A Cheap Lesson in Free Market Environmentalism

August 12th 2013 is my parents’ 51st wedding anniversary.   To celebrate this day in my family’s life,  Amazon will give away free copies (just on Monday) of my e-book; Fundamentals of Environmental Economics: Solving Urban Pollution Problems.   I will learn what the demand curve for my book looks like. It is selling a few copies at a price of $2 and we will see how many more copies are sold at a price of $0!    Amazon gives authors the option to give away their books on certain days (up to 5 days).  Other publishers should consider this?   I don’t fully understand their business model but perhaps I’m not supposed to.

People who actually read the book will see that it could benefit from an editor’s tough read.    When I re-read the entire manuscript, I was proud that it provides a strong overview of most of the key ideas in modern environmental economics. Anyone can learn from reading it and I use it in my UCLA undergraduate classes as my main textbook.   This book is meant to compete with boring $100 textbooks and I also intend for it to be of interest to casual readers who want to learn something about how basic ideas from micro economics can inform thinking about urban environmental problems.   The book blends in more ideas about politics and political economy than is discussed in the typical neo-classical economics text.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

5 thoughts on “A Cheap Lesson in Free Market Environmentalism”

  1. Amazon’s business model is much like Wal-Mart’s, but with less visibility: Kill all smaller competition by continuously undercutting profits, treat your labor force as disposable, cheap goods, and lean on Congress to give you preferred tax status.

    People don’t really realize it as much because they all shop at a shiny, happy website that never displays the empty shelves, and their ‘independent contractor’ employees are off in the back in the inadequately heated and cooled warehouses and pay a little taxes as possible to support their enormous use of public infrastructure for their entire business’ existence..

    Being Wall Street’s darling doesn’t hurt, either: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-25/amazon-posts-loss-as-livingsocial-stake-loses-value.html

    Hooray, they lost less money than we expected! buy Buy BUY!!!

    Like Wal-Mart, they’re running out of steam, which is to say, the middle class that they’ve assiduously worked to destroy is less and less able to afford their goods.

    1. I agree. As I’ve been reading about Amazon’s labour policies, I’ve been shifting my purchases to other places like Powell’s even though the costs are higher at it isn’t as easily done as if Amazon. iBook is crappy but I’ve been shifting my iPad reading purchases there even though, as I say, it’s not nearly as good or easy to use as Kindle. And ebooks from other vendors are difficult to use.

      As BruceJ observes, it’s all but impossible to compete with Amazon because it isn’t expected to make a profit until it has destroyed basically all other retailers and created horribly prohibitive barriers to new competitors (which will, presumably, allow it to dramatically raise prices and recoup its probably several loss making decades).

      An interesting consequence is that Amazon shows why the health care systems of other advanced industrialized countries will always provide better services and outcomes at a lower costs than the American system. As Matt Yglesias regularly points out, Amazon is basically a nonprofit charity dedicated to providing goods and services to people basically at cost. Amazon is essentially Medicare for consumer goods.

  2. I hope RBC readers will not take advantage of this offer and pay the bargain $2 instead.

    One difference between e-trade and physical is that you can’t buy an item in bulk for resale. Giving away beer for $0, even for a day, would be a disaster for WalMart.

    Happy anniversary to the elder Kahns.

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