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Friday, November 07, 2014

Congrats to Republicans, I Guess

The Republicans emerged victorious in the midterm elections, meeting or exceeding expectations at pretty much all levels of government where there was a contest.  The map below depicts the outcome for the House of Representatives.

So, with all my criticisms of Obama and the Democrats, am I thrilled? No, not at all.  My observations of politics is that a Democrat controlled government does a miserable job and is voted out and replaced by Republicans who do a horrendous job who are then voted out and replaced by Democrats and the cycle begins again and repeats over and over.  So now we've just entered a different part of the vicious cycle. Not much reason for hope, with me leaning more towards nope.

It is striking to me, though, just how much land area is controlled by Republicans.  Except for tiny slivers of densely populated areas and a couple rare exceptions, the vast majority of the country by area is Republican dominated. The Democrats call it "fly-over country," but really, it's the country.

I have become more convinced over time that the type of government(s) needed for highly populated areas is simply different from the type of government(s) needed for less densely populated areas.  So it's not that there's something the matter with Kansas, but simply it has different cultural and political needs than New York City because of the variance in population density.  Once again, that points to federalism being potentially beneficial, enabling each area to build its political structure according to its needs.

70 comments:

adri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clovis e Adri said...

Thanks for sharing your view on that, Bret.

I am curious about the opinion of the others on this. Erp, AOG, are you too happy with those results?

BTW, any of you actually voted?

Peter said...

I have become more convinced over time that the type of government(s) needed for highly populated areas is simply different from the type of government(s) needed for less densely populated areas.

I couldn't agree with you more, Bret, with the caveat that in addition to city mice and country mice, we now have suburban mice in the mix, and they are outbreeding everybody. The proof of your thesis is Toronto, our most liberal, multi-ethnic city. About fifteen years ago, the government forced an amalgamation of the entire metropolitan region. It was widely supported by the urban left, who have always disdained the suburbs and who basically saw it as a revenue source from propertied suburbanites they believed weren't paying their "fair share" for services, roads, etc.

It was a classic case of be careful what you wish for. The suburbs continued to grow, the core didn't and four years ago, Rob Ford stunned them all by sweeping into the mayor's office on a populist right-wing platform of fiscal rectitude, transportation development, etc. He even won the non-white vote in a city more than 50% non-white. The latte-sippers, whose dreams of more bike-paths and affirmative action initiatives were over, were absolutely horrified.

Ford proved to be a drug-addled, dishonest bully and buffoon who made the city notorious internationally, but until he was replaced last month by a more mainstream conservative, municipal government was so chaotic and dysfunctional it made Congress look collegial. There are too many issues where the urban and suburban perspectives are completely different even before you try to read rural into the mix.

erp said...

Bret, I'm frightened that you feel this way. The left's divide and conquer agenda is working and so is their carefully crafted propaganda machine. Switching the colors for Democrats & Republicans has been very effective. If that map showed a field of blue with just a little bit of red bleeding out, it would have sent a very different message to the right side of our brains.

We are one people and can adhere to our principles whether we live in cities, suburbia or exurbia.

If conservatives don't grab control of congress, the last election will have been meaningless.

Harry Eagar said...

'enabling each area to build its political structure according to its needs.'

You might want to think about the particularistic government of the Southern states between 1877 and around 1965 and withdraw that suggestion.

erp said...

Perhaps it would make more sense to think about the particularistic government in place right that followed that advice, like Detroit and many of the other of our former magnificent cities.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

I am overall pleased with the election results. I don't the the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Bret's argument here is of course a strong plea for subsidiarity, another one of my basic political principles.

Peter's comment illustrates the real motivation of "progressives" - it's all about the OPM. They expected to be neo-Feudalists, living off the productivity of the serfs, but ended up with a revolt instead.

Peter said...

You might want to think about the particularistic government of the Southern states

Good point, Harry. Same with Berkeley and Vermont. We need a strong central government with a huge bureaucracy and gargantuan budget to fight racism and make sure people keep their clothes on.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

And do you think the Libertarian cause was anyhow advanced with these elections results?

And do you believe that's enough to repeal ACA within the next two years?

Harry Eagar said...

I get a funny feeling in the back of my neck when people make light of how bad the South was.

Berkeley gave Herb Caen many opportunities to crack wise. But nobody got lynched.

Peter said...

Harry, you know that old slogan "Save your Confederate money, the South will rise again."? I'd always associated it with old-fashioned Southern chauvinists, but now I see it's been co-opted by the Boomer left. My weak attempt at humour was intended to say that listening to you ground your position on nostalgia for Selma in a 21st century debate on American federalism is like listening to Churchill make his "We shall fight on the beaches..." speech in the House of Commons in 1953.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

Yes.

No.

Mr. Eagar;

Is that the same feeling I get when you make light of how bad Communism is?

Harry Eagar said...

The South was an actual example of the kind of government you say you want, so it seems legit to bring it up. You don't have any better examples, do you?

But feel free to supply all the examples from Vermont that are equivalent in impact to, say, the poll tax.

I don't think you read RtO, but I hope you will check by later this week when (barring something I hope to avoid that may keep me away from my keyboard) I will be writing at length about the greatest experiment in what Guy calls minarchy that has ever been.

Warning: it will turn your stomach.

Bret said...

erp wrote: "I'm frightened that you feel this way..."

You use the term RINO more than anybody here. I think that pretty much the entire Republican party is a herd of RINOs so it doesn't much matter.

A no, conservative and libertarian principles are unlikely to carry the day in the new congress, in my opinion.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

In what respect has Libertarianism been furthered?

erp said...

I agree Republican leadership are all RINO's with a few exceptions and I agree that unless the reins of power are seized by those few non-RINO's and now, it will business as usual come January ... and no I do not expect that will happen.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

The Tea Parties demonstrated their strength once again, Scott Walker defeated the "deep state" in Wisconsin, Tom Steyer blew a massive wad of money for no results, and the Democratic Party got thrashed, losing not only much power but quite possible a new generation of leaders. Also, the GOP managed to tamp down on divisive social issue campaigning, the "women are just walking uterus" crew got trounced in two different elections, and Obama continues to be delusional, further damaging the Democratic Party.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

I confess I have much difficulty in understanding how a few seats changing parties represents so much action as you describe it.

It looks like Bret and Erp believe things will be the same old same old anyway. If you complain so much about Present American, and Next America is equal Present America, what Libertarianism gained?

Peter said...

unless the reins of power are seized by those few non-RINO's

Seized, erp? Ah well, if you must, don't forget to grab the media stations first and to make sure the troops are confined to barracks.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

I have much difficulty in understanding how a few seats changing parties

Did watch the same election I did? It wasn't "a few seats", it was a major wave.

I would say this is excellent evidence of what erp keeps mentioning to you - your information sources are dysfunctional so you start with bogus assumptions ("a few seats") which make our views incomprehensible to you.

As for the same old, same old - yes,that's quite possible. But even 50 MPH toward the cliff is better than 100 MPH.

erp said...

Sigh, Peter, if only.

Peter said...

Yes, erp, the promise of the Founders would have been fulfilled gloriously if it weren't for those damn Americans.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

You know, I can read numbers. Dems lost 7 seats to Reps in Senate, in a total of 100. And 12 in Congress, in a total of 435. That's 7% and less than 3%, respectively.

That sure looks like a few to me.

Now, I understand the majority thing but, still, I can't stop thinking there is a hype going on here...

erp said...

Peter, I don't see a smiley face, so you are being serious. Actually, it's just how the FF arranged it. The winners of elections seize the reins of power from the losers. However, even those smart old guys couldn't have foreseen how politicians routinely forget their principles and join the opposition. Marco Rubio, for whom I campaigned, call your office, but he's only one of many, hence the need for strong language.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "Dems lost 7 seats to Reps in Senate, in a total of 100."

A senate term is 6 years so the number of senators up for re-election is approx. 1/3 of 100, so the percentage turnover is a little higher. I think it was 36 contests this year.

In the house, all the districts are severely gerrymandered, so even that relatively small number of seats changing hands is more indicative of a change in sentiment than it appears.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] I am curious about the opinion of the others on this.

I'm happy whenever the bastards get voted out of office.

And, yes, I voted. Republican across the board, and for marijuana legalization. (Full disclosure: I've never tried it — not even in the Clintonian sense — and have absolutely no interest in ever doing so.)

[Harry:] You might want to think about the particularistic government of the Southern states between 1877 and around 1965 and withdraw that suggestion.

Obviously true, because, as we all know, the only defense blacks have against the reimposition of Jim Crow laws is the Federal Government.

[Harry:] Berkeley gave Herb Caen many opportunities to crack wise. But nobody got lynched.

True. Against that, imploding cities, near-universal illegitimacy, incompetent schools, and high murder rates are of absolutely no account whatsoever.

[Clovis:] I confess I have much difficulty in understanding how a few seats changing parties represents so much action as you describe it.

It is more than just a few seats, it is that it was way more than the few seats anyone expected.

I don't expect Republican dominance to last — the Democrats will adapt. IMHO, this election does not represent anything like a change towards libertarianism. Rather, it is the reaction to years of government failure. That's bad enough when Republicans are in charge, but it doesn't put any core values of conservatives at risk. In contrast, governmental failures strike at the heart of progressivism.

When the government completely borks a web site rollout — and what's worse, the guy in charge doesn't have a clue about the scale of the meltdown, then progressivism in action is a repudiation of progressivism in theory.

But that isn't the same as voting for libertarianism. Some problems are inherently collective: those should be, in business speak, government's core competencies. If the CDC was to focus on the reason it exists in the first place, and shuck all the rest of the crap, then its response to Ebola likely wouldn't have so closely appeared to issue forth from a confederacy of dunces.

So in my rosy view, the outcome of this election is for government doing less better.

You know, I can read numbers. Dems lost 7 seats to Reps in Senate, in a total of 100.

The important number is how many Dems lost of the number in play. The Dems lost 7 out of 33, not 7 out of 100. And the losses were D-R. Roughly half the seats in play were Dem, the the real way to look at it is that the Dems lost 7 out of 16-ish, and the GOP lost none out of 16-ish.

And 12 in Congress, in a total of 435.

Also not looking at this quite the right way. The GOP held on to all its seats; the Dems lost 12 of the 193 they held going in. And that is on top of the 2012 results, where they lost 8 out of 201.

The only way this could have been more massive would have required the Dems to lose all but one of their races, instead of merely half.

That would have given Republicans a veto-proof majority.

(Not a thing I would have been in favor of, since single party government is almost never a good thing.)

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

In American politics, a shift of 7 Senate seats is a major shift. In the House, the GOP hitting a post-WWII high is also very significant. You're also overlooking state and local elections, which were another major shift. If you look at that you see a GOP dominated USA with the Democratic Party basically a regional party.

And lets look at what some others say -

GOP Tsunami

GOP Tsunami

Let me know how many more of these you want. But, how can such things successfully contend with your ability to count numbers? Clearly they are all simply mistaken about the significance of the 2014 midterm election...

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

You underestimate me if you think I didn't see all over the news hyperbolic declarations about the midterms results.

As I believe you also can read numbers, please take a look at these.

I don't want to pop your ballon, but the comparison with previous midterms doesn't look remarkable either.

Sure, numbers can not capture it all about the moment - and that's another reason I like them so much, for in a final's game it is hard to separate what's rhetorical excess by overtaken footbal fans, or if their team is really the best ever.

Looking to the stats, I am sorry to tell you, your team looks an average winner.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

Thanks for sharing you voting preferences.

---
So in my rosy view, the outcome of this election is for government doing less better.
---
I don't know about "better", but doesn't it mean the "less" part is already true?

---
That would have given Republicans a veto-proof majority.
---
For my part, I'd love to see that in both your Senate and Congress. It would be probably very fun to watch you guys going through a Republican-devised Gypsy curse ("May you get all you ever wanted").

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

So all of that is wrong, and you are right, almost uniquely insightful. Got it.

I do note a few things, though.

One, you continue to ignore state and local elections, which are also very significant. If you are looking at future elections, even more so than the Congressional ones.

If we look at your chart, I would note the 2010 elections were considered very significant with fewer seats changes. Or the 1994 elections, which were the "Gingrich Revoluion" and lead to major changes in Clinton's Presidency. The change in 2006 was considered to end Bush's influence as well. So, based on your chart, I am seeing such changes as significant (as the 2006 and 2010 were fewer Senate seats).

In fact, the loss was so severe the New York Times is calling for canceling such elections.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

I did look for an analogous chart with a comparative table of previous state and local elections, but did not find it in a concise form.

I am sorry for my mistake in believing you can actually read numbers. Both 2010 and 1994 had *more* seat losses by Dems than 2014. Are you at least looking to the same chart I linked to?

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

From your chart -

2006: -6 Senate
2010: -6 Senate
2014: -7 to -9 Senate

My quote - "as the 2006 and 2010 were fewer Senate seats".

Who is it that can't read numbers?

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

You, of course.

Your relevant quote: "If we look at your chart, I would note the 2010 elections were considered very significant with fewer seats changes. Or the 1994 elections, which were the "Gingrich Revoluion" and lead to major changes in Clinton's Presidency."

The relevant numbers:
2010: -6 Senate, -63 Congress;
1994: -8 Senate, -58 Congress;

As your mention of Gingrich clearly implies you were talking about both Congress and Senate seats.

Or should I take that you can't read both numbers and your own phrases properly?

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

In every single comment I explicitly mentioned "Senate seats", yet read it as something else. Whatever.

--
your mention of Gingrich clearly implies you were talking about both Congress and Senate seats
--

No. I mentioned Clinton, does that mean I was talking about the Presidency and you're going to point out it didn't change in 2014?

Whatever. All the astute political observers are wrong about the significance of this election, and you are right, because of your far more extensive knowledge of politics the USA. How could I have ever doubted?

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

If you were not so eager to exercise your sarcasm, maybe you would get my point: look at that table and see that such a number of seat changes is fairly mundane.

Why should I see it is an Earth shattering thing when it happens so often?

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

I've looked and pointed out how other elections with similar or smaller numbers were judged significant, which casts doubt on the it being mundane. I've pointed out other things that indicate the significance of the election (for example). I've pointed out a wide, party spanning consensus about it.

But you've got a table and no other evidence can stand against it. I can honestly say at this point I agree, I don't see why you should consider this election of any real significance.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

Let me tell you one story about Fermi.

While working in the Manhattan project, Fermi approached the high chair in command, General Groves, to ask him what would be the definition of a great General. Groves told him any General who won five battles in a row would probably apply. Fermi asked back how many Generals he thought were great. Groves told him that roughly three out of a hundred.

In typical Fermi style, he made the following estimative: most battles are fought by sides probably of nearly same strength, hence a 1/2 chance of winning for each side. Well, to win five in a row there is a (1/2)^5 probability, or 1/32. To which he replied to Groves: You are indeed right, General, 3 out of hundred. But that's just basic probability though, not genius.


I will let the conclusion, as to our discussion on election results, as an exercise to the reader.

Harry Eagar said...

I imagine McConnell is not sleeping well these nights, waking up from feverish dreams, panting, 'The job creators, the job creators! My god, now I have to produce them!'

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

So, the guy who focused narrowly on just one metric was shown to be silly by Fermi? Yes, an excellent story.

erp said...

Harry, here’s new flash. Government doesn't create, nor produce, jobs. Government only needs to get out of the of way of those who do.

Clovis, you are apparently proficient in arithmetic and can read the words, but you not only can't read the music, it's obvious you don't even know it exists.

Few things, including politics and warfare, can be explained by numbers alone.

Bret said...

erp,

Government can, of course, create jobs - in the government sector. The USSR did, of course, create the vast majority of jobs in the Soviet Union. It was tyrannical and inefficient, but a government ran the whole economy.

Where I do agree with you is that governments, in my opinion, have a hard time stimulating creation of productive jobs in the private sector. That's very tricky with all sort of unintended consequences occurring with every policy move. Reasonable property laws, rule of law, consistency of law, not diverting resources, careful and minimally burdensome regulation, and a reasonable money supply probably maximizes private sector job creation, but even with this minimal list, there're lots and lots of devils in the details.

Harry Eagar said...

Actually, erp, if you knew anything about your own government, you'd know that it created the method of manufacture by interchangeable parts -- after repeated failures by private ventures -- thus setting off the biggest economic expansion of all time.

Harry Eagar said...

Aimed at you, too, Bret.

Once you get the rightwingers to admit that the Eli Whitney story was complete bullshit (never, in my experience) and understand where the technologies that really do create jobs come from, then it becomes possible to have a meaningful confab on expansion.

erp said...

Bret,

The role of government is well defined and plays an important role in keeping the economy working by providing those things you list.

Over the past 100 years, it's been demonstrated time and again that Jefferson was right, "That government is best which governs least."

erp said...

Harry, your ilk have been having confabs for well over a hundred years and holding and to quote Skipper ... crickets.

Howard said...

There is indeed a lot of BS around the Eli Whitney story, but not nearly as much BS as informs your interpretation of economic history.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] If you were not so eager to exercise your sarcasm, maybe you would get my point: look at that table and see that such a number of seat changes is fairly mundane.

I don't know that it is mundane, exactly. The number of seats changing sides appears to be in the top quarter. And, as I mentioned above, the D losses are on a shrinking base. And it isn't just the GOP that sees this as a big deal. (sorry about doing a Harry imitation, but I'm in a bit of a rush.)

And, since the original numbers were posted, Alaska went to the GOP, and Louisiana looks likely to do the same in its upcoming runoff.

Where this becomes important is in the upcoming SCOTUS decision on Obamacare's subsidies to states without their own insurance exchanges. (On this subject, Krugman recently revealed himself once again to be a pure ideological hack while writing a column load of conceptual fail.)

In typical Fermi style …

Typical Fermi style must be to pose something that sounds much more profound than it actually is. See, for another example, Fermi's Paradox.

[erp:] Harry, here’s new flash. Government doesn't create, nor produce, jobs.

That isn't true. The GPS constellation is primarily a government entity, and it creates all kinds of jobs. Where there are properly collective problems — roads, utilities, etc. — the government can much more effectively provide than the free market ever could.

Unfortunately, for people like Harry, everything is collective.

erp said...

Skipper, the kind of jobs you list are properly within the government's purview. GPS and NASA are modern extensions of roads and interstate commerce. Utilities are iffier, but modern energy needs can also logically be seen as part of the same thing, so if that's what you mean by the government creating jobs, I guess I won't quibble. Although as you know the private sector developed and manufactured lots of things, e.g., the LEM which my engineer brother played a large part in developing when he worked for Grumman.

Hey Skipper said...

By "government creating jobs" I mean that the government has taken resources and created things that no free market would ever get to.

In turn, those things allowed the creation of all kinds of jobs that wouldn't have been possible, otherwise.

Of course, a bunch probably got destroyed, too.

So I'm happy to grant that the government, when it sticks to its core competencies, can provide the bases for job creation.

But that is a far cry from the government owning the means of production.

erp said...

Skipper, not core competencies, that can mean anything. Each of the three parts of our federal government must, by law, stick to those areas of their delineated responsibilities or we really cease to be a land governed by law and join the rest of the world as being governed by strong men with guns.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "Where there are properly collective problems — roads, utilities, etc. — the government can much more effectively provide than the free market ever could."

That's quite a throwaway line. Someday you'll have to do a post trying to defend that.

Let's take roads, for example. Here would be a sample of my questions...

There were roads before there was government. Indeed, even animals create roads (paths). Why is government involvement necessary in building roads?

Were roads really the best transportation choice at the national level? How do we know that government involvement didn't entrench roads and stifle other innovations. Perhaps trains or hovercrafts or something that would've been invented but wasn't would have improved transportation greatly. (Seen versus Unseen).

But let's say you prove that roads really are the best transportation choice now and forever and government absolutely needs to be involved for efficiency. Why the federal government? Surely state and local governments could build roads, no? And if not, why not?

OK, so now let's say you somehow prove that roads were the best choice, private markets couldn't have done at least as well, and that it absolutely had to be the federal government to build the roads. Now prove that the subjective utility function across the nation when you include loss of freedom from taxes and regulation, pollution, centralization, bureaucracy, corruption, etc. was somehow better.

I'm awaiting your post. :-)

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

Good questions, let me try some of them.

---
Why is government involvement necessary in building roads?
---
Easy: property rights. The same ones enshrined in any Libertarian utopia.

---
Were roads really the best transportation choice at the national level?
---
Probably yes. Trains were already a known technology and it had its chance to compete. And you are forgetting the historical sequence here. Four wheels vehicles first won general preference in cities, leading people to claim for roads to extend their mobility. Govt. answered to what people wanted to.

---
Perhaps trains or hovercrafts or something that would've been invented but wasn't would have improved transportation greatly. (Seen versus Unseen).
---
Ludicrous. After 100+ years of technological development, nothing much better yet was devised, and not for lack of vast resources and technology that a hundred years ago was not even dreamed of.

---
Why the federal government?
---
No one defended only the federal govt. could do it, before your question.

---
Now prove that the subjective utility function across the nation when you include loss of freedom from taxes and regulation, pollution, centralization, bureaucracy, corruption, etc. was somehow better.
---
As with most of other things in economics, you need to use the Natural experiments seen by different societies over the world. It is fairly easy to correlate economical development with the spread of the industry of motorized vehicles in the many different countries.

Which indicates the economic gains from the existence of the industry itself, and the boost in productivity given by societies using that technology, was a net positive. Most societies that did not went to the troible of establishing conditions for that industry to develop may have had less "taxes and regulation, pollution, centralization, bureaucracy". Yet, you are not very much inclined to go living in any of them, are you?

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "As with most of other things in economics, you need to use the Natural experiments seen by different societies over the world. It is fairly easy to correlate..."

So at this point, you've already assumed that roads are the best choice. I don't agree and in some of your previous statements, it looks to me like you're asserting assumptions as facts (for example, property rights as a reason for needing government to build roads is an assumption, especially given that the concept of private roads is millennia old.).

But correlation is not causation. "Natural experiments" are also often bogus since they're terribly non-linear, there're gazillions of interlinked variables, and there aren't any controls. For example, comparing Mississippi to Mozambique (my favorite example) really makes no sense whatsoever for any parameter.

But okay, let's take just Europe. If we consider Percent of miles traveled by train, it looks like a higher percentage of train travel correlates with higher GDP. (I don't have time to put the numbers into a spreadsheet so I might be wrong, but it looks pretty clear to me). Does that mean anything? Maybe, but we'll never know what, because even limiting to region and culture and a relatively small range of wealth and income, there're still way too many variables to say anything.

But when you write, "correlate economical development with the spread of the industry of motorized vehicles in the many different countries," sorry, that has no meaning whatsoever - that's way, way, way too many variables. And your following statements are also based on equally meaningless correlations.

So, in summary, I found your answers not convincing, and more of assumptions put forth as answers.

Hey Skipper said...

Let's take roads, for example. Here would be a sample of my questions...

There were roads before there was government. Indeed, even animals create roads (paths). Why is government involvement necessary in building roads?


Many reasons.

Free-riding probably the most prominent.

Private property would be another: what if the best place for the road is through property the owner won't part with? Eminent domain can be very problematic, but many, if not most of the roads where you live are the result of it.

Standards. Absent some central authority taking on this inherently collective problem, roads would be chaos. (I see this all the time. The International Civil Aviation Organization does as good a job as it can in procedural standardization, but on any flight I can go from inches of mercury to hecto pascals, meters to feet to some goofy thing the Chinese cooked up after a particularly determined opium binge, knots to meters per second, feet to statute miles to nautical miles to meters. Myriad standard pressure transition altitudes. As many countries as not remove intermediate altitude restrictions when cleared to another altitude. I could go on. You sure as heck wouldn't want to drive on roads like that.)

Lengthy payback times. Even where the need for a road is obvious, the expense of putting one in might be prohibitive to the private sector given the amount of time to payback investment costs.

Transaction efficiency. Let's say roads are all privately held. How do you pay? Do you stop to pay a toll at each company's road?

Monopoly effect. What if you happen to own a stretch of road in a canyon. It is an essential line of communication, and there is no alternative route. You are a monopoly provider to the road networks on either side, so you can make the price almost arbitrarily high, but doing so will not create any increase in supply from other providers.

There are more reasons, but that should be enough. There are easily enough reasons to put roads, water and electricity within the realm of inherently collective problems.

Why the federal government? Surely state and local governments could build roads, no? And if not, why not?

Which kind of road are you talking about? (BTW, SFAIK, the federal government doesn't build any roads — except forest roads on public land.) The federal government establishes standards for interstate highways. It also establishes the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

But other roads are built by different entities. If you live in a subdivision, the developer probably built those roads. Cities build city roads, and states build state highways. Which obviates Now prove that the subjective utility function across the nation when you include loss of freedom from taxes and regulation, pollution, centralization, bureaucracy, corruption, etc. was somehow better.

You may not agree that roads are the best choice, but you haven't posed an alternative, and given the predominance of roads throughout the world, there is at least a prima facie case to be made in their favor. And trains aren't really any help here. There is only one way of creating a densely interconnected surface transportation network: roads and cars. Now you might not think that a thing worth having, but then you had better want to live in high density stack-a-prole housing.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "Free-riding probably the most prominent. "

Tolls.


Hey Skipper wrote: "...what if the best place for the road is through property the owner won't part with?"

I reject that the "best place" would be through someone's private property who doesn't want to part with it except in extreme circumstances. In my opinion, you have a very odd definition of "best place."


Hey Skipper wrote: "Standards."

I find that argument utterly unconvincing. The fact is you do deal with the different units for pressure, etc. and so do many other pilots. I "sure as heck" would have no problem driving on roads with different speed limits, for example.


Hey Skipper wrote: "Lengthy payback times. Even where the need for a road is obvious..."

Obvious to whom? You, given someone else (the taxpayer) is going to be forced to pay for it? Hmmm. That's not so obvious to me.

See "Tolls," above.


Hey Skipper wrote: "Transaction efficiency."

Do you not have electronic tolls up there in Alaska? That was possibly an argument decades ago, but no longer.

Also note that not collecting tolls basically leads to your free-rider problem. You can't have it both ways.


Hey Skipper wrote: "Monopoly effect. What if you happen to own a stretch of road in a canyon."

Then I'm in fat city, Yay! :-) People can either buy me out, go around, or pay the toll.

Note also that I'll be taxed on my "excessive" profits and that there are limits to what a monopolist can charge.


Hey Skipper wrote: "...there is no alternative route."

There's always an alternate route. Helicopter, for example.


Hey Skipper wrote: "... so you can make the price almost arbitrarily high, but doing so will not create any increase in supply from other providers."

Yay! Ummm, damn, too bad it doesn't work like that. If my goal is to maximize profits, then no, I can't make the price arbitrarily high. The route will simply become unimportant rather quickly if I charge too much.

And if it's truly a critical route, of course it will "increase supply from other providers." Why on earth would you think it wouldn't?


Hey Skipper wrote: "There are more reasons, but that should be enough."

How about some good reasons? :-)


Hey Skipper wrote: "There are easily enough reasons to put roads, water and electricity within the realm of inherently collective problems."

Only if you're a collectivist at heart. Those and related excuses can be used for any good or service.

I notice you left telephone off the list. Amazing how that used to be number 1 on the list of "collective problems" and now far fewer people think it ought to be a collective problem.

Peter said...

Bret, you are channeling Buckley, who once expressed exasperation at libertarians who thought lighthouses should be privately owned with their owners chasing down passing ships in speedboats to collect their fees.

How about the argument that the burden of private roads and tolls would fall much more heavily on rural citizens, who rely on heavier road use and have fewer alternatives? Don't you run the risk of driving them into the cities out of economic necessity where they will become welfare dependent and fall under the sway of corrupt Democratic ward politics and guarantee the GOP will never win again? Be careful what you wish for.

Hey Skipper wrote: "...there is no alternative route."

There's always an alternate route. Helicopter, for example.


And rocket ships. Let's not forget about rocket ships. Uh, Bret, we need to talk.

Bret said...

Peter wrote: "And rocket ships. Let's not forget about rocket ships."

How about a fleet of these offering taxi service? Or these? I'm glad you're using your imagination - something that seems lacking in the United States these days.

Not your intention, I'm sure, but I take it as a compliment that I'm channeling Buckley.

Peter asks: "Don't you run the risk of driving them into the cities out of economic necessity...?"

My agriculture robots will already do that, so I'm not worried about the roads. :-)

Bret said...

Oh, and this one too.

These are just the sorts of developments that have been delayed by government supplied infrastructure.

The solution to government getting out of the road business would arrive swiftly and be really, really cool. Probably dangerous, but really cool.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

I guess "Flying cars" were sure lacking in this discussion. Change "Romans" for "Government" and I'd say this is looking like a poor repetition of better acts.

erp said...

Bret, do you know if anybody out there is working on Transporters? I've waiting for years to say, "Beam me up, Scotty."

Bret said...

erp,

I'm sure if we got rid of the government, we'd have transporters in just a few years. :-)

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: ""Change "Romans" for "Government" and I'd say this is looking like a poor repetition of better acts."

And yet they rebelled multiple times anyway. I wonder why? (I'm referring to actual history here, not "Life of Brian."

I'm sure Gruber would tell us they were acting against their better interest due to irrationality and stupidity. Fortunately, the Romans didn't have to resort to deception - Crucifixion worked all-the-better.

erp said...

Bret, my thoughts exactly.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

And I am referring to "Life of Brian" here, not actual history :-)

Hey Skipper said...

[Hey Skipper:] "Free-riding probably the most prominent. "

[Bret:] Tolls.


Spoken like someone who has never lived east of the Mississippi. Toll booths are expensive to staff and maintain, and they exact significant transaction costs. E.g: I have spent 35 minutes in a tail back on I95 through New York City on a Sunday morning due solely to a set of toll booths. I have stopped to pay tolls about every 8 miles driving through Chicago. Because toll booths are expensive, the accessibility to toll roads is far less than on non-toll highways.

Those transaction costs are significant, and go away completely when road use fees are paid at the gas pump. Which also makes sense from a more global point of view: everyone benefits from highways, regardless of how much any individual uses them. So it makes no sense to make the specific users of, say, I95 pay when everyone benefits from the existence of I95. Also, everyone benefits from a densely interconnected road system. The per-vehicle costs of I95 are bound to be far less than a secondary country road. Why shouldn't those who use I95 exclusively not help pay for the secondary roads that are necessary to move food from the country to the cities?

But wait, there's more. When you advocate private ownership of the road, how does it get the right of way? Presuming it goes across individually owned property, then by what line of reasoning do you deny each property owner the individual right to collect tolls?


It is no good, by the way, to invoke magic wireless means of paying tolls (as is the case throughout Florida, now), because that wasn't a possible path from animal trails to the brave new world as recently as a half dozen years ago.

Hey Skipper said...

I reject that the "best place" would be through someone's private property who doesn't want to part with it except in extreme circumstances. In my opinion, you have a very odd definition of "best place."

Terrain often very tightly defines "best place". Using LA as an example, there are vanishingly few places for the 405 between the 10 and the 101, and it wouldn't take a lot of property to completely block the route.

Or, rather than rely on a hypothetical, take a real example. There is a glaring gap in LA's freeway network: it is about a mile and a half long between the north end of the 110 (the Pasadena Freeway) and a stub end of the 210/134 interchange. A few property owners have held that stretch of highway hostage for, oh, about 40 years now.

I find [the standards] argument utterly unconvincing. The fact is you do deal with the different units for pressure, etc. and so do many other pilots. I "sure as heck" would have no problem driving on roads with different speed limits, for example.

Instead of picking a trivial example — we handle different speed limits all the time anyway — and think about something more fundamental: what side of the road to drive on. Or lane widths. A truck that fits on road lanes belonging to a particular stretch of road owner might not fit on the next. Or road construction. Non-standardized road beds would mean that a truck could load only to the lowest load bearing section of road among myriad of sections along a given route.

Your insistence that roads aren't an example of a collective problem means you must take into account atomization of the network in all its particulars.

That's fine if you don't want to progress beyond animal tracks.

Obvious to whom? You, given someone else (the taxpayer) is going to be forced to pay for it? Hmmm. That's not so obvious to me.

The same taxpayer that is using it, and benefiting from it even if the taxpayer doesn't drive.

The route will simply become unimportant rather quickly if I charge too much.

And if it's truly a critical route, of course it will "increase supply from other providers." Why on earth would you think it wouldn't?


I know I mentioned it above, but I'll reiterate: frequently, there is no alternative to a specific route. The grapevine in LA is going to be in exactly one place, because terrain prohibits any other alternative.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Skipper;

Presuming it goes across individually owned property, then by what line of reasoning do you deny each property owner the individual right to collect tolls?

That one is easy - it's in the contract for the original right of way of the road. That's what "right of way" means.

As for taxes vs. tolls, you do presume that gas taxes would actually be spent on roads rather than, say, held in fictional accounts to make budgets look better.

I'm not sure which of you I agree with, but here is an excellent resource which is mostly on Bret's side.

Clovis e Adri said...

I also think many of the problems in standards, mentioned by Skipper, would be dealt with by the market dynamics.

The analogy is, of course, the Internet (I am surprised AOG did not point out this favorite of him yet). The standards were widely adopted without the need for legislation.

But Bret still did not answer properly to the property rights question. The relevant millenia old roads were definitely not private, they were all built by Empires, with a hand far heavier than the one Bret feels constraining him.

Hey Skipper said...

[AOG:] That one is easy - it's in the contract for the original right of way of the road. That's what "right of way" means.

But it isn't at all easy. Since the property owners still own the property, then at some point the contract expires. Unless it is in perpetuity, in which case it isn't the owners' property anymore.

Additionally, there is the problem of obtaining the entire right of way to begin with. Those who own property at a choke point, or delay granting permission, have far greater bargaining power than everyone else. Fine, right? Until a single property owner can scuttle the entire right of way, that is. It has happened in Southern California, with utterly bizarre results.

Eminent domain is problematic, but so is its absence.

As for taxes vs. tolls, you do presume that gas taxes would actually be spent on roads rather than, say, held in fictional accounts to make budgets look better.

And you presume tolls would be spent on the roads from which the tolls are collected.

I'm not sure which of you I agree with, but here is an excellent resource which is mostly on Bret's side.

Reason advocates congestion pricing, and you say they are mostly on Bret's side?

[Clovis:] I also think many of the problems in standards, mentioned by Skipper, would be dealt with by the market dynamics.

England drives on the wrong side of the road. It isn't possible to import cars into the US from Europe, or vice versa.

If property owners do, in fact, own their property, then there is no stopping them from arbitrarily altering standards, or extracting a rent to gain relief from them.

There are municipalities in the US acting exactly like that: they set arbitrarily low speed limits on sections of road inside their boundaries, then extract what are, in effect, tolls.

Peter said...

As for taxes vs. tolls, you do presume that gas taxes would actually be spent on roads rather than, say, held in fictional accounts to make budgets look better.

And you presume tolls would be spent on the roads from which the tolls are collected.

Well-played.