Sunday, September 16, 2007

State to citizens: "Don't prosper!"

The worst thing we, as citizens of Oregon, can do to our government masters, is to prosper. You see, prosperity brings with it all sorts of inconvenient problems for those who have "goals" for how we live.

Prosperity means people buy large houses and have nice yards. Prosperity means people buy all sorts of consumer products that result in waste that must be dispensed with. And worst of all, prosperity means people use their cars to come and go as they please.

Our state government has all sorts of targets and goals for how they WISH we would live, and our prosperity is running headlong into those goals. For years, they have had targets for per-capita vehicle miles travelled, for recycling percentage, for average tonnage of waste per capita, and now they have even added carbon dioxide emissions targets.

We are oh-so-ungratefully failing to meet their expectations.

You see, to the regulators' dismay, Oregon citizens don't generally share their priorities. Most people don't see the big deal in buying a consumer product, and putting the resulting trash in the garbage, which they then pay to get hauled away. Most people don't think driving their daughter to her soccer game on a rainy Saturday morning is a sin.

But for DEQ, this is a problem. You see, the more prosperous we are, the more consumer products we buy, and hence the more trash we create. We keep missing the goals our regulators have set for us in how much trash we generate.

Now, why this is such a problem, they never seem to be able to explain. What is the big deal with putting trash in a landfill in Arlington? Our garbage fees pay the cost of trucking it all out there, so what is the big deal?

But they have these targets, you see, and we are not cooperating. In fact, far from reducing our trash generation as the DEQ wants, we have actually increased it by 43% since 1995! And that is so very embarrassing when the regulators attend their conference, where they are so used to getting awards for Oregon's famed sustainability! We are ruining their professional reputations!

So, DEQ has figured it out. They have found the culprit, and they are going to take care of it. We read all about it in the Oregonian today. The villian: consumption.

If we just wouldn't consume all those products, we wouldn't make so much trash, and our regulators could meet their targets and get the awards they are due from their comrades back east.

So DEQ has a plan to induce Oregonians to decrease their consumption. We haven't seen the whole plan yet, but apparently it involves "education" and maybe at some point "taxes."

They want us to consume less, and they seem perfectly willing to use the blunt instrument of the state to bludgeon us into submission. Of course, totally lost on these numbskulls is the fact that every little thing that is consumed must first be produced, so saying you want to cut consumption means you want to cut production.

That, last I looked, means fewer jobs - not just manufacturing and packaging jobs, but sales jobs, management jobs, transportation jobs, accounting jobs, and on and on and on.

But our regulators went to a different economics school. David Allaway, who is DEQ's chief "waste prevention" guy, uttered perhaps the stupidest thing I have read in a major newspaper this decade. He actually said: "Where are the businesses who have a financial interest in telling people to buy less stuff?"

Uh, buddy, that isn't really a very good business model.

Of course, if YOU spent 17 years working for DEQ, you probably would be as clueless as Allaway about how the real world works.

The problem is that Allaway and his ideological allies are running this joint, and they have the power to really screw things up. When their "education" efforts fall short of convincing us all to live like they want us to, you can bet your last dollar (which will be all you have left by the time they are through) that more coercive tactics will follow. You think they will stop at 30 second public service announcements stressing the importance of recycling?

No, of course not. Coercion is their currency. They know we don't want to live the way they wish, and they won't be at all shy about using a little, shall we say, "persuasion." Recycled content mandates. Renewable energy percentage regulations. Carbon taxes.

You see, it is necessary for them to meet their targets - carbon emissions goals, trash tonnage, miles travelled, you name it. If your prosperity has to suffer for them to take their bows in Boston at their annual "Sustainable Practices Conference," well, that is your duty to the collective.

After all: the planners just know that Oregon's new economy will be based on our leadership in sustainability. Heck, maybe DEQ's Allaway has it right! Maybe telling people not to consume IS a successful business model!

That is, if your business is government.


Anonymous said...

Well, if you define "success" as lots of starvation deaths, non-consumption has been "successful" in China and North Korea for decades, and of course the former USSR unconsumed itself out of existence entirely.

Sneaky said...

I nominate this blog post for Oregon Blog Post Of The Year!

Don S said...

Rob: It looks to me like you see at least one of the central problems with Allaway's proposal to limit consumption: it's not good for the economy. You piece however is too long and rambling.I suggest you rewrite it and post again.

What would the economic impact be of reducing demand?

What enforcement does the State have in mind?

What is the proper role of our government?

Why do Americans consume more than most any other people in the world? Should we change this?

MAX Redline said...

Be A Good Sort!

Ever seen that line?

In Beaverton, it's part of the recycling mantra. And if you don't sort properly, they'll warn you. Keep failing to sort properly, and they hit you with a fine of around $200.

Sweet, eh?

Anonymous said...

don s:

What are you, his schoolmarm? You suggest he rewrite it? Rambling? I thought it was pretty darn hard hitting.

Why do americans consume more than any other country int he world? Because we PRODUCE more than any other country in the world!

Why on Earth would we want to change that???!!!

Victoria Taft said...

Victoria Taft, 5-8pm KPAM 860,

Dear Don S,
I think those are great ideas. Why don't YOU do that? Rob's piece is solid.
I'd love to see you guys answer those questions and make sense of them vis a vis a real time, real world economy.

Dare!PDX said...


I am totally guilty of consuming.

I work hard to reduce my share. But as you point out Rob. I fail in my DEQ assigned responsiblity.

At least I do better at it then say Al Gore.....

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