A student writes that she had a problem: An armadillo died in her family’s front yard, and its odor was attracting vultures. (If it had died in the midst of a field of bluebonnets, this would have achieved the trifecta of Texas wildlife!) The odor and the vultures (not the cleanest of birds) created a negative externality, and the Homeowners’ Association was getting after her parents. Her father was squeamish about cleaning it up, but he hit upon a solution: He offered my student double her usual weekly allowance if she would remove the beast. This compensating wage differential was sufficient to induce her to supply her labor for the task, and the offending armadillo was removed. (HT: KT)

Bard silly.

Take armadillos against a sea of troubles.


It also induced her to kill more armadillos and leave them in the front yard.


Yuck! I wouldn't do it personaly. Why not outsource to someone who is desperately in need of money at a lower rate? Plenty of these people nowadays. Get a handsome cut while (having someone) get the job done! That's American economics 101. No?

Ann T. Hathaway

Dear Dr. Hamermesh,
Please, the trifecta of Texas wildlife does not include that vulture. They are all over the west and dern ordinary. Our claim to bird fame is the yellow-bellied sapsucker over there in the Big Thicket..

So there you go.

Happy holidays,
Ann T. Hathaway


If you think this classifies as an externality, then all of nature must be classifiied as an externality, to include being born. I'd rather not see the definition extended that far, since externalities are one of the statists' favorite excuses for passing legislation.

E.g., if an armadillo's choice of location for its deathbed can be considered an externality, then it will only be a matter of time before we have a Dead Armidillo Removal Tax. Of course, it only makes sense for wealthy landowners to have to pay that tax, since they are the ones who derive the social benefit from having live armadillos.

Actually, now that I think about it a bit more, I think economists are an externality. We should cap and trade them.


the student should have charged more!

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

Armadillo Carcasses pose a special risks not well known. They are one of the few species that can carry endemic LEPROSY. Yes, the Biblical Plague that can cause your nose or other appendage to fall off, resulting in general shunning from society.

Tell that litltle darling to take extra precautions, wear double gloves, and cease any horsin' around.
Don't use it for Roadkill Stew.
Don't mount it over the fireplace.
And don't use it as a soccer ball.

Eric M. Jones

Now I can remember--

An arrow affected an Armadillo,
Its effect was economic.

Eileen Wyatt

I'm just enjoying imagining the reasoning that could lead anybody to think it'd be a good idea to leave an armadillo carcass lying around as long as it *wasn't* attracting vultures.

As we'd say in Minnesota, a lotta guys would have disposed of it before it got smelly.

Or is that bad economics, to assume one doesn't want dead animals in the yard before experiencing the negative externality of circling buzzards and buzzing neighbors?


The problem above shows a simple economics term, incentives. The man thought that by using incentives to motivate the student to do the task was the tactic he would use. The opportunity cost of the man receiving the pressure of the Association and the neighborhood was higher than the opportunity cost of doing the required job or even paying the student to do the job for him. Incentives, a really good tactic that helps motivate other people to do a certain thing.

Jean McCoy

Economics aside -- I think the Dad should have done it!

- Grandma


Odd, does the city/county not have animal removal services? I was told that they would rather that you didn't dispose of dead animals incorrectly by tossing them into the garbage can, so they'll usually send around animal care services to clean up these animals for free.


Wait, wait, wait. You lost me early on this one. You say an armadillo DIED? I thought that they were spontaneously generated, already dead, from the mixing of turf and asphalt at the side of roads. You're saying that armadillos actually exist ALIVE in nature? I'm not sure I believe you.


I agree with @5 that this is not a negative externality example. Negative externalities come from production or consumption of a good. In this case, the armadillo walked in and dropped dead on their property, causing a stinky situation for them and their neighbors. They waffled on its removal because they did not include the benefit to their neighbors of removal in their family cost benefit analysis. Hence, it makes more sense to view the service of disposal had a positive externality.

I Sigh A Lot Lately

Thus reinforcing the lesson that money can buy your way out of social guilt.



Armadillos are not that large... Wouldn't waiting a half-hour for the vultures to finish up have been more efficient, sanitary, and beneficial to wildlife (in this case, the vultures' tummies)...?

Highly Amused

@ TXSarah
"...waiting a half-hour for the vultures to finish up..."
Who's to say that this was indeed not the method employed by the student in said cleanup?
Student: "I'll pay you vultures in armadillo carcass for the task of removing the very same carcass..."

| Free Carcass
| to entity that
| removes it.