For example: "Just another part of the master plan to drive the middle class out of the city."

Today Toronto Hydro announced that they’ll soon charge variable rates for electricity, depending on the time of day.

Toronto Hydro announced Thursday that it will begin charging its customers new higher rates to use electricity when demand peaks, such as summer afternoons, and lower rates in the middle of the night, in an effort to encourage conservation and avoid blackouts.

This isn’t groundbreaking. The policy has been around for ages in Europe. It’s a simple financial disincentive to curb behaviour that can lead to power problems like blackouts (something Torontonians should be more than a little familiar with) and generally reduce power consumption. Given what’s happened in recent summers here in the city, it seems reasonable to dissuade people of the notion that electricity is an unlimited commodity.

Alas, the comment section of the Globe’s website has predictably degenerated into the usual whining about this being 1) a tax, 2) a nefarious plot by David Miller to strip away the rights and freedoms of Canadians, or 3) hippie treehugger goofiness. Or all of the above. Some even blamed the Tamil protestors. Some of that noise will be the knee-jerk response from political cranks who type first & think later, but I wonder how much comes from people who just don’t understand the use of price incentives as a social lever.

I remember Scott Adams writing once that the world seemed to make a little more sense to him once he knew something about economics. Of course economics is massively complex so understanding a little doesn’t give you the whole picture, but it forces you to see see, or at least acknowledge, that money is an enormous system, and this change is just turning one dial to affect the system a tiny bit. Until that point you’d see everything — like a tax increase or variable rate electricity — through the lens of “why are they doing this to me?” and start accusing politicians of robbing you, as if they had you and your buddies in mind.

Economics: the cause of, and answer to, all of life’s problems.

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