She Wants X, but Wants Someone Else to Pay for X

by Don Boudreaux on March 10, 2014

in Hubris and humility, Other People's Money, Property Rights

Here’s a letter to WTOP radio:

Kate Ryan reports that preservationist Mary Rowse, in an effort to prevent a homeowner from tearing down a 100-year-old house in Chevy Chase, is “collecting signatures from passersby” (“Neighborhood organizes against home ‘tear-down,’ March 10).

Ms. Rowse is collecting cheap currency.  She should instead be collecting cash.  Only if she buys the house from its current owner – someone who pursues his preferences by spending his own money – will we have solid evidence that Ms. Rowse and the passersby truly value the preservation of this house more than its current owner values the prospect of replacing it with a newer home.

Sloganeering and signatures are easy and lay no skin in the game.  Ms. Rowse and those who claim to share her preferences should put their money where their pens are.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

In short, Ms. Rowse and the pen-wielding passersby prefer to keep the house standing but demand that the bill for satisfying their preferences be footed by the house’s current owner.

UPDATE: This line from Yevdokiya Zagumenova‘s comment to this post deserves to be highlighted in the post itself:

It’s disconcerting that the very same people who rail against the externalized costs of pollution of all kinds think absolutely nothing of forcibly externalizing the cost of their own preferred consumption.

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