Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Mile-Long Row of

When the Rolling Stones visit Moncton, New Brunswick, this September, concert organizers will be well-prepared. Presumably many of the problems documented in the cult film Gimme Shelter will be avoided. [thanks to Brian Ferguson of A Canadian Econoview for the pointer].

Various local radio stations ... devoted considerable air time to whether there would be enough portable bathrooms available for 70,000 potentially beer-swigging fans at the mother of all Moncton concerts scheduled for September 3.

... Your average portable toilet is just about a metre (3.5 feet) wide. Place 1,400 side by side and you have an outhouse chain 1.4 kilometres long, a bit shy of a mile.

If only parts of the concert site offer beer, the required number of toilets will of course drop. But even 700 would tax the capacities of what's currently available in the province, according to Jolaine Gallant. "All New Brunswick couldn't meet the demand."

An averaged sized business for the local industry, Gallant Septic, for instance, has 150 toilets in its inventory. However, all except 40 or 50 are rented out longterm to other clients. On top of that, Gallant speculated there would also be a need for a number of toilets in the parking area.

Further increasing the demand, Gallant said her business has received lots of calls from private citizens, who are either hosting friends and family for the Labour Day weekend event or looking at setting up temporary campgrounds for profit.

The news has not all gone to pot though. Talk trickling down from the plastic outhouse industry is that portable toilets from as far away as Quebec, Ontario, and New England are being lined up to supplement what's available in our region.

Shane Porter of the City of Moncton's Community Services Department echoed that, saying it would not be unusual for truckloads of toilets to hit the open road and head for Magnetic Hill.
Clearly, not all capital is fixed and immobile.

Here's a fun question: do you think Gallant Septic raised their rental rates for September 3rd? For regular customers? Surely the opportunity cost of renting a porta-potty to the long-standing (!) regular customes has risen for that day, and in that sense raising the rental rate would be cost-justified. And yet my guess is they didn't, for P.R. reasons, though it would likely be acceptable to remove any discounts they might have been offering.

Let's face it, we humans are a pretty asymmetrical bunch when it comes to understanding opportunity costs.

Update: Moncton authorities should consider importing some Emerald Oases, like these [hat tip to The Emirates Ecomomist]
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