Economics 101: Nothing is free!

From the Los Angeles Times:

Thousands go without water as Detroit cuts service for nonpayment
By Alana Semuels | June 28, 2014

Nicole Hill holds up her past-due water bill at her home in Detroit. Her water has been off for about six weeks. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

It has been six weeks since the city turned off Nicole Hill’s water.

Dirty dishes are piled in the sink of her crowded kitchen, where the yellow-and-green linoleum floor is soiled and sticky. A small garbage can is filled with water from a neighbor, while a bigger one sits outside in the yard, where she hopes it will collect some rain. She’s developed an intricate recycling system of washing the dishes, cleaning the floor and flushing the toilet with the same water.

“It’s frightening, because you think this is something that only happens somewhere like Africa,” said Hill, a single mother who is studying homeland security at a local college. “But now I know what they’re going through — when I get somewhere there’s a water faucet, I drink until my stomach hurts.”

Hill is one of thousands of residents in Detroit who have had their water and sewer services turned off as part of a crackdown on customers who are behind on their bills. In April, the city set a target of cutting service to 3,000 customers a week who were more than $150 behind on their bills. In May, the water department sent out 46,000 warnings and cut off service to 4,531. The city says that cutting off water is the only way to get people to pay their bills as Detroit tries to emerge from bankruptcy — the utility is currently owed $90 million from customers, and nearly half the city’s 300,000 or so accounts are past due.

There’s more at the link, including some craziness about the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights getting involved, and stating that when customers can’t pay, “human rights simply forbids disconnections.

But the real silliness comes from Maureen Taylor, chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization,1 who said:

We live near the Great Lakes, we have the greatest source of fresh water on Earth, and we still can’t get water here.

Think about that. Yes, the Great Lakes contain roughly a fifth of all of the fresh water on earth, but the surface of Lake Michigan is lower than the city of Detroit, and, last time I checked, water does not flow uphill. To get water from their sources, the city of Detroit has to have pumps to move the water, and pipes to carry the water, and treatment centers to make sure the water is potable, and a whole bunch of workers to run all of that equipment. All of that costs money! If Miss Hill, who is described as “a single mother who is studying homeland security at a local college,” with no mention of her actually working for a living (though it doesn’t look, to judge from her photo, that she’s missed out on a whole lot of food), is to get water service for free, then how are the working men and women who get all of that free, fresh water from the reservoir to her home going to be paid?

This is that part that really urinates me off. Yeah, the water is nearby, but some people seem to think that because the Great Lakes are close by, it doesn’t cost anything to get it from the lakes into people’s homes. If Miss Hill doesn’t pay her water bill, then somebody else has to pay more to cover her water service, as well as paying for his own.

The reporter and The Los Angeles Times used the very common story method of “humanizing” the news, by telling us about a specific individual who has been hurt by having her water service shut off. We are supposed to have sympathy for her and her plight, and how she’s had to have her three children staying with friends “because she fears that child protection authorities will take them away if they find they are living in a home without running water.”2 But that’s a diversionary tactic, which is meant to prevent people from understanding the very simple fact that nothing in life is free: if you get something that you don’t pay for, then someone else had to pay for it for you.

The left don’t want you to know that, and think that a fairly large number of people are too stupid to figure it out.

  1. The notion that there should be a “welfare rights organization” is something else I find repugnant. There should be no “right” to welfare.
  2. No mention is made concerning why a single mother has three children.

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