Thu, 07 Sep 2006

Stop Claiming Stagnation!

I'd like every leftist who is claiming that the average American is no better off now than 30 years ago to please stop doing that. Or, at least, if they can't stop, I'd like them to stop saying it on the Internet. Because, if wages are really no better, then they can't (in principle at least) afford to use the Internet.

Of course, I believe no such thing .... but they do, and if they believe that they are telling the truth, then they should act on that basis and stop posting their drivel to my Internet.

Posted [03:15] [Filed in: ] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Mon, 04 Sep 2006

Economics in Six Minutes

I don't often merely link to other people's writings, but this one is a gem. Economics in Six Minutes. Definitely worth six minutes of your life.

Posted [09:16] [Filed in: ] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Sun, 03 Sep 2006

ATV trails in New York State

In order to understand the ATV issue, you have to keep two points in mind: first, that because ATVs destroy the trails they ride on, nobody wants to share trails with them. Second, that because ATVers have been paying into a dedicated trail fund, they deserve their own trails.

There should be no question that ATVs destroy their trails. I like to ride my mountain bike on old railroad beds. Both the Rutland Trail (Norwood and eastward) and the Rivergate Trail (Philadelphia and north and west) have some places which ATVs have turned into mudpits. I haven't heard any ATV riders admit to this, but the evidence is right there. Just ride along these trails and you'll see for yourself.

When ATVs have dedicated trails with a management plan, this isn't a big problem. The Rivergate Trail is managed by the Rivergate Wheelers ATV club. They have purchased fill, and rented equipment to position it. They have repaired and replaced bridges. The Tri-Town ATV club is newer, not as well organized, and the Rutland Trail shows it. Both these clubs are voluntary organizations, which is great! But the ability of these clubs to generate funding is suppressed by the ATV trail portion of the state ATV registration fee.

When ATVs ride off their own trails, they create problems. Landowners really resent it when they see their trails rutted by ATV wheels. Snowmobilers have many trails on private property, whose owners' permission they have because they ride on snow, and don't harm the trail. Hikers burst a vein if they're hiking along a trail, and ATV riders come blasting down the trail, making noise and leaving behind an exhaust smell. Mountain bikers don't want to have to ride through the trail mudholes that ATVs create. Their sense of being in the wilderness is dashed by the presence of a motor vehicle. Both of these groups are harmed by ATV travel on multi-use trails, and yet they have no negative effects on ATV travel.

There's public funding available for multi-use trails. This is not a solution for ATV riders because of the trail damage. Multi-use means horse riders, who require special bridges so as not to scare the horses. Multi-use means walkers, who travel at a vastly different speed than ATVs. Multi-use means bicyclists, who require a firm surface, not a mudhole. Mixing these uses is just asking for an accident. Nonetheless the Rutland Trail is receiving multi-use funding this year. I count that as a good thing.

The solution to make peace with the ATV issue is for the state to put back the funding it stole from the ATV trail budget. Use that money already paid by ATV riders to start working on trails. Use the new, higher trail fee added on ATV registrations to create new trails.

Posted [15:39] [Filed in: ] [permalink] [Google for the title] bicycling,atv,offroad [digg this]

NTSB's perspective

An AP article quotes Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, as saying:

"This is a piece of equipment that could have saved 49 people from being burned to death," Hall said. "But because of the economic interest of the aviation industry," it is used in only a few planes.

Small wonder that someone associated with the NTSB is in favor of more safety. Unfortunately, Hall's is a single-minded perspective. All he's taking into account is airplane safety. Thus, there is no limit to the amount of money which should be spent on airplane safety, as long as there are airplane crashes.

I hope that people interested in thinking like an economist can see the flaw in Hall's perspective. Airplanes are already safer than all other types of transportation. If you make airplane travel safer by increasing the amount of money spent on safety equipment, airplane travel will be more expensive. People will drive instead, which will make them less safer.

The irony here is that the anti-terrorism steps being taken to make airplane travel safer will make flying more expensive. More expensive in terms of the larger number of people needed to carry out these safety steps, and in the time needed to fly. These steps will probably not reduce the risk of terrorism, but will turn people away from safer airplanes to less safe automobiles.

Thank your government for making your travel less safe in the name of making it safer. After all, that's what you're paying them for: to force people to make their second-best choice rather than their first. No need to force them to make their first choice, eh?

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Sat, 02 Sep 2006

Spitzer, the economic ignoramus

Gentle readers, you are no doubt familiar with Elliot Spitzer's abysmal lack of understanding of economics ( Go Away Elliot, Go Away Elliot 2, Like A Spitzer With His Head Cut Off, and No Thanks Elliot). Well, he's at it again. He's quoted in the Watertown Daily Times (paid site, so no link) as saying, on his visit to Massena on Friday:

"We've got to educate our kids," he said. "In India last year there were 350,000 engineers. In the U.S. there were 70,000. How can we win the battle for new products when they're out-producing us?"

Practically every phrase is wrong.

  1. According to Reason Magazine, while India's central planning did create several high quality technical institutions, it was private colleges which stepped up to the plate. Four of five engineering students attend private colleges, making Elliots use of these engineering students to support public education a mockery of the truth.
  2. By "We've got to educate our kids" Elliot means the exclusive "we" -- that is, he means "the government", not "you". And yet in the India to which he compares us, private schools outperform public schools (pdf). These are for-fee profit-making schools. People willingly pay for them in India, so in India Elliot's "we" includes citizens.
  3. While it seems horrific that India has 350,000 engineers and the US only 70,000 (how can we win??), you need to remember that India's middle class is larger than the entire population of the US. Let's look at matters a different way. India's population is 1,095,351,995, and the US's is 299,630,441. There are 3129 people per engineer in India, and 4280 people per engineer in the USA. So rather than a 5 to 1 ratio, you have a 4 to 3 ratio.
  4. These engineers don't work in a vacuum. They need support services surrounding them to make them effective. India is loosening up its economy, but still exerts substantial central control. India's infrastructure is groaning under the load. A hotel room in Bangalore (which is India's Silicon Valley) costs $400 a night, if you can get it. The traffic in Mumbai (which I visit yearly) is getting worse and worse in spite of the building of new bridges and elevated highways. There are very few miles of high-speed highway in India. Their economy is very inefficient. The thought of their 300,000 engineers "winning the battle" against our 70,000 is simply laughable. The highest goal of many of those engineers is to come work in the US.
  5. Finally, speaking of "winning the battle", herein you have Elliot's compleat expression of his understanding of economics. It is nil. There is no battle in free market economies. It is not a war. We can all win. Indians do what they do best; we do what we do best; and then we trade. Applying militaristic terms to peaceful trade is more than wrong-headed. It is evil.
Posted [13:06] [Filed in: ] [permalink] [Google for the title] elliotspitzer [digg this]