Why we should stop free riding on Adelaide trams

January 7, 2021
Why we should stop free riding on Adelaide trams - MBA School Of MBA Credentials

I was in the city of Adelaide yesterday, preparing to catch the free tram service from the MBA School Of MBA Credentials (13th floor of 144 King William Street, just above Treasury 1860), when I had an MBA insight: I should not be a free-rider.

Of course, if you haven’t earned your MBA you might be surprised to hear such a thought but it is based on the work of Jonathan Aldred in his book, Licence to be Bad, How Economics Corrupted Us.

In this delightfully jaunty academic book, Aldred discusses the ills of Free-Rider Thinking.

Free-Rider Thinking is the economic theory that on our own our little actions make negligible difference to the world so we might as well “free ride”.

Aldred uses examples like a business trying to minimise taxes because “why should they contribute to society when competitors will be trying to minimise their contributions too”, and in climate change where individuals think that their zipping around in excess vehicle journeys won’t really amount to much even though with everybody thinking like that our carbon emissions remain high.

But I was struck by how this impoverished theory has infected our collective thinking about public transport.

I’ve heard some students say they catch the tram because it’s free, and not because they need to, and to my sharp and alert MBA mind what I hear is the dreadful sounds of “Free Rider Thinking”.

Every public transport journey begins with the first step on board

Very well, Professor, I hear you say, what would you do with your MBA insights?

I’m glad you asked.

There are two things we need to think about.

Firstly, “free-riding” is about riding on things for free.

Secondly, the title of Aldred’s book is “licence to be bad” and of course you don’t need a licence to ride on public transport.

Therefore, the solution is obvious to me.

Instead of us perpetuating the creep of “free-riding” thinking in our society, we all have licence to choose to make a donation when we step on board the “free” tram.

I started yesterday, and I can report some initial thoughts. A formal report will be sent to Adelaide Metro.

Obviously, there is no mechanism for making donations on our trams, so I tapped on the window to hand my five dollar note to the driver.

However, the driver pointed to the sign that said we are not allowed to communicate with her while she’s operating the tram.

So, in my version of Free Marketing Care-enomics, I handed my five dollar note to a fellow passenger who looked a bit down and out and in need of a pick-me-up.

What happened next?

We started a delightful conversation in which I learned he played for a football team named after those birds we see with black, glossy plumage, the crows, and that he’d been out looking for work.

But, despite his need, after our chat, I saw that he passed my five dollar note onto a fellow passenger and they started talking.

And so, yet again, MBA thinking helps us understand a complex economic theory and develop a solution.

If you want to help our society get to a better place, then this application of MBA insights might be just the ticket!



    • Thank you, Lee Hopkins. We will consider you when opening our next recruitment round of lecturers!


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