Market Power

Musings by an academic economist on the power of markets and the power over markets.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

This Blows!

A fella from southern Minneapolis wants to get leaf blowers banned. They are noisy and they blast particles into the air that may cause some health hazards. I'll buy that they do generate some external costs, but how bad are their external costs? Does their use really cause a higher indidence of disease?

Given that they do generate some external costs, does that mean that they should be banned? First off, doing so would necessitate enforcement resources to monitor whether or not people are using them. Of course, these resources have alternative uses and the value of the alternative uses are a part of the costs of banning blowers.

Second, banning blowers denies people the ability to obtain the benefits of using blowers to do lawn chores. I use a leaf blower to blow chunks of grass that I've cut. My neighbors use theirs to blow light snow off their driveways and we all use our to tidy up our driveways and sidewalks after we mow. When I lived in Missouri, I used it to "rake" my 1 acre yard. In the latter case, my raking time was cut down by several hours allowing me to further other pursuits (mainly, my graduate degree).

Surely the outright ban of blowers is like calling the fire department to extinguish a match - it's overkill. Moreover, I'm not convinced that the externalities associated with the blowers are all that numerous and nasty in the first place.