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Bathroom Policy
by Hanno Beck

We were four college sophomores. And we were not going to live in a dorm, no sir, we figured that we were smart, mature fellows and so we arranged to rent a house. Each person would have his own private bedroom and we would share the bathroom. Four guys, one bathroom. That sounds reasonable, right?

But let me tell you about Edward. Nobody wanted to use the bathroom after Edward, because something would be finished, gone, used up. No toilet paper? No soap? Edward somehow seemed always to be the last person to use these things. It reduced the value of the bathroom for the rest of us, yet we got no compensation. Edward was a taker. That felt unfair.

How about Charlie? Well, he had a problem too — shaving. It was always a disappointment to see Charlie walk into the bathroom, because by the time he was done, you would find shaving cream on the mirror, on the sink, on the floor. Lots of shaving cream all over the place. And if it doesn't get cleaned up, it looks bad and becomes unsanitary. The rest of us picked up after Charlie, but we got no compensation for doing so. Charlie was a polluter. That felt unfair.

Andrew was a nice fellow. He was thrifty and neat. But there was a difficulty. Once inside the bathroom, he wouldn't come out! The rest of us would be waiting around to use the bathroom, pleading, urging, begging. It did no good. Andrew took long stretches of time in the bathroom. That restricted access for the rest of us, and yet we got no compensation. Andrew was a monopolizer. That felt unfair.

The fourth person? That was me. I had no bad habits, and treated the bathroom perfectly and with fairness to everyone. Or at least you'll have to believe that, because I am not going to give you the current address of Edward, Charlie or Andrew.

The four of us felt unhappy and dissatisfied that year. We had a "bathroom policy" problem and we did not find a way to solve it.

Now let's talk about you and everyone on Earth. We don't have to share a single bathroom. But we do all share one planet.

Our planet's natural resources are a common heritage for all humanity, just as the bathroom was a common resource for the four of us in college.

Look what happens to our planet.
  • We see people or corporations like Edward, taking more than their fair share of oil, fresh water, minerals, without compensating the rest of us.
  • We see people or corporations like Charlie, polluting the land, water and air with toxic wastes, chemicals, carbon in the atmosphere, making the world less safe, forcing others to clean up, and they are not compensating the rest of us.
  • We see people or corporations like Andrew, monopolizing resources such as land – an urban land speculator who holds an acre out of use, anticipating a price rise, is displacing the rest of us, forcing development out into the countryside. A single acre of downtown land brought into use would save a dozen outside acres from premature sprawl development.
Those who take, monopolize, and pollute, are imposing costs on the rest of us and on the economy in general. We are forced to be less efficient, or forced to endure hardships, so that the takers, monopolizers and polluters can benefit. That is not fair.

Is there a solution? Of course there is. It's a simple solution. To respect our common interest in our planet's resources, those who take or monopolize or pollute more than their fair share of our planet should compensate those of us who they are taking from.

You will find this idea, and others like it, in the economic program of the Green Party of Ontario Canada and many other Green parties around the world.

If you've ever experienced a crisis similar to mine at college, you know how important it can be to have a good bathroom policy. Or a good planet policy.

Hanno Beck runs the Banneker Center for Economic Justice, which publishes The Progress Report.   http://www.progress.org
Copyright 2001-04 Green Economics Resource Center

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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper