📆 September 21, 2022 | ⏱️ 2 minute read

[Article] Please Don't Pay to Use a Pay Toilet

Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, wrote an article urging people not to use pay toilets. I agree with his conclusion and I want to promote his article and share my own thoughts on the matter.

Many countries both rich and poor still have pay toilets, toilets where the user has to pay for using them. Pay toilets are often blocked by turnstiles which create unnecessary accessibility problems that rob disabled people of their independence. They also create miserable bullshit jobs that require attendants to stand there all day blocking poor people from entering. Poor people being forced to defecate on the street because they aren’t allowed to use a pay toilet is morally abhorrent.

I’ve heard pay toilets being touted as a solution to the shortage of free public toilets in some places. Why not remedy the situation by setting up new public toilets and paying for their sanitation, repairs, and restocking with taxes? That takes care of the problem of who pays for public toilets without excluding anybody.

Some people worry that having tax-funded public toilets is a slippery slope that leads to either socializing all basic needs or the end of private business. It would be a good thing if the former were true, but clearly neither are. The U.S. has free public toilets, yet even healthcare is a for-profit business. Europe has a much better social safety net than the U.S., but it has more paid toilets. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation.

Tax-funded public toilets will not be the end of capitalism. Neither will having socialized healthcare, food and housing programs, etc. We’re not talking about giving everyone free weed. But in a civilized society, nobody should have to worry about meeting their basic biological needs. In a civilized society, “hitting rock bottom” shouldn’t mean shitting on the street, dying of Covid because you can’t afford treatment, or getting harassed by thugs because a park bench is the only place you have to sleep.

We’re better than that. At least I’d like to think so.