Spring cleaning society

The Washington Post this morning has a fun feature with 12 short columns on things our society should get rid of in a massive spring cleaning. I quite enjoyed it, especially the arguments on fine print:

Contract law is based on the idea that two people can come together and strike a deal, knowing that the courts will enforce their agreement if something goes wrong….Fine print means that one party (think: a big corporation) can lay down the terms of the deal in a way that the other party (think: a customer) is unlikely to figure out….Fine print costs everyone else money, too, because it makes products impossible to compare….By decreasing competition, fine print increases prices.

And carbon credits:

You know the idea: Let’s make climate rescue painless by paying Zambian farmers not to till their soil while America continues its oil- and coal-burning binge….Offsets are ethically troubling, as well. They allow rich countries such as the United States to avoid full responsibility for their actions.

Couldn’t agree more with those two. Personally I would extend the fine print argument to tax law, as overly-complicated tax law is easily as big a drag on economic performance and government efficiency as private fine print. It’s really disappointing that more politicians don’t see simplification in general as a primary goal; for liberals, it would make bigger governments more effective and easier to accept, while for conservatives it would help shrink the governmental footprint in our lives.

As for carbon credits, I’ve never gotten beyond the opinion that they’re somewhere between a joke and a scam. Solving problems does not involve paying someone else to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

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