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 . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Scatology - Incentive Trade-off

When people let their dogs defecate in public and do not clean up after them, it imposes a disgusting negative externality on others. Even fining them for not cleaning up does not deter some dog owners from leaving the mess.

A group in Wales has come up with a truly weird scheme for shaming owners into cleaning up after their dogs, but it is very difficult to figure out how the incentives are supposed to work [thanks to Brian Ferguson for the pointer].
Volunteers at Loggerheads country park and Brickfield Pond in Rhyl will spray paint dog faeces found on the paths [using yellow paint].

... Countryside officer Vanessa Cooke said: "At Brickfield Pond the paths could look like the yellow brick road."
I guess the idea is that while you are walking your dog, when you see some dog do-do that has been spray painted yellow, you think "Oh, Oh. I had better clean up after my dog or else some unknown dog do-do scatologist will spray paint the droppings yellow."

The plan might have some reminder- or guilt-based incentive effects, but I cannot imagine they will be very large. I strongly suspect that there are other, deeper motives for people to engage in such a scheme. These people should consider a visit to this restaurant.

Update: Ben Muse alerted me to a story in yesterday's Juneau-Empire:

Hundreds of tiny flags of Gov. Frank Murkowski's face, glued to toothpicks and stuck in piles of dog excrement along Juneau's trails and parks, are surprising hikers and trail officials.

.... The escapade, and the design of the flags, is almost identical to a prank that's been going on in Germany for more than a year.

In Bayreuth, an individual or group has been sticking miniature toothpick flags of President George Bush into piles of dog waste, according to the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center. Almost 3,000 flags have been found in parks across the German city.

In Juneau, the flags are showing up by the dozens, even on the steep, 1,900-foot rise in the first mile of the Sheep Creek Trail.
I understand the use of the flags to make a political statement -- they can at least be amusing. But I still do not understand the deterrent effect for dog owners.
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