For economists, the root cause of human-generated global warming is "negative externalities." Energy consumption releases carbon into the atmosphere, but the costs of that aren't felt directly by those producing or consuming that energy. It is, to them, "free". Because carbon emissions are free to us, we "waste" them, which is to say we put a lot of the black stuff into the air without much thought.
Now we're starting to feel the real cost of that in terms of climate change. Efforts to tax carbon or put in place caps are an attempt to price the carbon in a way that incentivizes us to act differently. They would turn negative externalities into negative internalities, which is to say that we'd feel the cost directly and presumably change our behavior accordingly.
I bring this up because of my last post. As you'll see from the comments, people who broadcast email to lists they buy do so because it works--they get responses. The problem is the negative externalities, which in this case is my wasted time and general pissed-offedness. The senders don't feel that directly, so they blithely email away.
My post, listing their email addresses, was an attempt to make those costs explicit, in a sense taxing the senders for the use of my time and patience by charging them some reputation credits, to whatever extent being shamed in public on a blog can do that. (It may encourage spammers to target them, too, although I actually doubt my post will have much effect in that way, nor did I intend it to do so.)
In fairness, however, I must concede that this problem of negative externalities is one that my own industry overlooks, too. Take those "blow-in" subscription cards that we put in our magazines. Our circulation department wants to put in as many as possible, because five cards have a slightly higher chance of one being sent back than four, and six is slightly higher yet. As long as those cards earn more in subscriptions than the cost of paper and print, they're consider a good thing from the circulation department perspective.
Yet as we editors who talk to readers and get their email know, people HATE those cards. They fall out of magazines when you pick them up, forcing you to bend over to retrieve them and find a trash can in which to throw them away. This is a real negative cost that hurts our relationship with our readers, but because we can't measure it directly, it's an externality and thus mispriced at zero in the economics of the magazine industry.
Likewise for every marketing email that we send (even through they're opt-in) that isn't relevant to the recipients. And every misleading direct mail offer, or renewal request nine months before your subscription really expires.
I bring these all up because we at Wired recognize that there are real costs to this sort of thing, even if we can't directly measure them, and we're trying to minimize these practices. It will take a while, since traditions don't give way easily, but if we can tax carbon and slow global warming, surely we can reduce the number of blow-in cards in America's magazines.