Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Critical Mass Assault

A Critical Mass is an event in which bicyclists take over city streets in cities worldwide. My brother did some photojournalism from a Critical Mass event in Budapest in 2006. Budapest's event, for example, was met peaceably by authorities and local police, as are others (mostly outside the US).

Not so, in NYC:

Oddly, the officer's story is that the bicyclist ran his bike into him (the officer) causing "lacerations," followed by (the bicyclist) resisting arrest. He managed to get that in the official report of the incident, which means that, now that video has surfaced, he (the officer) might be guilty not only of assault, but also perjury!

Also, just for fun: the cyclist was an Army Veteran, and the son of a NYPD detective.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

With Americans driving less for the seventh straight month, less gas tax (18.3-cents on every gallon) for highway building is flowing in. Transportation secretary, Mary E. Peters, thinks the short-term solution would be for the Highway Trust Fund’s highway account to borrow money from the fund’s (2.86 cents per gallon) mass transit account.

Really? The nation is (albeit slowly) leaving our cars and highways for public transport, and so we want to put less money into public transport to accommodate the increase, so we can maintain the level of funding for the highways?

A better solution might be to send it the other way: have the mass transit account borrow from the highway account. You'll transport more people/goods per dollar spent.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mankiw on the economist vote.

Greg Mankiw's article today covers how to get the economist vote.

If you're not familiar with Professor Mankiw, he was the Chairman of the council of economic advisors in the Bush administration, and has written what is probably the best selling introductory economics textbook. He is unusually (at least for someone employed by the Bush administration) fair and measured, and is if nothing else always pithy in his writing. Thus, he gives credit where credit is due to each of the current presidential candidates.

He covers in this article one thing which I have personally found confusing about the political divide: how a typical republican platform includes both anti-immigration and pro-free-trade policy, and the typical democrat platform is the opposite, despite the fact that the selections made in each platform are opposite positions in the wider discussion of globalism.

Some models predict the peak of oil production to occur as early as the next president's administration, thus, of all the positions he supports in his article, it would be reasonable to suggest that "tax the use of energy" might be one of the more important ones to consider. Adding to that issue's importance: decreasing the country's oil demand decreases the administration's (perceived) need to occupy oil-rich nations.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hours & Roads

From Daniel Hamermesh:
Nonetheless, he wanted to cut back a little, perhaps from 100 percent to 75 percent work time (which meant from 60+ to 45 hours per week), because the money was less important than before and he wanted more leisure. The head of his hospital-based practice said the work was either 100 percent or 0 percent"

A major reason why employers have this kind of leverage is employment-based healthcare. There is nothing magical about the number 40, but in most wage-based industries, an employee must work 40 hours or lose coverage and worry about what could go wrong. Though many universal-coverage healthcare plans can be flawed, this is one major and completely overlooked benefit: it corrects this labor market externality.

Also in the category of "distorted markets as status quo" are roads. Since the gestation of post-war suburbia, fanned by Eisenhower and auto lobbyists, it has been considered a government duty to supply (by which we mean: "subsidize," or perhaps "subsidize in full") roads for transportation. Want to run a train? Get your own damn rails. To paraphrase James Howard Kunstler, America took its post-war wealth and invested in an infrastructure that has no future.

So, when an individual considers transportation options, one sees:
  1. a heavily subsidized automobile option (free roads) with vast hidden social cost (traffic and pollution),
  2. versus public transportation, with internalized infrastructure costs (privatized track), but far fewer of the hidden social costs.

Maybe if we start to see more private roads (as Dubner observed above), people might notice the inconsistency.

Not to say that roads and rail should all be private: a more equitable solution could be to consider rails, roads, and sidewalks to be public infrastructure equally, each to be funded 100%, and then allow both public and private transportation options on all mediums, offering subsidies where there is community benefit and taxes where there is community cost.