[I resisted the temptation to call it Mole-o-nomics, aren't you all proud of me?]
This summer a mole (I shall henceforth call him Morris, though in truth I know not its name nor gender) decided to make himself at home in my back yard. At first I was okay with this development, feeling I could live in harmony with my subterranean little friend. And at first, this symbiotic arrangement seemed to be working out just fine - a couple of mole mounds appeared, but only one in the grass and I tended to all of them easily. But then old Morris started to expand his home at the expense of my yard that I had only just completely rehabilitated. Not really being a good guest this Morris, thought I. And recently he has really gone into overdrive digging up my yard and making a general mess of my lawn.
So what to do? Well. I went down to the local hardware store to look for mole traps but I quickly began to have serious misgivings as I looked at the description of the violence promised to Morris. These traps are also difficult to set (requiring lots of digging and careful placement) in addition to their being quite horrific. Inflicting such horrors on poor old Morris seemed to be cosmically quesitonable, after all Morris is simply being a mole.
But then the good salesperson introduced me to the 'sonic spike.' This is a device that sends out sonic waves in the ground and claims that this will drive away moles. My first instinct is that this type of application of technology never works and a quick check of the intertubes reveals less than satisfied customers. Nevertheless, the manager of the hardware store was claimed to have personally used them successfully in my neighborhood so I figured it was worth a try.
Besides, this approach has economics on its side. What I mean by this is that the principle of the sonic spike is to make life in my yard not unbearable but marginally less pleasant than other places. In economics we know that economic decisions are made at the margin. In other words, Morris doesn't think 'well the benefits of Emerson's yard outweigh the costs even with this annoying noise (which is probably true), so I'll stay.' No, Morris, being subject to the same incentives that influence us superterranean beings, thinks 'hmmm...here are two yards seperated only by a fence, but one is just slightly more annoying so I think I'll go to the more peaceful one.' So, assuming I am right about the response of moles to incentives, it'll work. But even if it doesn't, it makes for a good economics experiment.
Now, you have by now seen the er...moral ambiguity associated with this plan. My mole strategy has an external cost that will be born by my neighbors: I am not removing the mole, only hoping to get it to move next door. This is an example of a classic externality problem: if a the total cost of an activitiy is not born by the actor, too much will be done. I am a good self-interested rational agent, and since I don't have to pay the cost of my neighbors' mole problem, I do not figure it into my calculation of relevant costs and benefits, so I choose the spike.
However, a bigger problem arises if all the neighbors decide on the same mole strategy. If we all plant sonic spikes, the old Morris will think that every yard is as good as the next and whatever made him choose mine will cause him to chose it again.
So I am not convinced it is the solution to my problem (and there is the downside of little high-pitched hums that eminate from the spike about every 30 seconds), but it'll be interesting if it is, at least for now. And it keeps me karmically safe in the interim.
Failing that I may go with what seems the next best route: stick a hose from the tailpipe of my car into the ground and gas old Morris to death. My big quesiton here is how do you get the car to not stall out due to clogging the tailpipe - isn't this similar to the old banana in the tailpipe trick?