Conservation for Thee, But Not for Me:

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa challenged residents this summer to "change course" and slash their water use by 10% in the face of a historic drought.

But records show that the mayor and several other top city officials have long been heavy water users themselves.

In Villaraigosa's case, even if he had made a 10% reduction at the two homes where he has lived since winning election in 2005, he still would have used nearly twice as much water as comparable properties in the vicinity.

City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and Councilman Tony Cardenas surpassed the mayor, using more than twice the number of gallons over the last two years as typical property owners in their parts of town.

In fact, a review of Department of Water and Power documents shows that at least nine of the city's 18 elected leaders used higher than average amounts of water -- sometimes a little, other times a lot -- over the last two years.

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Clearly, he needs to pay somebody else not to use water.
8.12.2007 9:04pm
LarrySheldon (mail):
I don't know why y'all keep posting these things.

The point is: If ya' got it, flaunt it. If you don't got it, reduce, cut, pay more, get less, but for heaven's sake, don't whine.
8.12.2007 9:07pm
OldBob (mail):
... nine of the 18 elected officials used higher than the average ...

Well, that's pretty close to half in the first place (yes, it's the median, but close)
8.12.2007 9:12pm
Truth Seeker:
Kind of like the Soviet politburo. Everybody is equal except us. A state-run society is great if you are the state.
8.12.2007 9:16pm
cirby (mail):
The point is: If ya' got it, flaunt it. If you don't got it, reduce, cut, pay more, get less, but for heaven's sake, don't whine.

...but they're whining about everyone else in this case...
8.12.2007 9:33pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
But what if the hypocrite is right? Does what they do change what you should do?
8.12.2007 9:55pm
Reminds me of Barbara Striesand telling us little people to hang our clouthes on the line and not use the dryer. And some people wonder why she gets laughted at.
8.12.2007 10:02pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Politicians often are hypocrites, but as Owen Hutchins says, even if they aren't following their own advice, it may still be right. Furthermore, there could be valid reasons for them not to be following their own advice, at least in the short term. Suppose that the mayor's house is on a double lot, so that he has more than twice the lawn in need of water than the owner of a single lot. If the two care for their lawns in comparable ways, the mayor will use more than twice the water.

Even if the mayor reduces his watering somewhat, he's still going to need more water than the owner of the single lot. If he stops watering part of his lawn or greatly reduces watering all of it, the neighbors are probably going to be pissed off at the brown eyesore that results. Moreover, by maintaining an extra-large amount of grass, he is arguably doing something beneficial for air quality.

Now, maybe, in the longer term, the mayor should move to a single lot, or install a more efficient root-based irrigation system, or replace part of his lawn with succulents, but these are things he can't necessarily do right away.
8.12.2007 10:40pm
Brian K (mail):
Do you guys understand the concept of the average? Apparently not.
8.12.2007 10:46pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I'm disturbed as always about the hypocrisy of the screeching, preaching "environmentalists."

But I'm also disturbed that one's water and sewer bills are a matter of public record, available for all and sundry to see, just because the government has chosen to exercise a monopoly in providing water to its citizens. It's nobody else's business how much water I choose to buy, and it shouldn't be a matter of public record.
8.12.2007 10:52pm
scote (mail):
It's always easy to save water if you are a water waster to begin with.

Rationing should never be based on a percentage of past usage since that invariably disproportionately punishes people who normally use water sparingly. Public policy must be that water will be apportioned based on the number of people in a household. Rich people with big households don't need to drink more water or shower more often than poor people.
8.12.2007 11:10pm
Truth Seeker:
It's nobody else's business how much water I choose to buy, and it shouldn't be a matter of public record.

Except for politicians and anyone else who tells others how to act.
8.12.2007 11:31pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):

I do not believe the post claims that the advice in question is wrong, or that it's somehow made wrong by the politicians' hypocrisy. This post, as I understand it, is an indictment of hypocrites, not environmentalism.

Second, the post refers to the Mayor's use relative to "comparable properties in the vicinity." Thus, there is no need for hypothetical discussion of whether his house stands on a double lot, in the Gobi desert, or at the bottom of the sea.
8.12.2007 11:42pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Why people in SoCal have lawns is the first question to be asking. The practice of Xeriscaping is not new. Having a lawn in LA makes as much sense as an ice palace in Dubai.
8.12.2007 11:56pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):

It says that 9 out of 18 politicians use more than an average amount of water. Now, unless any of the other 9 use exactly an average amount of water, 9 out of 18 politicians use less than average.

Shocking. Half use more than average, half use less. There are better examples of hypocrisy out there.
8.13.2007 12:45am
BenHall (mail):
Those who are complaining about "9 out of 18 use more than the average"--what is the average over: I see it not as average over politicians, bu over comparable properties, politician or not. Thus having half over the average is meaningful, since half of one group does not equal half of the other group
8.13.2007 12:48am
Do you guys understand the concept of the average? Apparently not. [Brian K]
Why do you think that others here don't "understand the concept of average"? You understand, don't you, that together those city officials could be using a greater or a lesser "share" of water, though reportedly 9 of them use more than the average for Angelenos and 9 use less than the average. If the mayor and the other two named officials are using twice what the owners of comparable properties use, clearly they are outliers and not much by way of role models, wouldn't you agree?
8.13.2007 1:22am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

My point wass that this is not necessarily hypocrisy. The mayor may be perfectly sincere in advising people to reduce their water consumption even if his is above average. Maybe he has just come to this realization and needs time to abide by his own advice. If water consumption is a problem, it would be foolish of him to wait until he could reduce his own water usage before advising other people to.

The specific example I gave above may or may not be valid, depending upon what "comparable property" means. Most of the time, "comparable property" means something like "having the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms" or something like that. We don't really know whether the reporters were smart enough to compare the mayor's property with others truly comparable in terms of water usage. We'd expect a scientist to get this right, but I wouldn't give most reporters that much credit.
8.13.2007 4:24am
wolfefan (mail):
Hi -

Every once in a while I wonder if Jonathan has forgotten that he's posting under his own name now. When I first started reading here, the posts from Juan Non-Volokh struck me as, frankly, stupid. It just seemed to me like cheap right-wing Newsmax stuff. Ever since Jonathan went public, I've found his posts far more interesting, far more focused on information, analysis, and opinion that I've enjoyed and learned from, even when I disagreed. Most of the time. Then a post like this one comes along.

It's not just Jonathan - I think most hypocrisy posts are stupid. Pots and kettles exist on all sides of the political divide. All of us hold beliefs and opinions and standards that we can't live up to all of the time. Does that mean that we shouldn't try, or that in some circumstances we shouldn't encourage others to try to meet those standards, even as we may try and fail to do so? I used to be a pastor. The fact that my life was not without sin didn't mean I shouldn't have encouraged others to try to do better than me.
8.13.2007 7:59am
All of us hold beliefs and opinions and standards that we can't live up to all of the time. Does that mean we should give others who do so a free pass, especially when they descend to sanctimony?

Also, check these stats in a year. Whaddaya bet Villalobos's water consumption doesn't decline 10%?
8.13.2007 9:31am
WHOI Jacket:
I think the ultimate point of this stuff is like Glenn Reynolds aptly put it a few months ago:

"I'll believe it's a crisis when the people who are telling me it's a crisis start ACTING like it's a crisis".
8.13.2007 10:43am
Houston Lawyer:
Just to chime in that the fact that the man is a hypocrite doesn't mean his publicly stated position isn't right. I expect the other side to acknowledge this the next time a "family values" man is caught with a prostitute.
8.13.2007 11:30am
IB Bill (mail) (www):
IIRC, there's a similar story from the book, Wealth Addiction, by Philip Slater, 25 years back. What Slater found was that wealthy people, in time of drought/water shortage (and increased water expense) will begin to use more water, not less. You see, it sets them apart from the plebians and starts to look like a luxury item. So they'll water their lawns more often. They also seem to do it unconsciously.

8.13.2007 1:24pm
Elliot Reed:
I agree with with the others who have pointed out that being a hypocrite doesn't make you wrong, and also that hypocrisy is thin stuff is vice goes. This is perfectly relevant to Adler's point: Adler has a tendency to point out alleged hypocrisy by environmentalists, but not others, so it's clear that the message of these posts is an attack on environmentalism rather than hypocrisy.
8.13.2007 6:22pm
The question was asked "What if the hypocrite is right"? But if the hypocrite isn't following his own advice, then what he's asking others to do isn't right for him. And if it isn't right for him, why is it right for me? If it were right for him, logically, he'd do it. Same for me. So it must not be right, if 'right' means convenient, economical, easy, etc.

Glenn Reynolds quote is right on: If it's a crisis then those who tout the solution should be the first to take conservation measures.
8.13.2007 8:13pm
TokyoTom (mail):
Jon, you keep forgetting MicroEconomics 101: that where a resource is not priced (due to lack of ownership) or mispriced (due to government ownership and/or externalities), individuals are all still responding to market signals that do not reflect true costs. When you insist that those who point out the resulting resource allocation problems must be squeaky clean (by unilaterally forgoing use or bearing extra costs), you are essentially demanding that they act against their own rational self-interest, and are ignoring the dynamic of the tragedy of the commons that says that their actions alone will not contribute to a solution.

Let's examine the obverse - will those who follow the Adler hairshirt rule be better advocates of the needed institutional change? Or will they simply marginalize themselves by making it easier for others to dismiss them as loonies? Look at Gore, who is subject to the "Planet Gore" page over at your own NRO and to charges of hypocrisy that are belied by his volunary higher costs for "green energy" and offsets.

Some of your hyposcrisy posts rights point to a NIMBY problem, which I would think a libertarian would recognize may be another very real issue that may require a real solution - such as compensation in certain cases to those who bear the greatest local burden for projects that benefit others who bear no adverse affect.
8.14.2007 2:48am
TokyoTom (mail):
You also forget one important point - jawboning may be the only way to address a problem short of institutional change. As you know, in many cases, these informal responses may be preferable to changes in law or regulation.
8.14.2007 2:53am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jon, further to my initial comment, it seems that you are expressing the resentment that Garrett Hardin expected would be felt when one is "trying to browbeat a free man in a commons into acting against his own interest":

If we ask a man who is exploiting a commons to desist "in the name of conscience," what are we saying to him? What does he hear? --not only at the moment but also in the wee small hours of the night when, half asleep, he remembers not merely the words we used but also the nonverbal communication cues we gave him unawares? Sooner or later, consciously or subconsciously, he senses that he has received two communications, and that they are contradictory: (i) (intended communication) "If you don't do as we ask, we will openly condemn you for not acting like a responsible citizen"; (ii) (the unintended communication) "If you do behave as we ask, we will secretly condemn you for a simpleton who can be shamed into standing aside while the rest of us exploit the commons."
8.14.2007 3:55am
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
TokyoTom --

I largely agree with your posts. I am not advocating a "hairshirt rule" (though I agree with Glenn Reynolds that it is hard to believe there is a "crisis" when those who make such claims do not act that way). You write that "jawboning"may be the only way to encourage desired behaviors absent institutional change. Precisely! And look at who the targets of my posts are: Those who are in a good position to advocate (if not enact) institutional change! We're not talking about some random, wealthy, Laurie-David busybody-type here, but the mayor of Los Angeles and some other government officials. Rather than advocate policy changes that could make a difference, they are calling upon others to do things that they themselves will not do. I think that is worth pointing out, particularly when such figures act as if personal, voluntary behavioral changes are the way to address a given concern.

8.14.2007 10:08am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jon, if your purpose is a didactic one, then perhaps you ought to consider adding a little more targetted commentary. In this case it might be that the mayor really ought to be pushing for water pricing reform or privatization. In another case it might be to point to a NIMBY problem and the need for compensation schedules. In another case it might be the prisoners dilemmas in a tragedy of the commons situation.

Just pointing to apparent hypocrisy doesn't really help us to see what the real problem is. Even as apparent hypocrisy may resonate strongly with our instinctive BS detectors, these detectors can themselves steer us wrong, especially in cases where it is clear that there are externalities that cannot be captured in the market.

You sometimes come across as simply being anti-environmental, rather than being in favor of effective solutions.
8.14.2007 10:32pm