Roberts' Rule of Ridicule
Here’s a gem of ridicule from my colleague Russ Roberts. The National Academy of Sciences reports that divorce is bad for environment, because singles use more resources than couples. Russ exposes this “finding” as a bizarre combination of the obvious and the absurd:
Yes, that’s the reason to marry carefully. To make sure you don’t use too much water or electricity. Not because it’s tough on the kids or yourself to get a divorce. Here’s a secret. Don’t tell anybody. Living uses electricity and water and it’s worth it, most of the time. Here’s another secret. Civilization uses electricity and water. I guess we need more people living naked in caves.
If you don’t like how much electicity and water we use, explain to me why it’s the wrong amount. Then change the prices.
Economists spend a lot of time explaining how prices can solve environmental problems. Russ’ post reminds us that we have a far more basic mission: Using economics to explain what things qualify as “problems” in the first place.