with helen belcap
The many advocates of cost-benefit analysis argue that it helps people make all sorts of decisions, so we at Stay Free! thought we'd try it ourselves. In conjunction with this issue of the magazine, we considered launching a media project to improve the plight of Wal-Mart workers. Liza Featherstone discusses some of the actions already underway (page 14): class-action lawsuits, for instance, and unionizing. However, since these options are problematic for one reason or another, we thought of a more innovative one: setting oneself on fire.
[Photo by Malcolm W. Brown] Long popular among Asia's monks as a means of expressing dissent, setting oneself on fire has never caught on in the United States. Averse to pain, American protesters choose "marches" or "voting" without ever evaluating the merits of self-immolation. But with the rise of cost-benefit analysis, this underdog media strategy may finally get its due.
I should point out, however, that I would not make a very good martyr myself (camera shy).
Human life: $6,100,000 (1)
Gasoline (1 gallon): $1.85 (3)
Liter of Jack Daniels: $17
Media attention to cause through repeated airings of burning on news networks, lead stories on all local news outlets, circulation via blogs and email: $8,544,023.4
Savings from free cremation: $7785
$8,544,801.00 > $6,100,072.78 ~
SMART CHOICE = setting yourself on fire
1 As calculated in the EPA report The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act, 1970-1990, October 1997; via Ackerman and Heinzerling, Priceless (New Press, 2004), p. 61-62.
2 Wal-Mart apparel at everyday low prices
3 Department of Energy, 9/8/2004
4 Based on an estimated $100,010 per minute in equivalent advertising time; at 3.5 minutes average per national cable channel, or (3.5 x 215) 1023.344 / 347 x 3.
5 Metropolitan Funeral Service Inc., New York, NY