More Toilet Seat Quasi-Economics

by robekulick

So Camp has some new empirical analysis of the toilet seat situation. For anyone who didn’t see the toilet seat economic posts that this comment is referring to, here are links:

So here is Camp’s most recent comment:

“I’m working at the hospital and I go into a single stall unisex bathroom to pee.  I put the seat up, pee, and then put the seat down.  Both before and after I moved the seat there was a small amount of pee at the 2 o’clock position.  When I put the seat down and walked out a woman was standing outside waiting to use the bathroom.  She gave me this dirty look as I walked away.  I’m sure she was thinking I was some lazy ass who peed with the seat down and peed on it.  If I would have left it up at least she would have known I had the courtesy to lift up the seat to spare anyone who needed to sit down.”

One thing to consider is that the initial model didn’t assess the issue of urine on the seat. You could pretty easily add that to the model and then Camp may very well be right that a seat up rule might be optimal in public bathrooms. This is actually a very good example of the purpose of economic models. We establish a baseline scenario to consider and then we base policy decisions on considerations of how the model would change under different modeling scenarios. On the other hand, I don’t think this changes the situation that the seat down rule is most likely optimal in an apartment, which is really the scenario the original paper was considering.

On a side note, the real problem here is that the person who is pissing on the seat is imposing a major externality on the other users of the bathroom. Economics would suggest that the appropriate way to fix this problem would be to impose some sort of tax on toilet-seat-pissers.