Complain with actions vs. words

From the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, regarding a visit Franklin made to London:

[I] observ’d there was not one shop open, tho’ it had been daylight and the sun up above three hours; the inhabitants of London chusing voluntarily to live much by candle-light, and sleep by sunshine, and yet often complain, a little absurdly, of the duty on candles and the high price of tallow.

How much more of a problem this is today, enabled by electric lights (ironically greatly facilitated by Benjamin Franklin himself)!

But rather than talk about the merits of waking and retiring with the sun (which Franklin clearly believed: “early to bed, early to rise…”), I find the second part of this quote interesting, how people choose voluntarily to live by candle-light, then complain about the cost of candles. This is very prevalent today.

I’ll give you some examples.

Mary Landrieu (senator of Louisiana), recently proposed a bill to require airlines to eliminate fees on one checked bag (and other things like water). This strikes me as a modern example of choosing to live by candlelight, then complaining about the cost of candles. If you don’t like the baggage fee, don’t fly with the airline that charges baggage fees. If all the airlines charge fees (which they don’t), take the train (it’s better for the environment anyway). Why do people refuse to enforce their values with their consumer decisions, choosing instead to try to enforce them by complaining or regulating?

Another example: Bank of America recently enacted (and subsequently redacted) a $5/month “usage fee” for debit cards. This had the American public and its leadership up in arms. President Obama expressed the sentiment of the nation when he said this is “exactly why we need somebody whose sole job it is to prevent this kind of stuff from happening.” Another example of choosing the live by candle-light and complaining about the cost of candles.

People choose their lifestyle, and by so doing, control their costs. It’s absurd to complain about (or try regulate!) a business offering a service you think they shouldn’t charge for! People need to learn to talk with their actions. When you decide if it’s worth the convenience to fly, you have to include the cost of the baggage fee. As long as the fee is transparent (which it is in both of these cases), what grounds is there for complaint?


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