Readers in Council,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I read the Yomiuri Shimbun editorial "Price of greenery," reprinted in your Opinion page (From the Vernacular Press, June 10). The city government of Fukuokais preparing to join 23 other municipalities across Japan that charge households for disposal of "ordinary waste" in a bid to control and even reduce the volume of waste. The objective sounds noble, doesn't it?
From a business perspective I suppose it is called a user fee: the more one uses the service (meaning the more trash one puts out in a week), the higher the fee. In a capitalist society we should look upon any move to extract/generate revenue as a virtue, and in this case the grounds for proposing a user fee have the added virtue of sounding noble.
From an environmental perspective it sounds good, like elected representatives and providers of services are really doing something good for their constituents and for the world as well. What a bargain!
But I have two problems with this spreading custom of charging for the disposal of garbage. First, garbage pick-up is supposed to be a public service paid for out of our collective taxes. I already faithfully and reliably pay my ward resident taxes specifically for the purpose of providing public services for myself and my fellow (Japanese) residents - my share of the burden for hospitals, public schools and libraries, police and fire services, paved roads, safe utilities, fire hydrants that work, politicians' salaries, etc. If my local government determines that it needs more revenue to adequately provide these services then the first obvious strategy is to raise my taxes, not to re-label garbage disposal as a new service and then invent a price structure to cover it. If nothing else, that plan has the virtue of parsimony.
Second, I have come to resent the daily bombardment we receive with the message that Nature needs protection from human civilization when, more accurately, it is the other way around. Nature is not kind or pretty. Civilization is an invention to protect ourselves from it. Greenery is free. It is social infrastructure and garbage disposal that cost. And while I understand that civilization costs money I resent such transparent cash grabs by government. If government wants to grab more of my cash I wish it would go about it more skillfully than is the usual custom.