An Open Letter to The Economist


Why should The Economist be so smug about British Airways' new carbon offset scheme ("Virtue for sale," Oct 29th)?

Because it's limited success would reinforce the belief in a revealed preference, i.e. that "appeals to people's better natures tend to fall flat if they involve demands on their wallets."

But it doesn't take an economist to figure out why the program isn't working. Who would want to be the only one paying for everyone's expense?

If BA is serious about this program, why not make it mandatory, and then give customers a chance to opt-out? This would dramatically increase participation from just 1 in 200 passengers, although I doubt BA or any other corporation would pursue such a tariff.

Alternatively, BA could at least offer some tangible benefit to its eco-conscious customers, e.g. preferential seating, some complimentary service, or even just a sticker awarded at boarding that reads "Thank me. I just paid for our pollution."