Rich Californian with big lawn says “We’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

16 Jun

by Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter)


Public Domain Coming to California soon

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “The rich are different from you and me.” Ernest Hemingway reportedly responded “Yes, they have more money.” In California, they also have bigger lawns and some believe that gives them greater rights to water than others. The Governor has imposed mandatory cutbacks, but some believe they deserve more; in an article by Rob Kuznia in the Washington Post, one went so far as to say “We’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

Now we do learn later in the article that the whiner there is in fact a conservative talk show host, so he may well be deliberately provocative when he says “When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna.” Which he should have, given that he lives in the desert.

However the writer did not have to go far to dig up other equally egregious comments, like the woman who says “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?” Or another who likens the freedom to buy water to the freedom to buy gasoline. “Some people have a Prius; others have a Suburban. Once the water goes through the meter, it’s yours.”

The effect of gasoline rationing/Public Domain

Except that wasn’t always the case; in World War II there was gasoline rationing and you didn’t get more just because you had a big car. In California a form of rationing is coming, where everybody gets an allotment of enough water for basic needs and charged a huge amount for anything over. And if that doesn’t work, flow restrictors will be installed or the water will be turned off.

Then there is my favorite justification, the woman who has a big property and claims that she actually saving it from higher water usage. “You could put 20 houses on my property, and they’d have families of at least four. In my house, there is only two of us. So they’d be using a hell of a lot more water than we’re using.”

Rationing Poster/Public Domain

The extraordinary 6000 comments (and climbing) on the article break down into two categories: a) the socialists and the liberals are ruining California and the drought is all their fault; and b) come the revolution we know who’s up against the wall.

Every once in a while, Hollywood should do an gritty drama about the French revolution just to remind the privileged what a guillotine is used for and how quickly it can be deployed.

The author of the article is clearly trolling in one of the richest and most conservative parts of the state and it has obviously worked. But there is a deeper issue here that comes up whenever rationing of any kind is imposed; many consider it to be a socialist imposition taking away our freedom. It’s an attack on the free market system, which is perfectly capable of dealing with the issue through supply and demand, i.e. the rich get all the water they want if they pay enough for it. Or as Hugh Rockoff wrote in his bookDrastic Measures,

The modern state has the power to control prices even in the face of a vast expansion of aggregate demand relative to output, but it can do so only through a drastic regimentation of economic life.




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