Tag Archives: social cost

Convivial costs

This is a brief addendum to my earlier essays on Conviviality and Good Governance.

In writing my recent paper about diesel cars, I found myself using the idea of “social cost.” The Business Dictionary defines this as “the expense to an entire society resulting from a news event, an activity or a change in policy.” Wikipedia calls it “the private cost plus externalities.” An externality from something is a cost or benefit that affects a party, who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.

This set me thinking about how a convivial order, which includes a minimal system of good governance, would deal with such costs. (I’m assuming that an unintended benefit to others, or positive externality, wouldn’t require any action by anyone – except that the doer might choose to stop doing it.) The most obvious example of such a cost is the cost to others of pollution, such as air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution. But it can also be applied to other activities, such as the cost to innocent individuals of bad, politicized regulations and taxes. In this paper, however, for simplicity I’ll use the word “polluter” for the party causing such a cost.

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