Linklist: September 17, 2011

David Brin: Libertarians and Conservatives must choose: Competitive Enterprise or Idolatry of Property: “Elsewhere I’ve called the Enlightenment’s principal tool Reciprocal Accountability (RA). But it really is just another way to say “get everybody competing.” By dividing and separating power and — more importantly — empowering the majority with education, health, rights and knowledge, we enabled vast numbers of people to participate in markets, democracy and science. This has had twin effects, never seen in earlier cultures.
1) It means everybody can find out when a person stumbles onto something cool, better or right, even if that person came from a poor background.
2) It allows us to hold each other accountable for things that are wrong, worse or uncool, even when the bad idea comes at us from someone mighty.

The above led me to John Robb: Central Planning and The Fall of the US Empire: “One of the most interesting underlying reasons for the decline of the Soviet Union, and soon the US, is misallocation of resources due to a reliance on central planning. … an extreme concentration of wealth at the center of our market economy has led to a form of central planning.   The concentration of wealth is now in so few hands and is so extreme in degree, that the combined liquid financial power of all of those not in this small group is inconsequential to determining the direction of the economy.   As a result, we now have the equivalent of centralized planning in global marketplaces.  A few thousand extremely wealthy people making decisions on the allocation of our collective wealth.  The result was inevitable:  gross misallocation across all facets of the private economy. “

Frederick Melo at Pioneer Press Sibley Bike Depot introduces low-income adults to bicycling’s joys: “Thirteen years later, Tanzman – now development and outreach coordinator for the Sibley Bike Depot on University Avenue in St. Paul – is trying to regift that experience to a new generation of bikers, ones who aren’t necessarily white, male, college-educated 20somethings like himself.”

David Brooks in NYT says something I am not annoyed by: The Planning Fallacy : “In his forthcoming book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (I’ll write more about it in a couple of weeks), Kahneman calls this the planning fallacy. Most people overrate their own abilities and exaggerate their capacity to shape the future. That’s fine. Optimistic people rise in this world. The problem comes when these optimists don’t look at themselves objectively from the outside.”

Transit and road congestion

You often see claims that transit project X will reduce/alleviate/eliminate traffic congestion. E.g. This article discussing the issue

First this is usually wrong. Most transit users would not otherwise drive themselves. E.g. The 2004 Metrotransit strike could not be detected in the traffic counts. Most displaced users carpooled, walked, or biked. That is not to say there was no hardship, there was, but it was felt by transit users not drivers.

Second congestion reduction is not a good reason to support transit, anymore than claiming a new road will reduce crowding on the bus.

The purpose of transit is also not economic development, though that might occur as some people will pay a premium to live in places or work in places with good transit service. This indicates a willingness to pay above the fare being charged as well as an option value.

The purpose of transit is moving people from A to B who want (and/or don’t have a good alternative) to use transit. Their willingness to pay for that trip is the primary (and perhaps dominant) benefit transit provides.

All else is noise.

– dml