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Would capitalists privatise air?

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Posted 05/14/08 - 11:48 AM:
Subject: Would capitalists privatise air?

This is a point that came up in a recent discussion I was having with some friends. Most people have heard the saying ‘free as the wind’ but what if the wind wasn’t free? What if scientists found a way of enclosing and distributing the air which now flows so easily around the planet.

Would capitalists want to privatise this air, and charge users for breathing it? This might sound like a science fiction scenario to some people, but could it happen?


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Posted 05/14/08 - 11:57 AM:

if they could get away with it, i've no doubt there would be a valiant effort to do so. would they get away with it, i wonder?
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Posted 05/18/08 - 11:34 AM:

Buying and selling air... Less absurd than it seems: it's almost what's going on with the kyoto protocol isn't it ?
Not exactly the same thing, but still. Food for thought.
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Posted 05/20/08 - 11:15 AM:

Well, let's see, they've got water, earth, fire, and metal. And we all know that plants are largely 'controlled' substances.

There are several answers to this question:

(1) On earth, in the event that global or local air pollution became so intense that unaided breathing would pose immediate health problems, clean air will be sold at a premium.

This is no different than what they are doing with water. And those who have the corner on building air delivery systems and air purifiers will monopolize human life.

This could happen if pollution increases or as the result of a natural or unnatural disaster. Consider the dire straights of humanity if a massive meteor falls to the ground and kicks up dust around the globe for a few years; or worse yet, if a small handful of volcanoes go off simultaneously, coating the skies in soot. Capitalists are praying to Jesus it happens. Ca-ching!

(2) On extraterrestrial surfaces, such as space stations, or planets (moons), where oxygen is not present in sufficient quantities, air will be sold at a premium. How much easier is it to punish someone who falls behind on their bills, when you can just shut off the air to their space-cabin for a few minutes? Methinks they will be selling that gold watch pretty soon.

The problem with selling air, though, is just how to deliver it and restrict it to customers only. Even in cases where air is polluted, humans can usually survive.

But reflect on the emergence of the 'oxygen bar' as a trendy form of therapy in the 90's.
henry quirk
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Posted 05/23/08 - 2:10 PM:

can't speak to what a capitalist might do, but -- as an advocate of free markets (capitalism and free market'ism' are not synonymous) -- i could never sanction the privatizing of 'air'

privatizing 'air' means a significant market goes right out the window...literally: a huge percentage of the population dies for lack of the means to buy or trade

this is not good for business...though -- i'm sure -- someone could find a huge profit in the disposal industry...perhaps a 'corpse to fertilizer' sector might spring up...overnight, it would seem

hmmm...privatizing 'air'... --henry
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Posted 05/24/08 - 2:12 AM:

Midnight_Monk wrote:

The problem with selling air, though, is just how to deliver it and restrict it to customers only. Even in cases where air is polluted, humans can usually survive.


19c English industrialists already did this. They built their houses on top of hills, far above the grimy, smoke filled, streets around their factories. This ensured that they were not plagued with the lung diseases that their workers suffered.

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Posted 05/24/08 - 12:28 PM:

Okay e let me raise your curiosity a bit more, maybe some people will think this book to be a scions fiction but I can promise you it isn’t anymore.

Too many of those powerful had gone away with almost everything so why not selling air.

I think you are clever enough to filter out fact and fiction wink

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Posted 08/01/08 - 11:38 AM:

Selling air for breathing would be very expensive compared to a much cheaper alternative. If the air was so dirty it wasn't breathable it would be much more profitable to sell gas masks. To really make money you would give the filters a very short life, perhaps a week. Also ensure that the filter is impossible to clean, forcing people to purchase filters from your company only.

You could even come out with different flavor filters, or medicated filters, the gas masks would become just as routine as a pair of shoes.

As for actually selling air. Here in the U.S. it is very easy to spend more money on water than you would on gasoline per gallon. More money is spent on bottled water than it is on alcohol in the U.S. If you can get people to spend that much money on something that falls from the sky, it does not take a stretch of the imagination to think people will actually sell air.

I sometimes spend money on canned compressed air to clean computer equipment. A lot of gas stations charge 25 cents to use an air compressor to fill your tires. Even though these examples are of industrial air, you are still buying just air.

The big problem is that air will eventually clean itself, so selling air would not be very profitable. Instead you could convince your government that a certain smog level is dangerous, and the only way to stop it from getting to that level is to pay your company outrageous amounts to seed clouds over their city.

This is something that is already done in California, aircraft dump special material that encourages water to condense on it into the air. This creates clouds and eventually it rains. As long as you can convince people that if this isn't done routinely everyone will die, and there is nothing that can be done.
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