In my latest column for AIER I announce a soon-to-be-launched new occasional series, here at Cafe Hayek, titled “Soiled by Socialism.” The idea for – and title of – this series comes from my friend Andy Morriss. Here’s a slice from my AIER column (link added):
There’s no question that the environment in which modern humans live is immeasurably cleaner, safer, and more pleasant than was the filthy and dangerous environment in which all of our pre-industrial ancestors lived.
But on this front not all the news is good. As innovative entrepreneurs in capitalist markets daily devise new goods and services to make our lives cleaner and safer, government officials are increasingly working to reverse this environmental improvement. Ironically, much of this government action is done in the name of improving the environment. This dismal reality was driven home to me recently by an e-mail from my friend Andy Morriss, a professor at Texas A&M.
Andy – who knows of the Café Hayek series “Cleaned by Capitalism” – was in London doing research at the British Library. He was prompted by the experience to send to me this e-mail:
I’m at the British Library this week doing research. They have what seem to be waterless urinals, with the predictable result that the men’s rooms reek of urine. So you should add ‘Soiled by Socialism’ to the series!
Unfortunately, there are enough instances of government soiling our environment to make Andy’s idea an excellent one. I’ll start that series soon. And waterless urinals are an ideal inaugural entry. I speak from personal experience because several years ago waterless urinals were installed in many men’s rooms on George Mason University’s Fairfax, Virginia, campus. Within a couple of months these men’s rooms were foul, with urine odor detectable even before entering the facility. So water was indeed ‘saved’ by avoiding flushing, but this ‘savings’ came at the high cost of rendering the men’s-room air and urinal surfaces unnecessarily repulsive and dirty.
By some miracle, George Mason eventually replaced the waterless urinals with proper water-flush ones. The improvement is noticeable and welcome.
Another example of “Soiled by Socialism” is government-mandated low-flow water faucets, showerheads, and toilets. At the very best, these low-flow devices simply fail to achieve their purpose of saving water, as people – to compensate for the lower flows – keep faucets and showers running longer, as well as flush toilets multiple times. But because water pressure, in addition to volume, contributes positively to cleansing one’s hands, body, and toilet-bowl interiors, we and our toilets do not get quite as clean with the low-flow devices as we would with higher-flow ones.