Thursday, August 27, 2009

CA disease, DC danger, Ashby, rail, peak oil, toll roads, free buses, and more

Smaller misc items and some of my recent Opportunity Urbanist posts:
  • In catching up with my badly backlogged newsfeeds, I found several items on the Antiplanner of interest:
  1. A ranking of states by both personal and economic freedom, where Texas scored very highly on both.
  2. A developer claims that Houston is too competitive and, despite our reputation, is not actually all that "developer friendly" because of the difficulty of making profits in such a competitive environment. In most other cities, substantial regulations create "barriers to entry" that limit developers to a small oligopoly with the resources to push through the regulations, and the lack of competition substantially boosts their profits
  3. How the 'Prius Effect' undermines the environmental case for light rail
  4. AP/Cato and Glaeser sum up the problem with high-speed rail: the costs are more than double the benefits even with generous assumptions. Hat tip to Barry.

“When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion--when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing--when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors--when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you--when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice--you may know that your society is doomed.”

And here are some recent posts on my Opportunity Urbanist blog over at the Chronicle:
Have a great weekend.

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At 4:33 PM, August 27, 2009, Anonymous kjb434 said...

I love Ayn Rand.

Should be required reading for all school kids.

At 8:01 PM, August 28, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

The personal freedom ranking is hogwash. It ignores the right to an abortion because it's politically controversial, but includes the right to carry concealed weapons.

At 8:45 PM, August 28, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I don't think the right to abortion varies by state. It's a federally protected right, so it wouldn't be relevant to state rankings.

At 1:08 AM, August 29, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

In practice, it does vary by state. In New York, there are no abortion restrictions beyond the federal ones. In Mississippi, there are mandatory waiting periods, mandatory counseling, and parental consent laws, and due to government harassment there's only one clinic left in the entire state.

But my point is not about abortion law. It's that by defining freedom differently, you can make the results appear the opposite of what the Cato study says. A liberal would pick different personal freedom issues: abortion law, GLBT rights, sanctuary cities, civil rights enforcement, police brutality, capital punishment. Even the economic freedom issues are debatable, even excluding leftist thought: a neo-liberal would not mind minimum wages or unions, but would instead focus on how much red tape there is for starting a business and how much the government subsidizes industries; those would probably not be as favorable to the South as the list of freedoms important to a libertarian.

At 8:51 AM, August 29, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Not a Cato study. This is George Mason University. It does allow you to download the spreadsheet and tweak the weightings to come up with your own rankings.

At 4:14 PM, August 29, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

The study still fails to include variables that are important to many people, e.g. anyone who's not a native-born white male. I can't decide to focus on indices like "Immigrant rights," "racial inequalities in sentencing," and "abortion rights," because they're not even offered as options.

Think of it as the equivalent of a push poll commissioned by a Democrat that asked people which issues are important to them, but only included traditional Democratic strengths like health, education, and social security; if you really care about taxes, you're out of luck.

At 8:34 AM, September 01, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point about what makes a city "developer friendly" or "business friendly" is a great one. It is maddening to see people who know little to nothing about business or competition assert indict our system for favoring developers above others when competition and low barriers to entry are just about the least business-friendly conditions imaginable.

At 4:08 PM, September 03, 2009, Blogger Peter Wang said...

Even the latest BP "Tiber" Lower Wilcox discovery in the Deepwater GOM will only delay global oil peak slightly. Giant oil fields are not enough, we need to find several new entire Saudi Arabias.

At 12:51 AM, September 04, 2009, Blogger Alon Levy said...

It's not exactly true that competition is business-unfriendly. It's unfriendly to established big business, and friendly to small business. In most cases it's also customer-friendly, which is the point in the first place.


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