Adam Snyder's Environmental Economics

Environmental Economics

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I don’t like the safety standard

In class on Wednesday, we talked about pollution policy in America and the safety standard. We learned about the safety standard in practice and what specifically the EPA deems to be “Safe”. For example, “safe” is defined by a mortality rate of less than 1 in 1million and “unsafe” if there is a mortality risk of more than 1 in 10,000. The EPA’s definition of Safe and unsafe in my opinion are a very weak standard to practice.

Starting right off there is an area that is not deemed safe or unsafe because it is in-between the two probabilities, 1 in a Million for safe and 1 in 10,000 for unsafe. The leads me to conclude that the regulations are very contextual based and subjective, and therefore any universal ruling would be too ambiguous and wouldn’t really solve the individual problems, so why even have these policies?

Also the fact that we are using human death dolls to measure pollution doesn’t really logically make sense, if we are trying to limit pollution, we should limit pollution itself, not the externalities. Pollution harms more than just humans and effects more than humans can even measure, and the scope of the EPA’s “safe” and “unsafe” measurements are too narrow and specific. Until we can account for all those externalities we can’t have a real picture of the costs of pollution. Logically speaking, we only know for sure that pollution is bad, so we should be focused more on what we can fully understand, then the side effects will be reduced by themselves.

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Just an opinion……

In regards Wednesday’s class in which we played a game that simulated the prisoner’s dilemma, I noticed that it is an accurate way to show the economic behavior of independent agents in a market, but not a good demonstrate of human nature, which is what the game almost unintentionally shows.

The game basically showed that a group of people would always choose to make themselves better off, rather than make the group mutually better off. It assumes that humans are only self-interested and in a world of competition and always typically fail to lend a hand to others.

However, I do not think that is how humans really are. I think in an environment where agents want to win or be better off is when usually when they will put themselves ahead of others. This I feel will hold true when the game is played for demonstration, bonus extra credit points in class, or even cash. BUT, the game would be played very different if the stakes would put others at a loss. For instance, forgive my extreme example, if the losers (those with the lowest points) were put to death. In that game, everybody would be on the same page, no (rational) person would let another suffer, which is where I would see humans true caring nature flourish. At this point the group would most certainly help each out, a very different outcome than before.

I am not trying to criticize the game from an economic standpoint; just trying to address the dark realist views about human nature the game falsely projects after playing it.

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Using money to show negative Externalities

It’s a proven fact that cigarettes are bad for you. However, when you smoke a cigarette the negative effects stretch far beyond what you’d think. When you smoke, it’s obvious you decrease your own lifetime, but what you may not know is that you are also harming America’s GDP.

In Joe Rojas-Burke’s article, “ The True cost of a pack of cigarettes is $18.83” he states that when The American Lung association researched and compiled the negative externalities of a cigarette, including the fact that a shorter lifespan means less ability to work, the true cost of a pack of cigarettes is $18.83. This number was achieved by looking at the cost and benefits of cigarette smokers quitting, and seeing how much money was lost from tax revenue and retail versus how much money was gained from a decrease in medical costs and increase in productivity. The numbers that they had found led to a big increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

It is interesting to see studies like this play out, and this strategy could be applied to change policies regarding pollution. They should start to publicize the real dollar costs of externalities for products that damage the environment, so that people may be able to truly understand the cost, in terms that make sense to everybody and the US dollar seems to do that well.


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The Irony of Liberalism

By no means am I a political expert, in fact that’s not even my major here at CSU. However, I have taken my fair (expensive) share of courses related to politics and the economy, and discussions about liberalism have appeared in many of these classes. Liberalism is obviously a very broad term that can be applied to many studies, and whether it is wrong or right, I still have a small qualm about it, it seems to me that a part this term is set up to create problems. What I learned about liberalism in my Gender in the Economy class, as well as my class about Globalization, was that when a government choose or was forced to use economic liberalism, it (simply put) meant that they would let the free market work as it pleased, with limited regulation by the government. My main issue with this is that when I took Political Science and learned about liberals who believe in political liberalism, they took a slightly different stance. Liberals in political science believe in more government control using regulations. I understand that this is a VERY simplistic view of a very complex term but it does the job showing the irony of the same word meaning two different things. I also understand that political science and economics are two very different studies and I know that the term “liberalism” means two totally different things within these studies. All I wanted to point out was that this issue would create a problem if two scholars were debating the legitimacy of liberalism without knowing which field they were in. One would argue for, one would argue against, and no one would know what he or she is talking about. Which brings me to the irony itself, if it is seemingly dumb that the same word can have two polar opposite meanings, then why did scholars make it that way?