Free Parking

I observe a parking lot.

There was a thriving store here, amid other businesses in the area. Its parking lot was always busy but never full. There were always a dozen or more spaces available despite how many people frequented this business. The store has recently moved to a different location, so now the building is empty.

The parking lot, however, is packed. There are barely one or two spots open.

There are many businesses in the area, and the collective patrons of those businesses need to park somewhere. I know this because I often frequent those other businesses and parking is very inconvenient overall in the area, so I always parked in this store’s parking lot.

Sometimes I would shop at that store, but certainly not every time, despite parking there. After all, there were always at least a dozen empty spots; I never took the last one, I always took the one furthest from the store itself (I’m not a monster) and I never stayed long. And I always looked for a spot near the actual store I was visiting, but most of them didn’t have their own parking lots the way this store did. So my options were generally to park many blocks away on a side street or just park in the neighboring store for fifteen minutes, and I inevitably chose the latter.

Everyone could have done this. Most didn’t. Most didn’t, which is why anyone could have. Anyone could have, but most didn’t, which is why I was able to, and did.

I am sure that if I actually interacted with someone and they knew I’d parked there while they’d parked on a distant side street, they’d have disapproved. But why? What’s the alternative? Empty parking spaces, unused resources, inefficient action. In an ideal world, all resources are efficiently allocated. In an ideal world, everyone parks exactly where they want and there’s never a single spot left over but also never a time when you can’t find one.

We don’t live in an ideal world. So go ahead and hack the one we have. Don’t steal from your fellow humans, but steal from the Great Ghost of Inefficiency all you damned well please.

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