Sunday, January 11, 2009

How many columnists for the NYT with 4-letter names can you identify?


  • A pretty convincing two part (Part I and Part II) posting in favor of variable toll roads. I've mostly been against toll roads seeing them as part of a slippery slope in which the basics are up for sale (how far off until only the rich get to breath safe air?). But this isn't a case of funding the construction of a road with a toll. Instead it's a payment meant to optimize flow rate...in physics terms, I suppose it would be stabilizing a critical point of the system. (Coincidentally, Cocktail Party Physics is also discussing traffic.)
  • Cool picture of millions of dollars cash was airdropped via parachute onto a huge oil tanker.
  • You might check out Frank Rich's column today in the NYT if you want to get angry.

3 comments:

Paul A Houle said...

I think congestion pricing is bunk, another symptom of the economism that gave us Madoff and the housing bubble.

(1) Public transit systems can move an order of magnitude more people per lane than automobiles. Manhattan would not be possible if the majority of commuters attempted to enter it via automobile.

There are two areas where behavior would need to change to reduce congestion, and the "market" has already developed mechanisms that inhibit market signals from affecting them:

(2) Traffic congestion is a problem at rush hour in most places, not at 2 pm. Traffic congestion would be reduced if some people started work at 6 and others started at 10. This isn't a decision that most workers make for themselves, it's a decision that employers make. Since the person who makes the decision doesn't have to pay the tolls, the market signal doesn't get through.

(3) The other big issue is the spatial organization of urban and posturban areas. That is, where different kinds of jobs are located and where different kinds of people are located. Both high-paying and low-paying (service) jobs tend to be located in wealthy areas. As a result, the working poor often have extraordinarily long commutes.

Once more, the decisions about spatial organization are made by city planners, real estate developers, banks -- all people that aren't paying the tolls.

----

As you elude to, economism is dangerous because it makes the problems of the "have nots" invisible to the "haves;" that's the whole reason why Reagan's Washington Consensus has been so successful... It keeps the people that matter happy, and who cares about the rest?

CarlBrannen said...

Madoff really didn't actually steal 50 billion. What he did was he told investors that they were 50 billion dollars richer than they actually were. What he did was he faked profits that weren't there.

I would suppose that the Feds will be going after the people who withdrew profits from Madoff's fund so that they can partly pay back the people who left their funds in to the end.

As far as the Iraq war goes, truth is the first victim of war and this has been the case in every war that has ever been fought. This principle goes back to Herodotus and continues on in every country on the planet and every war. It is also universal human behavior to believe what you pretty much want to believe and this is traditionally how countries get into stupid wars.

From what I recall, Bush had 90% popularity at the beginning of the Iraq war. Blaming our going into a conflict that generates that sort of popularity seems like it should be rewritten as an indictment of the human condition. I argued against going in, on the basis of my many years reading on warfare but no one would listen to me. The people arguing against it seemed to have the opinion that the US shouldn't be a bully, or just wanted to steal oil, etc., not that we were going to have our goose cooked by amateurs.

The basic problem was that our successes in previous conflicts convinced the population as a whole (not just Bush) that we were a superpower in the sense of a comic book hero. Truth is the US is just another world power.

Angry said...

Paul: Interesting points. I'm still digesting all this, so I don't have an argument against.

Carl: Where's all this coming from? Did someone mention the Iraq war?