Obama's Vision Deficit

After 100 days, the new president has revealed himself as an effective salesman of exhausted ideas.

So here we are, 100 days into the great eight-year triumph of Hope over Change, a new Era of Really Good Feelings in which only one thing has become increasingly, even irrefutably, clear: President Barack Obama is about as visionary as the guy who invented Dippin' Dots, Ice Cream of the Future. Far from sketching out a truly forward-looking set of policies for the 21st century, as his supporters had hoped, Obama is instead serving up cryogenically tasteless and headache-inducing morsels from years gone by.

On issue after issue, Obama has made it clear that instead of blasting past "the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long," (as he promised in his inaugural address), he's moving full speed ahead toward policy prescriptions that already had less fizz than a case of Billy Beer back when Jimmy Carter was urging us all to wear sweaters and turn down our thermostats. Instead of thinking outside the box, Obama is nailing it shut from the inside.

Consider the president's recent "major" speech about transportation, yet another Castro-like exhortation in which Obama boldly rejected the failed policies of the past in favor of the failed policies of the future.

"Our highways are clogged with traffic," he noted, before unveiling his big fix: Shiny new trains that go almost twice as fast as cars. Forget that, as urban historian Joel Garreau has long documented, our country has been decentralizing its living and working patterns for decades now, migrating from virtually all urban centers (except maybe for booming Washington, D.C.) to relatively low-density suburbs. In a big, spread-out country where individualized service at the coffee stand, on cable TV, and in your computer is the new normal, our chief visionary officer is talking about a one-size-fits-all solution that will surely bomb even bigger than NBC's Supertrain.

"Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination. Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America," said the president, while ignoring more obvious and forward-looking fixes such as modernizing air traffic control systems, deregulating airports, and unleashing private capital to build and improve roads. Instead of any genuinely interesting or remotely promising initiative, Obama offered a measly $13 billion in funds, to be directed by Vice President Joe Biden—another visitor from the future who prefers the oh-so-modern conveyance of Amtrak to the unreliable horseless carriage.

In nearly every key area of policy concern, from industrial bailouts to massive deficits, from Afghanistan to the Middle East, from education to energy, the president's standard operating or reach back into the Carter playbook for ideas that didn't work back then, either. All while rhetorically valuing "good ideas ahead of old ideological battles."

On the economy, and specifically on the economic crisis, Obama came to office promising a sharp break from the past. Instead, he has added so much fuel to the fires that George W. Bush ignited—exploding already swollen deficits, using TARP monies (which were statutorily provided for banks) not just for auto companies but minor auto parts manufacturers, and giving the federal government more power to seize private companies than even Henry Paulson dreamed of wielding. Such has been the extent of Obama's me-tooism that he's taken to defending his record by pointing out that, hey, Bush started it!

The latter was actually a rare moment of transparency; Obama's typical M.O. is to proclaim a new era of responsibility while ushering in a new era of irresponsible debt, promise to close the revolving door of lobbyists and government while keeping it open, and vow to post all bills online for five days without doing anything of the sort. He says the bailout is "not about helping banks—it's about helping people," then gives more of the people's money to banks. He says he doesn't want to run General Motors, then fires its CEO, guarantees its warranties, and wags his finger about the company's surplus of brands. He says he's taking a battle-axe to the budget, then offers to shave $100 million off a $3.4 trillion tab. At his gee-whiz, interactive, online town hall meeting, he laughed off the most popular question asked by web viewers—should marijuana be legalized—with a lame joke before embracing the status quo like Jimmy Carter hugging a Third World dictator.

On traditional domestic programs, too, Obama came to office with vague yet high-minded promises to rise above, for example, "the same tired debates over education that have crippled our progress and left schools and parents to fend for themselves." When it came to improving rotten schools, Candidate Obama vowed we would no longer be paralyzed by "Democrat versus Republican; vouchers versus the status quo; more money versus more reform."

Since then, Democrats (versus Republicans) have killed Washington, D.C.'s proven-effective voucher program (versus the status quo), and showered more federal money on schools and teachers (versus more reform). All while having the gall to maintain, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, that they aim to "close the achievement gap by pursuing what works best for kids, regardless of ideology."

For those Americans who voted for Obama, a question: Is this the change you had in mind?

If surveys are to believed, it is. So far, Obama has positively Reaganesque approval ratings and most polls show increases in the percentage of Americans who believe the country is headed in the right direction, even if no one is certain of the economy.

Obama has had the great good fortune to follow one of the least popular and least effective presidents in U.S. history. However, in the next 100 days, Obama will be trying to ram through the biggest alternative energy central planning scheme since Jimmy Carter unleashed the then-ballyhooed, since-forgotten boondoggle of "synfuels" onto the body politic. He will be hauling out a centralized health care scheme the likes of which haven't been discussed since the disastrous early days of Bill Clinton's presidency. He will be plumping for (Ted) Kennedyesque national service and Dubyaesque education spending.

In each of these, he will not much resemble that bold campaign visionary supposeldy with two feet firmly in the future. Rather, he will reveal himself to be that least inspiring of all political characters: a leader beholden first and foremost to special interests and ultra-conventional voting blocs. This at a time when the electorate is becoming increasingly unaffiliated with either the Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals.

According to the Harris Poll, which has been tracking party affiliation and political philosophy of adult Americans for 40 years, between 2007 and 2008, the most recent year for which there is data, independents were the only bloc of voters to expand—from 23 percent to 31 percent. Similarly, political moderates outnumber both liberals and conservatives. All of which suggests that Obama's honeymoon, like all vacations from reality, will soon come to an end.

Matt Welch is the editor in chief of Reason magazine and Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    triumph of Hope over Change

    zing. nice one.

  • Kyle Jordan||

    I still have a mortgage and the credit card companies are becoming more and more annoying by insisting that I, ME, be the one to pay them.

    Chocolate Jesus has failed me utterly.

  • ed||

    Dear Leader is having another scripted news conference* tonight. I'll be watching baseball.



    *Is it a "conference" if only one person is speaking?

  • JohnD||

    I was amazed at the number of foolish people that voted for this incompetent clown.

    I am more amazed that he still has high approval ratings. This says a lot about the typical American voter..... none of it good.

  • ||

    Magic Negro Rules!


    ...and spends like a drunken sailor.

  • creech||

    Hype and chains!
    The Specter switcheroo had the Democrat Party leader in Phila. swooning this morning, as he reminded Republicans to "get over" the fact that now both Senate and House can get on with the Obama program without having to placate Republican views. So much for Obama's pledge to get rid of the divisive politics that plague Washington and seek bi-partisan solutions.

  • ||

    I watched as much as I could stomach of the three way backslapfest, this morning.

    Who could possibly believe that droning cadaver Spectre is the single best life form to fill any position, much less sit in the U S Senate? That guy is a walking, talking plea for term limits.

    Pennsyltucky voters, I'm looking at you...

  • Xeones||

    Instead of thinking outside the box, Obama is nailing it shut from the inside.

    Nice. Too bad we're all stuck in that box with him.

  • ||

    Biden and Spectre were yukking it up about their glorious train rides back and forth from Washington.

    No mention of how much it costs us per mile to lug their worthless carcasses to and fro.

  • Telly||

    I'd rather get that damn pig flu and have it coming from both ends, than watch or listen to that lying, crooked, hateful bastard for just one minute.

  • Cull the Infirm||

    So it turns out that Arlen is the magic bullet.

  • Chad||

    Ahhh, suburbs. Another classic example of the prisoner's dilemma wreaking havoc upon the world. Yes, many people like to live in suburbs. However, suburbs become massive, unsightly, inefficient, unhealthy, and uneffective if almost everyone else makes the same choice...which they do. Ideally, I would live in a nice little suburb while everyone except a few farmers crowded into the urban core. This would result in a nice downtown, efficient public transportation, etc but leave me with a big old yard.

    But of course, what actually happens is that everyone and his mother moves to the suburbs, the downtown dies, and we are left with strip malls, clogged roads, and endless McMansions.

  • ||

    I was amazed at the number of foolish people who professed to hold beliefs that were diametrically opposed to Obama's that voted for this incompetent clown.

  • ||

    Actually, that works, but what I intended was:

    I was amazed at the number of foolish people who professed to hold beliefs that were diametrically opposed to Obama's that voted for this incompetent clown.

    Hey, they don't call it RC'z Law for nothing.

  • ||

    However, suburbs become massive, unsightly, inefficient, unhealthy, and uneffective if almost everyone else makes the same choice

    [citation needed]

  • Xeones||

    I can summarize Obama's first 100 days in four words: Straight Up Bullshit, Yo.

    Ok, four more: Makes Bush Look Competent.

  • ||

    You went with Supertrain over Atomic Train?

    A bridge too far, gentlemen.

  • Chad||

    R C Dean | April 29, 2009, 9:59am | #

    However, suburbs become massive, unsightly, inefficient, unhealthy, and uneffective if almost everyone else makes the same choice

    [citation needed]


    Journal of Looking Out Your Window, R.C. Dean, et al, Vol 1, Page 1, 2009.

  • ||

    Makes Bush Look Competent.

    See!
    And you people doubt the miraculous powers of the Ascended One.

  • ||

    This would result in a nice downtown, efficient public transportation

    Excepted from the Journal of Faith Based Urban Planning?

  • ||

    Chad, You crack me up.

    The fact that our "country has been decentralizing its living and working patterns for decades" certainly doesn't mean we should continue to do so, but the opposite isn't true either. There are two things I'd like to know:
    1) what percentage of Americans live in a city where they can easily get to a downtown train station? It takes me 25 minutes to get to the airport. It will take me over an hour to drive to Raleigh, find parking and walk to Obama's soul train.
    2) If the power from the wind and sun is enough to cover America's power needs (including cars) why is Obama killing the electric car?

  • ||

    Now that I think about it. If Obama is so pumped up about saving the car industry, why is he creating more competition for them with increased rail travel?

  • ||

    Journal of Looking Out Your Window, R.C. Dean, et al, Vol 1, Page 1, 2009.

    Ah, the old "everybody knows". Oddly, when I have driven through or lived in suburbs, I generally see pleasant places to live, although I could do with fewer strip malls.

    However, suburbs cities become massive, unsightly, inefficient, unhealthy, and uneffective if almost everyone else makes the same choice

    Ibid

  • ||

    I love the suburbs. And I've lived in both the suburbs and the urbs. I've even spent significant time in the ruralurbs.

  • spambot||

    [citation needed]

    Journal of Looking Out Your Window, R.C. Dean, et al, Vol 1, Page 1, 2009.

    Citation FAIL!

  • Matt Welch||

    Journal of Looking Out Your Window, R.C. Dean, et al, Vol 1, Page 1, 2009.

    That's pretty damned funny.

    Though when I look out my window I see density, glorious density!

  • ||

    People left the cities because the cities were beautiful, healthy and effective Democrat-run utopias. That sure was dumb of them. If only they were as smart as the sort of people who would like to dictate how everyone else should live, this would be a better world. And if those people who have all the right answers were to become our rulers leaders, we'd all be as happy as pigs in shit. One can only dream.

  • ||

    Perhaps Asimov's Cities are what would make Chad happy? Mass concentration of people, with the people conditioned to hate the outside. Which has the added benefit of saving Gaea from humanity!

  • Jordan||

    I am more amazed that he still has high approval ratings. This says a lot about the typical American voter..... none of it good.



    Obusha's approval ratings are lower than Dubya's were at this point in his administration.

  • Chad||

    bigbigslacker | April 29, 2009, 11:07am | #

    People left the cities because the cities were beautiful, healthy and effective Democrat-run utopias. That sure was dumb of them. If only they were as smart as the sort of people who would like to dictate how everyone else should live, this would be a better world. And if those people who have all the right answers were to become our rulers leaders, we'd all be as happy as pigs in shit. One can only dream.

    People left the cities for the suburbs because it was best for them to do so. The problem is that, like in all prisoner's dilemmas, these peoples' choices were not best for society as a whole. When most people (especially those with money) left the cities, it gutted them, leaving gaping pits surrounded by endless suburbs. This isn't what anybody wanted.

    I find it funny how easy it is to refute the entire core of libertarian market-based ideology with one simple lesson in game theory.

    http://www.academicearth.org/lectures/introduction-to-game-theory

    It is really easy to demonstrate that many situations exist where rational people making rational choices for their own well-being do NOT lead to the optimal situation for everyone involved. The invisible hand works well in certain limited contexts, but critically fails in others.

  • ||

    It is really easy to demonstrate that many situations exist where rational people making rational choices for their own well-being do NOT lead to the optimal situation for everyone involved.

    If you define "optimal solution" as "what I prefer", that is.

  • Jordan||

    The problem is that, like in all prisoner's dilemmas, these peoples' choices were not best for society as a whole. When most people (especially those with money) left the cities, it gutted them, leaving gaping pits surrounded by endless suburbs. This isn't what anybody wanted.



    [citation needed]

  • ||

    It is really easy to demonstrate that many situations exist where rational people making rational choices for their own well-being do NOT lead to the optimal situation for everyone involved.

    It is even easier to demonstrate that history demonstrates over and over ad nauseum that giving the power to one group to make decisions for everyone never leads to the optimal situation to everyone.

    Oddly, though, our experience does seem to indicate that, on the whole, the more control people have over the own lives, the better things turn out. Its not "optimal", but in the long run it beats the hell out of the results achieved by top down control.

  • MattXIV||

    Chad,

    You find it easy since you're begging the question.

    Let's actually do the model here.

    A/B Moves Stays
    Moves 0/0 +1/-2
    Stays +1/-2 -1/-1

    If the game looks like the above, then moving to the suburbs is both the the dominant solution and the optimal solution when you include binding negotiation.

    A/B Moves Stays
    Moves -1/-1 +1/-2
    Stays +1/-2 0/0

    If the game looks like the above, then you do have the classic prisioner's scenario where a binding agreement to stay would improve the outcome for both parties.


    A/B Moves Stays
    Moves -1/-1 +4/-3
    Stays +4/-3 -2/-2

    If the game looks like the above, net utility is optimized when one party moves but both parties moving is dominant and would happen.

    Your point relies on the parties being better off if they both live in the city rather than they both live it the suburbs as shown in the second scenario, and doesn't hold in the 1st or 3rd. You've provided absolutely no data to support your assertion that the game looks like the second example and not the first or third and have been called out on it already. You're simply assuming people have the set of preferences that makes you right, which is unpersuasive, regardless of how high your opinion of yourself is.

  • ||

    Allow me to alter a classic H&R comment.

    When Jennifer Chad has children, she he will stop espousing this libertarian big city nonsense and see the attractions of government intervention the suburbs.

  • Chad||

    Matt, you forgot a 4th possible matrix, which is actually the one I find most plausible:


    A/B Moves Stays
    Moves -1/-1 +4/-3
    Stays +4/-3 0/0

    But in any case, it can be seen that in most of the matrixes, the rational actors do not reach the optimal state. In the case of urban vs suburban, each person who choses to move from urban to suburban areas likely makes both areas worse off. The urban areas begin to lose the high density that allows the things that make these areas special. The suburban areas lose the low density that make them special. Both wind up being half-way in between, resulting in an endless sprawl of McMansions and strip malls.

  • Chad||


    When Jennifer Chad has children, she he will stop espousing this libertarian big city nonsense and see the attractions of government intervention the suburbs.


    I never said it was always irrational or undesirable for some people to live in the suburbs. I am simply stating that it is likely that too many people live in the suburbs. If people had to pay anything approximating the true cost of living in such arrangements, you can be sure far fewer would choose such an option.

  • Jordan||

    The urban areas begin to lose the high density that allows the things that make these areas special. The suburban areas lose the low density that make them special. Both wind up being half-way in between, resulting in an endless sprawl of McMansions and strip malls.



    Hey, look at me! I can beg the question too. I don't value McMansions and strip malls, so surely nobody else does either, right? And any policy I don't like just makes things less special. Forget defining what that actually means or citing any supporting evidence.

  • ||

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, that they aim to "close the achievement gap by pursuing what works best for kids, regardless of ideology."

    Whew! Thank god! I thought they were going to leave those Republican and Constitutional Party kids out to dry.

  • Xanthippas||

    "For those Americans who voted for Obama, a question: Is this the change you had in mind?"

    Pretty much. Thanks for asking though.

  • Xanthippas||

    Now that I think about it. If Obama is so pumped up about saving the car industry, why is he creating more competition for them with increased rail travel?

    If more thinking prompted that question, you should stop while you're ahead.

  • Tom||

    > It is really easy to demonstrate that many
    > situations exist where rational people making
    > rational choices for their own well-being do
    > NOT lead to the optimal situation for everyone
    > involved.

    It is also really easy to demonstrate that I do not have enough information about everyone involved to make a choice that is "optimal" for everyone, nor would it be possible for me to obtain the necessary information. Furthermore, history has shown us that no one in any type of government can collect, much less assimilate, enough information about everyone involved to make the "optimal" choice.

    The fallacy is that you think it is possible to comprehend and control a chaotic dynamic system of, for all practical purposes, infinite dimensions. Such arrogance, where have I seen that recently?

    Humbly yours,

    Tom H.

  • JD||

    Am I the only one who's ticked off by his focus on trains? "We can have trains that go from a stop only steps from your house right to work and shopping!" All over America? Really? We don't even have that in New York City, and that's one of the most densely populated, most public-transit-heavy places in America.

    And what's with the fascination with trains anyway? I like trains too, but they require a huge up-front investment (building rails and stations) and once built, they're not very flexible (kind of hard to move rails). Buses are not as sexy, but most places in America are already served by roads, and they're easy to reroute if needs change.

  • ||

    "Optimal"?
    Lemme tell you about "optimal"....

  • ||

    "...endless sprawl of McMansions and strip malls."

    Please explain why the sprawl of McMansions and strip malls is worse than an endless sprawl of row houses and multi-storied apartments.

  • ||

    Chad | April 29, 2009, 11:46am | #

    People left the cities for the suburbs because it was best for them to do so. The problem is that, like in all prisoner's dilemmas, these peoples' choices were not best for society as a whole. When most people (especially those with money) left the cities, it gutted them, leaving gaping pits surrounded by endless suburbs. This isn't what anybody wanted.
    ----
    Isn't this blaming the effect and not the cause? If we fixed the cities would people move back?

  • ||

    People My family left the cities country for the suburbs because it was best for them to do so.

    My family never did live in the city, unless one considers Hawley, MN or Tighnabruich, Scotland to be cities.

  • ||

    And what's with the fascination with trains anyway?

    I think the O-Man has seen Risky Business one too many times.

  • ||

    The fallacy is that you think it is possible to comprehend and control a chaotic dynamic system of, for all practical purposes, infinite dimensions. Such arrogance, where have I seen that recently?

    Well said!

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Chad,

    I've lived in 4 incredibly distinct areas...

    1. Rural Nebraska
    2. New York City, NY
    3. Vancouver, WA (suburb of Portland)
    4. Hollywood, CA


    Now... out of curiosity - given the varied density levels of each and the different things each place has to offer, which should I live in? According to you I mean... since obviously, you know more about what proportion of individuals should live in which places than those individuals themselves do.

    Should I stay where I am at medium density? There aren't any good trains nearby and I drive everywhere.

    Should I move back to New York? Plenty of trains, kinda crowded.

    Maybe I should go back to Nebraska... I drove all the time there too but it didn't take anytime to get anywhere, and there weren't that many strip malls compared to LA.


    I'm curious.... Really... Which of these places is best Chad? What's the magic "optimal" distribution?

    And could it be... that I have reasons for living and moving in places beyond your comprehension........? Maybe?

  • Chad||

    Please explain why the sprawl of McMansions and strip malls is worse than an endless sprawl of row houses and multi-storied apartments.

    Let's see...McMansion sprawl consumes significantly more resources, making it unsustainable. Americans consume over 50% more resources than most other developed nations yet aren't any happier.

    Additionally, McMansion sprawl makes walking and biking difficult and largely useless. This all but forces everyone to own car(s) at great expense, and then grow fat because of all the extra time we spend on our butts.

    McMansion sprawn is expensive, unhealthy, unsustainable and largely exists due only to the massive government subsidies of home ownership, automobile transport, and energy. At the very least, we should drop the subsidies. That alone would hammer this phenomenon. Yet merely dropping the subsidies would not account for the negative externalities that likely result from sprawl.

  • Jordan||

    Additionally, McMansion sprawl makes walking and biking difficult and largely useless. This all but forces everyone to own car(s) at great expense, and then grow fat because of all the extra time we spend on our butts.



    And yet again, your argument depends upon projecting Chad's values onto everyone else.

  • ||

    Libertarians against city planning for freedom!

  • ||

    Let's see...McMansion sprawl consumes significantly more resources, making it unsustainable.

    [citation needed]

    Americans consume over 50% more resources than most other developed nations yet aren't any happier.

    [citation needed]

    Additionally, McMansion sprawl makes walking and biking difficult and largely useless. This all but forces everyone to own car(s) at great expense, and then grow fat because of all the extra time we spend on our butts.

    I prefer to believe that everyone who lives in suburbia knows about the need for cars, and so the opted in to that lifestyle, rather than being forced into it. I also am pretty sure that anyone in suburbia who wants to exercise can still do so.

    At the very least, we should drop the subsidies.

    If you mean all the subsidies, including subsidies city living like rail and mass transit, then we can talk. Otherwise, this is all just special pleading for a lifestyle that you have a subjective preference for.

  • ||

    Americans consume over 50% more resources than most other developed nations yet aren't any happier.

    (!)

    Impeccably incontrovertible.

  • ||

    Obama seems to think like someone who has spent their entire life in a large metropolitan area. Not every city has a train system like Chicago has. I could take a train to work but it would take me 2 hours each way with only a few minutes of it for the train ride. If I wanted to take the bus to the train station, add another hour and a half. Seven hours of commuting isn't my idea of anything worthwhile.

    1. Walk up the street to bus stop and wait for bus.
    2. Get off first bus and wait for second bus on the route that goes to CalTrain station.
    3. Wait for train at originating station.
    4. Train ride to work town, probably 20 minutes.
    5. Wait for bus to office park.
    6. Take bus to office park with several stops along the way.

    In the meantime I could have driven back and forth to work three times.

  • Chad||

    R C Dean | April 29, 2009, 3:11pm | #

    Let's see...McMansion sprawl consumes significantly more resources, making it unsustainable.

    [citation needed]


    If you can't figure out why a 2200 sq ft detached home requires more resources than as 1400 sq ft row house or a 1000 sq ft apartment, there is little I can do to help you. Of course, you could just google it, but apparently that's too challenging for you. If you learned how to use it, you could find all sorts of information concerning resource consumption. You will consistently find that Americans are at or near the top in just about every resource category (energy, water, wood, land for food production, minerals, etc), usually by a wide margin over anyone else but the Australians and Canadians, who look a lot like us. There is plenty of data out there about happiness, which largely boils down to the finding that once people have the basics, more money really doesn't make them much happier...but having more than their neighbor does. Americans do fine in various happiness rankings, but a lot of nations match or beat us while consuming far less.

    If you mean all the subsidies, including subsidies city living like rail and mass transit, then we can talk. Otherwise, this is all just special pleading for a lifestyle that you have a subjective preference for.

    Those subsidies are a pittance compared to what road travel receives. Even if we were to drop all subsidies tomorrow, the entrenched advantage that roads would have from all their previous subsidies would lock them in indefinitely. I suppose you know that the world's best train system - Japan's - runs using minimal subsidies. You can't say that about road systems anywhere.

  • ||

    >Let's see...McMansion sprawl consumes significantly more resources, making it unsustainable. Americans consume over 50% more resources than most other developed nations yet aren't any happier.

    And where is the data supporting this assertion? How does a neighborhood of McMansions consume more energy, food, produce more waste, have better air quality than, say, downtown Manhattan?

    Oh, wait. It doesn't.

    >Additionally, McMansion sprawl makes walking and biking difficult and largely useless. This all but forces everyone to own car(s) at great expense, and then grow fat because of all the extra time we spend on our butts.

    Ha! By "our," you mean "you." Don't confuse the two.

    I manage to bike, walk and drive a car and not have a fat butt because (gasp) I choose not to - it has nothing to do with Malthusean calculations about sustainability, "optimal benefit for all" or any other collectivist nonsense that is supposed to substitute for individual responsibility.

    Although sometimes I just wish there was somebody else to make these kinds of individual choices for me so that I could relieve myself of the responsibility for those decisions - somebody far off in Washington and who "knows better" and has a keen grasp behind his desk of "what's good for me."

    >McMansion sprawn is expensive, unhealthy, unsustainable and largely exists due only to the massive government subsidies of home ownership, automobile transport, and energy.

    Sounds like inner city Philadelphia if you ask me.

    >At the very least, we should drop the subsidies. That alone would hammer this phenomenon.

    Once we drop the federal and state subsidies for public housing, welfare and other government funding that rewards what is essentially doing nothing, I'm right on board with ya.

    >Yet merely dropping the subsidies would not account for the negative externalities that likely result from sprawl.

    Come on, chad. "Likely?" Either they do or they don't. Which is it?

  • Mike Laursen||

    Well, maybe if the other major party hadn't run their own incompetent clown with liver spots...

  • ||

    I personally like the idea of mass transit. I cant afford to spend 3 or 4 dollars a gallon WHEN it gets back up to that point. This is an investment into our future.

    High speed rail will be cheaper, more efficient, and will consume less energy than air or car travel. Electro magnetics are the future. if we don't make significant investments into them now or soon then we are going to be way behind dare I say France? (which already has a train that goes almost 400mph which is close enough to the cruising speed of a jet)

    Innovation creates new markets and business models that enable our economy to grow. Investing in technologies like electro magnetic high speed trains will help exacerbate this.

    Nobody became rich by not taking a risk in an investment. granted this is a pretty big risk, but if you do your homework and stop making this a blue or red issue, then you will actually see that is not a bad idea.

  • ||

    No, the honeymoon will not end. The media is too invested and will do what is necessary to shape the narrative to protect their investment.

    America as we know it is finished. Only extraordinary circumstances have a prayer of setting her back on the right track and the fallout from that, if it happens, will take decades itself. I feel very sorry for the children today.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Doesn't it feel like sometimes all the Reason comment board antagonists are poster-children for:

    "It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.

    In this lies the whole difference between good economics and bad. The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond. The bad economist sees only the direct consequences of a proposed course; the good economist looks also at the longer and indirect consequences. The bad economist sees only what the effect of a given policy has been or will be on one particular group; the good economist inquires also what the effect of the policy will be on all groups."



    ?

    It's funny to see Chad talking about reducing subsidies though... If only he didn't mean to do that so that that money could be spent on stuff he likes instead.

  • ||

    >High speed rail will be cheaper, more efficient, and will consume less energy than air or car travel. Electro magnetics are the future. if we don't make significant investments into them now or soon then we are going to be way behind dare I say France? (which already has a train that goes almost 400mph which is close enough to the cruising speed of a jet)

    How's the unemployment in France being helped by their superior high-speed railway system?

    >Innovation creates new markets and business models that enable our economy to grow. Investing in technologies like electro magnetic high speed trains will help exacerbate this.

    Who, pray tell, will be doing the investing? If the market had a demand for such a service, don't you think it would have been done by now?

    I mean, it might be a neat idea to invest in mag-lev tractor-trailers and fit major highways with this super-awesome technology, but for some reason, the other trucks are just too damn economical and inexpensive by comparison. Damn capitalism - when will we learn that spending exorbitant sums of money on unnecessary public projects is the key to the joyous nation's salvation and eternal success (coughBIGDIGcough)?

    Or are you just suggesting that Joe Taxpayer cough more of his money up for this fantasy?

    >
    Nobody became rich by not taking a risk in an investment.

    True, but few people who are rich were FORCED BY THE GOVERNMENT to make an investment which was risky.

    >granted this is a pretty big risk, but if you do your homework and stop making this a blue or red issue, then you will actually see that is not a bad idea.

    It's a wonderful idea - just like that floating skateboard from Back to the Future. That's not the question. The question is what percentage of your income are you ponying up for this latest "American dream that we never knew we needed until we spent trillions on it?"

  • ||

    WE HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT OURSELVES FOR ELECTING A PERSON SUCH AS THIS.THE SITUATION UNDERSCORES THE COMPLICITY OF MAINSTREAM MEDIA IN FOCUSING ON HYPE OVER SUBSTANCE.WE MUST HAVE A CALL TO ARMS ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY, AMERICANS MUST BE PREPARED FOR THE 2010 MIDTERMS.WE BEGIN THE PROCESS OF THE ERADICATION OF BARRACK OBAMA AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OSF AMERICA!

  • Chad||

    Social conservatives against sprawl

    http://thepublicdiscourse.com/viewarticle.php?selectedarticle=2009.04.17.001.pdart

  • ||

    one word: telecommuting

  • Chad||



    It's funny to see Chad talking about reducing subsidies though... If only he didn't mean to do that so that that money could be spent on stuff he likes instead.


    Since subsidies are generally very difficult to undo, new industries should be subsidized until the reach the point where they can compete against the old, entrenched industries that are currently locked in due to their old subsidies. Roads have literally received trillions of dollars of subsidies. Even if we dropped the subsidies today, this amounts to an insurmountable lead. We should subsidize renewable energy for the same reason.

  • ||

    Evidently, Chad is repulsed by suburbs and likes to say "Mcmansion" a lot. I would propose that after we all satisfy his fervent desire to live in crowded, dirty, high crime, expensive core cities, then we should all be required to eat in communal cafeterias. After all, the negative externalities associated with allowing individuals to choose their own diet and prepare their own food (health issues from not eating what I think you should eat, not washing the dishes to my standards, no need for inefficient food storage and preparation areas and equipment in each domicile, etc.) demand it!

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Chav...

    I would love to live in a moderately dense area of a medium to large city. What makes me avoid doing that is that just about every great city I have visited is made undesirable by the policies of "visionary" pricks like you trying to micromanage everything, and populated by entitlement sucking morons.

  • Mike Laursen||

    High speed rail will be cheaper, more efficient, and will consume less energy than air or car travel.

    Let's narrow the focus of your statement to the proposed high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    First question I have for you. Why does it have to be high-speed? Say that there were simply more conventional trains running between the two cities on existing tracks. It would a lot less expensive, no? How has it been determined that building a new high-speed rail line justifies the expense of its construction?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    one word: telecommuting


    Actually yeah... given that we're looking at a government that refuses to be fiscally/economically responsible, and that they are going to spend trillions of dollars no matter what, I wonder what the cost/benefit to using all the $$$ they would spend on trains and other nonsense on beefing up the internet.

    Obviously it's not a fundamentally sane thing to do either, but it seems like that would be a hell of a lot smarter than funneling money to costly and inflexible projects like a big train. Plus, on the scale of creating incentives for people to use less resources - pushing for telecommuting seems like a win.

    ...graded on the curve that all "wins" are net losses in this case. Ugh.

  • ||

    So Chad, who gets to pick where I live? You? Doubtful. Regardless of what you may think of the suburbs, the minute you tell me what I must do, I say stick it up your ass. Enjoy your own damned gentrified urban area.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "Since subsidies are generally very difficult to undo, new industries should be subsidized until the reach the point where they can compete against the old, entrenched industries that are currently locked in due to their old subsidies."


    = Since subsidies are generally difficult to undo (and they produce industries that eventually have greater market share and artificial power in competition against non-subsidized companies), the only way to fix those problems is to...

    ...Subsidize more stuff???

    You did read what you wrote, right?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    ...and suddenly my earlier quote brings it home for Chad again.

    Though it's interesting that he simultaneously recognizes the secondary consequences of subsidies (behemoth companies and industries that are hard to challenge and barriers to market entry) and pretends they won't apply to the thing he wants to subsidize...

    Wtf Chad.

  • Jordan||

    Social conservatives against sprawl



    Oh, well if social conservatives support it, then it must be worthwhile. You seem confused.

  • Jordan||

    "it" being your idiotic vision.

  • ||

    Obama is a looter, plain and simple. He and the Democrats in congress have just looted an extra 1.5 trillion dollars from the American people, for purposes of providing unearned economic benefits and goodies to the undeserving parasites that comprise the constituency of the Democratic party and who helped elect this latest band of looters.

    Obama is a career looter good only at practicing charity with other people's money. Otherwise, he's a complete zero -- an utter waste of a human being.

  • ||

    'one of the least popular and least effective presidents in U.S. history'

    That he became unpopular along with the relentless drumbeat of negativity from the MSM is undeniable. But, I disagree entirely that a man who kept us safe and freed over 60 million people from despots and madmen was "ineffective".

  • ||

    Bart,

    You mean kept us safe, except for the one time he didn't, right?

    You know, the largest terrorist attack on American soil ever?

  • Chad||

    Here are some cute maps: Los Angeles vs Osaka. These cities are of similar population.

    http://metro.net/riding_metro/maps/images/rail_map.pdf

    http://johomaps.com/as/japan/osaka/osakametro.html

    If you are in LA, odds are either you are currently not near a train station, or your destination isn't. If you are in Osaka, both your current location and your destination are almost always within 15 minutes of a station. Hence, 60% do so in Osaka. Indeed, in every large Japanese city I have been to, you can be fairly certain that almost all places you are interested in are no more than a mile from a station.

  • ||

    To my knowledge, the Obama administration has yet to devote dollar one to exploration of flying carpets, broomsticks or any number of methods of magical transportation. Magic is free and non-polluting--safe to say, the only reason we aren't all teleporting ourselves magically from place to work is that the infrastructure doesn't exist, and we haven't shown the will as a nation. Investing in magic will ensure that we will be able to compete with nations like Denmark, where magical energy flows freely to neighboring countries.*

    *this works for any number of subsidized though unworkable or unfeasible technologies

  • Chad||

    Chuck | April 29, 2009, 3:53pm | #

    Evidently, Chad is repulsed by suburbs and likes to say "Mcmansion" a lot. I would propose that after we all satisfy his fervent desire to live in crowded, dirty, high crime, expensive core cities, then we should all be required to eat in communal cafeterias. After all, the negative externalities associated with allowing individuals to choose their own diet and prepare their own food (health issues from not eating what I think you should eat, not washing the dishes to my standards, no need for inefficient food storage and preparation areas and equipment in each domicile, etc.) demand it!


    Don't worry, once we implement a carbon tax or cap&trade, meat prices will go up significantly and the problem will get better. If we additionally get stricter about water use and run-off issues and drop the multitude of ag subsidies, meat will largely be reduced to a treat rather than a main-stay...which it should have been in the first place.

  • ||

    Let's see...McMansion sprawl consumes significantly more resources, making it unsustainable. Americans consume over 50% more resources than most other developed nations yet aren't any happier.

    But we can kick their fucking asses anytime we goddam feel like it. That makes me happy.

    Get over it Chad. People don't live their lives for an optimal society, they live their lives for themselves and their families.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    That's cute Chad, but you still didn't answer my earlier questions, or prove that simply being near a train station is A. desirable for everyone (some people like the autonomy of driving and being able to live a more decentralized existence and the freedom associated with changing course on a whim) and B. actually economically beneficial factoring in the *real* cost of building and maintaining rail lines, trains, and managing the system all on the taxpayer's dime.

    Plus you will find it hard to compare different places' success with different types of transit until you also understand things like temperature, geology, weather, earthquake/natural disasters, population density, etc. So comparing two maps of different places is just silly.

    I might also note that anything that can be done in a cost efficient way tends to be done (or easily would/could be done) privately anyway. See: Development of New York Subway system... you know... back when it was profitable. And I'd bet you almost anything that if the NY Subway system were private again, and different lines were competing for business, it would look a bit more like the PATH train, and a little less like a sewer.

    Furthermore, I do live within 15-20 minutes of a train station in Los Angeles, and yet I can't use it to get to work and I have no desire to use it any other time.

    So, again... What is the "optimal" population density Chad, and what city should I be living in? Osaka?

  • ||

    >>Here are some cute maps: Los Angeles vs Osaka. These cities are of similar population.

    Population. To hell with population. How about a stat that really tells the story...Chad.

    California's size: 163,700 square miles
    Japan's size: 145,600 square miles.

    THAT is why Los Angeles doesn't look like Osaka: it didn't have to. It was not constrained with a limited area for which to place its respective population.

  • ||

    The day Obama took office the country was consumed with the real threat of the failure of the entire banking system, Wall Street facing total collapse, 10's of thousands of layoffs each week. In short we were on the brink of a total failure of our economy.

    Today that clear and present danger has for the most part gone away. Yes the economy is still troubled but the bleeding has stopped. President Obama does not have a magic wand nor can the ills of this country be fixed in 100 days or maybe even 500.

    What we do have is a serious and intelligent leader who appears honest and committed to solving our problems without the rancor of bitterness and arrogance that we had for the past 8 years.

    I know John McCain could not have done a better job and those who want to throw rocks are doing so out of frustration absent an alternative path.

  • Chad||

    actually economically beneficial factoring in the *real* cost of building and maintaining rail lines, trains, and managing the system all on the taxpayer's dime.

    The Osaka subway system, like most rail systems in Japanese large cities, is privately run and PROFITABLE. How many roads can say that?

    http://www.lightrailnow.org/myths/m_monorail005.htm

    As I have noted many times: transportation systems scale non-linearly. Their value, profitability, and ridership scale faster than the number of lines and stations. Indeed, the scaling factor is roughly the square of the number of stations. This is why LA, with a half-dozen lines and a few dozen stations, gets nowhere, while Osaka, with dozens of lines and a couple hundred stations, prints money. 200^2 >>> 30^2.

  • ||

    People don't live their lives for an optimal society, they live their lives for themselves and their families.

    And the way society is structured has nothing to do with the wellbeing of individual families?

  • Chad||

    California's size: 163,700 square miles
    Japan's size: 145,600 square miles.

    THAT is why Los Angeles doesn't look like Osaka: it didn't have to. It was not constrained with a limited area for which to place its respective population.


    First, this is not as relevant data as you think, as in both CA and Japan, most people live along the coasts. The LA-San Diego area is not terribly different than the Kansai area (Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe) in terms of population density. If anything, the beautiful weather in SoCal should encourage the use of public transport.

  • Chad||

    Furthermore, I do live within 15-20 minutes of a train station in Los Angeles, and yet I can't use it to get to work and I have no desire to use it any other time.

    In a Japanese city, a 15-20 minute walk would be considered a long distance. 10 minutes is probably average. And of course, your work would likely be about 10 minutes from a station, and most of the interesting places in town would be AT a station.

  • ||

    Socialism? Dictators? Jimmy Carter? Over the top sarcasm?
    Reason, your true colors are showing. And they look a lot like Michelle Malkin's.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    The Osaka subway system, like most rail systems in Japanese large cities, is privately run and PROFITABLE.

    Then GOOD!

    It's all totally fine if private individuals want to risk their own capital for a profitable endeavor that enriches the lives of everyone who uses it and is in high demand.

    Again, I have no qualms with that - what I have a problem with is this idea that you go back to a rail system created by the government - which are almost without fail not profitably built, run or maintained.

    If a train is wanted in Los Angeles (and I don't have any reason to see why people here wouldn't be willing to use one if it actually got to places they needed to go regularly) then a private company *should* build it. This means getting government out of the way, not subsidizing it - which only creates perverse incentives and skews the actual demand.

    I think, if you keep exploring this, it could push you over to the "dark side" and turn you libertarian Chad. Getting government out of the way may very well wind up with a world that looks exactly like you want it to... C'mon dude... Take the risk ;)

  • alan||

    geek | April 29, 2009, 5:14pm | #
    The day Obama took office the country was consumed with the real threat of the failure of the entire banking system, Wall Street facing total collapse, 10's of thousands of layoffs each week. In short we were on the brink of a total failure of our economy.

    Today that clear and present danger has for the most part gone away. Yes the economy is still troubled but the bleeding has stopped.


    You buying the feel good pap in the media? Don't be an idiot. The economy shrunk by 6 percent in the first quarter and there is certainly not an end in sight. Obama's actions so far could not have possibly been less effective, or counter productive.

  • DavidW||

    Chad, if you were entrusted with the Ring of Power in LOTR, it would be the shortest epic in history.

  • alan||

    bleh or more counter productive.

  • ||

    >The Osaka subway system, like most rail systems in Japanese large cities, is privately run and PROFITABLE. How many roads can say that?

    Amtrak is the most prominent artery throughout the northeast. It's government subsidized - in fact, the government is the sole
    investor. If you build your dreamed-of high speed rail, doesn't that cut into Amtrak's already struggling business?

    How is that fair to Amtrak?

    Dilemmas, dilemmas.

  • ||

    Those subsidies are a pittance compared to what road travel receives. Even if we were to drop all subsidies tomorrow, the entrenched advantage that roads would have from all their previous subsidies would lock them in indefinitely. I suppose you know that the world's best train system - Japan's - runs using minimal subsidies. You can't say that about road systems anywhere.

    That's just not the case, Chad. In fact, fuel taxes not only pay for the roads, they're paying to subsidize those urban white elephants known as "light rail."

    If you want to live in the city, sonny, don't let me stop you. But I prefer my lawn, my car and my placid suburban solitude and I don't mind paying for them.

  • ||

    Now that I think about it. If Obama is so pumped up about saving the car industry, why is he creating more competition for them with increased rail travel?

    It's almost as if the intent here is something other than what's been stated by Chocolate Jesus...like assuming control of as much of the nation's industrial, commercial, financial etc. sectors before anyone catches on to what's happening.

    Salvador Allende with a tan, I'd say.

  • ||

    And the way society is structured has nothing to do with the wellbeing of individual families?

    Left alone, society structures itself. I think you are confusing society with government. A common enough blind spot with social engineers on both the left and right. That's why I'm not on that line. Hell, I'm not even on the same plane, I'm a libertarian/minarchist.

  • alan||

    It's almost as if the intent here is something other than what's been stated by Chocolate Jesus..

    Just a small quibble, the original Jesus from the text sounded like he was a Chocolate Jesus with the dark whooly hair, though, even the earliest paintings made him look like Sayid from Lost.

  • ||

    Apparently Reason has just discovered Bush was one of the least effective presidents in US history. So why were they applauding him for years? This guy is dominating the political landscape like no president I've seen since Kennedy and early Johnson. Gillespie and Welch then deliver a commentary that is basically juvenile and this is echoed with a lot of basically racist comments about chocolate Jesus, hate of one sort and another and misinformation about just about every subject under the sun. Meanwhile the GOP is imploding. Keep up the good work guys. The chocolate Jesus is running rings around you.

  • Jordan||

    Apparently Reason has just discovered Bush was one of the least effective presidents in US history.



    You made yourself look like a complete ass with your very first sentence. Go look through the archives before you embarass yourself any further. Remember, better to not see anything and be thought a fool than...

  • Jordan||

    "say anything"

    Curse you, joez law!

  • alan||

    Gillespie and Welch then deliver a commentary that is basically juvenile and this is echoed with a lot of basically racist comments about chocolate Jesus, hate of one sort and another and misinformation about just about every subject under the sun. Meanwhile the GOP is imploding. Keep up the good work guys. The chocolate Jesus is running rings around you.

    Even the temporary euphoria of victory and the ephemeral dream of a permanent majority hasn't lightened up these guys.

    I take it you are not John who regularly post under the name you are using.

  • cuernimus||

    Apparently John at 6:30pm has just discovered Reason. No sign of when he will discover the concept of libertarianism. And no he is not THE John, different emails.

  • alan||

    Meanwhile the GOP is imploding.

    Couldn't give a rat's patootie about the GOP beyond their use is stopping you guys. I'm not worried, your ideology and its implementation is your ultimate downfall. You should be concerned. Obama is less cautious than either the Soviets or Mao in going forth. Unfortunately for you, he is no Clinton with a moderating cynical side to keep him from going off the deep end.

  • alan||

    cuernimus | April 29, 2009, 6:43pm | #
    Apparently John at 6:30pm has just discovered Reason. No sign of when he will discover the concept of libertarianism. And no he is not THE John, different emails.


    Our John is usually pretty cool.

  • K.T.||

    IMPEACH OBUSHMA!

  • ||

    All of the commentary about suburbs vs. city, does mass transit work, social engineering vs. individual choice get off track from the substance of this piece...that BHO is in fact JCII, naive and idealistic in his view: government solves all problems, absolves all slights (be they past, present or future), resolves all conflicts. He doesn't have even an ounce of the Clinton pragmatism, and his talent for political doublespeak is virtually unparalleled.

    Why doesn't more of the MSM call him on his bullshit? How do you reduce the deficit and simultaneously hatch the largest expansion of federal spending...EVER? His smooth cadences, his calm, his condescension all lull people into a false sense that "it will be okay, if only we believe it hard enough."

    We need more commentaries like this in the regular, broadly read press to get the rest of the country off their depressed asses and angry about their future!

  • ||

    Don't be a dumbass.

  • ||

    Simply the best article I've read in a while. It made me wince several times at the raw, festering truth and made we wonder how many decades it will take to get our country back after the Obama debacle bankrupts our country in every way imaginable.

  • bobby oshea||

    what lefty lib site was this linked on?

  • ||

    This unbelievably trite and shallow article just shows how deep the despair is in the do-nothing Republican party. How do you justify pushing ideas that clearly have not worked. The only people impressed with this commentary is the stupid.

  • ||

    Maybe not the right day for a Haiku, but here goes:

    Obama tells us:
    "It's not my fault, I only
    Spread the wealth around"

    -jcr

  • John C. Randolph||

    Apparently Reason has just discovered Bush was one of the least effective presidents in US history. So why were they applauding him for years?

    Say what?

    If you think Reason was applauding Bush, you should talk to your shrink about adjusting your meds.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Neat reversal, accusing Obama of exhausted ideas. Won't fly, though.

    It's perfectly obvious that the Republicans are the ones shooting blanks. Tax cuts for the rich and deregulating business have been taken as far as they can go. Too far, in fact, considering the mess they've left us in.

    The Party of "No" also means the Party of No Ideas. America said "No" to Conservatism pretty decisively, and hates and mistrusts its acolytes.

    Is this the change I had in mind? Yeah, you bet. Thank God. It's the only way we'll dig our way out of the Conservative Catastrophe.

  • shimano||

    @Chad

    "meat will largely be reduced to a treat rather than a main-stay...which it should have been in the first place."

    Hey, I'll give you some meat treat.

  • Ralph Melcher||

    What I don't understand is why libertarians don't just call themselves faux-Republicans and be done with it.

    The solutions to America's situation, as far as I can tell from your article, is to encourage more suburban sprawl and more shopping malls.

    Wow, that's imaginative.

    Yes, this is the change I voted for. Not only this time but back before the so-called Republican Revolution which set us all back about 20 years.

  • shimano||

    @Ralph Melcher

    I don't understand why you don't call yourself a faux-socialist, comrade. Please, tell me where to live, Ralph! I don't want to contribute to suburban sprawl! Don't worry! Great leader will tell us what to do! ::cough:::

  • Sean W. Malone||

    I'm curious as to how we've wound up with seemingly dozens of people on the boards today/yesterday who have clearly never heard of or met a libertarian before.

    Richard:
    "This unbelievably trite and shallow article just shows how deep the despair is in the do-nothing Republican party."


    We're not Republicans, we aren't members of the Republican party and the vast majority of us spent the last 8 years shouting at the Republicans again and again and again...

    Which brings me to:

    Panskeptic:
    "Neat reversal, accusing Obama of exhausted ideas. Won't fly, though.

    It's perfectly obvious that the Republicans are the ones shooting blanks. Tax cuts for the rich and deregulating business have been taken as far as they can go. Too far, in fact, considering the mess they've left us in."


    Except that... well... First off, tax cuts primarily affect the rich because the rich bear the most burden of taxation, this isn't rocket science - it's built into the progressive tax scheme. However, most libertarians favor the complete elimination of the income tax (for everyone) and other tariffs & taxes across the board, however the difference is... we also support NOT SPENDING SO MUCH FUCKING MONEY! We do not support government spending as stimulus (it doesn't work... as you all knew it didn't back in 2003 when Bush tried) and we don't support costly and dangerously aggressive foreign policy/wars, or counter-productive spending on "social" programs at home either. Bush did both... Or perhaps you've forgotten the prescription drug program or the expanded Federal funding for schools?

    The Republican party, and certainly the Bush administration spent 8 years spending us into oblivion. $500 Billion deficits virtually every year. All the while they also pretended to cut taxes. And now, Obama is not only not doing anything different, he's actively doing vastly more of the same!

    As for deregulation, perhaps you should learn your facts before you post here. I will refer you to the following:

    Bush's Regulatory Kiss-off: Obama's assertions to the contrary, the 43rd president was the biggest regulator since Nixon. by Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at GMU.

    This is also not rocket science - Bush, you would probably admit or recognize - expanded the roles & powers of government to an unprecedented degree (something diametrically opposed to what any libertarian would want) and you can't do that without increasing regulations. So the bullshit of "deregulation" failing is what's not going to fly.

    In fact it is quite clearly regulations of various kinds (not all from the Bush years however) which got us into this mess, combined significantly with the actions of the Federal Reserve.

    But for that you might actually have to understand economics and specifically the Austrian School - which proudly boasts the only group of people to accurately predict the economic crisis.

    Links related to that here:

    Peter Schiff 2006-2009

    Austrians Can Explain the Boom AND the Bust

    or perhaps you might recall what Ron Paul had said during the presidential debates, and was subsequently laughed at for.


    AND FINALLY...

    to Ralph:

    No, Libertarians are *not* Republicans, we have actually a hell of a lot less in common with any of them than you think, largely because you are quite misinformed on the libertarian position. Secondly, we aren't here to "encourage" anything. Malls, suburban sprawl, cities, trains, jetpacks... it's not our (or your) place to determine what the world should look like and then impose that vision by force. You do not have the knowledge... no one does.

    I need to quit being an insomniac, but seriously... the financial crisis has NOTHING to do with the non-existent "free market" in the United States and nothing to do with the non-existent "deregulation", and a hell of a lot to do with incentives to create the housing bubble guided by government, fueled by low interest rates, high leveraging and massive amounts of created money by the Federal Reserve beginning in 2003 (to "correct" for the earlier Fed-created tech bubble + 9/11).


    The problem here is that the people who've shown up here lately who've apparently never encountered libertarianism before is also that while we were here paying attention and recording what is now history, they were asleep and now buy into every ounce of rhetoric spit out by the government and find it enough to just blame Bush. And because they only listen to the rhetoric and don't bother to look at what the actual actions of our "leaders" have been, they think that Obama is change when he's merely exacerbating what Bush started and adding his own twist to it.

    No Ralph, we aren't Republicans. And we aren't Democrats... it's actually - and entirely *different* ideology. Learn about it.


    Next up: US Dollar collapse, "Green" energy boom, massive inflation... Good times.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Oh, and back on Panskeptic for one more second:

    Yes, Obama is playing exhausted ideas. If you'd read the article or gone to some of the links you'd understand what they meant by that statement.

    When you try things that haven't worked *ever*, and have actively contributed to worse economic problems as your "solution" to the consequences of doing lighter versions of those things... (that make sense?)... you are playing exhausted ideas.

    Unfortunately you actually have to understand more about economics and specifically you have to dig a little deeper into the history of how we got where we are now to understand all that.

  • Jim Treacher||

    "Least popular," okay. But "least effective"? As in, least able to get things done? That's just silly.

    And you even mention Carter in the same article!

  • George K||

    I'm at least glad these guys are getting paid to write this ( I hope). I only wonder if they realize the push to low density suburbs is what helped drive the bubble that crippled the world's economy. Basically building houses that really didn't need to be there, except to satisfy the psychological needs of a couple generations of Americans.

    Imagine the crops that could have been created on the land in the US covered by strip malls! Hopefully the collapse of the semi-imaginary financial sector of wealth creation will further the globalization process and all countries' specialization, and increase their relative wealth, leading to peace and prosperity for us all. And for all fearing globalization, there is no need for a one world government if each individual country plays a vital role in the entire world's economy. The more important each country is to us all, the less chance of conflict and the greater chance of economic cooperation, and economic success. (All of this is idealistic talk, but nonetheless good.)

  • Paul Gable||

    Not many pundits can see it, but the tea party angst was and is all about a national wakeup to fraud. It hasn't taken 100 days for many of us to see it, but we're not far from a real majority that is alive and awake. More in "Not the Obama We Knew; Not the Government We Chose" at www.brushfires-of-freedom.com/not.html

  • ||

    You're way off the mark on thee trains, except for the disappointing promised speeds. The skies are already overcrowded; building more airports won't help. Building more roads won't do much but encourage more traffic, and plunder the pockets of the suburban commuters you love. That fact is we need all three modes of transport, serving exurbs, suburbs, inside the city. The demand is there. Moreover, trains pollute a lot less -- important for the areas that suffer high auto and aircraft pollution like the NE coast corridor and all of California -- where the central valley is a dumping ground for air pollution from cars and jets. I thought you guys would be interested in choice and clean air, rather than the oligopoly of airlines who screw customers day in and day out at will.

    By the way, that suburban expansion you love (sound like David Brooks) is over guys.

  • Chad||

    Sean W. Malone | April 29, 2009, 5:32pm | #

    If a train is wanted in Los Angeles (and I don't have any reason to see why people here wouldn't be willing to use one if it actually got to places they needed to go regularly) then a private company *should* build it. This means getting government out of the way, not subsidizing it - which only creates perverse incentives and skews the actual demand.


    It also means getting the government-subsidized competition out of the way, or you do not have a level playing field. So would you like to rip up the entire nation and start over again? Even if you dropped all the road subsidies, roads are now deeply entrenched and largely locked in. Their largest capital cost is already purchased (the land itself), and our infrastructure is built to accomodate the roads. The government has led us down the wrong path, and there is no way out that doesn't involve government. Even to stay where we are requires government. I know you hate this fact, but it is simply true. Transportation will always be deeply entwined with government, and you may as well get over it. The only question is what kind of transportation systems do we need.

    And btw, DOT brings in about $40 billion each year with the gas tax, which is about what it spends on highway projects. However, state gas taxes only bring in about a third of what they spend on roads. And of course, bridges are a separate category. The fuel subsidies are actually much larger than the direct road subsidies.

    Right now, we should be doing all planning with the assumption of gas prices being $4.50 at minimum.

    And you still don't understand what non-linear scaling implies. ADDING ONE MORE LINE IN LOS ANGELES IS NOT PROFITABLE. Neither is adding two. But if twenty more were added, the twenty-first WOULD be profitable. If thirty were added, the SYSTEM would be profitable. Below a certain size, the transportation systems have little value, but as they increase in size, it increases rapidly. AT SOME POINT, THE ADDITION OF ANOTHER LINE IS PROFITABLE, and AT SOME POINT, THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS PROFITABLE.

    What Japan did was use the government to achieve the critical mass necessary to reach profitability, and then privatized the government system. There is no way for this to be done by the private sector, as the scope of the project is simply beyond the means of any company on earth by more than an order of magnitude.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Chad, I agree that government subsidized competition needs to be out of the way - however, unless you haven't noticed, Amtrak is heavily subsidized too.

    But also, i don't really even think it matters... so long as private companies are actually free to build rail lines, the moment it becomes economically viable to do so, subsidies or not, they will... Speaking as a resident of LA, I can tell you this, if I had a way to get to work that was cheap, effective, hassle-free and cost me less than driving I would.

    The problem though, and something that you don't really want to deal with, is that because LA is what it is, there will simply never be enough trains to go where you want to go.

    In Manhattan, you can get off of a train and walk for 10-15 minutes maximum and arrive at your destination, and you pay $100ish (rates just went up) a month to do it. Manhattan is geographically compact however.

    Los Angeles doesn't work that way - first off, it's far too spread out to begin with to be able to put a train station within walking distance of *everyone*. Secondly, we're all very dispersed, so I doubt that enough people all go to the same locations that it matters. More trains in and out of Santa Monica, Burbank, Hollywood, Downtown and Studio City might be valuable - but I work in Northridge for example and that's simply not a high demand area.

    You grossly underestimate the private sector however. What we need is freedom Chad, not more subsidies.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    I think you underestimate it because you make the mistake of thinking that "economically viable" is only a function of nominal cost valued in dollars, and it isn't.

    There are many people in Los Angeles who absolutely *hate* driving.

    They do it though because in some cases it's the only way to get where they need to go (your point) but also, again, because it allows them to go somewhere else if necessary.

    Your other problem here by the way - is that you're only conceptualizing "trains" as the alternative here. That's one of the other things that I don't get here... You don't know what kind of alternative to cars there might be and which makes the most sense for a city like LA. It will take entrepreneurs experimenting to find out. But yes, by all means, remove the subsidies!

    I guarantee you if gas was 3-4 dollars more, the incentive structure changes immensely. Just let it play out, quit trying to force your vision of what things "should" be on everyone else - step back and relax as the market (millions of individuals) solve a problem that planners (a small number of individuals) are unable to handle.

  • ||

    "tax cuts for the rich and deregulating business have been taken as far as they can go. Too far, in fact, considering the mess they've left us in."

    I continue to love this talking point, because anyone who uses it always fails to explain the logical steps of how tax cuts turned into asset bubbles. Its almost like, "we had a crisis, there were tax cuts... ha it must be the tax cuts!"

    And despite tons of logical arguments and data on the Fed keeping interest rates far to low for far too long, Fannie and Freddie leveraging to the hilt off its government implicit guarentee, government mandates expanding affordable housing requirments, government mandated oligopoly inr atings agencies, the fact that we have NOT had any signifigant financial deregulation in recent years that have anything to do with lending standards or funding... the dems/ left continue reiterating their crap and just ignore the arguments made. It's almost as if they are incapable of perceiving relality outside thier preconceived mind bubbles.

    I still challange anyone on this board (or elsewhere) to explain to me how tax cuts led to a housing bubble and eventual popping - and what deregultion in particular led to the bubble and how it did so. Walk it through for me. Enlighten me.

  • Chad||

    You grossly underestimate the private sector however. What we need is freedom Chad, not more subsidies.

    Trains provide vastly MORE freedom than cars. Not everyone can drive. Little old ladies and ten-year-olds can use the trains. You keep saying that public transportation wouldn't work in LA, even though Osaka proves otherwise. LA is sprawled so heavily PRECISELY BECAUSE it lacks good public transportation. The government has created a mess, and there is no viable way for anyone but the government to fix it.

    I like how you point out how cheap public transportation is in New York. It is a similar price in Osaka. How much more freedom do you have when you are saving hundreds of dollars each month? A helluva lot. How much more freedom do you have when your kids can take themselves to practice and your dear old grandma can get to the library on her own? A helluva lot. How much more freedom do you have when you can get totally hammered and still pay only a $1.50 to get home? A helluva lot.

  • Chad||

    I guarantee you if gas was 3-4 dollars more, the incentive structure changes immensely. Just let it play out, quit trying to force your vision of what things "should" be on everyone else - step back and relax as the market (millions of individuals) solve a problem that planners (a small number of individuals) are unable to handle.

    We should be doing all planning with the assumption of gas being $5 or more, because prices will go up once the recession is over and more pollution costs are integrated into the price you pay. Also, it is very possible that July 2008 was Peak Oil. Production had been essentially flat for several years and is down now due to the recession. It is not clear we can ever get back up to the level we were at.

  • M. Simon||

    I could do with fewer strip malls.

    More strippers at strip malls is the answer.

  • M. Simon||

    I like how you point out how cheap public transportation is in New York.

    And idf government paid for 100% instead of 50% of the cost it would be cheaper still. Because stealing from non-riders is not a real cost.

  • Chad||

    M. Simon | May 1, 2009, 1:55am | #

    I like how you point out how cheap public transportation is in New York.

    And idf government paid for 100% instead of 50% of the cost it would be cheaper still. Because stealing from non-riders is not a real cost.


    Gas taxes only cover about 2/3 of road spending AND fuels are subsidized in many other ways, most importantly free rights to pollute.

    Apparently you believe that stealing from non-drivers is just peachy, right?

  • ||

    I just saw "Wicked" last night. During the Wizards solo performance about how wonderful he was the name Obama kept popping into my head. What we have here is all form, no substance. I am always going to be thinking of him as the Wiz.

  • Glen Raphael||

    Regarding the "game theory" calculations above, all the payoff matrices given had a common flaw: symmetry.

    If we could reasonably assume people were interchangeable then it actually would be plausible that government intervention could work well, pretty much regardless of the actual payoff matrix. Consider a small tribal society where everybody has the same simple needs, wants, skills and possessions - the task of making the "best" decision for the group becomes tractable. Top-down planning by an outsider might work for such a group.

    But the world we really live in is too complex to expect top-down planning to work very well and one of the *ways* in which it is complex is that different people have different skills, needs, desires, and opportunity sets. So when A and B are considering whether to move to the suburbs, the optimum outcome is likely to be "A moves, B stays" but not the reverse, because A has reasons to prefer the suburbs independent of what B does and B has reasons to prefer the city independent of what A does.

    Leave it up to the market and the people who are best off moving to the suburbs will do so while the people who are best off staying in or moving to the cities will do so. There is no one best outcome for all people and no best outcome that is independent of the characteristics of the people involved.

  • shimano||

    Chad, I offered you meat treat, yet you still haven't responded. Am I to assume you were being insincere when you said meat should be a treat? Perhaps you're being shy or maybe you only do things when the government offers you incentives to do so, but, either way, I think you should respond to my offer of meat treat.

  • ||

    Obama is a classic democrat all hype and spin with a mix of lies and fantasy.Nothing new except his very strong push toward socialism for American society.

  • Other Matt||

    his very strong push toward socialism

    Whoa, isn't that like a fish in the middle of the ocean "pushing toward" water? We just bought a car company, already bought a few financial companies, are setting salaries, firing executives, saying "oh well" to investors. What part about "toward" is there?

  • nike shox||

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  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

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