The Padlocks of Paris

The phenomenon is called the 'padlocks of Paris'. But the correct phrase is the Tragedy of the Commons. The Guardian describes the new Gallic custom of inscribing your love on a padlock, attaching it to a public monument and throwing away the key.

The idea is that by attaching the locks to a public place and throwing away the key, the love it represents will become unbreakable. However, with an estimated 700,000 padlocks now attached to locations across the French capital, the weight could be putting the structural integrity of the city's architecture at risk.

Originally affecting the Pont des Arts and Pont de l'Archevêché, the padlocks can now be found on almost all of the bridges across the Seine, as well as many of the smaller footbridges that span the canals in the 10th arrondissement. On the most popular bridges the guard rails now consist of a solid wall of metal. In a testament to the popularity of the act, even Google Maps now denotes the Pont de l'Archevêché as "Lovelock bridge".

"It's so out of control," says Lisa Anselmo, who co-founded the campaign with fellow expat and writer Lisa Taylor Huff. "People are climbing up lampposts to clip locks on, hanging over the bridge to put them on the other side of the rail, risking their lives to attach one. It's a kind of mania. It's not about romance any more – it's just about saying 'I did it.'"

The Last Time I Saw Paris It Reminded Me of Yale The Last Time I Saw Paris It Reminded Me of Yale

Like so many trends it was at first it was cute. But as it caught on it became progressively onerous and has reached the point where it has become a public safety hazard. The phenomenon of everyone piling onto a resource till it is ruined was described in a paper by Garrett Hardin called the Tragedy of the Commons, "according to which individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one's self-interest, behave contrary to the whole group's long-term best interests by depleting some common resource."

Many on the Left who have heard of this theory interpret it to mean that every depletable resource should be declared "the common heritage of mankind". It sounds nice but like the padlocks of Paris, it has precisely the opposite effect of its ostensible goals. The government of the Philippines, for example, decided to declare its wonderful hardword forests the property of the state after Independence. That meant it belonged to everybody and to nobody. The forests are gone.

It is a hard but sad truth that the only resources which have any chance of being preserved are those whose costs and benefits are privately borne. If you owned a bridge, you would never overload it with padlocks. But since the bridge is "public" how can you stop someone else who has exactly the same rights as you have from clamping another lock onto the bridge?

The King always owned things. The State owned by the Big Families always owned things. It's private property -- the idea that a little guy can own things, like his labor -- that is the great social innovation.  And when a person owns something, even a little thing, he usually takes care of it better than a facility owned by the "government".

But as noted, the idea on the Left is that if you make something  common, you improve it.  Take Obamacare. Nine out of ten Florida Obamacare enrollees got subsidies for their health insurance. "According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Floridians are receiving an average subsidy of $2,950 due to low income."

Americans have already qualified for about $10 billion in tax credits to help them purchase private health insurance this year through the Affordable Care Act, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

That’s an average of $2,890 for each of the 3.5 million people who qualified for a subsidy as of March 1 — about 83 percent of those who enrolled in an exchange plan.

That's according to the California report. It says "California had an even higher percentage of people qualifying for a tax credit. Eighty-eight percent of those who have enrolled in Covered California qualified for a subsidy, according to the study. That means a total of 765,000 people in the state will receive tax credits. The study estimates those credits are worth $2.3 billion."

Now isn't this great.  Subsidies! Just wow! Free government money. The public option is always better, right?

But wait a minute, who's going to pay for all this "affordable health care"? Like the padlocks on the bridge it's cute when just a few get subsidies. But when 83% of the world is getting money from somwhere, where is it coming from?  Who pays the subsidy when everybody gets a subsidy? This is where the fine print comes it.

It's going to come from you. It's called the Obamacare Subsidy Chargeback. When subsidies run out, or you make more money than last year, then you pay back big time. Businessweek warns about "How Windfall Earnings Can Spoil Your Obamacare Subsidy".

Here’s the rule: It doesn’t matter when your income comes in—whether it’s January or December. The advance premium tax credits (the formal name for the subsidies you mention) are based on modified adjusted gross income for the year as a whole. As I’ve explained before, if your income changes substantially during the year—either up or down—you should notify the exchange you’re participating in and ask for an adjustment of your subsidy. That way you’ll avoid a nasty surprise come tax time.

You could charge people who aren't consuming health care yet. Kick the can down the road. Dr. Scott Gottlieb at Forbes runs the numbers showing how the old (remember Florida) are going to be subsidized by the young. "See the accompanying charts for a more detailed breakdown of our data. The numbers show why Obamacare has been such a tough sell among the young. These high prices are a direct consequence of the way the law was designed."

When you think about it, how else could it work?  The reality is that the lovelocks aren't going to romantically declare love forever, but only until someone hired by the municipal authorities hacksaws it off the bridge for scrap. And the subsidies will be free until someone has to pay for them. And that someone will in the end be you. People never really learn. If the sophisticated denizens of Paris don't get it after all these years, what chance Detroit?

Yes we can.

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