Tue, Jul 17, 2012 - Page 8 News List


Inured in externalities

In the film The Matrix, Agent Smith makes a salient point that humans are inured to their lives and surroundings. People truly do take everything for granted, regardless of their place in life. We just accept it, because that is how we grew up, wherever we were at the time, and where we are now.

Humans widely ignore that animals, even the lowly mosquito, are active economic entities, looking for blood, water and mates, just as we “adults” do. All God’s creatures make what we believe are rational decisions within a limited framework of time, environment and available choices, from the jet set to the homeless.

Taiwan’s scooter drivers are investors even if they do not know it. First, they pay cash for a scooter, thinking it will make their commute to work more convenient and less expensive, a potentially profitable goal.

However, cheap, taxpayer-subsidized gasoline, in Taiwan and elsewhere, has led Taiwanese down a smoky dark path toward wastefulness.

Some scooter commuters rarely change their oil or spark plugs, thinking they will save money, but this actually decreases their gas mileage. Neglecting upgrades on one’s investment typically leads to a negative rate of return.

To an outside observer such as Agent Smith, these scooter-driving humans literally burn their own money when they are idling at Taipei’s 90-second traffic lights because not only are they throwing away gas money, they are also dramatically shortening the life of their engine because it is running inefficiently, unwisely diminishing the original investment’s value.

Agent Smith’s main complaint was “the stench.” Indeed, what are currently unaccounted-for externalities, such as air, water and soil pollution, affect the livelihoods of all investors, considering human health and our finite planet with its thin atmosphere.

As a mostly bicycle, but public-transportation-when-it’s-raining 8km weekday cross-town business commuter, I am extremely dismayed at this sickening idling habit that people give no consideration to this increasingly Beijing-esque capital city.

I have heard that to save money, crayon makers are no longer including “sky blue” in their sets since they already have gray, or brown like they use in Mexico City to color in the sky in children’s pictures. Sucks to be you, kindergarten kids.

Shockingly, the death rate for cancer in Taiwan jumped from 20 percent last year to a massive 30 percent of total deaths, according to recent statistics.

Lung cancer will likely remain at 20 percent, but this could increase and more information will come out regarding the negative externalities of our energy and commuting choices.

Along with climate change, this Year of the Dragon will be the time to mark everything to market, so I suggest that investors and commuters examine their portfolios and consider their options.

Please turn off your scooters at long lights, and encourage others to do the same. For more information, please watch The Matrix again, or check out the Idle-Free Taipei homepage.

Torch Pratt, Yonghe

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