Cleaned By Capitalism

by Don Boudreaux on August 24, 2009

in Cleaned by Capitalism, Complexity & Emergence, Environment, Everyday Life

This is the first of a series of intermittent posts showing photographs of how modern capitalism provides its denizens historically unprecedented levels of cleanliness and healthfulness — how capitalism reduces pollution that matters most to individuals.

This is a photograph taken last month at Washington’s Dulles International Airport.  It’s of the entrance to a men’s restroom.  Note the ingenious (if by now familiar) design: it prevents persons outside of the men’s room from seeing what goes on inside of the men’s room, and yet there are no doors or door knobs that must be touched in order to enter or exit the men’s room.  (Women’s rooms, of course, have the same feature.)  The transmission of bacteria is thereby reduced.  (Also note that the space is generous enough to allow travellers toting large pieces of luggage to enter and exit easily.)

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Justin P August 24, 2009 at 5:03 pm

But…I thought Capitalism was evil? /sarc

Do you think the modern notion of evil Capitalism means Marx eventually won?

Anonymous August 24, 2009 at 5:10 pm

But, Don, its nothing to do with capitalism! If we had unfettered capitalism, then the men’s room would be dirty, grimy, and scum ridden; if we had unfettered capitalism, then only the upper classes would have clean and sparkling men’s rooms. The festering holes left for the poor — the productive class — would be just another way that capitalism oppresses and divides.

Thankfully, we have wise elected officials to enforce health and safety regulation. It is this, and not capitalism, which is responsible for the clean men’s room you observe.

Anonymous August 25, 2009 at 12:19 am

But Lee,

If there had not have been a “private airport monopoly”, government would not have had to step in to compete.

speedmaster August 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Good point, I love those.

Anonymous August 24, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Interesting you chose an airport restroom. Most airports, at least the ones I frequent most are government or quasi-government operated. I find these restrooms to be some of the most dirty that I ever use. These restrooms are second only to (and probably a distant second) restrooms in public parks in the filth department. If you compare these restrooms to private multi-tenant office building restrooms, where the restrooms are shared by all the tenants, the cleanliness of the office building restrooms is almost always far greater.

Anonymous August 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Dulles airport is owned by Dulles Metropolitan Airport Authority, a public government organization, not a capitalist company.

Lars Hansen August 24, 2009 at 6:40 pm

I am contacting you concerning The World Log (, a web platform that spreads user generated content (blogs, photos, video and newsletters) related to development cooperation to larger audiences.

The Swedish International Development Co-orporation Agency (Sida) has developed the on-line platform to bring the general public closer to the realities of development work throughout the world and to involve them in the issues. The target audiences for the site are professionals, people involved in development issues and the general public. The goal of the platform is to raise awareness and generate discussion prior to, during and after the European Development Days ( in Stockholm this October, and to engage the general public in the debate and questions of international development. The World Log is bringing the tools of the 21st century to bare on the issues to be discussed .

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The World Log is not limited to blogs alone. Newsletters, photos and videos are all supported and encouraged. All you need is the RSS feed. The platform also supports discussions and comments based on entries so that you can follow what your readers are saying. Readers who click on your entry are directed to your site so you register the hit. We have developed a widget that you can embed in your site if you wish your readers to see on-going discussions and topic on the World Log related to what you write about. And we also have badges that you can attach to your site to show your affiliation with the World Log. There are no strings attached, we do this to promote discussion and engage the public, though we encourage you to promote the site for your and others benefit.

I really hope that you will consider being a part of the discussion. You are passionate about the issues and development (which is why I am contacting you) and so are we. I can send you the conditions of use and more detailed information about the site including an easy to use set up guide. If you would like help setting up your account, I would be happy to assist you and if you have any questions, please ask.

The World Log is an opportunity for you to reach new readers and have your voice heard in the build up to, during and after the European Development Days conference.

Thank you for your help and time
Lars Hansen

Anonymous August 24, 2009 at 7:16 pm

government bathrooms are overdesigned and bigger because the government doesn’t have to justify the cost. if the government wasn’t confiscating so much of our money the rest of us could afford to do more of the same. regardless, if there was no free market, none of us would have any of this.

Anonymous August 25, 2009 at 5:17 am

Capitalism is responsible for rooms without doors? Come on…

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