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Reblogged:Major Paper Condemns Recycling

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dumpster.jpg
What if that discontinued keyboard you want is in there? What if I told you somebody would do the dirty work of finding it and cleaning it up for free? And what if you could buy it at or below retail and have it delivered? The neatness of this apparently went right over the heads of these journalists. (Image by NeONBRAND, via Unsplash, license.)
Well, okay. Not really, but I think the Wall Street Journal and Amazon missed a great opportunity to discuss how beneficial recycling can be when performed for self-interested, self-motivated, and pro-human reasons, rather than being rammed down our throats by the government for altruistic reasons, like "saving" "the planet."

Instead, the paper opted for yellow journalism. With, "You Might Be Buying Trash on Amazon -- Literally," the paper begged for clicks. And since the blurb immediately afterwards claims that "dumpster divers" sometimes sell things there, the entire focus on the article is on the inevitable few bad actors who pop up in any marketplace.

When I read this, I thought it was neat that Amazon can connect you with someone willing to do the dirty work of finding something -- perhaps no longer being sold -- in a dumpster in the first place and cleaning it up -- and then selling it for an affordable price. But that was due to my own thinking; the authors made the whole thing seem shady and disgusting.

This focus, for which we can partly blame the dominance of altruism in our culture, makes it easy to forget that: (1) Customers can place reviews on Amazon, and (2) sellers have an interest in quality control when they offer things for sale, on top of (3) the standards the retail giant sets for participation.

So long as some form of theft or fraud isn't involved, I don't give a damn where something I buy from Amazon comes from. And, as far as wrongdoing goes, the story notes:
Late last week, Amazon said it updated its policy to explicitly prohibit selling items taken from the trash, adding to its list of unacceptable items any "intended for destruction or disposal or otherwise designated as unsellable by the manufacturer or a supplier, vendor, or retailer." [bold added]
Part of this is probably a needed measure to prevent such things as a company's intellectual property rights (technological or reputational) being harmed by the sale of things it intends to keep off the marketplace: Many people are unaware of such things. But there is perhaps a missed opportunity to explicitly sell items under, say, a "salvaged" category.

In addition to implicitly and wrongly blaming the profit motive for bad behavior, the focus of the article (as well as of environmentalism generally) causes the authors to not appear to notice that this is an example of what recycling can and ought to mean. (Indeed, the word "recycle" never once appears within.) Let's do that now, by considering which practice is the shady one.

The Journal has already made it clear that there are some bad actors at Amazon -- as there are in any marketplace. Caveat emptor. But what about government recycling? These programs always involve the theft of money (taxes), the violation of liberty (regulations), and fraud (the implied assertion that it is good to recycle certain types of items).

But all that is premised on the woozy, altruistic idea of "saving the planet" and the politics of collectivism. So journalists -- altruists and collectivists almost to a man -- give these programs a pass that for-profit programs never get. (e.g., The Journal is quite happy to illustrate a dumpster in one "trash"-selling "scenario," just to give the reader the impression that this is gross. It would be quite easy to make, say, glass recycling sound just as gross.) But since some Amazon resellers save perfectly good items from oblivion and sell them for (shudder!) personal gain, the seller's motives are immediately questioned and we are invited to assume that he has every incentive to pass off something anyone would regard as refuse as brand new.

And so it is that modern journalists condemn the proper way to perform a practice, recycling, that most pay lip-service to, despite the fact that they don't even seem to realize that it is recycling. They just don't see what they're reporting on as good, because our culture has pounded into everyone's skulls that if an action is performed for gain, it is suspect. And since the practice doesn't come with the imprimatur of a government official and the usual rituals and trappings of government recycling are absent, it never even crosses their minds that this is recycling.

-- CAV

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