Thursday, June 6, 2019

Ethical Free Riding

Partial list of ethical ways to free ride (enjoy positive externalities). Free riding is generally economically destructive and potentially unethical. For example, if paying for national defense is voluntary, the risk is that we get too little of it as many people attempt to free ride off of the benefit of everyone else paying for it. (Note: don't too easily accept this theoretical argument when applied to so many so called "public goods" such as roads and lighthouses.) While free riding off of others is unethical when you are taking resources from others, there are many examples of free riding that are ethically fine:
  1. Mayberry - Because so many people (especially helpful if it is your neighbors) are so very active in their home security (setting burglar alarms, using Ring doorbells, etc.), you don’t have to be. You just need for your place to look like the kind of place that does.
  2. Speed Racer - Because everyone wants to drive so fast, you can go above the speed limit safely and stay behind the fastest drivers who can run interference with Smokey. Defensively keeping pace with traffic is the safer way to drive. 
  3. Quantum Leap - Be on time and keep your promises and you will exceed most people's general expectations. This is basically just capitalizing on other people’s inability to do the right thing. 
  4. Gotham - The benefits of big-city life are great for both individuals as well as society at large. Not only are you doing good by the environment living in a big city, you are doing well for yourself in many ways. For you this means access to amenities that are less expensive and of greater scope in type and richness.
  5. Quiz Show - When information is expensive, trust the wisdom of the crowd. Visiting a new town and looking for a good restaurant? Trust the one that is popular with locals--all the more so if it has other impediments to overcome like a poor location. 
  6. The Matrix - There is basically no excuse for doing something new or difficult by winging it from scratch. Research and learn using Google searches, YouTube, blogs, et al. Somebody somewhere has been there, failed, corrected, and left it all waiting for you to discover.