Fascinating piece on tech externalities:
Modern cities can be so noisy that ornithologists have found birds warbling at the top of their lungs to be heard. Nightingales in Berlin have been documented singing up to 14 decibels louder than their counterparts in woody environs, in an attempt to make their songs audible above all the background noise. Yet the cacophony of modern life is hardly confined to metropolises like New York or Cairo, Egypt, where you literally have to shout on the street to make yourself heard.
New technology is noisy: car alarms, cell phone ring tones, and the must-have suburban leaf-blower. After you read the whole Salon article about the increasing level of noise in modern society, tell me what you think can be done.
Bigger picture: As an entrepreneur, problems that others tell me are impossible look to me like a fun challenge. While as an economist, a lot of problems that people tell me are incredibly complex actually look pretty simple to me. But the solution is never what they want to hear. If something is bad for society (carbon emissions, noise, crime), then raise its price. Done. Just cut the Gordian knot, people. Next?
In the simplest terms possible, a mayor or legislator might find herself incredibly popular by proposing a tax on any product sold (or registered) with an internal combustion engine. Flat tax of $30 for a car or an edge trimmer. Yikes, there goes my political career ... did I just say t-t-t-t-tax?
Yes. Although raising taxes is probably as politically incorrect as can be, it is probably up to our generation (Sorry, Greatest) to clean up the Boomers' national debt extravaganza. And when the time comes to balance the budget, we should aim to tax the bad things (noise, gasoline, trash, violent crime, evil foreign dictators) and untax the good things (homegrown profits, employment, innovation). Other ideas?
P.S. So Greg, can I join the Pigou Club now?