Markets in *everything*

by on July 9, 2008 at 6:58 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

Both the action and the substance, in fact:

The remote town of Musiri in the Tamil Nadu state has hit upon a unique idea to teach its residents proper hygiene: pay them money each time they use the toilet.

Users can make up to $0.14 a month to relieve themselves in a specially constructed toilet. Not a princely sum, but it’s extra cash flow that low-income residents can make just for answering nature’s call.

The government-backed program serves two purpose: It encourages people to discard age-old practices of urinating and defecating in the open, leading to diseases. And the waste product goes into research to test their effectiveness as fertilizers.

Here is the full story and thanks to Marco for the pointer.  One point is that both the income and substitution effects predict the villagers will put on weight.

Craig July 9, 2008 at 7:21 am

Of course, if the program is successful, people will also put on weight because they will spend less time being sickened by the diseases caused by relieving themselves out in the open. Any study attempting to quantify the income and substitution effects would need to account for any weight gain due to the reduction in such diseases.

david July 9, 2008 at 9:21 am

@Tom asks:
> Also, how are they going to classify what consitutes a visit and is there a limit on per day usage?

From TFA:

“For now, residents queue up twice a day. They are given cards on which each trip is marked off. At the end of the month, residents can cash out the cards, making up to $0.14.

Subburaman arrived at the amount by calculating that an average person will need to relieve himself two times for each of the 30 days and make 10 paisas per visit.

“If they ask to go three, four times a day, then something’s wrong,” he said. “We ask them to go to a doctor.” “

anon July 9, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Too… many… jokes… must… unload… Ahhh, that was nice ;)

Tony July 10, 2008 at 12:55 am

This is an extrinsic motivator. Any psychologist will tell you that it’s a bad idea to use those to encourage a behaviour because it makes the subjects less likely to carry on the behaviour once the reward is taken away. Unless the plan is to fund this payment system forever, it’s going to make things worse.

Education of the downsides to random defecation would have been better.

Jeff Shek July 10, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Dr. Spurt,

I agree with you.

I agree with Tony that it is an extrinsic motivator, but disagree that it is bad. It’s a very similar concept to paying a child to read, expecting that he/she will eventually develop a passion for learning. Most of the time, this doesnt work out and the child just wants to get paid for whatever he/she is doing. However, at the end of the day, the child is still smarter. In this case, the utility gained from a community in better health is likely higher than the costs of paying for this behavior.

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