Exploring Byproducts

9. Light is a wonderful thing. When the power goes out in the evening, most of us are lost without electrical lights. However, some people worry about light pollution. Search for the term "light pollution" on the internet and explain why some people are upset about light pollution.

10. Americans are attracted to the idea that they should be allowed to do anything that does not hurt others. Yet once understands the concept of externalities, which is the term that economists use for the topic of byproducts, one can find them just about everywhere. Can you think of any activity that you do or can do that does not in some way affect others?

11. Economist Robert Frank argued in Choosing the Right Pond: Human Behavior and the Quest for Status that much of our spending was a quest for status. He noted that if one person gains in status, others must lose status; the competition is at best a zero-sum game. He saw evidence of this quest in many markets such as in clothing, automobiles, housing, and education. One of the markets to which his analysis can be applied is plastic surgery. When some plain Jane or Joe gets some surgical help to make her or him look better, does it affect others? Might social disapproval of plastic surgery make some sense?

12. At one time wind energy was a panacea of environmentalists for energy problems. It was supposed to be renewable and nonpolluting. Critics of wind power suggested that the large capital expenditures it needed made wind power too expensive and that the output of electricity was too variable to be useful.
If you search the internet for "wind power" and "stop wind" you will find that environmentalists are now divided on the desirability of generating electricity from wind. One can argue that their different views of the byproducts, which economists call externalities, are at the root of their divisions.

a) One side argues that the alternatives to wind power have too many externalities. What are the externalities of electricity generated by fossil fuels, water, and nuclear power?
b) What are the externalities that those who oppose wind power stress?
c) You may have to dig a bit into the sites to find an answer, but what solutions do those who oppose wind power see for the energy problems that face the nation?

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