At the end of what is an otherwise positive review in the New York Times (rr) of Elizabeth Royte’s book, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, Neil Genzlinger gives a wonderful example of the economic way of thinking:
”Garbage Land,” though, does have a fundamental bias, one that Royte
never confronts: her jumping-off point seems to be the idea that our
best, highest use as human beings is to keep our ”garbage footprint”
to a minimum. That is a value judgment, because minimizing waste —
sorting trash, composting, cooking from scratch rather than relying on
dinners in microwaveable dishes — takes time, and time is a currency.
Royte sounds smart; it’s hard for the reader not to wonder what else
she might have done with all those hours she spent washing out her used
You go, Neil! Beautifully said. My only quibble is his describing it as a "value judgment." I’d call it more of a religious belief, what is known in economics as a lexicographic preference, a fancy name for saying that a particular good is so important that there is no willingness to make tradeoffs between this good and any other.