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Archive for Friday, February 27, 2004

Real costs

February 27, 2004

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To the editor:

Monday's article on Wal-Mart pointed out that their low prices are possible in part because of practices that have other costs for our society. Paul Hawken, the author of "Natural Capitalism and The Ecology of Commerce," argues that we should charge the true costs of goods and services up front. What if the price of a shirt at Wal-Mart included the cost to society of poorly paid Wal-Mart workers, of workers without health insurance, of the effect on families of workers who have to spend extra time on the job without pay, of the loss of locally owned businesses, the cost of shifting purchases to foreign manufacturers?

How about gasoline? What if we paid at the pump for the actual costs of air pollution, of global warming and of the subsidy of cheap oil by military intervention in places such as Iraq?

Would we be so wasteful of electricity if we had to pay up front for the health costs of asthma and other lung diseases and the destruction of forests -- all affected by air pollution from coal-burning generators?

We and our children and our children's children are subsidizing many products and industries. Products and services should be provided with attention to all their effects on society, not just corporate profit. Until we can convince corporations to keep the greater good in mind, we at least can do our part by consuming and conserving wisely.

Joe Douglas,

Lawrence

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