Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
San Francisco Is Requiring Solar Panels on All New Buildings (nextcity.org)
317 points by uptown on Apr 22, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 348 comments



Partner is an architect in SF (works on 2nd St.)

She's currently dealing with two overlapping regulations, one from the state, the other from the city: (1) All electrical outlets must be placed less than 18 inches from the edge of a countertop, to make them accessible to people in wheelchairs

(2) A countertop must have an outlet every 18 inches, or less.

They're getting held up in permitting because there is a no constructible L-shaped countertop that satisfies both of these constraints. The best part, nobody on either side seems to care much, they're "just doing their job"...and housing isn't getting built.

I'm not sure what to make of this, other than that it's the newest brilliant "innovation" from the place that banned happy meal toys, and outlawed plastic bags.


I'd say this is more of a city planning office problem than a "paternalistic California" problem.

The plastic bag ban caused much gnashing of teeth, but it was a basic instance of market failure (nobody pays for the externalities of bag pollution), and people have adapted fine since the ban took effect.

You see the kind of standards worship that you described in the LA city planning office as well as SF. There will be swearing up and down that this requirement is in place for a solid reason, and then in 5 years the requirement disappears.

Runoff from buildings is my favorite example: a few years ago, you had to ensure rainwater runoff from new structures was conveyed to the street. By pumping it uphill if necessary. You signed a document promising to maintain the pump in perpetuity. (Reason: your runoff could damage nearby properties.) Now, you can't pump runoff to the street, you have to sequester some on-site. (Reason: drought, plus, city can't treat all that water itself.)

Another instance of this is installation of crosswalks. One year, the city refuses to put in new crosswalks because "it will encourage unsafe crossings". Next year, city is putting in new crosswalks all over because it will encourage pedestrian activity, make citizens healthier, etc.


>The plastic bag ban caused much gnashing of teeth, but it was a basic instance of market failure (nobody pays for the externalities of bag pollution), and people have adapted fine since the ban took effect.

But the ban caused much, much more damage than needed to remedy the externality. If mispricing were the problem being solved, they could slap an appropriate tax on the stores' bags, and then stores would pay it, fold it into prices, implement policies to discourage too many bags, roll their eyes, and move on.

Instead, the bag law means they must explicitly charge the customer for bags; they can't just absorb it into prices (as every store did before).

(And I don't know if you've ever worked as a cashier, but adding another step to every transaction gets old really quick, and holding up a line so someone can dig for a dime because they forgot to ask for one the first time around is ridiculous.)

Furthermore, ten cents is (by any reasonable back-of-the-envelope measure) far more than the magnitude of the externality, and it's not put into a fund to remedy the externaliites, nor can I get the ten cents back when I redeem it and thereby prove that it's not going into some bird's lungs.

This is just like most hastily-considered conservation policies: penny-wise and pound foolish. I'm likewise hounded to cut back on showers, despite them producing far more economic value than uses of water that are basically value-destructive (growing alfalfa) and which get a free pass. Similarly, I get paid nothing for having an ultra-low-carbon lifestyle, while people get large government subsidies to make their already-wasteful lifestyle a little less so.

Yes, it sucks when externalities aren't priced in. But we shouldn't use that justification as carte blanche to overcharge for the wrong ones.


Plastic bags are not an economic question. Most voters in the Bay Area do not want them used at all. Local ordinances against plastic bags have wide-spread popular support.

Plastic shopping bags cause serious problems for sea life as well as some terrestrial creatures. Plus they result in pervasive, long-lasting litter that most of us in the Bay Area are sick of looking at. There are simple alternatives like bringing reusable bags that make these problems go away.

This is is not an ill-considered initiative by some faceless bureaucrat. At least in my county most of the predicted benefits have been achieved with minimal inconvenience to the citizenry. [1]

[1] https://oaklandnorth.net/2014/09/22/alameda-county-ordinance...


The point is to encourage you to bring your own bag, eliminating a disposable bag from use. To do that you have to charge explicitly for it.


It's kind of ironic, plastic bags probably have one of the lower environmental impacts of all the things one might find in a grocery store.

I mean, most people burn more fuel driving to the store than they use plastic bags in a year (a gallon of gasoline is about 6 pounds), but we don't have a 'combine trips' awareness campaign.


Germany has been charging for bags at the store for at least 25 years. I don't understand how Americans have so much trouble with the most inconsequential of amenities they are asked to provide the environment.


You're shoving words in my mouth. I don't care about bag taxes, I think it's stupid we pay so much attention to them and ignore things that are far more harmful. And we do ignore them, so it's not simply a case of being able to do both, the bags really do seem to be capturing attention from more pressing issues.


Why shouldn't we pay attention to them as well as the larger things? Especially in America where the harsh reality is were going to have to change our lifestyles a lot over the next 50 years, boiling the frog is probably the best way to keep everyone calm.

I mean, water alone is going to be a major issue for California.


I think it is pretty clear that energy is going to get cheaper and cleaner. This helps a lot with household water use (agricultural volumes are still pretty expensive).

Figuring out how to make the benefits of the growing economy more widely available seems like a pretty big problem, but I don't think that consumption in the US will have to decrease in any meaningful way.


It's not being charged for bags. In the states, we just have too many dubious laws. People can't bring in even a small backpack into most stores, without leaving it with the guy would could care less at the front of the store? Most stores are located vechicle distances away from most Americans.

It's not the bag, it's a cornucopia of bigger problems, poor planning, stifling regulation only enacted to generate revenue, etc. we are projecting on a bag.


Interesting, in Atlanta, I do must of my shopping with a backpack and haven't been asked to leave it at the front of the store or have it checked for years.


Ditto. I've been asked to have my receipt and bag inspected before. I politely decline and don't break stride...not like they can do anything but get the police to come harass me, only to find I've done nothing wrong, which police rather dislike - in a 'boy who cried wolf' sense.


It's not just the oil being used, it's the environmental damage from the bags themselves as well. Besides there are incentives in place in many municipalities to encourage car pooling and using lower emissions vehicles (car pool lanes, gas tax, EV subsidies, etc).


Yah its misguided, I do a fair number of park/etc cleanups. The old school ultra thin bags break down really fast in the environment when exposed to UV. Most of the time, when I tried to pick one up they simply disintegrated into powder. Plastic drink bottles OTOH, those things are everywhere and seem to last forever.

Just over the past few years the heavier reusable (mostly plastic) bags are starting to show up everywhere now, and they don't seem to break down as fast. I have yet to see any of them in any state of decomposition.


The SF ban was motivated partly because the plastic bags were literally clogging the machinery at their processing center. Even with the ban, they have employees scrape the bags off periodically.


We are talking about SF and plastic bag. Most of us don't drive in SF...and we do combine trips / car share because Uber/Lyft cost. Financial incentive cannot be ruled out as inefficient that fast imo.


Its not about the environmental impact, its about the litter problem.


I consider it part of implementing a cultural status quo (recycling is good) as opposed to being overly useful. Plastic bags are really in-your-face pollution.


The point of any Pigovian tax is to discourage its use ... where that use is value-destructive once you account for the externality. So it still doesn't make sense to tax it by more than that value, which the plastic bag tax clearly does.

There's a very common misconception that a) product X has a negative externality, therefore b) it must be value destructive on net, therefore c) no one should use it, therefore d) it's good to slap arbitrarily high taxes on X. But b-d) don't necessarily follow from a).


Your assuming a specific value exists for environmental pollution. Instead, by it's vary nature people chose a completly arbitrary value.

Abstractly, the environment is clearly worth more than every other thing in the world combined. EX: If 6.9 billion people needed to die to maintain a breathable atmosphere that would be a simple choice. How to messure lower levels of harm is what's subjective.

PS: Consider burning fossil fuels has directly lowered the amount of free oxegen in the atmosphere. There is not enough fossils fuel know to exist for this to be a real problem. But in a world where there was it would be a much more direct survival issue.


> Consider burning fossil fuels has directly lowered the amount of free oxegen in the atmosphere.

Can you back this up with any data at all? You do know that plants breathe CO2 and exhale oxygen, right?


Sure, basic chemistry if plants extracted the C from CO2 we would end up with the same O2. However as CO2 levels are rising that is not happening enough.

Of note, the current concentrations are 209 460 ppm of O2 compared with around 380 ppm of CO2. So, it's currently a non issue. But again finite systems are finite.

PS: I only skimmed this as the first Google link: http://www.i-sis.org.uk/O2DroppingFasterThanCO2Rising.php. No idea if it's credable, so feel free to search.


> the current concentrations are 209 460 ppm of O2 compared with around 380 ppm of CO2. So, it's currently a non issue.

I certainly agree it's "currently" a non-issue; but I would add that given the numbers in the article it's going to continue to be a non-issue for the foreseeable future. The key fact from the article is that the rates of change of O2 and CO2 are of the same order of magnitude: a few ppm/year. That change is a percent or so of total CO2 concentration, but only a thousandth of a percent or so (1 part in 10^5) of total O2 concentration. So it would take a thousand years at current rates for the O2 concentration to decrease by 1 percent of its current value (which is still negligible in human terms).

Plus, that assumes a linear decrease over a thousand years, which is highly implausible. The article notes that we have only been measuring atmospheric O2 concentrations for a couple of decades. No meaningful conclusions can be drawn from that about what will happen to O2 concentrations over a thousand years. The best current model we have is the simple and obvious one that O2 concentrations in Earth's atmosphere are maintained at appropriate levels for oxygen-breathing animals as part of the cycle of plant and animal respiration, which has been going on for hundreds of millions of years, including periods when CO2 concentrations were much higher than they are now.


If the enviornment kills off 6.9 billion people, that's not much of a choice. If you have a choice, you find another way.


That's rather Magical thinking right there. In some situation those would be your only choices.

Hypothetically, you can slightly adjust the comet's orbit and save ~10% of the global population or do nothing. You have 30 seconds to decide and failure to act within 30 seconds kills everyone. The longer you wait the more people die.

PS: Sure, your unlikely to be in that situation. But, the earth is a finite system and physics does not care. Or as someone on Easter Island learned you can cut down the last tree.


http://projourno.org/2013/12/bag-in-the-ussr-a-revived-job-g...

"In the Soviet Union, there were almost no plastic bags. Under communism, a plastic bag was so prized, people were rumored to wash them after use. Instead of plastic, most people had one of those string bags that look like miniature cargo loaders for ships and that you can’t keep small things in."


You seem confused about the point of plastic bag taxes/bans. The purpose of plastic bag taxes isn't to "price-in" an externality; rather, the purpose is to fundamentally change consumer behavior.

More generally, the language of economics ("pricing-in externalities") doesn't make sense when discussing irreversible damage to the environment:

1. When you can't repair the damage, the idea of "pricing-in" externalities is just confused thinking. (You can't buy a new planet and not all environmental harm can be reversed by spending money. At least for now.)

2. For any consumer behavior that causes irrevesable damage to the environment, the cost is at once too large to quanify and also too small to notice. (Many forms of pollution have highly nonlinear effects on the environment that are often impossible to quantify, especially at a global scale. I have no idea how anyone would go about calculating the "cost" of a lifetimes' use of plastic bags or fossil fuels, for instance, especially when you have to add up the permanent loss of a resource to humanity for the rest of the time it's on the planet.)


OK then, let's say that for every plastic bag someone uses they are charged 1 million dollars.

Do you believe that this would "price in" the cost of a plastic bag? Do you believe that, given a million dollars for every bag used, the government could clean up this supposedly irreversible damage?

I believe it could. Not only that, I believe the price would be much less than 1 million dollars.

Or how about this. Let's say they instead used that money to fix a completely different problem that is also causing permanent damage, and is equal or worse than the damage caused by plastic bags.

There is always a price. There are always trade-offs and opportunity costs.


> Do you believe that, given a million dollars for every bag used, the government could clean up this supposedly irreversible damage?

You're missing the point.

If you charged a million dollars for every bag used then basically no one would use plastic bags. Or at least few enough people that the aggregate environmental impact would be negligable. As it turns out $5 or $10 would probably work as well as $1M.

The whole point is that it's totally impossible to come up with realistic estimates for something like plastic bag waste. So you set the prices high enough to disincentivize their use.

The purpose is the disincentive, not actually putting accurate prices on externalities. Confusing these two things is the source of the confusion in SilasX's original post.


> it's totally impossible to come up with realistic estimates for something like plastic bag waste.

If it is, then it's also totally impossible to show that plastic bags are harming the environment enough to make draconian regulation a net gain.

In other words, the real purpose of the regulation is an arbitrary exercise of power: some people just can't help telling other people what to do, and when those people get to write laws and regulations, this is what you get. "Saving the environment" is just the latest ad hoc justification.


Yeah right there is not a single genuine environmentalist in the whe world. They're all just control freaks hell bent on messing with your life /s


>The purpose of plastic bag taxes isn't to "price-in" an externality;

Maybe, maybe not; I was responding to a poster who was justifying it on that basis.

>More generally, the language of economics ("pricing-in externalities") doesn't make sense when discussing irreversible damage to the environment:

>When you can't repair the damage, the idea of "pricing-in" externalities is just confused thinking. (You can't buy a new planet...

Well, you can repair the damage from plastic bags.

>2. For any consumer behavior that causes irrevesable damage to the environment, the cost is at once too large to quanify

If your model contains infinities, it's automatically unhelpful; that takes you into Pascal's Wager territory. If the damage is infinitely bad, then it it would justify draconian measures against even trivial risks of too many plastic bags. But however bad they are, they're not infinitely bad. Such a model would justify arbitrarily high bag fees, not some piddling ten cents with the hope of changing long-term consumer behavior.


>If your model contains infinities, it's automatically unhelpful; that takes you into Pascal's Wager territory. If the damage is infinitely bad, then it it would justify draconian measures against even trivial risks of too many plastic bags. But however bad they are, they're not infinitely bad. Such a model would justify arbitrarily high bag fees, not some piddling ten cents with the hope of changing long-term consumer behavior.

Sometimes that's the reality of the situation, there are things that cannot be priced. That's why we don't consider a murder tax an acceptable way to deal with homicide.


We also don't treat murder as being infinitely bad, and we reject policies that would decrease the murder rate because they would cost us in terms of something else we value e.g. privacy and convenience.


I didn't mean to imply that it has infinitely negative monetary value. I mean that it is a sort of wrong that cannot be undone by money.


It's the same principle -- however bad some harm X is in the abstract (be it death or environmental catastrophe), it doesn't justify arbitrary measures to fight it, be it more cameras tracking your movement or $20/kg taxes on plastic bags, because in every practical sense the actual harm is bounded.


> Well, you can repair the damage from plastic bags.

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe you can, but the costs to the environment involved in doing so are prohibitive. In any case, I don't think it's totally obvious that this is actually possible ATM.

> If your model contains infinities, it's automatically unhelpful; that takes you into Pascal's Wager territory

Yeah, well, reality > model. Unless we colonize space, destroying earth = infinity. So the implication of your statement is that pricing is a bad model for certain types of environmental damage. However...

> would justify draconian measures against even trivial risks of too many plastic bags.

...the realistic impact of most types of irreversible environmental damage has no known bound, but is not infinite.

Difficult-to-bound unknowns also make it impossible to quantify damages a priori at the level of detail necessary for pricing. Again, reality > model, so accurate pricing is a bad mechanism.

I think there are reasonable arguments against plastic bag bans. But trying base policy on an accurate accounting of the cost of long-term or irreversible environmental damage is a fool's errand in many cases.

(Also, note that my point is that in general, pricing environmental externalities is weird. Plastic bags aren't even nearly the best example of this, but are illustrative of the most common solution -- don't price, disincentivize.)


It sounds like you're saying you don't know how bad X is relative to other things, and nobody can make an estimate, but it's definitely not infinity, and the possibility of X favors your preferred policy over others.

That doesn't sound like it justifies any one tradeoff over another, nor tell us how we should decide to.


What's your best estimate for cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

You've heard of the precautionary principle?


The proper solution is to research and find watertight, greaseproof, biodegradable bag. Then use as many of those as you need.


It's almost as if the "city council" or "government" is an entity composed of multiple people who are human and have conflicting agendas, visions, opinions, dreams, etc (sometimes within a single person) and so end up acting in a way that reflects their contradictions and human biases...


Do you listen to EconTalk? Michael Munger (famous econ prof) has what he calls the "Munger test", which is, does this proposal/statement about business/government/academia/etc. presuppose ideal human beings to carry it out, or the venal, petty, real people we know?


He named the argument for free market capitalism vs. socialism after himself? Wow.


That's the "invisible hand" - different concept.

Invisible hand: two people following their own greed by engaging in a non-coerced, knowledgable exchange, produce a surplus benefit, in which both individuals are better off.

Munger test applied to the idea of the invisible hand: Does it work for greedy people? yes. If one party won't be better off as a result of the exchange, they won't participate.

Munger test applied to the idea of increasing revenue by increasing tax rates on the ultra-wealthy: Does it work for greedy people? Not linearly, because they'll have a great incentive to find ways to restructure or shelter their income from the increased taxes.


It's actually a simple public choice-based test; there is no single argument for capitalism and against socialism (, there are many).


I'm not sure what you mean. Could you explain?


It's based on the idea that capitalism works because it harnesses greedy self-interest, while a pure communist state would fail because there's no direct connection between doing extra work and getting extra benefit.

Capitalist farmer grows 10% more food; they make higher income from the sale of their crops. Communist farmer grows 10% more food; the farmer doesn't see extra benefit. Why bother to do the extra work?

The ideal person might answer "For the greater benefit of my fellow countrymen". A realistic person might answer "Come to think of it, I wonder how little work I can do before I actually see concrete negative consequences".


Problem is, those arguments always assume the people are doing things fairly. In many instances, instead of extra work, it's cutting corners.


No, it doesn't assume that. Competition incentivizes independent agents to compete, and customers evaluate who offers the best goods and services, serving their own self-interests.


Sure, and that's a fair point, but perhaps those humans shouldn't have the authority to impose their whimsies on the entirety of their neighbors because they think it's a good idea.


You know, I used to be a hardcore libertarian, but I've reconsidered a bit.

The density of cities like Manhattan/SF mean you have to have some level of regulation above and beyond what makes sense when everyone has an acre of his own land, to do with what we chooses. Whether it's noise, pollution, traffic safety, fire codes, etc., I think giving up a little bit more freedom than you would living on, say, a farm, is the price of living in a place with so much jammed in to so little space.

Maybe something to think about, if you take umbrage with people "imposing their whimsies" (I'm not being sarcastic, I really think about this a lot). Austin is nice, but it's a car-city. Show me one walkable city without the petty tyranny of city government and I'd move there pretty quickly.


I'm kind of a hybrid, really. I consider myself a libertarian at times, but mostly, a constitutionalist. I find that I object to most of the laws passed federally, but don't mind them so much when they're passed at the level of a municipality, city or even state (y'know, 10th amendment). In short, I don't believe in one-size-fits-all policies, as while I think a $15 minimum wage might work wonderfully in places like San Francisco, or NYC, I think they'd be disastrous in places like Alaska, or Arkansas. Regardless, much of the legislation I see being passed in places like San Francisco are fairly arbitrary, and that's the sort of thing I was responding to in the grand-parent.

For what it's worth, I tend to think less of these impositions as tyranny because, specifically, if I don't like what's going on in San Francisco, I can move to Austin.


We've got a bag ban here, too. ;)


Maybe their neighbors should work on electing better humans.

Someone needs to write the laws. Laws need to be updated over time, as society changes and our values change.


Completely agree. I don't believe authoritarian dictates are a way to achieve good aims in this century. And yet we must live with this type of organisation, for now, because we are still developing the alternatives...


> It's almost as if the "city council" or "government" is an entity composed of multiple people who are human.

Not just human, humans from California.

Just saying.


Just saying what?


If you ever spend an extend amount of time on the East coast of America and then spent time living on the West coast you'd see there is a real cultural difference.

One of those associated with California (in recent times) is that they love adding countless small regulations and rules that businesses and citizens must follow (almost like Germany, but not as bad). Somewhat related to the smug/elitist leftist stereotype.


It's interesting that plastic bag pollution is an issue.

I reuse all of my grocery bags as waste-basket liners. Making plastic grocery bags expensive, or just outright banning them, wouldn't actually reduce my consumption of plastic. Rather I would just shift to buying pre-packaged waste liners.


Do you accumulate plastic bags? In theory I would imagine you need less waste liners than shopping bags. As well, I think people might prefer the specifically designed waste liners, so you might be an edge case (or at least a general case) here.


> In theory I would imagine you need less waste liners than shopping bags.

Fair point, I do accumulate plastic bags, and I offset by switching to paper bags (which we use for accumulating small recyclable items). You can also use them for other purposes (lunch bags, etc).

> I think people might prefer the specifically designed waste liners

You are probably right. I think I am an edge case, but I like the affordance provided by the grocery bag handles, and they make it easier to tie the bag up once you are ready to throw it away.


I bought this book the other day, haven't had a chance to start reading it yet: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520266568

I did get a chance to read one excerpt which proposed that Prop 13, by shifting power from local to state government, reduced participation in local government, making it more beholden to special interests and less goal oriented when it comes to exercising the power it still has.


>The plastic bag ban caused much gnashing of teeth, but it was a basic instance of market failure (nobody pays for the externalities of bag pollution)

In no way does this demonstrate a "market failure". Municipalities own and/or strongly control the entire waste removal pipeline. Had the process been in control of a private entity they could have been free to make their own rules saying they will not permit plastic bags, or charge an appropriate fee for their disposal.


In Dallas, the externalities involved litter, not waste disposal. That's why Dallas included non-reusable paper bags as well. Granted, they aren't banned here; rather, there is a per-bag fee (tax) to cover the cost of those externalities.


Correction: That experiment was repealed, last year I believe. It was a failure on pretty much all counts, looking back. My guess is it will not be revived.


It was? I guess I haven't been shopping inside the city limits enough.


Yup, was a real fiasco and the entire City Council back-tracked. Their newest boondoggle is paying $4,000 per day to outside legal counsel to hold up their "No Sex Conventions (again) in our public convention center" stance. One that the City's own attorney advised against taking.


Plastic bag litter is not a "market failure" any more than litter of soda cans or dirty diapers is.


They can all be considered failures of markets to deal with the upkeep and protection of the Commons.

No surprise there, everyone individually acting in their own self-interest obviously doesn't guarantee optimal outcomes in all situations.


The idea of the commons is outside the realm of markets. It's like saying my local garbage man is a failure because he did nothing about the orbiting space garbage.

Markets deal with private property and the fact that economists try to mix that with the idea of the commons tells us more about their shallow theories than it does markets.

In my view, there should be no commons.


"there should be no commons."

Heh, I fully get that that's just one person's opinion on some internet site, but....when I was struck when I read that last line at how dismal a world it would be to live in, if we had to view literally all our engagement with the world through the lens of the transaction.

Going for a walk? (Are there sidewalks anymore?) Have you negotiated with each individual sidewalk owner for right of passage? No? Well, then, use the street instead. Oh, forgot to renew your street use card? Guess you're stuck, unless your buddy lends you something to get to the private park nearby. Lucky thing you saved some extra breathable air coupons for the exertion you'll expend on the pickup basketball game. No commons, after all.

I get it, the dude's handle is "ancap". Still, I'm pretty grateful that this is a pretty fringe view, especially when he lays it out so bare, "no commons."


Well said.

There's a neat section of the highly enjoyable book Wall St. by Doug Henwood (free at http://www.wallstreetthebook.com/WallStreet.pdf) which discusses why "the firm" exists. Basically turning your "going for a walk" scenario back onto the corporate world like so:

Why is it that companies with fixed payrolls, buildings, etc., exist? In a fully marketized world, we would contract, daily, with providers for all services, including day-to-day secretarial services, copying services, coding, document and report production, research, everything.

Starting at page 249:

"In a famous paper that was largely responsible for his winning of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Economics, Ronald H. Coase ... posed the question, largely unasked in classical economics, of why firms exist. [...] Not every aspect of economic activity can be encompassed by the price system. [...] In such cases, the price system hardly enters the picture. Or, in Coase’s concise definition, “the distinguishing mark of the firm is the supersession of the price mechanism.” But under capitalism, the scope of conscious planning rarely extends beyond a firm’s boundaries..."

The whole section is well worth reading. Henwood engages many objections of armchair economists.


>Why is it that companies with fixed payrolls, buildings, etc., exist? In a fully marketized world, we would contract, daily, with providers for all services, including day-to-day secretarial services, copying services, coding, document and report production, research, everything.

I don't find that compelling at all. There's no reason to think pricing needs to be done daily, or that cost can't be aggregated. You could only consider this the "supersession of the price mechanism" if you believe your time has no value.


I suggest reading the excerpt I pointed to. It's worthwhile. As I mentioned, Henwood addresses obvious points like the one you raised.


Granted, I didn't read the whole book, but I don't see the point addressed anywhere in that section. All I see is unsupported assertions about "power structures".


You're being facetious but I will address a few of your points regardless.

>Going for a walk? (Are there sidewalks anymore?) Have you negotiated with each individual sidewalk owner for right of passage?

If you like walking around your neighborhood, then you'd probably live in a neighborhood where you'd either have ownership rights or an easement to walk around a bit.

If you like walking around at work, you'll probably want to work somewhere that has those opportunities available.

Around businesses? Obviously every business can make their own rules about their property but I would guess most businesses would welcome people, potential customers, walking in front of their store.

As for roads I will let the reader research that out; there's been plenty written on private roads. Private roads predate our current public road system so I'm not sure what's so unfathomable about them.

>Lucky thing you saved some extra breathable air coupons

Air is probably too abundant for people to want to try to commercialize. It would be a failing business.

>I was struck when I read that last line at how dismal a world it would be to live in

It's unfortunate that you lack the imagination. In the past several centuries we have seen a level of personal freedom which is unprecedented. With that increased freedom we have the highest standard of living, ever. Now when someone comes along and theorizes on how we might increase that freedom you seem to fear the possibility of change--like the slave afraid of what's beyond his plantation.

Luckily, this isn't really written for you. There will be those who will read this and wonder "Could we really make private roads work?", they will do the research and come to their own conclusion. You may think this fringe, and it may be, but it does not take long for the fringe to grow.


Heh, way to sell the idea, telling me I "lack the imagination" to understand it.

You're offering me more freedom when I now have to schlep around seeking easements to walk on the sidewalk (or shop around for a neighborhood where walkable sidewalks are part of the package!!)?

It's more freedom to have to fit all of my interactions with the world into a transactional model of "someone owns everything and I have to work the price of accessing/using everything into my mental model of the world"?

You can say it's somehow more free to have to seek easements to walk on sidewalks, or that I merely lack the imagination to understand how this is so, but to that I'd say, pull the other one. It's got bells on, and it's yours for $4.97. (Air not included.)


You have shown not even the slightest intellectual curiosity on how things might work in a system without a commons, and instead have mocked it. Pretending to be offended by my comment on the "lack of imagination" is disingenuous at best.


You're really not trying to sell me on the idea here.

Show a little enthusiasm. If "you have to negotiate with every homeowner for sidewalk access on your way to the store" is such a good idea and leads to expansive new freedoms, it shouldn't be at all hard to make a positive case for it.

So, make a positive case for it! Show me how my freedom's increased in this situation! Instead you're just whining and insulting me. If this is a good idea, surely you can do better than that.

Especially since, on a techie libertarian-leaning forum like this, I'm even asking you to make a case. Go into a suburb somewhere and tell people about this and they'd look at you like you had a third arm growing out of your head. I'm the easy audience here.

Wanna try again?


"It's unfortunate that you lack the imagination. In the past several centuries we have seen a level of personal freedom which is unprecedented. With that increased freedom we have the highest standard of living, ever. Now when someone comes along and theorizes on how we might increase that freedom you seem to fear the possibility of change--like the slave afraid of what's beyond his plantation."

Except you're not theorizing on how to increase freedom. You're theorizing on how to carve people into separate little boxes. There is no freedom whatsoever there. Only servitude to the corporate masters who would control things.


Well, that's just it. It doesn't seem more free to me to have to think about getting out my wallet each time I go for a walk...or negotiating a series of easements all along my planned walk to the corner store!

It seems like taking away all common resources (land, air, though ancap says air would remain common) just adds a whole new layer of mental burden to engaging with the world.

Like, for me, going out and buying stuff or negotiating for it isn't fun, isn't how I'd choose to spend my time. Telling me that suddenly I have to do it for literally everything, and that's an increase of freedom, that makes no sense.


>air, though ancap says air would remain common

I said no such thing. I said it is too abundant to commercialize. It can still be owned.

>just adds a whole new layer of mental burden to engaging with the world.

If everything was made public (communism) you could be free from a vast number of other mental burdens which we are currently plagued with.

I don't buy it. We have a system around us now with all sorts of burdens and processes that are just part of life (you mean I have to stop through the checkout line before leaving the store--oh the horror of those evil capitalists who are trying to enslave us!). People adapt and are used to the system they are in.

>Like, for me, going out and buying stuff or negotiating for it isn't fun, isn't how I'd choose to spend my time.

Yet you do this already. I would wager a lot of your leisure time is spent on the private property of others, playing by their rules. Even the websites you go to and the video games you play have their rules and terms of service.


As I said, I'm grateful that yours is such a fringe view. It's still jarring to see someone actually posit "no commons would be an improvement," but the more I read what you have to say, it jut gets sillier and sillier.

Especially since you're trying to bolster support for your claim that "you gain freedom by having to negotiate easements with anyone whose sidewalk you'd like to use" with the new claim that "it's just like buying stuff at the grocery store!". Well, ok, except it isn't.

But hey, you know, if your ideas were so compelling, it seems like you'd be able to find a neighborhood somewhere where you could convince people to try out the experiment: "everyone sell/negotiate access to sidewalks for everyone else".

I mean, if it's such a good idea, surely you could get some people to try it, and then they'd see what a lovely new feeling of freedom they enjoyed, and the idea would spread from there?

Come on, ancap, let's see your fringe ideas grow and take off. Enough philosophizing, let's see this thriving new free society of sidewalk easements! After a few years of sidewalk easement negotiating under their belts, the people in your experimental neighborhood should have some pretty compelling "new feelings of freedom" results to share.

In fact, this really doesn't seem like so big a challenge at all. So, where's the beef?


>I mean, if it's such a good idea, surely you could get some people to try it, and then they'd see what a lovely new feeling of freedom they enjoyed, and the idea would spread from there?

No need. There's already communities where the roads and sidewalks are all owned through an HOA. There are communities with private roads yet no HOA.

Are you suggesting those who live in these neighborhoods have some extraneous burden over them as they go for a stroll through their neighborhood?

You say fringe, but they already exist in reality.


If HOAs are your idea of expansive new freedom, I think you can probably do better than that.

HOAs get a really bad rep for absolutely limiting the freedoms of the people who live there--from things like restrictions on what colors they can paint their houses to restrictions on what kind of political signage they can put up. HOAs are so completely recognized as little hotbeds of conformity (and abuse of authority, like all these stories about when HOA boards get it in for one of their residents, and end up booting that person out of their home!), it's actually surprising that you're positing them as sources of more freedom for the inhabitants.

And, also, I don't know how many people in these HOAs you're talking about chose them for their freedom-maximizing non-government-maintained sidewalks (which, to them, are of course de-facto commons anyway!).

I imagine if you asked any of them, they wouldn't even think about it, just that they'd pay a sidewalk tax one way or another.

I dunno, the whole thing keeps sounding stupid. Not that I lack imagination, but that you've gotten ahold of some dumb ideas and aren't letting go.


HOAs are routinely held up as the exact opposite of freedom.


Only by the ignorant who couldn't define freedom to begin with. If you have freedom than you also have the right to limit your freedom by engaging in contracts with others. HOAs are nothing more than this, and everyone who lives in an HOA chose to be subject to the terms of the contract.

To claim you have less freedom under an HOA (something you voluntarily choose) than you would under a local government (something forced upon you) is ridiculous.


Well of course you can have less freedom under something you choose than under something imposed upon you. I can sit around all day, doing nothing, and the government is doing nothing to restrict my freedom. They're not telling me to go anywhere or do anything. They're not restricting my freedom at all! If I choose to go get a job, though, now I gotta show up somewhere, do what someone tells me, etc. That's something I chose voluntarily, but gives me much less freedom than the alternative.

But I'm beginning to get where this would all go--you're going to play word games and redefine "freedom" until the answer is "everything is owned by someone" (or, I'd venture to guess, "freedom means whatever ancap says") is somehow maximally free.

Well, of course, ownership itself is a severe curtailment of freedom. I can't just exist in my body anywhere I want, because some places are "owned" by someone and that person could eject my body from "their" space. The very idea of a private space is such an assault on my freedom to walk and exist where I want, I don't see how there could be less freedom in the world, once everything is owned. This whole "no commons" thing seems about as un-free as it's possible to imagine.

Unless, of course, we all negotiate to give everyone access to a number of well-demarcated spaces and resources. We could call them "common" places or "the commons"! Ha!

But like I said, I think this little chat is about to turn into dumb word games, so I'll step away here.


>so I'll step away here

That's the first intelligent thing you've said.


Ha! Ancap, you're the greatest!


"Only by the ignorant who couldn't define freedom to begin with."

Yeah, no. Having an unelected, compulsory board governing the area is not freedom.

"HOAs are nothing more than this, and everyone who lives in an HOA chose to be subject to the terms of the contract."

Often times not, as one cannot buy houses in an area without being a member of the HOA. Further, there's the whole "no voting on people running the HOA" thing.

"To claim you have less freedom under an HOA (something you voluntarily choose) than you would under a local government (something forced upon you) is ridiculous."

I get to vote on members of my local government. I don't get to vote on members of the HOA.


>Yeah, no. Having an unelected, compulsory board governing the area is not freedom.

Whether the officers are elected or not (or whether there are officers at all) would be determined by the founding documents of the HOA. But it is definitely not compulsory.

>Often times not, as one cannot buy houses in an area without being a member of the HOA.

That doesn't make it compulsory. If you buy a house in an established HOA you chose to be subject to it. If you don't want to be subject to it, you don't buy the house. Saying you should have the right to buy a house in an HOA area and not be subject to it is saying you believe contracts should be non-binding, that is, worthless.

>I get to vote on members of my local government. I don't get to vote on members of the HOA.

As pointed out above, an HOA can have whatever structure the founders want it to have, or whatever the current decision makers amend it to be. As a tangent note, democracy does not define freedom.


That's disingenuous to pretend its not compulsory, just don't buy the house! We all understand it to mean, to live in a certain area its compulsory to belong to the HOA. Living in an area can be important for lots of reasons. Buying a house is a contract between the seller and the buyer regarding personal property. To be required to include a third party (the HOA) is strange. You don't have to belong to the NSX fan club to own an NSX.

The whole point of HOAs is to enforce somebody's personal preferences on their neighbors. Its annoying, infringes on my personal space, and promotes a weird philosophy of groupthink in what I consider an un-American way.


>That's disingenuous to pretend its not compulsory, just don't buy the house! We all understand it to mean, to live in a certain area its compulsory to belong to the HOA.

What you are saying is the equivalent of "I don't like wearing a shirt. Walmart wants to compel me to wear a shirt to go in their store and it's a flagrant un-freedom and un-American policy".

Similar to buying a home in an established HOA, when you buy certain pieces of software, or use countless websites, you agree to their Terms of Service. There is no compulsion involved because you make the decision on whether to limit yourself. Everyone who chooses to do so, does it because they believe they will be better off engaging in the agreement than not.

>Buying a house is a contract between the seller and the buyer regarding personal property. To be required to include a third party (the HOA) is strange.

There's nothing strange about it at all. When you buy a house you have to ensure the seller has clear claim to the title. You have to make sure there are not any liens on the property. Is that strange to involve those third parties? Hardly.

When an HOA is formed, those in the neighborhood contractually agree to do certain things and not do other things. They do so of their own accord. They also agree that the HOA has a claim on the house so that when sold, the contract remains in force. Do you disagree with the concept of contracts?


Except, again, that's ignoring the fact that I don't own WalMart. And the HOA doesn't own my house. And I was never part of the HOA, yet am required (compelled) to join and abide by it.

Its a strange old conservative view that neighbors can dictate what color to paint your front door, to suit some groupthink. Maybe this is a liberal vs conservative issue?

Contracts are irrelevant - to be valid a contract has to have something called 'value received' in exchange for stipulations. You can't just write anything in a contract - for instance, the penalty of violating a term is generally a payment of money. What does it cost to get out of the HOA?


>the HOA doesn't own my house.

The HOA doesn't need ownership. They have a valid contractual claim to limit the use of the property based on the person who originally owned the property and elected to make it a part of the HOA. Any buyer accepts those limitations.

When you purchase a piece of property you are not always getting rights to everything you might think. You may not have mineral or water rights. The property may have an easement in place.

>And I was never part of the HOA, yet am required (compelled) to join and abide by it.

You are never forced to join an HOA. A piece of property is part of an HOA or it is not. You choose whether you want that property or not. There is no force and no compulsion involved.

>Contracts are irrelevant

On the contrary. It is all about contracts.


>There is no freedom whatsoever there. Only servitude to the corporate masters who would control things.

Source?


>Private roads predate our current public road system

Private roads as a concept? Societies have built and maintained public roads for millenia.


I assume that he's referring to the private roads in America, which frankly, were generally good, until they were crowded out by the tax-funded roads that were, in many cases, literally built right next to the private roads.

It's often hard to parse history without hearing it through the bias of the historians, but while many private roads had a hard time finding a profit, they weren't entirely unsuccessful, and they definitely weren't unpopular.


"The idea of the commons is outside the realm of markets"

No, they aren't. They cannot be, otherwise the realm of markets is too limited to be of any worth.

The commons are where we all live, breathe, work, and play. To say they don't matter is to completely ignore what it is to be human.


>The commons are where we all live, breathe, work, and play. To say they don't matter is to completely ignore what it is to be human.

I can't speak for your life but I spend the vast majority of my time on private property--including where I live, the air I breath, when I'm at work and when I play--not in any commons.


>the air I breath

That's pretty interesting, do you purchase it or do you generate and store it yourself.


Neither. Even by today's property rights, the owner of a piece of land is granted x hundred feet of sky above their property, making the air breathed there privately owned.


I don't think it does that at all. You have rights to the space above your property, you have severe limitations on your right to modify the make up of the molecules that make up the air.

Would private ownership provide some means to prevent poisoning that atmosphere?

See: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=99f0bd4d8deafa1761d...


You are correct that the ownership of the air above and around your property is severely limited when compared to the ownership of say land, water or minerals. 19th century courts abandoned the concept that factory smoke was a trespass on someone's air and weakened the concept of property rights in regards to ownership of air, ushering in this modern day tragedy of the commons. Obviously had the courts made the opposite rule, the amount of air pollution we face today would be much smaller.


I would LOVE to see you try to stop someone from breathing the air above your property.


Seeing as someone would have to be physically present on your property to breath your air, I'm not sure what would make kicking a trespasser off your land so exciting. There's probably videos on YouTube showing how people have handled trespassers on their property.


Or I could lean over, which would put my feet off your property, and my nostrils on the edge of your property, which would still allow me to suck the air off from your property.

Or, I could simply rent a glider or a hot air balloon, and float over your property.


Since air molecules have fluid boundaries, and since it is a non-scarce and fungible resource, the concept of ownership of air around your property does not mean ownership of specific molecules.


Yup, just keep moving those goalposts.


[flagged]


Personal attacks are not allowed on HN. You've done this repeatedly, and we ban users who do that, so please don't do it again. Instead, please (re-)read the site rules and follow them. That means posting civilly and substantively (or not at all) from now on.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html


>In my view, there should be no commons.

I'm not sure how that could work without declaring someone god-emperor. Who would own the air, or the seas, or the sun?


Whoever homesteaded them


You can't homestead an atmosphere.


Sure you could. Airplanes fly in the atmosphere all the time. Rockets put satellites into orbit.


Except it is.


Who pays for all the plastic-bags that are floating in the wind on the side of the road?

In any case, a ban is dumb. My state has a plastic-bag tax to pay for the externality. Its minor, and it helps people remember that plastic-bags cause real pollution... without necessarily hitting people with a hammer over it.

Most people move on to reusable bags because of a minor tax. So it was effective as well.


You're still not describing a "market failure".


Plastic Bags cost $0.00 (typically). They're handed away for free from Grocery stores. Cleaning up Plastic Bag Pollution costs more than $0.

This market failure is called an externality. The people who use Plastic Bags don't pay for Plastic Bag pollution. I mean, its a very small externality in the great scope of things, so I don't really give much of a care. Maybe about... $0.05, the current tax on plastic bags in my area to take care of this externality.

But its still clearly a market failure (specifically an externality). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality

A plastic bag tax shifts the externality and fixes the market failure. Now either the grocery store or the consumer who uses the plastic bags have to pay for the pollution they cause.

The reason why San Francisco is dumb is because they go off the rails and turn into a nanny state. I agree with San Fran that Plastic Bags are a nuisance and that somebody needs to pay for the cleanup effort. But the ban goes too far.

On the other hand, a minor-bag tax levied by the local municipality (who pays for the road-cleanup crews who pick up the plastic bags) makes 100% sense. That's the purpose of taxes: to force people who otherwise aren't paying for something... to pay for a service that they're taking advantage of. Taxes are a lovely mechanism for solving market failures that involve externalities.


Now either the grocery store or the consumer who uses the plastic bags have to pay for the pollution they cause.

Except this pollution isn't really caused (the example being given over and over are bags blowing in the wind) if people dispose of them properly.

That is no longer covering an externality, that is punishing the many for the careless actions of the few, something that is always immoral all of the time in my mind.

Fine the litterbug companies and litterbug people, leave everyone else the hell alone.


I doubt many would agree with your moral absolutism.

Here in DC we have a $.05 charge on plastic bags. Some of that money goes to restoring the river which is choked with plastic (and other) waste. Plastic bag usage has dropped 80% since the bag tax was instituted. So, we got a great outcome (lessened externalities from litter) at minimal cost and inconvenience. Some of that is financial, less money (public and private) devoted to cleaning, less damage to public infrastructure (clogged sewers), less need to restore the river.

An alternative approach DC could have taken to the bag litter problem would have been to increase the enforcement budget for littering. It would have been extremely expensive and its doubtful it would have cut down anywhere close to the amount of bag litter, so society would still bear the cost of the externality.

Most people would not pick the latter alternative, and would consider the minimal costs imposed on innocents to be well worth the outcome. Moral absolutism over pragmatism can result in cutting off your nose to spite your face, in this case, continuing to bear the burden of the externality.


Pragmatism over morals leads directly to "end justifies the means" thinking. It's basically doing the wrong thing for the right reason, and what's worse, without that moral anchor, it's very easy to use the same excuse to do something just a little more annoying next time.

The slippery slope might be a logical fallacy, but history points to it as the normal mode of operation for a government.


In my example, there are two competing moral claims, those that bear the externality (and pay higher taxes and other costs) and those that pay the bag tax.


What about the buildup of microdebris in dumps?

You throw away a plastic bag, which is 100% legal btw, you create a long-term effect.

If you outlaw the disposal of plastic bags, how the hell do you enforce this regime? Do you hire a bunch of police officers to dig through people's garbage, and then fine people whenever they find a plastic-bag in the mix? I mean... yeah... I guess that's fair. But this is a very unrealistic system.

From a practicality point of view, a $0.05 bag tax seems damn fair.


Does the nickel per bag have an appreciable impact on the environment? It's being floated as an anti-littering thing, so keep in mind the goalposts have already moved once.

But if it does, that's fair enough.

If not, it's just another "because we said so" tax with little basis in reality.


> Does the nickel per bag have an appreciable impact on the environment? It's being floated as an anti-littering thing, so keep in mind the goalposts have already moved once.

In my county, the nickle is a reminder. The program costs the stores a penny to run, and it costs like two or three pennies/bag to run the regulations (I guess the agents who go around store-to-store to make sure that everyone is in compliance). So the county is only getting like a penny/bag in profit out of this. With 10-million bags used per year, that's like $100,000 in taxes, which is barely a rounding error on the budget.

The primary purpose is to remind people of the effects of pollution, not actually to create revenue. But its an effective means at curbing plastic-bag pollution at the source (people using fewer bags)


> A plastic bag tax shifts the externality and fixes the market failure.

Only if you assume that the entity being taxed (in this case the consumer) is the one that can fix the problem at the lowest cost, and that the amount of the tax is the efficient amount, i.e., that it changes the consumer's incentives in exactly the right way to maximize the net gain to society as a whole.

I'm actually skeptical that either of these things are true even in this simple case (let alone in the many more complicated cases in which the same argument for taxes to "fix" market failures is made). I would guess that most people dispose of plastic grocery bags by throwing them in the trash. (In some places they may be recyclable, if so just substitute the recycler for the trash collector in what follows.) So the entity that probably knows the most about the costs of disposing of them is the trash collector. That is probably also the entity that can fix the externality at the lowest cost. So if we thought there was an uncaptured externality involved, it would make more sense to tax the trash collector based on the impact of the plastic bags as he disposes of them, and let him pass on the cost to the consumer in higher trash collection fees if necessary. And a tax of 5 cents per plastic bag seems too high for this method of taxation: in fact I'd be surprised of 1 cent per bag wasn't too high.


Would you describe vandalism as a "market failure"? How about shoplifting? If not, why are they a different problem from littering?

If there is a problem with plastic bag litter, it is the fault of the litterers, which is a subset of all users of plastic bags. Shifting what should be the liability of the polluters onto the entire population of plastic bag users doesn't right any wrong--in my view the wrong is even greater.


> Would you describe vandalism as a "market failure"? How about shoplifting? If not, why are they a different problem from littering?

Yes. This is exactly why we don't expect markets to take care of these issues: instead, we have a public police force.

> If there is a problem with plastic bag litter, it is the fault of the litterers, which is a subset of all users of plastic bags. Shifting what should be the liability of the polluters onto the entire population of plastic bag users doesn't right any wrong--in my view the wrong is even greater.

The problem is that enforcing this liability is somewhere between impractical and impossible. It doesn't matter how much ideological sense your proposed solution makes if it can't actually be executed.


>Yes. This is exactly why we don't expect markets to take care of these issues: instead, we have a public police force.

Markets can and do take care of these problems. Businesses employ loss prevention and security staff, install security cameras and do a myriad of other things to prevent these problems from happening. Furthermore, when preventative measures are not enough, insurance is also available.

Police officers do very little to prevent these kind of problems. I would guess that very few cases (percentage wise) of shoplifting or vandalism were actually prevented by an on duty police officer. In almost all crimes on property or person police only show up afterwards--if they show up at all.

>The problem is that enforcing this liability is somewhere between impractical and impossible. It doesn't matter how much ideological sense your proposed solution makes if it can't actually be executed.

Maybe so, depends on the case. If I have video footage of a neighbor dumping a plastic bag in my front yard, I can pursue it if I want. Perhaps the wind blew it into my tree from a careless person many miles away. If I wanted to, I could hire an expert to do forensics on the bag and track down the culprit. In reality when the cost is so low for me to go pick up the bag from my property, that's what I'll do. The point is, it's up to the property owner to determine how they want to handle a trespass on their property. It is a cost/benefit analysis and the markets are working just the way they should.


> Markets can and do take care of these problems. Businesses employ loss prevention and security staff, install security cameras and do a myriad of other things to prevent these problems from happening. Furthermore, when preventative measures are not enough, insurance is also available.

Yeah. Businesses pay for something. Consumers pay for them.

But unless you actually create a crime-fighting unit, then you have innocent people paying for the crimes of others.

Look, if you're going to go anarcho-capitalist, please at least do the correct response and talk about "Dispute Resolution Organizations" or voluntary "Arbitration Courts". Because talking about those anarcho-capitalist concepts at least demonstrates to me that you're following the argument.


>Yeah. Businesses pay for something. Consumers pay for them.

>But unless you actually create a crime-fighting unit, then you have innocent people paying for the crimes of others.

So what? My local grocery store has a publicly accessible bathroom. Even though I may not go in and use the bathroom, I pay for other customers' use when I purchase a box of Cheerios.

>Look, if you're going to go anarcho-capitalist, please at least do the correct response and talk about "Dispute Resolution Organizations" or voluntary "Arbitration Courts". Because talking about those anarcho-capitalist concepts at least demonstrates to me that you're following the argument.

Perhaps you posted in the wrong thread because this thread wasn't even discussing private courts so I'm not sure what you're referring to when you talk about "following the argument".


> So what?

Nice argument. I guess we're done here. If you want to debate about philosophy and morals with me, the bare minimum requirement is that you do care.

As noted before, the $0.05 bag tax is a very, very, very minor issue. It barely costs anything. Frankly, I'm surprised you cared enough to discuss the matter this long on an issue so mundane.

If you were to ask me how much I cared about this subject, I'd tell you straight up: about $0.05, the amount of "bag tax" in my county. I'm not asking for a miracle or anything here. I'm just saying this is clearly more fair for plastic-bag users to pay for the costs associated with their behavior (however small it is), rather than other people paying for it.

If you can demonstrate to me that using the bathroom at stores is a major enough concern that a tax is required, then we can discuss creating a tax on that behavior as well. Somehow, I bet you're being facetious.


>Nice argument. I guess we're done here. If you want to debate about philosophy and morals with me, the bare minimum requirement is that you do care.

I think you've taken it the wrong way. I truly have no idea what you're getting at. Just because the cost of me buying Cheerios includes the privileged of someone else using the bathroom, it does not denote a market failure.

You, seemingly, have taken the stance that a business hiring security personnel is a manifestation of a market failure. It's a non-sequitur.


> You, seemingly, have taken the stance that a business hiring security personnel is a manifestation of a market failure. It's a non-sequitur.

No. My stance is that innocent-people pay for the crimes of others in your hypothetical.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_failure

In a perfectly efficient market, you only pay for what you use. The market failure occurs when you pay for things that OTHER people use. (IE: you get lung cancer when a Coal Power Plant burns Coal. Market failure, specifically an externality. You pay for lung cancer that was caused by other people.)

If you don't care about efficient markets, then you probably shouldn't call yourself an "ancap".


>No. My stance is that innocent-people pay for the crimes of others in your hypothetical.

You say "No" but then you repeated what I stated in different terms. Yes, it's unfortunate that there are bad people in the world who do not respect the property of others. We take measures to mitigate those risks like putting locks on our doors. That does not denote a market failure. Measures taken to mitigate crimes against us surely cannot be considered paying for something you do not use.

When I purchase something from the store, I'm not just buying that item itself. I'm paying for all the costs necessary to get that item to me--which includes costs for operating a business. Me paying that costs does not equate paying for something I did not use--I did use it. I used that business in order to be delivered goods. They paid costs to ensure I would get the goods. No, market failure.

>IE: you get lung cancer when a Coal Power Plant burns Coal. Market failure, specifically an externality. You pay for lung cancer that was caused by other people.

As I've stated previously this is not a market failure because this example depends on the idea of the commons. This exemplifies the failure of the idea of the commons, but not the market.

>If you don't care about efficient markets, then you probably shouldn't call yourself an "ancap".

If you're truly interested in having a discussion about morality and theory, why not cut out all the pretentious, snide comments? In this entire discussion I have only been respectful.


> We take measures to mitigate those risks like putting locks on our doors. That does not denote a market failure. Measures taken to mitigate crimes against us surely cannot be considered paying for something you do not use.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_failure

> In economics, market failure is a situation in which the allocation of goods and services is not efficient. That is, there exists another conceivable outcome where an individual may be made better-off without making someone else worse-off

The store AND the consumers will be better off if a police force stopped the thefts.

This is the very definition of a market failure.


You keep linking to that wikipedia article but I don't think you've read it or understand it.

>The store AND the consumers will be better off if a police force stopped the thefts.

>This is the very definition of a market failure.

You continue to fallaciously claim that absent a public police force businesses would do nothing to stop theft. The claim is absurd and ignores measures that businesses already take today to stop thefts. Furthermore you fallaciously claim that a public police force would stop thefts. We have a public police force. Thefts still happen. You have provided no evidence that absent a public police force that there would at least be more thefts and that option would be Pareto inefficient.

Your argument is the very definition of a non-sequitur.


> You continue to fallaciously claim that absent a public police force businesses would do nothing to stop theft.

They will do something to stop theft, and this something will cost money. It will cost insurance, it will cost security cameras, or security guards.

And these costs will be passed onto the consumer by the store raising prices.

IE: Consumer loses. Business lose. Thieves win.

Market failure in a nutshell.

> Furthermore you fallaciously claim that a public police force would stop thefts

On the contrary. I suggest the police force as a deterrence. They help fix the problem, but the costs of a perfect police force are too great (both in civil liberties and in monetary costs).

So in practice, we settle for a medium were enough thieves get caught to deter crime, but not all thieves are caught.


Customers covering operating costs does not constitute market failure. You should re-read that wikipedia article you keep linking. Also continuing to claim that in general "thieves win" is as absurd as claiming they "win" under the current laws and system.

Non-sequitur in a nutshell.


> Also continuing to claim that in general "thieves win" is as absurd as claiming they "win" under the current laws and system.

I have a far more nuanced argument than that.

Thieves win in your system more than they do in the status quo, because you somehow think that insurance companies / bouncers are sufficient to deter thefts.

A public police force is needed to deter thefts on a fair basis.


>A public police force is needed to deter thefts on a fair basis.

I won't go into the silliness of the assumption that our current public police force is "fair", but what makes you think a private police force/security guards/etc, would be less efficient at preventing theft than a public police force?


The fact that each company would have to redundantly set up their own.

The fact that the concept of private jurisdiction is currently incompatible with US Values.

And finally, the fact that its a classic "Tragedy of the Commons" situation. Of course, you don't believe in that so what can I say? If one company's police force is effective, no other company will fund the police force. (At which point, the first company's police force will lose funding because why should only one company pay for the benefits of everyone else?)

Now assuming each company's private police force gets their own jurisdiction, then all you gotta do to commit a theft is to leave the jurisdiction of police forces. Just like what criminals did before the FBI was invented in the 1920s. Committed a crime in New York? Move to Florida, then commit another crime.

A system of a large-scale, cross-jurisdiction police force needs to be created to adequately solve the problem. (Ex: True, New York's NYPD will stop following you around, but the FBI will be on your tail).

And then we go back to the problem of the big "one jurisdiction police force", who pays for it?

Market failure. No one wants to pay for it, because everybody would rather be a freeloader. Because being a freeloader is the good and proper greedy way of getting things done.

Solution? Tax everybody, then use taxes to pay for the big cross-jurisdiction police force. This gives the opportunity for little police forces (and private security measures) to do their thing in the small scale.


> Frankly, I'm surprised you cared enough to discuss the matter this long on an issue so mundane.

You cared enough to discuss it this long- why does it surprise you someone else does too?


He's given up on the argument if his best response is "So What".

Perhaps it was more accurate for me to say, I'm surprised he stuck with this so long only to give up now.


Maybe you could frame them that way. Vandalism causes damage to society (and a cost to repair/clean). There may be smaller prices society could pay, by providing some kind of alternative to tagging or destruction of property.

Hypothetically, with plastic bags, maybe you were paying 6 cents per bag, through taxes, for the city to send people out to clean up litter. With a 5 cent tax, the cost is more obvious, but discourages everyone (including litterers) from using as many bags. With fewer bags to pick up, the city can spend less on cleaning crews (now easily covered by the 5 cent tax), and the 6 cents can go to something more productive. As a bonus, you've lowered the long-term environmental damage rate from bags that get away.

The thing is, the liability caused by the polluters was already on the entire population, whether or not they polluted, and even whether or not they used plastic bags at all. It feels worse (and more unfair) because you're made more aware of the costs involved, even though there's been an improvement in the overall situation (including for you, the non-polluter).


> Would you describe vandalism as a "market failure"? How about shoplifting? If not, why are they a different problem from littering?

In the great scheme of things, yes. Although the definition kinda gets silly and I see your point. At the end of the day, you cannot trust the "free market" to solve vandalism or shoplifting.

You need to create a justice system, hire cops, and then use these cops to persecute vandals or other criminals. Under a free market devoid of crimefighting units, vandals and shoplifters will cause prices to rise (as stores increase prices to offset losses). IE: market failure. Otherwise innocent people are forced to pay for the crimes of others.

The creation of a police force requires innocent citizens to pay taxes for the police force as well. And the state will require the use of force to extort the money from these innocent citizens. So in the great scheme of things, the whole setup is extremely anti-market and demonstrates how much of a market failure the whole crime system is.

So from the perspective of "we can't trust only the free market to solve this problem", yes, Vandalism and Shoplifting require more than just straight capitalism to solve.

Most problems can be solved with capitalism btw. Which is why I'm generally a conservative on issues. But I educate myself on the failures of the free market so that I understand when we need to look at other solutions.

I'm mostly happy with the police system we have by the way. It seems like the "least bad". I see many issues, but I can't figure out a way to make the system better. And when I travel the world and look at other country's police systems, I'd much rather have the American system.

> If there is a problem with plastic bag litter, it is the fault of the litterers, which is a subset of all users of plastic bags. Shifting what should be the liability of the polluters onto the entire population of plastic bag users doesn't right any wrong--in my view the wrong is even greater.

Here's the primary difference: plastic bag pollution occurs even if you are 100% compliant with the law.

Plastic bags get thrown away into a dump, or otherwise discarded by some means. Then they degrade into micro-particles (since there's very few bacteria that can actually break down the bag), and then you start running into long-term pollution problems.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_pollution#Microdebris

Someone needs to pay for this. And naturally, making the users of the bags pay for this seems like the most fair solution.


>In the great scheme of things, yes. Although the definition kinda gets silly and I see your point. At the end of the day, you cannot trust the "free market" to solve vandalism or shoplifting.

See my above response. Markets do deal with vandalism and shoplifting, probably better than the police.

>You need to create a justice system, hire cops, and then use these cops to persecute vandals or other criminals. Under a free market devoid of crimefighting units, vandals and shoplifters will cause prices to rise (as stores increase prices to offset losses). IE: market failure. Otherwise innocent people are forced to pay for the crimes of others.

>The creation of a police force requires innocent citizens to pay taxes for the police force as well. And the state will require the use of force to extort the money from these innocent citizens. So in the great scheme of things, the whole setup is extremely anti-market and demonstrates how much of a market failure the whole crime system is.

Private police forces do exist. There are currently examples of this in Detroit where the public police is defunct. As for the court system, the closest thing I can think of in the private sector would be arbitration. There are theories out there of how the market might operate an entire court system. Just because these private systems are not more prevalent due to government monopolies does not denote a market failure.

>Here's the primary difference: plastic bag pollution occurs even if you are 100% compliant with the law.

>Plastic bags get thrown away into a dump, or otherwise discarded by some means. Then they degrade into micro-particles (since there's very few bacteria that can actually break down the bag), and then you start running into long-term pollution problems.

If the dump is incurring a cost by putting plastic bags into its landfill, than it behooves the dump to recuperate those costs from those consuming and throwing away those bags. If the dump's consumption of plastic bags is causing pollution to neighboring properties than the dump is liable.

This can all be handled with the market. No bans, and no taxes necessary.


> See my above response. Markets do deal with vandalism and shoplifting, probably better than the police.

Yeah. By making innocent people pay for the crimes of shoplifters, without actually fixing the shoplifters.

Shoplifters: Get free profit.

Consumers / Stores: Pay the cost.

That's hardly a solution, and you know it.

> Private police forces do exist

Generally speaking, we give monopoly powers of force to the Police. Private security forces are not allowed to use guns or tasers for example.

The effectiveness of unarmed security guards hired by insurance companies does jack-shit with regards to stopping a 7-11 gun-assisted theft.

And yes, I prefer that only trained officers have the legality to use guns in public places. Too many people shooting firemen in panic attacks: http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/16/us/maryland-firefighters-shot/...

> If the dump is incurring a cost by putting plastic bags into its landfill, than it behooves the dump to recuperate those costs from those consuming and throwing away those bags. If the dump's consumption of plastic bags is causing pollution to neighboring properties than the dump is liable.

Okay. The dump is owned by my county. And my county is now recuperating the costs by taxing the public. Congratulations. We're back at square one. Taxes are the fairest way of paying for this problem.

And if the dump is a private, 3rd party entity... how do you expect the dump to actually force people to pay for the services? Taxes man, they are the simplest solution.


It's interesting that you're either purposefully cherry picking my comments or just not reading them. If you read my response above you would see that markets do not merely allow shoplifters to get away with it and I never suggested they should.

>Generally speaking, we give monopoly powers of force to the Police. Private security forces are not allowed to use guns or tasers for example.

>The effectiveness of unarmed security guards hired by insurance companies does jack-shit with regards to stopping a 7-11 gun-assisted theft.

I'm not sure where this limitation of no guns for private security guards is coming from. I know plenty of private security guards who carry guns.

>Okay. The dump is owned by my county.

So you admit that what you were describing was a red herring and not a market failure.

>And if the dump is a private, 3rd party entity... how do you expect the dump to actually force people to pay for the services?

What do you mean "force people to pay for the services"? If I go to an accountant and use their services, I pay them for it. That's what we agreed to. If I didn't agree to pay him he wouldn't perform the service. Why would this be different? No force necessary.


> If you read my response above you would see that markets do not merely allow shoplifters to get away with it

Please. Explain.

Bob shoplift from a store. How does the insurance company stop him from shoplifing from the store again?

A Police Officer puts him in Jail. He spends some time thinking about it and eventually decides shoplifting isn't worth jailtime.

But private 3rd party citizens do NOT have the ability to use force on others. And that's a good thing.

Without the Police acting as a stick, you simply don't have a deterrence. Yes, Walmart hires greeters and purchases insurance policies against shoplifting. That doesn't stop the shoplifters I see shuffling through Walmart. If a Walmart greeter starts to confront a shoplifter, they just say "lol nope" and leave.

An Officer threating them with jail? That's something that gets a shoplifter's attention.

> So you admit that what you were describing was a red herring and not a market failure.

I'm saying that the County is using taxes to pay for the Dump (and similarly, raising a "bag tax" to discourage the use of plastic bags is a good thing). And according to you anarcho-capitalists, you guys typically consider the forceful removal of money from the private citizenry to be immoral.

I'm defending the use of taxes to solve this market failure. Because taxes are NOT a function of a free-market economy. You should know the basics of your own argument dude.

If you don't think raising taxes is a problem, then you have no qualms or counter-arguments from me. I'm presuming a few things about your argument because I've heard this philosophy many times before. I feel like cutting to the chase.

So, are you for or against taxes? I assume you're against, which is why I'm stating my arguments in this way.


>Bob shoplift from a store. How does the insurance company stop him from shoplifing from the store again?

When did I say an insurance company would stop a shoplifter? Whether or not Walmart will physically confront a shoplifter or not (I'm pretty sure I've seen cases in the news where they have), that's their business, but as far as I know there's nothing from precluding them from doing so.

>But private 3rd party citizens do NOT have the ability to use force on others.

Sure they do. I assume you're talking about laws here. I can't speak for the laws of every state, but most allow the the use of force in self defense or even to prevent theft.

Regardless of the laws of any given jurisdiction, is your argument that there is a market failure because the law prevents a business from taking action?

>I'm saying that the County is using taxes to pay for the Dump (and similarly, raising a "bag tax" to discourage the use of plastic bags is a good thing). And according to you anarcho-capitalists, you guys typically consider the forceful removal of money from the private citizenry to be immoral.

>I'm defending the use of taxes to solve this market failure. Because taxes are NOT a function of a free-market economy. You should know the basics of your own argument dude

You keep referring to an alleged market failure but you have failed to identify one. In your example the dump is a public institution, thereby excluding the possibility of a market failure.


> You keep referring to an alleged market failure but you have failed to identify one.

Externality.

Plastic bags cost $0. Cleaning up plastic bags costs more than $0. If you can't grasp this basic concept, then that's your own fault at this point.

An externality is a basic market failure. Very basic economics here.


The term you're looking for is actually negative externality. I am very familiar with the subject. I know it well enough, in fact, to know that if you're going to refer to a "market failure" you have to actually be discussing the market. Your example is dependent upon a commons and/or publicly owned enterprise, ie. not a market.

Very basic logic here.


Yeah, there are positive and negative externalities. And both are examples of specific market failures.

And no. Plastic Bags cost $0 from the grocery store under normal circumstances. If it weren't for the bag tax of $0.05, I wouldn't be paying (or being discouraged) to use recyclable bags. Why would I buy a $1.00 reusable bag if all the plastic bags are free?

On the other hand, if plastic bags cost $0.05, then the reusable bag becomes useful within 20 trips to the grocery store (moreso, because in my experience, the reusable bags can hold two or three times as much. So maybe only in about 7 trips or so it makes up for it).

This reduced pollution and overall created a better situation for my municipality. Most importantly, the bag tax works as far as getting rid of plastic-bag pollution.

If you were actually familiar with the argument, you'd have made a sane counterargument by now. But instead, you've only claimed that this bag pollution example is "not a market failure" or "not an externality".

I do get that you want to play with definitions all day long, but I'm going to hammer this point until you come up with a cohesive argument.

---------------

If you disagree, please tell me the free-market approach. And explain why the free-market approach failed to occur for 40+ years straight (ie: until the creation of the bag tax).

Hint: there's no free-market enterprise who is going to be able to make money while cleaning up polluted rivers. In particular, no one can "profit" from the cleanup of the The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch

Very few people are even discouraging the use of plastic bags and plastic water bottles that contribute to the pollution.

Come on man, the environment is the CLASSIC market failure. The easiest way to deal with it is to incur a minor tax on plastic goods that end up in the patch, to discourage its growth.


Your entire argument is that there exists a subset of the world which has been forcefully maintained as "owned by everyone", ie. a commons; the commons exists by compulsion and operates in a matter which is entirely contradictory to the way a market works; in no way would a sensible person confuse a commons as being part of a free market; then when things don't work out well for the commons you want to call it a "market failure". It's a complete misnomer. It's a mind boggling definition. The markets didn't fail. The commons failed. And because the commons failed it's somehow a good idea to punish the market.

But I get it, you didn't come up with the examples or the theories. The pseudo-economists did. I'm merely exposing the shallowness and contradictions of their theories.

You talk about "playing with definitions" but that's the entire point.

The cost of the bag is irrelevant. The cost of disposing the bag is irrelevant. The important facts are that the dump is a commons. That's it.

You ask for the solution and I have already told you the solution. Privatize the commons. It solves the entire problem. In this case you do not even have to privatize all the roads, national parks, oceans or anything else. In this case if the dump was privatized and municipalities did not try to take control of it through onerous regulation, your plastic bag disposal problem would be entirely solved.

>And explain why the free-market approach failed to occur for 40+ years straight

First of all I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for not saying "explain why the free-market failed for 40+ years straight". Your question acknowledges that you recognize that the free market did not fail but rather the free market approach was not attempted.

Why was it not attempted? I don't know. Not being very familiar with history of municipal garbage collection across countless jurisdictions, it would be hard for me to expound on their history and evolution. Similarly I don't know all the reasons why bad laws are passed and remain. I don't know why prohibition, despite its wondrous failure in the 1920s and early 1930s, continues in kind today. I could provide some anecdotes, but it wouldn't be the full picture.

But I do know if you look at the history of the world, free markets are a new concept. Free markets have brought incredible prosperity to the world. I know that, from the big picture, the world is trending towards more open and free markets. Perhaps in my day I'll see the widespread privatization of the dump.


You seem very unhappy at the idea of market failure.


Because they're an ancap. From what I've gathered they seem to believe markets should essentially determine everything


FYI: Ancap == Anarcho-capitalist. They believe that markets are able to solve all problems. Market failures are a fundamental blemish to their philosophy, so they tend to pretend that they don't exist.


A more accurate statement might be that I don't care for half-witted theories which are widely toted, used as justification to impose authoritarian regulations and conceal the true cause of today's problems.


I did feel the cold boot of the Government on my neck as I forked over that nickel. If I don't pay, they will send men with guns to ensure I do. Men with guns!


All of which are true.


What are those two regulations? The California Electrical Code 2010 has that no point on the wall space behind a countertop can be more than 600mm (24in) away from an outlet, which actually means an outlet every 4 feet (2 feet space are allowed either side) (Article 210.52). I don't see 18 in in there.

There's a good diagram of the regulations here: http://buildingincalifornia.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/R... ... but there's similar drawings explaining this in the code itself.

I'm not doubting that there's weird inconsistencies in the rules, but the 18in thing struck me as weird from my own experience of remodelling my house recently, so I looked up the CA code. Apparently SF are still fighting Carl Malamud to stop him putting their building code online. https://archive.org/stream/gov.ca.sf.electrical/ca_sf_electr...

(edited to fix 300mm to 600mm. I know 600mm isn't quite 24in but that's what the code says)


I agree, that sounds fishy. Maybe it's just an oversimplification of some pathological case, but I don't see how. The SF law on its own (as stated) would seem to preclude any counter deeper than 18", and then a receptacle in line with each edge should satisfy the NEC.

Carl Malamud is a saint. It's preposterous that people are expected to be bound by laws they cannot even access. But this obviously only affects the DIYers - commercial electricians benefit from the unjust barriers.


The plastic bag ban was one of a handful of regulations that made a HUGE difference to the health of the bay's ecosystem. Paper will at least disintegrate over time in the bay's water. Plastic does not.

You should really look at the effect and reasoning of some of these regulations rather than handwaving them away as 'bad government regulation'


> "Paper will at least disintegrate over time in the bay's water."

Paper bags also have a tendency to disintegrated when I am carrying them home.

Because of this, I am now more inclined to drive my car to the grocery store, so that I can place the bags in the trunk.


We have biodegradable "plastic" bags here. Not sure if it's actual plastic, but apparently it's not toxic to animals.

Paper bags suck. And they are made of trees.


Could the outlets be installed just below the countertop, in the face of the cabinet? Yes that would be ugly as hell, but most accommodations for the handicapped are.


I think this is what they're planning to do.

But it's for a multi-unit building with dozens of places, so this adds a lot of cost because now, rather than using off-the-shelf components ("casework" to use the industry term), they have to hire a woordworker to go in and manually modify each one, at probably 80-100/hr. Not great.


Is this the first time such a counter-top has been made?

Surely someone must have run into this problem before. How could there be no standard component that meets regulations, which have presumably existed for awhile?


I don't know of any other place that has this "outlets within X inches of counter edge" requirement, or really any accessibility requirement imposed in a blanket fashion on residential construction. Since that means most accessibility builds and mods are custom by nature, there is no market for standard components for most things. Tubs and showers are the main thing I can think of off the top of my head.


There are plenty of narrower countertops, and plenty of kitchen systems with e.g. suitable corner cabinets that would make the countertop narrow enough in the corner to fit the requirements. This is only a problem because they have chosen or want a solution that have painted them into a corner without thinking about the requirements.

The requirements may not be entirely well thought through, but complying with those two is not difficult.


So your initial claim was a gross exaggeration. You initially said there was no "constructible" countertop at all, thus making it impossible to build. Now you are saying it's not only constructible, it's possible to comply by modifying off-the-shelf components.

I hope your critique of the bans on plastic bags and happy meal toys is stronger than this.


It depends on the municipality but the code usually requires an outlet every 18" to 24" on or above the countertop for small appliances so no, such a modification would not bring the installation up to code.

Unless the countertop near the corner has a depth of 18" or less, it would be very difficult to fulfill all requirements.


That construction is still quite expensive and must look hideous. Sounds like a typical well-meaning regulation that's made without considering the consequences.


Put up drywall against the corner so it pushes the corner of the drywall closer to the corner edge of the countertop? An octagonal sort of shape. Then you can cut it off like a foot up or something and it can be a place to put a flower vase. :)


I'm sorry, but I'm having a hard time understanding why the constraints are contradictory. For example, can't you just have a thin countertop such that the corner is within 18 inches of the edge and put an outlet there?


So first of all, 18 inch counters are a little cramped, so this regulation means that nobody gets a counter big enough to have small appliances or ingredients containers and still has space to put a cutting board or roll dough in front of it.

I think it depends on how the code deals with corners. If 18 inches apart means that I can have the first outlet 18 inches from a corner, then I might be okay, or I might have to make 15-16 inch deep counters so that you can reach it even though it's right near the elbow.

If the 18 inches means I have to place outlets 9 inches from the corner, then you can't reach them. Or if you can convince them that Pythagoras was an okay guy and 12.75" from the corner is fine because 2 * 12.75^2 ~= 18^2, I'm still not quite able to reach those outlets unless I make a kitchen with crazy shallow counters.

The only other options involve chopping up the counter top into alcoves with the outlets set forward, including filling in the corner of the L. Otherwise you have to move the outlets away from the walls, which means not only are cords dangling all over your kitchen, but they're being exposed to fluids, either of which is so stupid that it should be against code but probably isn't.

I think the implication from OP is that effectively the only sane reaction is to build galley kitchens, (which might be better for people on canes or crutches, but would be difficult for people in chairs, and generall suck for everybody), or to build the oven or microwave into the corner to fill the space and/or give a reasonable spot to put an outlet.

But both of those essentially destroy the value of the corner, which is to house an arbitrarily large countertop appliance of your choosing, such as a juicer, dehydrator, or commercial grade stand mixer. And with 18 inch counter depth regulations you're sure as fuck gonna need it.


The solution, right here, $40 from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Tensile-Desktop-Kitchen-Socket-Customi...


And when the kids spill the milk trying to pour a glass, don't come crying to me when your house burns down.


Ikea also sells these (at least in Europe), and I trust Ikea enough to assume someone's taken care of that problem.


Well, yeah, but you have now just made the counter unusably thin.


Most of my countertop is much narrower than 18" because of cabinets going down to the surface. This is only a problem because they don't want to put something in place that breaks up the L-shape, such as a cabinet.


As noted above, corners are utilized for storing large items that don't otherwise fit comfortably on the counter.

In my own kitchen, the corner is used to store a mid-size toaster over. There is still plenty of room in front of the oven to butter toast or other smaller cooking tasks.

Take away the corner and my toaster is now moved to a straight piece of counter, where is takes all of the depth when open, and with no room in front to butter my toast.

This is a simple case of putting the needs of the few ahead of the many. I'm all for accessible public spaces, but why should my home be required to be built in such a way that it is less useful to me?


I honestly don't think I could work in your kitchen. :P I have 24" counters for the most part, with a few places that go to 36" because they are open on both sides. My mom's house has 18" counters, and I have a real hard time cooking in her kitchen. They're barely usable with all the stuff on them, though they wouldn't be too bad if they were clear.


They're not contradictory; they simply can't find a "ready-made" version of counter-top that satisfies both requirements at the same time.


It's also ugly.

Keep in mind that architecture is as much about how it looks, as how functional it is.


An outlet every 18 inches seems like a lot! A standard double sink is about 32 inches wide. What on earth is the motivation?


I'm trying to think who on Earth would even have that many things to plug in on a kitchen counter.

Microwave, toaster, toaster oven, rice cooker, griddle, blender, George Foreman grill, coffee maker... you'd run out of counter space well before you run out of outlets with that scheme.


I have relatively few outlets, (House was built in 1968) and I don't see the point either - you keep everything unplugged until you have to use it. I typically keep the rice cooker, crockpot, and all of the other "occasional use" appliances in the cupboard anyway. The only appliances that I actually have in a fixed spot are the microwave, toaster, and blender. Three outlets in three different spots, no problem.


That's what I am thinking while looking at my seemingly cramped kitchen with by comparison massive 24 inch deep countertops with only 4 outlets (5 if you count the one hidden behind the refrigerator). Much more than 18 inches apart. It boggles my mind to have that many outlets.


The motivation is keeping people from being dangerously cheap.

Quite a few kitchen appliances draw 12A for long periods of time, and people love to get cheap extension cords and outlet strips that cannot handle that amount of load. These same people will plug multiple high power loads into the extension cord, making the cord get dangerously hot before the breaker trips.


Just having extra outlets though would not help with that much if more than 1 or 2 appliances were drawing that much load and did not have their own breaker. The standard 15-20 amp breaker powering all or most of the copious outlets can still be overdrawn if the occupant plugs in too much kitchen stuff. It is my understanding that usually the refrigerator has its own breaker, but the rest of the appliances are on a common circuit.

Edit to add - just checked my breaker box. It looks like the disposal and the dish washer each have a 20 amp breaker and the rest of the kitchen is on a 3rd 20 amp breaker, presumably along with the refrigerator. It's an old house though, CA code is probably pretty strict on the breakers.


Having multiple outlets on the same breaker is fine as the house wiring will work fine with the trip current of the breaker, and it even might get inspected during installation to make sure it was sized correctly (this varies highly by location and the amount of change/new construction).

The cheap non-fused extension cord someone is using for both their microwave and toaster oven typically cannot safely handle the over current until the breaker trips like the house wiring can.


These 18" receptacles are not on one, or two circuits, wired in parallel. Now, if every receptacle was required to be isolated, your explanation would make sense.

Use to be a union 6 member. The code might now call for every receptacle to have it's own circuit breaker. It wouldn't surprise me.


Lobbying from the outlet lobby, most likely.


Be glad you're not dealing with the DOB in NY, esp in Brooklyn. The code is so thick that's it's impossible to not violate it in some way... worse yet the decisioning of the employees that approve them are arbitrary.

Friend of mine were forced alter the plans to include sprinklers in the build even for a single family without a CO change. This was before this was a requirement for all new single family. They just decided that you must do it. They even got a FDNY waiver, DOB didn't care. So they had to add it to the plan (at about 40k install) just to move the process along.


Surely state regulations supersede local ones if there's a direct conflict, or they would if the city every complained and the matter were ever brought in front of a judge?


Local government doesn't give a damn; they're perfectly content to refuse permit issuance if you don't comply with their regulations.

In theory you're correct, but, courts aren't known for their speed.

EDIT: IANAL but I think the issue here is more complex, because the regulations don't "conflict", they create a situation where a bad outcome occurs only because both of them are in place.

Does anyone know if there are other "emergent phenomenon" effects in law and how they're handled?


The rules don't even conflict that way, there are legitimate ways to satisfy both requirements. All of them just have side effects that aren't desirable.

Thus there is no way to challenge the lower law as superseding as it doesn't technically. It instead supersedes most reasonable designs.


Strictly speaking it's not a conflict, since you can obey both laws by simply not building at all.


So long as the city is the one issuing the permit that allows you to build, then arguments about who the relevant authority is aren't really germane. The authority is whomever can grant you the permit, even if it puts you afoul of a different law.


... why is there regulation for how many electrical outlets you have in the first place?


To alleviate the need for extension cords which are a big cause of fires.

That said, 18" is absurd.


And outlet multipliers, which are good at putting more load than planned on the circuit.


Do they even let you put the old-style non-fused/breakered outlets in anymore?


All countertop (small appliance) outlets are required to have GFCI protection and most places necessitate two separate 20A circuits for the space.


US outlets don't have any sort of fuse/breaker built in.


Some are GCFI which can detect abnormal current.


GFCI, AFCI, and overcurrent protection are all orthogonal protections. US receptacles do not have overcurrent protection built in.


I'm pro-autonomy and the NEC has recently jumped the shark (eg AFCI and "tamper resistant" receptacles), but most of its requirements are quite reasonable and written in blood.


Do you have links to the two conflicting standards please? Or names so I can web search them?


Seconded. Without a source to verify these claims, it seems that a huge amount of this discussion is based on hearsay.

I can tell you that the SF Electrical code (which I presume he is referring to) is available here:

http://library.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/California/sfbuil...

It's written as a series of amendments to the CA Electrical code, which is here:

http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information...

See Section 210.52 for kitchen requirements. AFAICT, there is no requirement that outlets be 18" apart - more like 48".

Good luck finding the code sections that he's referring to though - there's a lot of text in there, and it's not easy to search..


The exact dimensions are based on my memory of a conversation. I actually tried to look up the real thing, but like, you I failed.

Even so, just wanted to go on record as saying I'm not sure the exact dimensions I quoted were correct. But I don't think that's the point. It's just an interesting illustration of how emergent complexity can creep up without anyone intending it.

And I sure didn't mean to spark a huge discussion with dozens of comments, I'm pretty surprised by how far this thing has gone!!


>I'm pretty surprised by how far this thing has gone!!

Haha - so do we now have two examples of emergent complexity?

FYI, it's not that the complexity / length of the code caused me to fail per se - I've actually used that section of the code to design a kitchen - it's not user friendly, but it does ultimately work in that I could use it to find and follow all the rules applicable to my design. But I did fail to find a reference to the '18 inch rule' that you stated, but that's because that would require me to read the entire code, for which I don't have time (you need the entire thing because it has a nasty habit of having the rules spread out over multiple sections, probably in the interest of abstraction / generalization. ADA may well be an example of that)

One other thought: since the SF rules are written directly in relation to the CA rules, it's not like they are two competing standards. One if just a layer on top of the other. Of course, that could still create a contradiction, but in the one case where I saw that, the DBI found a way around it.


I've deliberately left some details of this off to protect the name of the firm and individuals involved.

There's a particular office, part of the SF city government, that's responsible for interpreting a fast-moving, complex body of code. As you can imagine, municipal building regulations can change pretty quickly (much more quickly than state and national regs) and somehow, the regulatory climate was such that the city refused to permit the design. More worryingly, the process was basically a from-scratch review where each time they asked the regulator to review the plans, they did a ground-up inspection of the entire drawing, and interpreted the regulations differently each time. Absent getting a court order, they're stuck fighting the SF office and trying to get them to issue the permit, or get some kind of variance/exemption that will allow their design.

My girlfriend often laughs because she got into architecture to design buildings, but after all this, she sometimes jokes that she's basically a low-end lawyer who also has to yell at contractors and only very occasionally, open up CAD. Sort of funny.


Yes, having pulled a permit myself I can attest that it's 10% drawing, 90% badgering and debating the exact meaning of the code, in all its glorious ambiguity.


What if they just leave a large square-shaped hole in the elbow of the countertop?


Seattle instituted a limited plastic bag ban four years ago. It hasn't been a crisis: http://www.seattle.gov/util/MyServices/Recycling/ReduceReuse...


Just put a cabinet that goes down to the counter in the corner.

What the above really means is that they don't like the solutions that will satisfy the constraints.


In the UK we didn't ban plastic bags - but introduced a small charge, there do seem to be way less of them blowing around in the wind.


Simply allowing more density would be a greener plan: http://www.vox.com/2016/4/20/11467110/san-francisco-solar-de...


Even the most progressive cities will not go after the big progressive wins, preferring token measures. Hence, huge advertising campaigns promoting earth hour, but never ever ever in a million years will they touch the gas tax or increase allowable density or stop subsidizing parking.


Paul Krugman once called elevators "the most efficient mass-transit system ever designed."



That was my immediate thought as well. Just one of the many things which makes HK my favorite city in the world.


And when the power goes out for a few days, and Grandma needs to walk her dog from 60 floors up?


This is very true, he's still an idiot though.


Scott Wiener, the Supervisor who introduced the bill, also is far more in favor of density than many of the other supes. It's a harder sell here.


Politics is more about greenwashing, because a "worse" but popular plan that actually gets enacted is more useful than a "better" but controversial plan that gets stuck in red tape.


Yes, but they aren't mutually exclusive.


Another thing: this is why we (tech) need to engage with politics.

If there's one thing we really understand, it's complexity: why it sucks, how to avoid it, and how piling on rule after rule can make the legal code "unmaintainable" (sound familiar?)


It's also the reason why tech people shouldn't be so dismissive of politicians, lawyers or the social sciences: they've been wrangling this shit for hundreds of years.


I agree and actually think code-wranglers and lawyers have more in common than people realize. I almost became a lawyer but decided to write code instead.


So the law should really be one giant program that legislators should "commit" code to, after code review of course.

Neat idea.


Train a neural net on all previous court data, and use it to preside over the bulk of redundant court cases. Call it De jure Recursive Engine Driving Decisions, or Judge D.R.E.D.D.


I always loved how the Judge DREDD video game went batshit crazy with acronyms.


Isn't it already?

State code can be published as a single tome.

Committees write and review updates.

In a bicameral legislature, there are usually review processes between the houses (QA?)

The legislative body votes (commits) the changes.

Then the governor acts as a final QA step before pushing to production.


To a point, but if you look at most laws, especially tax laws, you'll see a completely lack of logic in many of them, so much so that they literally could not be put into a program.


My first exposure to Robert's Rules of Order was "OMG! Wait til gamers hear about this! It'll be like crack for them."


Yet somehow despite wrangling with it for hundreds of years, they manage to do a worse job than most entry-level programmers.


Let's see how well any programmer, much less an entry-level one, handles an indeterminate execution environment... It's like C++, except every line has potentially undefined behavior.


> It's like C++, except every line has potentially undefined behavior.

...but you repeat yourself.

How many production C++ programs have absolutely zero undefined behavior?


I challenge you to interview more entry-level programmers : )


The nice thing about programming is it usually doesn't require a literal vote to change each line of it.


You don't have mandatory code reviews...?


Can you find even one example of an entry-level programmer governing a city, let alone enough data to generalize about "most"?


Most programs designed by committee probably don't come out so well.


How many software projects do you know that have survived and thrived for hundreds of years?


Or a better explanation is that you just don't understand how difficult it really is.


California once had a "Legislative Data Center" whose entire purpose was to ensure that California laws do not conflict. Not sure if they still do. They wrote their own search software.


My state has that too. I think that's the norm.


One of the reasons I appreciate how Arizona's statute revision system works... as new laws come in they effectively replace a given section of the statutes to reflect the new version of the statute... this doesn't help much when a local ordinance conflicts with a broader one, but is a nicety all the same.

At least it makes the law as it stands now, easier to reason with.

More

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: