Recently, Coca-Cola teamed up with advertising agency Dhaka Grey and created the Coca-Cola Happiness Arcade, which accepts emtpy coke bottles instead of coins as game credit. According to gizmodo.co.uk:
“the Happiness Arcade was placed in six different locations in Dhaka, Bangladesh, over a week. And even though it only played a simple modified version of Pong, the machine still ended up collecting thousands of empty plastic bottles.”
Who would have predicted that you could get people to go to the effort of collecting empty coke bottles just by offering a game of Pong on a novelty arcade machine as reward. Cynics will say that Coca-Cola is merely selfishly trying to boost its sales in other countries and doesn’t really care about the environment, but the motivation of Coca-Cola or its customers is irrelevant. If this novel idea gets expanded on by Coca-Cola or other companies and results in more recycling, then that is a fact that cannot be argued with; and a social good that cannot be denied. And it will have been achieved through peaceful, voluntary means – no government involved.
It’s private companies and not governments that create (and will create) innovative and effective solutions to complex social problems like dealing with plastic waste because the former uses the peaceful, creative and productive power of the mind instead of the violent, unproductive power of coercion. Sure, we can use government action to force people to recycle, but you’ll get lousy results because it’s human nature to minimise the cost of an action (i.e. put as little thought and effort in as possible) when there’s no benefit to doing it. Slavery didn’t end only because we came to accept that it is morally wrong but also because it’s much less efficient and productive than peaceful exchange. The child that does chores under threat of punishment will take longer and do a lesser job than the child that does it because he really wants to see that new Disney film.
Only through peaceful exchange and markets will we solve the various environmental issues we face. The more resources we allow governments to control and the more power we give them to restrict the freedom of individuals to act to produce things like the Happiness Arcade, the less able humanity will be to come up with solutions to our energy and environment challenges.
It’s a powerful and perhaps even instinctive urge to want governments to take control of increasingly scarce resources in order to ‘save’ them, but it’s a proven mistaken one – and one we must resist.
Check out this short video of people interacting with the Happiness Arcade.