. Knowing the system better than anybody else, they submitted a “bid” (actually a proposal in the form of a bid) on behalf of the city’s garbage system.
    They won the bid.
    It seems that the “inherent government inefficiency” was less than the profit motive of the private contractors. The city save money with a more efficient employee-controlled operation and everyone kept their jobs.
    Win-Win.

  79. 79

    Now, in trash collection you probably won’t see too much innovation, but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high. If you don’t like the people picking up your trash, or the containers they provide, or the driver is rude, or whatever – you can switch.

    Jeebus, Kain. Move to rural Tennessee and you can live your Libertarian free market wet dream. Get out of the city, dude. You assume everything is the way it is in your town?

    If you’ve ever lived in a rural area, you’d have seen how the “free hand of the market” dictates stuff like trash collection. Not the best system.

    When I lived in rural Kentucky you could, a) deal with your trash yourself, either burn it in your backyard or haul if off to the county dump; b) contract with one of a number of private trash collection companies whom you pay each month.

    You know what a lot of people did? They decided to deal with the trash themselves. That meant for most of them burning it in their backyard. Wow how NOT a good way to deal with trash.

    You know what a lot of other folks did? They dumped their trash by the side of the road, in gullies by streams, in sink holes. Hell my husband’s family grew up taking their trash to the sinkhole every month. Where does it go? Who knows! Who cares! It’s gone.

    Jeebus. If the county doesn’t take care of it people take care of it themselves and not always in a manner good for the COMMONS yes that scary word, and by commons I mean the shit we all share: soil, air and water.

    I live in the city now and let me say that Kain’s idea is just the most fucking retarded thing I’ve ever read. Let me say the very LAST thing I want trundling up my residential street are half a dozen different companies’ trash trucks on different days of the week. It’s bad enough dealing with the noise, smell and traffic issues from ONE company on TRASH DAY — and then the PRIVATE COMPANIES that commercial businesses contract with. Imagine if every day were trash day because 10 different companies are now operating instead of one.

    I don’t know how it works anywhere else but we do not have city trash. It’s all done by a private company, who bid out for the contract on a (supposedly) competitive basis. Competition is built into the system already.

  80. 80
    MikeBoyScout says:

    At least when Rush plays it, it sounds good.

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
    You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
    I will choose a path that’s clear
    I will choose freewill.

    :-D

  81. 81
    sunsin says:

    @Judas Escargot: How is it ‘conservative’ to find yet another way to funnel taxpayer money into private business profits???

    It’s conservative because all that conservatism is these days is a loose collection of excuses for the rich robbing the poor. Conservatives aren’t the guardians of any principle. They’re hired mouth-whores whose mission is to destroy the fabric of society in pursuit of the short-term interests of their masters.

  82. 82
    John Bird says:

    To me, the whole debate demonstrates one thing politically:

    The “less government” movement in this country has metamorphosed fully into an anti-government movement.

    It’s no longer about the inefficiency of government. When an efficient solution is discovered to a problem, even in a muncipality, it’s THEN put to a smell test – is it big gub’mint? Will the Palinites in Peoria get behind it? Does it Support The Troops – because then it’s exempt. And so on.

    That’s a ridiculous way to make policy that will bankrupt us all in short order. People are pressuring politicians to pass over working solutions because they wouldn’t go well on a PAC press release.

  83. 83
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    having choice is a good thing

    Having choice is a good thing on the beer aisle. As far as trash is concerned, at least where I live, no, no, no, no, and no.

    I don’t want fifty fucking fliers a week from garbage services. I don’t want TV commercials comparing and contrasting the endpoints of my banana peels. I don’t want to take forty hours a year contemplating the sixty tiers of service from eighty different companies before I finally decide on the right one for me. I don’t want to hire a whole new government bureaucracy to keep an eye on the eighty different companies to make sure none of them are dumping garbage into the bay when nobody is looking. I don’t want the trash business to turn into the credit card business. No, no, no, no, and no.

    When it comes to beer, hurray for competition. When it comes to trash, give me one entity to deal with, please.

  84. 84
    JGabriel says:

    E.D Kain:

    Once the government has granted a monopoly, however, you’re stuck.

    Then don’t grant a business monopoly — local governments should do it themselves, probably at the county level, though I’m open to arguments that it’s best handled at the state or municipal levels. Trash collection is simply too easy to monopolize and too disruptive for competition.

    By disruptive, I mean that multiple trash companies working the same territory create more noise (multiple companies running trucks on the same route) and more pollution (ditto).

    Furthermore, between two or three competing companies, the one with the most money behind it can simply take losses and undercharge their competitors until they have all the business, or near enough as makes any competition. Most people will go with the cheapest trash collection; it’s not a business with a lot of face to face customer interaction. Then they can raise rates again.

    The best solution for trash collection is for municipalities to run their own trash collection services rather than subcontract to a business. That way there’s a central bureaucracy to contact with complaints, and voter accountability for poor service.

    This would be obvious if people could get past free market blinders inculcated over the past 30 years.

    .

  85. 85
    El Cruzado says:

    So if I don’t like how the US Army is defending my freedoms, can I call for free market competition?

    It is after all a very inefficient government-granted monopoly. I’m sure the market can do better.

  86. 86
    Zach says:

    Now, in trash collection you probably won’t see too much innovation, but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high. If you don’t like the people picking up your trash, or the containers they provide, or the driver is rude, or whatever – you can switch.

    The government awarded a contract to the highest bidder. This is a competitive process. Someone else can/will buy TrashCo Inc and run it more efficiently if that is possible or someone else in an adjacent community will place a bid to expand their services. There are still free-market mechanisms at work even in a government contracting situation. And there are public benefits that cannot be achieved in a highly regulated, privatized system (for public and environmental health reasons, trash collection must be tightly regulated). For one, the cost of ensuring that safety and sanitation standards are met is now a fraction of what it was before. The municipality’s legal system is unburdened by whatever legal turf wars existed between competing interests.

    And, a monopoly serving only one buyer doesn’t have the same leverage as one serving many customers. The single customer, a city, can strongarm TrashCo Inc into lowering its rates if the city represents a large enough chunk of TrashCo’s revenue.

    Your last argument is that public works monopolies breed corruption. See also: public works are always less efficient than their private counterparts. Neither of these is universally true (most public works are not mob fronts; many public organizations such as the VHA are more efficient than their private counterparts).

    As you might expect, all of this stuff was debated by the town council… here’s the minutes from one relavent meeting – http://www.fh.az.gov/Data/Site.....01309M.pdf – the councilmembers want to reduce wear and tear on the roads and air pollution from trucks as well as reducing landfill usage with recycling. Seems like reasonable goals that are apparently difficult to achieve without a single-hauler system.

  87. 87
    trollhattan says:

    @Foxhunter:

    Holy cow, that’s absurd. A “happy charge” for not running your furnace during the Atlanta summer. Too bad you can’t tell them to cancel you in spring and sign back up in fall.

    We have publicly owned electricity and God-fearin’ investor-owned natural gas (PG&E) but there’s still a somewhat active state PUC doing some regulatin’ so we, amazingly, pay only for what we use (same deal with no heat half the year, but we also have gas hot water and cook range). Neighboring counties have PG&E for electricity as well, and pay considerably more for that sweet private juice than we do. When our utility approached neighboring Yolo county about annexation and switching to them, PG&E spent specacular sums to defeat it in the polls, fearing a tidal wave of communities opting out of the free market freedom. PG&E prevailed, ensuring higher electricity bills for decades to come. They also sponsored a statewide initiative last summer to try and kill of further annexation efforts, but lost their trowsers. Damn hippies sussed them out.

    After Enron, partial statewide electricity deregulation and the resulting orchestrated rolling blackouts, we’ve experienced the magic of the marketplace firsthand. No thanks.

  88. 88
    Joel says:

    Practically, in this case, choice is bad.

    Opening the market to multiple collection services means that there will be ingrained inefficiencies (in the real world) from having competing trash collectors covering the same turf. That will cause prices to go up, not down.

    What you want in a service like trash collection is efficiency. Having a “monopoly” in the local sense, works.

  89. 89
    John Bird says:

    @Dave:

    The Roman Catholic Church considers that verse to be an identification of “wasting food” as a sin, which in turn is part of the Scriptural support the Church provides for its stance demanding green practices from individuals, governments, and companies.

    Good catch.

  90. 90
    LT says:

    So is this an ideological all or nothing for you? All the way to the level of trash pickup? Should we have competition for firefighters, too? Cops? (And if enough people don’t like it – they can force the city to get another contractor, can’t they.)

  91. 91
    Zifnab says:

    @The Bobs: Hey, and don’t forget that a not-insignificant chunk of our broadband costs go to corporate lawyers and lobbyists that squelch every attempt at municipal Wi-Fi or other forms of city wide coverage.

    I can’t name all the cities that have tried to run their own fiber lines, broadcast their own free internet signals, or otherwise distribute the service at a lower-than-AT&T price and been squelched by lawsuits and lobbyist strong arming. But Austin, Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, Minnesota, San Diego, and Denver come to mind.

  92. 92
    El Tiburon says:

    If the government came in and said “You can only buy Dell computers from now on” people would be unhappy.

    God how I hate these type of analogies. Yeah, because trash collection is so much like buying a computer. So very, very stupid.

    Not everything needs to be a profit generator. Trash collection is one of those things.

  93. 93
    John Bird says:

    @El Cruzado:

    The thing is, the market has “done better”, in the sense that public officials and private VIPs don’t rely on the Army anymore for protection in foreign locales.

    They rely on GUESS WHOOOOOOOOOO . . .

  94. 94
    sunsin says:

    @Southern Beale: Let me say the very LAST thing I want trundling up my residential street are half a dozen different companies’ trash trucks on different days of the week.

    In Taipei a few decades ago, similar witless “free-market” thinking saw no less than six bus companies competing in the public transit business. The struggles over whose bus stop or signs would go where were apparently epic.

    Finally, the bus drivers started racing each other to the mark when they saw passengers waiting. Sometimes they got too enthusiastic, and drove right into their client base. After a number of people had been killed or injured, the government decided to say screw it to private enterprise and forced the companies to consolidate.

  95. 95
    MikeJ says:

    Countdown to the ED post about groupthink and how nobody here is as clever as he.

  96. 96
    JGabriel says:

    @JGabriel:

    … near enough as makes any competition.

    Should be:

    … near enough as makes any competition profitless.

    Sorry for the typo.

  97. 97
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Competition does not always reduce costs. It only reduces cost when innovation is the primary factor in determining the cost of the product. In other cases, a monopoly is actually more efficient. Since corporate monopolies are bad, the best way to handle this is to have the only legal monopoly, the government, control the product/service and require it to be as efficient as possible, which is done in this case by picking the best from multiple submitted contracts.

  98. 98
    Foxhunter says:

    @Zifnab: I respectfully disagree. How do you dereg billing? And the fees? They are not the same across the board. They varied wildly for zero therm delivery (access), and in the banded rates above certain usage. Not to mention the three card monte that all of the providers play with ‘lock ins’, no rate change guarantees, etc.

    I was just a few levels above dimwit, so I never played the futures market on the commodity, but the marketing comanies play the uncertain future angle to get folks to lock into rates that ended up dropping 30 or 40% in their 12 month contract.

    The whole thing is bullshit. I don’t need multiple marketers selling me a product that was done fairly and equitably from a sole provider; namely, AGL. The PSC did a decent enough job protecting us against rate hikes and unexpected service charges on our bills. When the industry was deregulated, and I’ll skip debate on the semantics of this phrase, all of those protections eroded and the silly provider fees progressively went through the roof. I have no idea what they are today.

  99. 99
    Coastsider says:

    I think the reason for the outrage isn’t lack of competition but that they decided to “begin a curbside recycling program“. Everyone’s bent out of shape because they can’t just dump everything in one bag – they actually have to do some work – and its common knowledge that recycling turns you into a hippie. Its too bad these people don’t understand the economics of running a business.
    For a hauler, mandatory recycling is great because it brings in revenue, and they don’t have to pay to have someone else do the sorting. Monthly bills don’t cut it when tipping fees are going up, fuel prices are high and a company has to buy new trucks to collect recyclables. Recycling only works for a hauler financially when it gets enough volume – most residential scrap is low value plastics and metal.
    But these people are delusional if they think there’s going to be a mad rush of companies wanting to split the trash collection business in a town of 25k. All you’d get is a bunch of guys in pickup trucks driving around town picking up trash and dumping it by the highway. Maybe they’d like that in AZ.

  100. 100
    AnotherBruce says:

    This is so fucking idiotic I don’t know where to begin.

    Yeah let’s have some free choice in which fire fighting companies we hire. We need some competition for the US armed forces as well. Not just “contractors” real fucking mercenaries. Why should I depend on a municipal police department? I’m sure private security guards can handle everything.

    I wish you free market ratfuckers would just move to Somalia, rather than trying to bring Somalia to the U.S.A.

  101. 101
    Jim Pharo says:

    This post conflates “competition” with “leads to better outcomes.” History has shown this is wrong over and over. Competition can be a useful tool, but it’s not a value in and of itself.

    And what is a company manager supposed to do, given that she’s got to show more revenues/lower costs year after year after year? Charge more? Do a worse job? Just how much innovation do you think these companies achieve?

  102. 102
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    @El Tiburon: God how I hate these type of analogies. Yeah, because trash collection is so much like buying a computer.

    Agreed. It seems the computer analogy is a libertarian go-to argument; I got in a scrap with one guy over health care and he hauled out this same thing, arguing that people’s having access to Macintoshes and solid public health were equivalent.

  103. 103
    trollhattan says:

    @El Cruzado:

    I’d make a Blackwater/Xe joke here but I’m afraid it’s too close to reality to be funny. They benefit from the best military training the world has ever known, paid for by us, by hiring ex-mil guys to go do military contract work, paid for (handsomely) by us. Very entrepreneurial of them.

  104. 104
    goblue72 says:

    @John Bird: Reminds me why I skipped my 20th year HS reunion this year – way too afraid I’d get into a fist-fight with one of the inbred morons I went to school with who’ve turned into hardcore Palinites.

  105. 105
    El Tiburon says:

    Now, in trash collection you probably won’t see too much innovation, but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high.

    Add this quote to the stupid list. There is no guarantee that either will happen.

    It is not too difficult: Purchase or lease a bunch of big fucking trucks, hire some people to drive them, and come pick up the goddamn trash. Why do you need a CEO and a marketing department for that? You have a completely built-in market.

    The city can provide this service cheaper than anyone. Unless, of course, the private entity only hires part-timers at minimum wage with no benefits. But the cost will remain high to pay for CEO and management salaries.

    What a stupid argument, ED.

    You can take the conservative out off of the hayseed truck, but you can’t take the stupid conservative ideas off of the hayseed.

  106. 106

    And let me dare utter the words that are anathema to the Libertarian ear: sometimes you can have too much choice.

    This reminds of the whole fucking healthcare debate. There’s some stuff I don’t want to have to choose. For example, the very last thing I want to muddle through is a choice of various health insurance plans. As I wrote last year, it sounds like one huge fucking hassle to me.

    I don’t want to choose through a myriad of health insurance plans. I want to be able to go to my doctor of choice when I need to and not get reamed through the wallet in the process. That is what I want.

    I don’t want to choose among a bunch of different trash companies. Jeebus my life is complicated and busy enough. I want to put my trash out on the street once a week and have someone come and get it and know that it is being dealt with in a reasonably environmentally responsible manner.

    Is that so hard to understand? Does that make me a bad person? Un-American? Un-patriotic?

    Cripes the “choice” fetish, it makes me nuts. Not everything is breakfast cereal or laundry detergent.

  107. 107
    MattR says:

    @sunsin:

    In Taipei a few decades ago, similar witless “free-market” thinking saw no less than six bus companies competing in the public transit business. The struggles over whose bus stop or signs would go where were apparently epic.
    __
    Finally, the bus drivers started racing each other to the mark when they saw passengers waiting. Sometimes they got too enthusiastic, and drove right into their client base. After a number of people had been killed or injured, the government decided to say screw it to private enterprise and forced the companies to consolidate.

    This actually still occurs to a certain degree in Hoboken and some other spots outside of NYC.

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Competition does not always reduce costs. It only reduces cost when innovation is the primary factor in determining the cost of the product. In other cases, a monopoly is actually more efficient. Since corporate monopolies are bad, the best way to handle this is to have the only legal monopoly, the government, control the product/service and require it to be as efficient as possible, which is done in this case by picking the best from multiple submitted contracts.

    This. There are times when economies of scale mean that a monopoly (or oligopoly) are more efficient. The flip side of that is that those situations are also the ones where government regulation is most needed. But since conservatives/libertarians reject the first statement, there is no way to convince them of the second.

  108. 108
    Stogs says:

    Sorry, I’ll admit I didn’t read every single comment here.

    I live in a southern suburb of Denver, in Tancredo’s old district to be exact. Needless to say this is TeaBagger heaven here. Our garbage service is privatized. Being a left coaster Green Party supporter, when we moved here, I was completely bent out of shape over this prospect. Who privatizes garbage? Stooooopid.

    But, I gotta tell ya, it ain’t bad. First, trucks pickup all on the same day. No matter what company or level of service you purchase, it is all done on the same day so that notion that you have trucks omnipresent is not a reality here. Second, the level of service is much higher than I experienced on the coast. For example, my time in Sacramento was poxed by their practice of piling refuse in gigantic mounds right there on the street so that big tracters can swoop in and shovel it up. Weirdest goddam practice I’ve ever seen. Everyday, cars are scratched and bent by these dumbass tracters. And the rest of the week we have to live with piles of branches and leaves and grass clippings heaped knee high every 30 feet.

    Anyway, in the 5 years we’ve been here I’ve forgotten to move my trash out to the curb a handfull of times. In each case the driver has come to our door, asked if we had product and took the cans from our garage himself. Each time he was very polite and efficient. Additionally, we’ve utilized the company for appliance removal and other large items for a very nominal fee. Services I would never have thought to ask my “trashguy” to do in the past.

    Finally, and here is where it pains me, but we recently had a large company, Waste Management, move into the territory. They forced the other carriers to cut their prices. I now get trash service for $40 a quarter down from $60. Either case I would say it is decent return on investment.

    So the privatization of garbage collection so far works very well for the consumer where I live and this is coming from a guy that was very much against the notion when I moved here.

    I have no idea how wages and work environment/safety compare between this model and the others. I suspect it is like any other job in this pay range (a range in which I worked in most of my adult life until recently) and that it has no job security with weak benefits. I doubt these workers are in a union. I would definately pay more for services in order to support union wages. But I am definately in the minority here in that respect. TeaBaggers refuse to pay for anything. They use the shit out of our library for meetings and gatherings, but everytime there is a funding bond for the library system on the ballot it gets voted down. Same for schools. And so on. Who does that? Asshats do that.

  109. 109
    Culture of Truth says:

    the mob goes away under a garbage free-for-all?

    However, there are some private bus services here and they do fill a need.

  110. 110
    Zifnab says:

    @Foxhunter: The original agency determined it could sell gas at $10 and sustain itself. The new billers discovered they could charge $40 for the same service, so long as no one else undercut them.

    Unless the price of gas quadrupled, the only thing that has really changed – from the consumer standpoint – is the guy on the other end of the telephone telling you that your bill is due. It’s still the same gas. The games they play to make the gas look cheaper don’t matter, because anyone you buy from is overcharging compared to the original rate.

    The only thing that got deregulated was the price the companies could charge for the service.

  111. 111
    Hogan says:

    Sometimes I hate choice. Especially when I’m standing in the cereal aisle.

  112. 112
    MTiffany says:

    And here comes the evil enviroweenies and soshulists with their “think about the environment” and “think about our collective dependence on foreign oil.”

    Bear with me. Let’s say your town allows each resident to choose the garbage disposal company that services their house. Let’s also say that there are five competing companies, and also that on each block there are only five houses. Further, let’s say that each house on each block has chosen a different garbage disposal company, so that the first house on every block has chosen company A, the second house on each block has chosen company B, house three has company C, house four has company D, and house five has company E. If each garbage truck has a fuel efficiency of, say, one mile to the gallon, and each block is one mile long, then rather than one garbage company using one gallon of gasoline to collect garbage from five houses on each block, there would be five companies using five gallons of gasoline to do the same job.

    Gasoline, and the petroleum from which it comes, is a non-renewable resource. In this scenario five times as much gasoline would be used by five competing companies as would be used by one company granted a contract monopoly. There are hidden costs to society beyond the upfront monetary outlays, like depletion of non-renewable resources.

  113. 113
    Foxhunter says:

    @El Tiburon:

    The city can provide this service cheaper than anyone.

    I work in Dekalb County, Georgia. Decatur, Dunwoody, parts of Stone Mountain, etc.

    Our santiation and water services are provided by the county and they do a fair enough job. Sanitation rates are $34.00 per quarter.

    I live in Henry County. Privatized sanitation. Quarterly charge? $48.00 per quarter for shittier service. It was cheaper, but everytime an entreprenuer decides to compete or gets fairly ripe for a sellout, Waste Industries or BFA swoop in and buy said company.

    Net effect? Rates begin to trickle up (we *just* received a new fuel surcharge last month. WTF) and service shrinks. If they can’t get your trash up via their cherrypicker trucks, they will leave it on your curb. So no collapsed boxes on the side of the road for pickup and no overflow trashbags from the big birthday party you had over the weekend, etc.

    In this case, GOVT FTW and private sector fail.

  114. 114
    MikeBoyScout says:

    E.D., if you have not figured it out from the comments or the greater blogosphere’s response to your post . . . you really need to toss your copy of Free to Choose: A Personal Statement in to the publicly operated or privately operated trash disposal system of your choice.

  115. 115
    Tim says:

    @Greenhouse Guy:

    meet our mayor

    Why the hell is the captain of the Central High School debate team running your City Council meetings?

  116. 116
    J says:

    Agree with most of the above comments (cf. Atrios:http://www.eschatonblog.com/20.....-such.html), and have only one thing to add.

    If ‘choice’ were to have a chance of working in this area, it would only with the aid of a strong dose of–get ready for it–regulation. The residents would have to be legally obliged to subscribe to a collection service (or prove that they were ‘dealing with’ their own garbage in a way that didn’t infringe on the rights of other residents, harm the environment, create hazards etc.). The standards that the private trash haulers have to meet would have to be specified by law. There would need to be inspections and enforcement mechanisms and grievance procedures people in charge of them. Those too poor to pay would need some kind of public subvention. There would have to be a way of determining who they were, and people to do it. Apart from almost certainly being a net economic disaster for the (dread word) community, it’s hard to see how the new arrangement would enhance human freedom; indeed, if I may be permitted to vent, it’s hard for me to see how this whole kerfluffle doesn’t just show that the conception of ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’ which sees state imposed obligations to contribute to minimal and indispensable public goods (and the state provision of same) as a grave threat of freedom and liberty is completely cretinous.

    (And yes, I do see a resemblance to health care)

  117. 117
    MikeJ says:

    Speaking of large city owned vehicles, I’ve got a stupid, very OT, question: why don’t they put (detachable) snowplows on the front of at least some city buses? For places that don’t get much snow it saves on buying a huge fleet of snow removal trucks that get used once a year, it ensures that the major routes that buses use get cleared, and oh yeah, the buses can get through. I’m sure there must be a good reason why this isn’t done. I’m sure it’s due to lack of jitneys.

  118. 118
    scav says:

    “Freedom of choice is something near and dear to most Americans of every political stripe.” so why do we adopt monopolist and exclusive rights of sexual congress to single individuals? Surely we’d get better, more cost effective and innovative whoopie if dumped the whole monogamy burdens.

  119. 119
    MTiffany says:

    @AnotherBruce:

    I wish you free market ratfuckers would just move to Somalia, rather than trying to bring Somalia to the U.S.A.

    Or you could start your own for-profit mercenary paramilitary, like Eric Prince did for the Republicans with Blackwater, or Xe, or whatever the hell the Republican paramilitary is calling itself these days.

    Heh. Somalia, indeed.

  120. 120
    The Bobs says:

    @Zifnab:

    Right you are Zifnab. Plus, we wouldn’t have AT&T and Verizon trying to take control of content either.

  121. 121
    Catsy says:

    The arguments that are specific to trash collection are persuasive enough to render privatizing trash collection a terrible idea. But generally speaking, this is part of one of the fundamental divides between conservatives and liberals.

    Basic services used by almost everyone should almost always be socialized–whether that be at the federal, state, or local levels. Emergency services, utilities like water and power, basic internet access, trash and recycling, health care, infrastructure maintenance–things like this need to be consistent, dependable, and entirely removed from profit-driven decision-making. Leave capitalism for the luxuries and discretionary spending.

    The teabaggers keep whining about how the Democrats want to turn America into a socialist country. We should be so lucky.

  122. 122
    MTiffany says:

    @scav: My husbands and wives so wanna give you oral right now.

  123. 123
    Steve says:

    @sunsin:

    In Taipei a few decades ago, similar witless “free-market” thinking saw no less than six bus companies competing in the public transit business. The struggles over whose bus stop or signs would go where were apparently epic.

    The NYC subway system started out as competition between two private subway companies. This is why some subway lines are numbered and others are lettered. This is also why some parts of the city are serviced by two parallel subway lines and some parts are not serviced by any.

  124. 124
    Calouste says:

    @MikeJ:

    I suggest we let him know what the “free market” thinks of his posts and not post any comments.

  125. 125
    FlipYrWhig says:

    If the government came in and said “You can only buy Dell computers from now on” people would be unhappy. We want to be able to choose what kind of computer we buy

    Don’t governments do all kinds of things like this all the time? I am using a Dell computer right now because I am a public employee and the agency contracted with Dell to get a deal. Governments buy buses, trucks, and subway cars by negotiating with vendors. I have never heard someone say “How dare the government force me to ride in a Grumman bus! Socia1ism!” Well, it’s the fucking bus the government decided to buy. Suck it up and climb aboard, bitch.

  126. 126
    jacy says:

    @Catsy:

    Basic services used by almost everyone should almost always be socialized—whether that be at the federal, state, or local levels. Emergency services, utilities like water and power, basic internet access, trash and recycling, health care, infrastructure maintenance—things like this need to be consistent, dependable, and entirely removed from profit-driven decision-making. Leave capitalism for the luxuries and discretionary spending.

    Exactly. It’s the for-profit angle that means somebody is going to get screwed. It’s human nature. Sure, there’s corruption in not-for-profit enterprises, but at least it’s not the point of those enterprises.

    ETA: Right-wingers actually don’t care about soshulism as long as they’re the only ones who benefit from it. They just don’t want anyone “undeserving” (read undesirable) to be a beneficiary.

  127. 127
    GWPDA says:

    The fact that Fountain Hills is filled with lunatics only comes as a surprise to people outside of Fountain Hills. Joe Arpaio has a nice house there.

    Just a reminder – it’s not Phoenix. At all. ‘Enkew.

  128. 128

    @Hogan:

    This will date me but did anyone see that movie with Robin Williams from way way back, “Moscow On The Hudson”? There’s a scene where Williams, who has just escaped from the Soviet Union and is living in New York, is told by an American friend to go to the store to buy coffee. He breaks down in tears of frustration in the coffee aisle because there’s too much to choose from.

    I went to the Soviet Union back in the early ’80s. I remember going to stores, it was hilarious. There was the Tuna Fish Store. The store sold one thing: cans of tuna fish. The same can, identical, lining the shelves. It was The People’s Tuna. Then you’d go to another store, it was The Champagne Store. Just one bottle, one brand, one size. And on and on. It was like that everywhere.

    Obviously not a working model for any consumer. When people say America is headed toward Communism I want to bust a gut, remembering the Tuna Fish Store. We are miles away from that scenario.

    Yes, choice is great on the beer aisle. Choice is great when it comes to computers. CHoice is not great on everything.

    People have mentioned police departments. In Nashville we have Metro cops. We have private security firms. And then we have this weird in-between: we have Vanderbilt University police, who patrol not just the campus but the area around the campus and then miles away where they have a large health clinic. These yahoos were giving tickets to motorists in areas well beyond their jurisdiction. Welcome to the police state. It’s crazy.

  129. 129
    ChrisNYC says:

    I am sooo sick of these types of posts. It’s always the same script: “I was thinking about industry X (about which I know nothing) and its interaction with government (not any government particularly, mind you, just my idea of government, which I will make up). So, I did this fun thought experiment where I applied the simple rules I learned in microeconomics 101 and voila — turns out govt is bad and, by the way, why does the left want to destroy freedom?”

    Not so much directed at ED — though he’s had his share of these type meditations. McMegan — she pumps out one nearly every week. It’s a plague on the internet.

  130. 130
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    @J:

    If ‘choice’ were to have a chance of working in this area, it would only with the aid of a strong dose of—get ready for it—regulation.

    This is the most important point. If all of a sudden there are a dozen garbage companies in your home town you’re going to have to create a bureaucracy to keep an eye on them. Because, while I realize that a private company would never in a million years dream of dumping garbage wherever they felt like it as a cost saving measure, you need some regulators looking for this just in case.

  131. 131
    MoXmas says:

    Back to the “lower prices / higher quality” thing. In my business (marketing), the whole reason to offer higher quality is to CHARGE HIGHER PRICES. If all you’re offering is a commodity play, then higher quality of product / service (as opposed to predictability) is absolutely the first thing that goes out the window.

    It isn’t wrong, and I guess I can imagine lower prices and higher quality being possible in theory. But I have never seen it in practice. Supply chain quality leading to lower prices for consumers is not in any way the same thing as higher quality products of services being sold.

    I mean, be serious. It’s quite annoying to see a theory espoused that holds virtually no real-world awareness or value.

  132. 132
    MTiffany says:

    @ChrisNYC: Yeah, but at least here, ED has to back his shit up. McMegan, not so much…

  133. 133
    dcdan says:

    Some work is naturally driven towards monopolies. that often occurs when building a huge network is required.

    Telecoms had to start that way. Utilities. Postal Services (How many firms do you think want to walk to every house in Alaska everyday, and pay the labor costs — for nickles and dimes). See a connection there? Who wants 5 different power lines running to their house so we can switch between providers?

    Trash is another. Even if you left it to the market, one firm would gain an edge — and push others out. You see this in cable providers now.

    Trash collection should be managed by cities/towns, ect… Do it yourself or hire someone, if there are complaints — dump them! Try something else.

    But, don’t have 5 different companies leap-frogging each other down the street to pick up trash every fifth house. It’s silly, and a traffic/environmental nightmares.

    Plus, allowing elected reps control over managing it — should help avoid problems/add accountability. Or, we’ll find a lot of illegal dumping. I promise you, cause it’d save a lot of money.

  134. 134
    trollhattan says:

    @MikeJ:

    Not stupid, but it ignores the obvious: Just Call Mister Plow!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVWdf1Ky2bI

  135. 135
    MikeJ says:

    @MTiffany:

    Yeah, but at least here, ED has to back his shit up.

    No, here people in the comments will point out that he’s wrong. He won’t actually answer and I’m not holding my breath for a post that explains his nonsensical view with any better argument than “government bad.”

  136. 136
    Lefty Lefty says:

    Just want to chime in with my own “ED Kain is a dumbass.”

    Later!

  137. 137
    Ailuridae says:

    This is some pretty classic and horrible glibertarian hand-waving and a couple people have already reference Atrios take down that pretty clearly ends the discussion. This post is (yes I am going to write it) McMegan worthy.

    An area wear Atrios leaves out an external cost is alley trash collection in cities such as Chicago. The wear and tear on alleys from once weekly or twice weekly trash collection is sizable. Typical alley traffic is residents in much lighter cars driving through at a fixed slow speed after turning in or out of their garage or lot. A trash pick-up introduces a completely different kind of traffic. A much heavier vehicle which provides added wear and tear on the alley that is also continuously stopping and starting every 35 feet. Quadrupling or even quintupling the amount of such trips in a given wee causes an added cost of more frequent re-paving and road construction. That stuff is incredibly expensive.

    So while having five competitors in an area may (and I emphasize may) cause a drop in up front costs to the consumer it would assuredly add increase costs in many areas (again read atrios’ post as well) to those same consumers as tax payers. And, this, is exactly the libertarian gambit on “solving” nearly any policy issue and why their ideas need to be fully rebuked at every turn. Their ideas put an added burden on the government to provide infrastructure for the competition they crave while then bemoaning the need to find tax revenue to fund that infrastructure.

  138. 138
    suzanne says:

    You DO have a choice about who picks up your trash. Don’t like who the city picks? Fine. Hire someone else. But you don’t get out of paying for your portion of what is essentially a part of the public health.

  139. 139
    Auguste says:

    Honestly, this post is indefensible.

    ETA: The McMegan comparison is perfectly on point. This is nothing more than free-market-based woo. 1. Competition. 2. ??? 3. Profit! Except that #2 is “inhabit alternate reality.”

  140. 140
    scarshapedstar says:

    If I have to choose between the Nazi Trash Mafia driving the Obamacare truck once a week, versus 10 different flavors of Galt Waste Management tearing up the streets, I WILL LET HITLER AND TONY SOPRANO PICK UP MY TRASH.

    Next issue. Jesus.

  141. 141
    ino shinola says:

    Evidence please, Mr. Kain.

    Why are several companies with overpaid upper management more efficient than a single provider? Why isn’t it more efficient yet for the city to buy its own trucks and do the job itself?

    The idea that “choice” will automatically produce better service and lower costs in everyday services has been thoroughly discredited.

    Here in Nebraska most of the state is sparsely populated, some counties less than 1/square mile. We have very few heavy industrial electric consumers. With low demand and a huge electric grid with few users, our electric rates should be exorbitant. Instead, thanks to our New Deal Favorite Son Senator George Norris and a 100% publicly-owned system, our rates are among the lowest in the nation.

    A local co-operatively owned phone company has wired its entire network with fiber optics, I’m stuck with Qwest and can’t even get DSL.

    CEO salaries have to come from somewhere.

    Again. Evidence, please.

  142. 142
    ET says:

    Why do we need a choice in every service?

    Seriously, if I had to go shop around for garbage pick up God knows who long it would have been before I made a choice. Then once I made the choice the chances of me change that were slim unless forced to. Then I would have to do it all over again. And I consider myself a responsible citizen.

    For an issue that affects everyone on the block, street, walk home to have things looking ok and sanitary, everyone would have to have a high level of good neighborliness. My response to that is good luck. All neighbors have those house that would let the trash pile up because they are too lazy then add to the fact that trash collection would be another bill to pay (or not) and you may end up compounding the problem. I have a co-worker who has lived in her house just about 1 year and has already had to find another trash collector. I imaging that it is possible that she will have to do this at least once or twice more.

    For me trash collection is like police and fire protection.

  143. 143
    Mike says:

    but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high
    Sure. Like phone service, cable tv, internet, bullshit utility scammers, parking meters (Chicago thing now, but coming soon to a town near you), etc.

  144. 144
    fasteddie9318 says:

    ED, you keep using that word, “monopoly.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

  145. 145
    drc says:

    Garbage trucks cause more damage to residential streets than anything else. A city in the Twin Cities suburbs did a study that stated that limiting garbage collection to one garbage and one recycling truck per week on a street cut street repair/repave expenses by over 20%.

  146. 146
    Ailuridae says:

    @drc:

    I was looking for that study ….

  147. 147
    fasteddie9318 says:

    Hey, what if I want to negotiate my garbage and curbside recycling deals separately? Who is the government to tell me they have to be lumped together? If they grant one company a monopoly over all the refuse collection at my house, the ramifications for the free market cannot be understated. And once I’ve won the freedom to separate my recycling collection from garbage collection, I plan on negotiating separate deals with the collections companies over each type of recyclable. I won’t rest until there are 8 trucks coming to my house per day, 6 days a week! Efficiency shall be mine!

  148. 148
    Mike says:

    ADDING: In Chicago, residential trash pick up is done by the city, and they come every week. Not always on the same day, but they do it, and it’s taxed. I’m not sure how much I pay for the service, but I’ve got no complaints. HOWEVER, as a business owner, I am required by law to pay someone operating on the free market to have my trash picked up (not allowed to dispose of it myself), and so far, the best value:service ratio I’ve gotten costs me $45/month, and I only have to call them once in a blue moon to remind them to empty the can. Took a bit of trial and error to find these guys though.

  149. 149
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @John Bird:

    Trash collection is usually a public monopoly in part because its comprehensive success is a necessity for a municipality’s interests.

    Oh come on, Dr. Overreaction. So maybe we get a cholera outbreak here or there. It’s a small price to pay for the illusion of freedom.

  150. 150

    It seems to me the underlying current here is not as much the hiring of just one company to haul the trash but they are trying to introduce the socialist idea of recycling.

    There are monopolies in many services we receive, gas, water, electricity, cable tv, emergency services etc. , thash collection, especially for single homes, in all areas is also perfrmed by one company or by the local government only.

    The new right believe that recycling is a socialist/communist. kenyan anti-colonial plot and the first step to being overtaken by a one world government so it’s not merely a case of choice about recycling but that even the option of recycling should be eliminated0.

  151. 151
    MMonides says:

    Whenever someone argues that a gov’t granted monopoly is something one is stuck with, I realize the commenter is unaware of the fact that it is very difficult to dislodge successful but shitty commercial operations the world over, and yet one can get new trash company contracts by organizing a couple phone trees to contact your mayor.

    In other words, it’s silly to assume that competition means you have any more control over the services you pay for.

  152. 152
    Zach says:

    Ironically (if you’re familiar with our state), a good example of the private/public decision done right is in terms of power supply in Maryland. The part that’s best done by a monopoly (distribution) is still done that way; the part that’s ripe for competition (production) is now privatized. This led to an initial sticker shock that made the whole thing horribly unpopular and made it statewide political issue #1 when the stability provided by state price controls was going to be lifted (unfortunately, deregulation went into effect right in line with the spike in electricity prices and people blamed deregulation), but things are settling down now. I just switched my electricity provider from BGE to 100% wind power w/ CleanCurrents, saved money, and locked in my rate for a year.

    There are all sorts of benefits from monopolizing electricity distribution (single grid, ability to manage blackouts, coordinate repairs after storms, etc) that don’t have anything to do with generation. An analogous plan for Fountain View, AZ would be to monopolize waste collection, but allow a more fluid (but still regulated) market for waste processing and storage. The arguments for monopolizing waste management in Fountain View — less noise/air pollution, less roadwear, safer streets — could be met, yet the magic of the free market could still do its thing where it’s efficient to do so.

  153. 153
    MTiffany says:

    @fasteddie9318: Hell, why not just negotiate with the waste disposal companies for the rental rights to the incinerator you ought to be able to build in your backyard? It’s your property for Supply-Side Jesus’ Sake, and it’s not like smoke ever killed anyone…

  154. 154
    MTiffany says:

    @MMonides: Well, the Mayor’s office does come with that fancy vibrating chair and that secretary with the nice rack…

  155. 155
    And Another Thing... says:

    Kain totally misses Cole’s point, and then proceeds with an “analysis” that suggests that he is naive, inexperienced in how things actually work, ideological, and doesn’t think things through before busting into print.

    A contract that has been competitively bid is a monopoly? Oh, please….

    John’s post is right on, too many people have just completely lost their minds.

    Yesterday at family dinner, out of the blue my tea party sister announced that you should have to speak English to BE an American (not become, be) and followed up that you should have to speak English before you can get a green card.

  156. 156
    MattR says:

    @And Another Thing…:

    Yesterday at family dinner, out of the blue my tea party sister announced that you should have to speak English to BE an American (not become, be) and followed up that you should have to speak English before you can get a green card.

    Can we update that to “proper English” so we can eliminate the Tea Party?

  157. 157
    And Another Thing... says:

    I realize that this may be too low brow a joint for Daniel Larison, but couldn’t we have some of his posts cross posted here. He’s prolific and thoughtful and there might be some interesting action with comments here. Plus he deserves more visibility than he probably gets there.

  158. 158
    Xboxershorts says:

    I have no trash collection where I live.

  159. 159
    And Another Thing... says:

    @MattR: Yes.

  160. 160
    taylormattd says:

    More evidence that “libertarians” are morons.

  161. 161
    suzanne says:

    @And Another Thing…:

    Yesterday at family dinner, out of the blue my tea party sister announced that you should have to speak English to BE an American (not become, be) and followed up that you should have to speak English before you can get a green card.

    Tell her you get behind that idea 100%. A SAT verbal score of, say, 750 would be a reasonable requirement.

    Whenever I say that, they get quiet really fast.

  162. 162
    trollhattan says:

    @Xboxershorts:

    I have no trash collection where I live.

    I can smell the Freedom from here!

  163. 163
    r€nato says:

    I have no problem at all piling on, because the very fact we are even having this discussion is due to the mass brainwashing of conservatives who have turned ‘free markets’ into a mindless cult.

    “You can only buy Dell computers from now on” people would be unhappy. We want to be able to choose what kind of computer we buy – and not just because maybe we prefer Apple, but because we know that competition keeps innovation up and prices down.

    A computer is not trash service. The two are not even remotely related, other than the fact that somebody is paying someone to provide it. Jesus. I’m offended that that even has to be pointed out.

  164. 164
    A Duck says:

    And Another Thing: We’ve explored this territory, but most BJers have to decamp from the Larison bus when it comes to his views on ‘the war of Northern Agression’. Fer many, that is a dealbreaker, although MMV.

  165. 165
    BobS says:

    @AnotherBruce: Is it Somalia they’re trying to recreate here, or the 19th century? “Gangs of New York” had a scene in which competing fire companies bid robustly over provision of services.

  166. 166
    Arclite says:

    There’s also the fact that trash pick up isn’t always cost effective, so a private company would not do pick up for someone who was not on a profitable route. This is the issue with the USPO. They deliver everywhere, and FedEx and UPS are grateful for that, and actually use the USPO to deliver packages that are off their routes. So, there are some services we want everyone to have (for obvious reasons) like trash pick up and making that private and competitive would leave some people out in the cold creating a health risk.

  167. 167
    snarkypsice says:

    And I’m reminded again why I don’t want to live in this country anymore. Nuts!

  168. 168
    r€nato says:

    more remedial education for conservatives:

    society != socialism
    community != communism

  169. 169
    dww44 says:

    @Steve: I was gonna post something akin to this, based on my observations at my daughter’s home in suburban Atlanta whose traffic congestion issues are all too well-known. There’s a diffent trash collection company collecting from some houses on the same street several days a week. Terribly inefficient and terribly bad for the planet.

    I don’t support this constant push to outsource. It’s too often a form of corporate and business welfare off the taxpayer’s back. Yet all we gonna do is let the Repubs talk about cutting entitlements for the lesser among us, but don’t anyone dare question that oursourcing government services is another form of corporate entitlement, and is a perfect way to muddy up accountability to the taxpayer as well as reward one’s supporters.

    Heck, though, we just elected as Governor a GOP ‘er who left Congress under a cloud and has always always blurred the lines between public and private. Not only that, he’s going through personal bankruptcy. Sheesh a dog with an R after it’s name would have won in this state on November 2.

  170. 170
    Xboxershorts says:

    @trollhattan:

    I can smell the Freedom from here!

    Well, to be fair, it is very rural. And in all honesty, I have trash collection, it’s just that I’m the trash hauler.

    And the freedom smells wonderful to me.

    The bears are a bitch though.

  171. 171
    artem1s says:

    @r€nato:

    all who argue free market will solve everything should be reminded of the Shoe Event Horizon…

    http://www.csua.berkeley.edu/~dxu/econ/shoe.html

  172. 172
    dww44 says:

    @alwhite: Yea!!! Thanks for saying this better than I could:

    A case in point, the rest of the world has cheaper cell phone service with many more features under a much more regulated environment. Figuring out why that is would be much more valuable than simply believing that “free markets” and “choice” always lead to a better outcome

    For the life of me, I can’t figure our how to get cheaper and better cell phone service in my part of the US of A. And, I certainly have but 2 choices which it comes to broadband providers. No price difference really. Very discouraging.

  173. 173
    JohnR says:

    @Lefty Lefty:

    I disagree. I think ED is young and a bit blinded by ideology, but he does show signs of being willing to consider reality-based arguments. For others to compare him to our Megan is both unfair and offensive.
    “Libertarian” is the phase you normally go through between puberty and adulthood, but unfortunately many here in the US seem stuck in extended adolescence any more. Kind of like how many of us men never get around to outgrowing our fascination with poop jokes, only a lot more harmful to the nation.

  174. 174
    Annamal says:

    @BR My city has figured out a way to charge for quantity. Rubbish trucks will only haul away council rubbish bags (council rubbish bags being quite expensive),in contrast anything in recycling bins is taken free of charge.

    It works but the downside is that the recycling won’t be taken if it contains non-recyclables and public rubbish bins are ruthlessly checked for people sneakily dumping household rubbish who are then fined.

    We just got a letter telling us that the council was replacing the smallish open topped recycling bins with larger wheelie bins free of charge.

    Between composting and ruthless recycling we’ve managed to get our rubbish output down to 1 bag a month.

  175. 175
    El Tiburon says:

    @Ailuridae:

    Atrios take down that pretty clearly ends the discussion. This post is (yes I am going to write it) McMegan worthy.

    Can I get a harumph and an amen.

    You know if that dude didn’t want to pay his fire bill and his house burned down, how many yutzes are not going to pay their trash bill? And just dump it wherever – as Atrios points out.

    Unless-unless the government mandates that everyone has to pay for trash pick-up. Glibertarian WIN!!!1!

  176. 176
    And Another Thing... says:

    @suzanne: That’s definitely a pro tip. Thanx

  177. 177

    […] at Balloon Juice, E.D. put together an argument (upon which he follows up here) essentially trying to explain why some folks in an Arizona […]

  178. 178
    Nadnerb says:

    @BGinCHI: I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. In June, the county announced that it was going to discontinue handing out the small red recycling bins they had been, and was replacing them all with large 96 gallon green rolling bins (just like our gray trash bins).

    In addition, they announced that the bins would have an RFID chip tagged to the address, and that the chips would be used for the purpose of education.

    The resulting explosion could probably have been heard in my hometown of Rochester, NY.

    “Reeducation camps” was a popular cry. Yet, when you asked one of these winners if pizza boxes were recyclable, you got a blank stare.

    There was even a movement afoot to take youre recycle bin, transport it across town, and swap it in a midnight raid on someone else’s house.

    I would really welcome a NYS style recycling/bottle deposit program here in NC. Then these idiots would find out about the “trash police”

  179. 179
    lucslawyer says:

    “but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high.”

    Hey, E.D…..can you say “collusion”?

  180. 180
    Jason S says:

    I’m not going to make the (valid) “bidding makes it not a monopoly” point again.

    I will say that while I’ve heard a lot of free market corporatists telling me that “Freedom of choice is something near and dear to most Americans of every political stripe”, my experience is that in reality that translates to choosing which phone/cable/airline/coffee shop etc. company is going to charge me effectively the same price for the same service that tends to get exponentially shittier the lower that price drops. Or with the crapload of added on fees and service charges I get dinged with brings me back up to the original cost of the whatever it is I’m trying to buy. Or within a few years one company buys or busts all the smaller companies and now I’m stuck in a completely unregulated effective monopoly.

    At some point I’m okay with some “entrepreneur” not being able to gouge me for a service that the government can provide or sell the rights to and guarantee me a level of service, reliability and price stability. Free Market toothpaste and restaurants and sports teams and hookers or whatever, but stop telling me that privatizing traditional government services is cheaper and more efficient when it’s demonstrably not true in most cases.

  181. 181
    jjcomet says:

    ED Kain is not an idiot, he just plays one on the Internet.

  182. 182
    Darkrose says:

    @trollhattan: SMUD is the reason I won’t seriously consider moving to West Sac or Davis, either of which would shorten my commute considerably.

    The name may sound vaguely dirty, but I love ’em.

  183. 183
    El Cid says:

    @Nadnerb: Look, none of that wouldn’t have happened if the new bins hadn’t been labeled “FEMA DETENTION CAMP SUPPLY” and distributed by armed New Black Panthers.

  184. 184
    Mark says:

    @Stogs: I live in San Francisco and we have private garbage collection. About seven years ago, they brought in standardized garbage cans. They cut the maximum we could throw out every week and they kept the price the same. That’s economies of scale for them, but not for us – and we had no say in the matter. I don’t mind – I like the new system (free recycling and compost, plus less garbage) but it didn’t look any different than a government-run service.

  185. 185

    […] Cole weighed in again in the comments to Kain’s post: You completely missed the point of my post, then. I’m not opposed to having choice in trash collection. […]

  186. 186

    Very interesting stuff.

    I’ve been learning more about meditation and hypnosis lately. Both seem like great methods of enlightenment and personal development.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Cole weighed in again in the comments to Kain’s post: You completely missed the point of my post, then. I’m not opposed to having choice in trash collection. […]

  2. […] at Balloon Juice, E.D. put together an argument (upon which he follows up here) essentially trying to explain why some folks in an Arizona […]

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