21 Mar 2009

Shitty Property Rights

The article cited in the post above begins with a vignette of a family in China that separates its waste for use on the fields. It reminded me of one of the best examples of property rights I've ever seen.

This photo (which I took in Zhaoxing -- southern China -- in 1998) shows how each family "makes deposits" using their own outhouses. The waste is then collected from below and applied to their fields as fertilizer. Individual outhouses avoid conflicts over possession of the valuable (!) shit. (They also indicate that pollution from sewage is unlikely to be a problem!)

Bottom Line: One man's shit may also be his treasure.


  1. Back to nature...way back! And if any of your more adventurous readers would like to try this for themselves, here's a "how-to" resource!

  2. Tis "night soil." Before Haber-Bosch (industrial) N fixation, lots of night soil was used in the US and the rest of the west.

  3. Much like John Seymour's thunderbox model, unfortunately against the law in our county. Make sure you build it where nobody can see it from the road...

    Actually, human shit isn't so good to handle unless you really know what you're doing. Pee is OK though, and you guys have a very handy delivery system for the compost pile!


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