Individuals often make decisions that are in their own best interest, and often disregard the impact they may have on other people. Whenever this happens, individuals are creating an externality. Someone else either benefits or is harmed by that outcome. In the case of someone putting on deodorant, that could have spillover benefits from people getting to smell a “fresh scent.” If too much is applied, it could annoy others are turn to a negative externality.
Monica decides she wants to makes candy for the neighbors even in an attempt to get to know them better (or to liked?) She decides to place the candy in a basket on her door so that anyone can take a piece, but a tragedy of the commons ensues. Her neighbors are taking more than their “share” of the candy and are bothering her throughout the day to get more candy from her. When the commons has been exhausted, the neighbors form a mob.
Thanks to Dawn Renninger for the clip recommendation!
Howard and Bernadette are bothered by their neighbor’s (Andy) new flood lights, which appears to look out over their backyard and right into the hot tub they have built. Andy doesn’t see the problem because his flood lights are in his backyard and provide him some sense of security, but they are a nuisance to Howard and Bernadette.
Instead of talking to their neighbors directly, like the Coase Theory would suggest, they head to the city zoning office to try and report the issue in the hopes that he has violated some city zoning ordinance. When they realize that will take too much time, they try to get Sheldon’s help, but Sheldon is cautious because Bernadette and Howard didn’t get permission to build their backyard deck, nor renovate their shower.
In Howard and Bernadette’s mind, government regulation should only be used for externalities. Their deck and bathroom aren’t affecting third parties so they don’t see the need to have them approved.
In this quick Axe commercial, we can observe both positive and negative externalities associated with cologne use. The original wearer didn’t realize the (good and bad) impact the second elevator guest would receive from his use of Axe Body Spray, and thus didn’t take that into account when he was applying it.
Evan Osnos discusses many of the externalities that arise from the increased production of Cashmere in China over the past decade. Osnos explains that cashmere goats in China have sharp hooves that tear up the landscape and create dust, which then travels to the United States and reduces air quality, particularly along the west coast. As cashmere consumption has increased, so has the pollution. Osnos refers to the “real costs” of cashmere items (such as a cashmere toilet seat cover that Colbert has) as including the health care costs for those affected by the dust.
Here’s a lesson plan from SERC: https://serc.carleton.edu/econ/interactive/examples/43020.html