May 09, 2012


"Externalities" is an economics term that is often forgotten by worshipers of the market god. An externality is a kind of market failure, an example of a situation in which markets aren't efficient. The most troubling kind is a negative externality, which occurs when the costs of a particular kind of business aren't borne by either the buyer or seller and don't show up on the bottom line. Instead, they are passed on to someone else, often the public, which typically has to clean up the mess if it is going to be cleaned up at all.

I kept thinking about negative externalities while driving around Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in northern WV. One example are the roads that are chewed up by heaving trucks hauling equipment in and out. Then there is the carbon emitted from the wells and drilling and transport process. Then there are all the nasty chemicals that show up in air, water, and solid waste. Then there is the noise pollution and diminished quality of life for people who live near the operations. Then, what kind of health effects are going to show up down the road? Etc.

People--lots of people--who didn't benefit from the market transaction are going to be paying for this for a long time to come. I know this drilling is going to be done, but I don't think we've gone far enough in regulating it and I don't think anyone yet has any idea what the long term consequences are going to be.

WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? Support for the war in Afghanistan is at an all time low.

A PARADIGM SHIFT in global economic thinking? Maybe, but it hasn't hit here yet.

IN POLITICS, who needs facts?

WHAT ABOUT GOLIATH? An archaeological dig in Israel may shed like on biblical King David's time.

I WANT ONE. Scientists have discovered fossils of a "mini-mammoth" that stood about three feet high.


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