Trash Talk

The normally sure-footed Arnold Kling slips with this really bad argument against private garbage collection:

Surely, if we all lived in small mountain communities we would need less government. But imagine purely private trash collection in an urban area. If you pay for somebody to collect the trash in front of your house, then instead of paying for my trash to be removed, my strategy is to put my trash in front of your house and free ride on your trash collection.

First, let me tell you I know Arnold Kling and no way is he sneaking out in the wee hours of the morning to secretly stash his trash.  No way.  Not ever.  Unlike other rotten people, I bet Arnold even pays for his house number to be painted on the curb.

Second, private trash collection works!  I know because my neighborhood has two private, competing garbage collectors and the service is better than I have ever experienced in any other neighborhood.  I get two trash collections a week (three counting yard matter such as leaves and cuttings), they take everything including recycling, the price is low and they work on government holidays.  Most of Fairfax County has private trash collection. In fact, around the United States and the world private trash collection is quite common and there are typically substantial cost savings, on the order of 20-30%.

It is important to note that cost savings come from creating competition rather than from privatization per se–substituting a private monopoly for a public one is not very helpful but creating and maintaining a competitive environment can work wonders.

Addendum: FYI, Arnold was replying to a good review by Stan Liebowitz of Arnold’s (also good) book, Unchecked and Unbalanced. Arnold, next time resist!


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