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Jul. 7th, 2011: - johnlocke.org Manage Subscriptions

In this issue: Raleigh's recycling dogma and More salary transparency, please!
By Dr. Michael Sanera

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1. Raleigh's Recycling Dogma


The City of Raleigh proudly reports the expansion of its recycling program. As this report notes, "Raleigh residents will soon be able to recycle more items with greater efficiency." However, in this instance, the word "efficiency" is being thrown around by city officials and reporters having little to no knowledge of its economic meaning. Economically speaking, when something is "efficient," the costs are less than the benefits.


City officials report that recycling will increase 20 to 25 percent over the next few years and that the city will receive an additional $340,000 for fiscal year 2012 from the contractor who recycles the city's recyclable materials. That sounded pretty good to the reporter who failed to ask the fundamental questions about the total costs of the program.


For example, how much does the city pay for the blue roller carts and the new biweekly pick ups? Does the city calculate the cost of the time spent by residents separating the household waste?


In order to discover whether or not the recycling program is economically efficient, the total of these costs must be subtracted from the amount received from the recycling contractor payments. If these costs are more than the amount received, the program is not efficient.


City officials also claim that this recycling program will reduce the amount of waste that is taken to the landfill. Without a true cost accounting, residents will not know if the program is efficient. If the cost of landfilling the recyclable materials is actually less than the total recycling program costs, the recycling is not efficient and is a waste of resources.


This article by economist Michael Munger explains how an efficient recycling program actually works.


I recently participated in an efficient recycling program. The recycler came to my house, collected the recyclable materials and paid me $200. All I had to do was make a phone call and my Chevy with a blown engine was recycled into a new car, a washing machine, or some other useful products.


2. More salary transparency, please!


The News &Observer reports here that the salaries of the chief executives of the League of Municipalities and the County Commissioners Association top $200,000. What is significant about this story is not the salary levels, but the fact that both executives stonewalled the N&O, initially refusing to disclose their salaries. Their claim? The associations are not public agencies. Well, if it walks like a duck...


Both executives participate in the public pension plan that is backed by taxpayers and both agencies receive the bulk of their money from local taxpayer funded dues payments.


Next time, officials who receive salary and benefits from the taxpayers should admit it and come clean with their salaries, so the public can decide if they are earning their money.


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