Transportation Policy

"The consistent, libertarian position is to oppose both styles of social engineering"

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Socialism with an engineering face?

Last week I posted a response to Timothy B. Lee's critique of The Declaration of Independents' unfriendly treatment of government-funded rail projects. Today, Lee has posted a response to that response over at Forbes.com. Here's an excerpt:

It's also important to keep the big picture in mind. In the decades after World War II, urban planners across the country pursued a variety of aggressive "get people into their cars" policies. They used the power of eminent domain to push freeways through the heart of urban areas, destroying some neighborhoods outright and cutting others off from the rest of the city. They passed zoning restrictions that systematically discouraged high-density urban living. Many of these laws are still on the books to this day. In addition to restricting building heights and mixed-use development, these zoning codes almost invariably force developers to provide parking for new construction projects, whether the market demands it or not.

The results of these policies—convenient automobile access to the heart of the city, plentiful parking, inflated rents in the city compared to the suburbs, spread-out neighborhoods that are hard to traverse on foot—creates the illusion that people are freely choosing a suburban, auto-oriented lifestyle. […]

The consistent, libertarian position is to oppose both styles of social engineering, and that can certainly include criticizing train-related boondoggles. But I think it's a mistake to focus so heavily on the government's relatively modest efforts to get people out of their cars while ignoring the older, bigger, and more systematic efforts to push people into their cars. Not only does this give a free pass to some seriously anti-liberty policies, but it also risks giving urbanists the impression that libertarians have picked the other side in urban planning's version of the culture wars.

I'll give him the last word, though I'm curious to read reaction in the comments.

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  1. Liberal-tarians like Tim Lee are complete dumb fucks.

    People like cars.
    People want mobility.
    They were not “pushed into” cars by government policy.

    The idea that people want to live in anthill ghettos cut off from easy access to the larger world is fucking ridiculous.

    1. How do you explain the trend of folks moving from rural areas to large population centers on the coast?

      I would never want to live downtown in a big city, or even in a suburb, but there are an awful lot of people who make that decision, even with the huge subsidies for cars.

      1. I believe it’s called, “employment opportunities”.

      2. Lots of reason to live in a walkable city. More chance for exercise, less time commuting, closer to all sorts of activities and services.

        I currently have two properties I hope to develop: A .15 acre lot one mile from the center of a major city, and a 32 acre lot 50 miles from the same city center. There are advantages to each.

    2. According to Donald Shoup, one estimate of what we pay for “free” parking every year is somewhere between what we pay for medicare and national defense. Would you still love your car if you actually had to pay the actual cost of parking at the end of every trip?

      https://reason.com/blog/2010/11…..-shoup-wil

      1. WTF? You already DO pay for the cost of parking. You think the grocery or the department store don’t factor the cost of the parking lot (real estate, taxes, upkeep, etc.) into the cost of their business and price their goods and services to recoup some of that cost?

        1. It’s almost as though you understood Stretch’s point.

        2. Everyone who shops at that store pays the cost of your parking whether or not they actually use that parking. The cost of your parking is socialized.

          1. And you either opt to patronize that store that charges you for a service you don’t use or you don’t. It’s your option in a free society.

            1. However, in most places of the country, stores are required to incur the expense of providing y number of parking spaces if their selling area is x square feet. That requirement in turn eliminates the easiest free market-compatible solution: have stores that don’t provide parking and are therefore more profitable and/or charge lower prices.

              The error you make, Bill, is in presuming that we live in a free society.

              1. If stores don’t provide parking, their customers will poach parking from other stores or park on residential streets, creating costs to others. Minimum parking requirements help level the playing field and reduce external costs.

              2. the easiest free market-compatible solution: have stores that don’t provide parking and are therefore more profitable and/or charge lower prices.

                So shopping malls are about lower prices, and not the social activity of shopping? How can they survive? Why would someone ever shop anywhere but Wal Mart (or online for that matter), as it has the lowest prices?

                The ‘experience’ of shopping is part of the sell, and when shoppers have to kill themselves to get there, many times they don’t go.

            2. Does a free society create zoning laws and other regulations that force all stores to provide X amount of parking?

          2. Uh, who cares?

      2. Ah, that explains why prices are so much lower in stores where there aren’t many parking places around.

    3. It’s not a question of what people want.

      It’s a question of what land use patterns would exist in the absence of government social engineering.

      What would the path of least resistance have been, starting in 1920 or so? Did we proceed on that path, or on some other path?

      People “wanted” rural electrification, too. That doesn’t mean the TVA wasn’t social engineering.

    4. “They were not “pushed into” cars by government policy.”

      Subsidized roads had nothing to do with making lower density development appear cheaper.

      Zoning and central planning of land use had nothing to do with it.

      Over regulation of private transportation agencies did not skew the market.

      Right?

    5. Really? SO Maxxx did you pay for the roads yourself voluntarily?
      No they were paid out of taxes taken by force.
      Not only that, local roads are almost completely paid by GENERAL taxes, not even transportation related taxes. SO everyone around you who does not drive actually has money taken by force to subsidize your driving.

      You cannot honestly believe general tax dollars spent on roads does not influence behavior.

      Funny how some libertarians get up in arms about government influencing people, unless it’s doing something they benefit from. just like the libertarian republican corn and soy welfare whores who want no government influence except when it benefits them.

      1. Did you eat food this week? Way to whore yourself out to agribusiness and allow yourself to be twisted by govenment providing a means for the transport of goods.

        Anyway, yes all roads should be tolled and all subsidies should be eliminated and both of these policies would hurt me financially.

    6. No one wants to live in big cities, they’re too crowded.

      1. The majority of the population in big cities are people who can’t move somewhere else, ie poor people and elderly people. Yes, there are little gentrified neighborhoods and stuff but they’re insignificant compared to the rest of most big cities’ population.

        1. What???? To which city are you referring, because LA is filled with people that could easily by mansions back in Ohio were I’m from originally.

    7. I agree with your broader point that people make choices but a number of historians have made some pretty strong cases that federal & state highway and road policy influenced suburban patterns etc. Kind of parallel to how the railroads did in the 19th century. One example is Kenneth T. Jackson, “Crabgrass Frontier.”

    8. I’m curious to read reaction in the comments.

      You will be disappointed.

  2. The government didn’t push people into cars. The people pushed the government to build roads. Nobody wanted to live in the city anymore after the second world war. Further, busing and the general breakdown of city governments and schools accelerated this process. The tax payers demanded that the government build roads to accommodate their desires.

    Now, maybe the taxpayers should have built the roads themselves instead of using taxes and the government. That is a perfectly libertarian objection. But to say the government social engineered via roads and somehow created the desire to move out of the inner cities is just nonsense.

    Get it through your fucking heads you cosmotarian douche bags. Not everyone is like you. Not everyone wants to live in a fucking apartment near the sustainable organic grocery co-op and the green high efficiency street car line. Most of us like our houses and our yards and don’t want to live near you much less like you. So fuck off and take your God damned trains with you.

    1. I think this trains thing liberals have is quite possibly the dumbest thing they are pushing lately (economy bad, debt big, hey, big rail projects!).

      Having said that, while I agree that busing and crime in cities drove people out suburbanization was also heavily incentivized before all of that by government policy.

      Saying the suburbs grew because of demand and now we should aqcuiese to such demands is like saying that after decades of keeping women out of certain professions that less women are in those professions now demonstrates that women don’t want them.

    2. This is the true reason that left-wing elitist socialists hate ordinary people having access to cars: they are the ultimate tool of freedom. The newfound ability to be able to hop in the car and go almost any place in the country at any time was one of the greatest class equalizers and creators of upward mobility in modern history.

      1. Oh come on, does everything have to boild down to such a white hats v. black hats scenario for you? The people I know that push for this kind of thing don’t hate cars because they hate freedom, they want less cars for two reasons 1. environmental and/or 2. they honestly think congestion problems are inherent in such a system. Can’t you disagree with someone without seeing them as evil?

        1. So being bothered by other people’s actions and trying to get the government to spend billions to stop them is not being a black hat?

          1. I think its more than being bothered by other people’s actions. The actually see those actions as harming them or things they value.

            1. Besides, a lot of these people are not talking about stopping people from driving cars and living in suburbs but instead are talking about having people not doing those things be subsidized for a change. As they see it for decades the other side was subsidized with the accompanying problems they see associated, they just want to see the government support solutions instead of the problem.

              Me, I think of all the ways government has interefered and created a messed up present structure, people living in suburbs over cities is waaaaay down the list. But I don’t think these people are evil.

              1. Yeah, heaven forfend we simply stop subsidizing either side…

                1. my point exactly. You can’t undo past subsidies. Subsidizing the other side doesn’t do the trick either. All you can do is cut your losses and move forward on a voluntary basis. The more time we try to subsidize what wasn’t subsidized to make things fair, the subsidy game will never end.

        2. Liberals do the demonization routine twice as much as those on the right. It’s just that for them, corporations (and especially big corporations not owned by Warren Buffett) are the evil ones.

          1. Sure, but as is argued downthread, two wrongs don’t make a right it’s said.

        3. The other issue is study after study has shown that spending money on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure greatly increases the amount of money that customers spend at stores in those locations, by making access easier for more people.
          So even though the individual bicyclist spends less, you can cram a lot more people in, and you only need a couple more to make the spending worth it. Not to mention how much cheaper the bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure is in the first place.
          Finally since cars are our most dangerous form of transportation, the increased safety that comes when people pick other modes translates to less money paid out in insurance claims, lower insurance, few injuries meaning more people can work and spend, etc.

          If the government instead spends that money on auto infrastructure, it’s still spending money to influence people’s behavior.

          SO either spend it more wisely in a way that benefits society more, or stop spending it altogether. Sweden seems to make private roads work, and they also have a lot more non-auto transportation.

      2. This is the true reason that left-wing elitist socialists hate ordinary people having access to cars: they live in densely populated urban areas and don’t care about people who don’t.

    3. Way to ignore most of what he actually wrote. Obviously, not everyone wants to live in dense urban areas, but high rents are one indicator that a lot of people do.

      1. No. High rents are an indication that the people who do so are willing to pay a premium for the right. It doesn’t mean necessarily there is less supply than the demand. It may mean that the supply is perfect for the demand but that the demand is willing to pay a high price which the suppliers will gladly charge.

        1. High rents are an indication that the people who do so are willing to pay a premium for the right.

          Which is exactly what I said. High rents indicate that a lot of people want to live in dense urban areas – enough so to be willing to pay the rents. I said nothing about supply/demand.

          1. “High rents indicate that a lot of people want to live in dense urban areas”

            “I said nothing about supply/demand.”

            Huh?

        2. Except rents are rising, which indicates that demand is going up at a faster pace than supply.

          1. How much of that is due to the artificial removal of supply through rent control?

            1. The current high prices are due to rent control. However, new construction is not rent controlled (at least in NY). If anything, the amount of rent controlled, rather than stabilized, units is going down slowly, since the rules require residence in the unit prior to 70-something.

              Sometimes new buildings can be rent stabilized, but that’s in exchange for tax breaks. So presumably, new rent stabilized buildings make economic sense for the owners.

              1. that would be NY but there is very little rent control in downtown LA.

          2. Not necessarily; it could indicate that the landlords’ expenses are going up, which they most certainly are with energy costs and such.

      2. High rents are just as likely to be caused by low supply as they are by high demand.

        If you have 50,000 high-rent units in the dense urban part of a metro area with 3 million people, that doesn’t mean that all 3 millon, or even a significant fraction of them, want to live in the dense urban area.

    4. But to say the government social engineered via roads and somehow created the desire to move out of the inner cities is just nonsense.

      I think it’s a bit of both. Policies drive up the cost of living in the city, so people move out. Some choose not to live in the city for other reasons. But some react to costs created by policy. Some move because a loud highway was put in their backyard, or between them and their favorite haunts.
      As they move they demand roads, and the cycle feeds itself.

      1. The biggest thing that drives people out of living in the city is the crime and the horrible schools. People have families and decide they don’t want to risk their kids and they don’t have the money to pay the taxes and send their kids to private schools. Fix the schools and people would move further into the cities.

        1. I actually agree with John here. A lot of people who love cities don’t live there because of the conditions there, and it ain’t the traffic congestion. Building shiny new trains to whiz people around cities they don’t feel safe in is simply going to produce lots of empty trains whizzing about…

          1. Yes. And every city I have lived in have beautiful turn of the century inner suburbs that are greatly preferable to anything in the post war suburbs. If those neighborhoods had decent schools and reasonable tax rates, they would boom.

            1. I have to agree with both John & MNG here. This is the situation I’m in right now. I live in the lower middle class part of a city. I personally like it, but don’t want my 1 year old son growing up in this neighborhood. The reasons are high crime & low class people that I don’t want influencing my son. I will most likely move to the suburbs in a couple of years.

              1. I agree completely with this critique. Some of the bad things about cities are inherent, like corruption due to the larger amount of influence that politicians have in the city, leading to worse schools and higher crime rates. At least, I assumed that larger cities encouraged corruption more than smaller cities, but maybe the cities have just had a longer time to lose their way than the suburban schools have. Also, suburbs use their schools and safety to lure taxpayers from the cities, so it makes sense that they would have a strong incentive to make them attractive.

            2. I live in a suburban part of the city – nice 1920s-1940s built homes. This area attracts young professionals, but once they start having kids, they sell and move to the suburbs with the better schools.

              1. Wouldn’t more school choice dramatically improve inter city schools, especially if the schools could discriminate against children with disciplinary problems? The only real objection to this is that the “bad” kids would be concentrated in one really shitty school, but that is sort of a world of their own making. If the choice was “straighten up and fly right so you can go to school with your friends” or “be bad and end up in the prison school” more kids would behave properly. This is essentially what the entrance exam requirement does for japanese high schools.

            3. Outer suburbs with naturally developed, centralized layouts existed for a long time, too. The parts of these towns that developed after the post war trend of centrally planning infrastructure and land use are still make much stupider use of land than the older areas.

        2. I moved out of the city because I was in the market to buy a home, and didn’t want to pay the insane property taxes that the city needs in order to pay for, you guessed it, ROOOAAADDDZZZ111!!11!1ELEVEN

    5. Perhaps a desire to live in the suburbs is just innate in a lot of people. I despise living in cities and like my suburban home. I think the point these people make is that government action significantly lessended what would have been the costs otherwise of people exercising this choice, it skewed the playing field. Now we have concerns they associate with the results of that skewing so they ask, is addressing that skewing really social engineering or is it simply correcting past engineering?

      1. First, people generally like houses and yards. Second, the post World War II suburbs were not the first suburbs. The first suburbs were built at the turn of the century when street cars became viable. People moved out to the inner ring into houses with yards. And neighborhoods that are not particularly conducive to mass transit. Sure people used street cars in the beginning, but they quickly switched to cars when they could and the street car lines died.

        So it is not like everyone lived in a fifth floor walk up flat like Ralph Cramdon before the War. What happened after the war was people started to do better and they naturally wanted a bigger house and yard. And the market accommodated them by building suburbs. And the government accommodated them by building roads. It wasn’t some social engineering project. It was what people wanted. People love their cars. Cars are freedom. They love living out. And they love taking their cars to work. Why? I don’t know. But that is how they are.

        1. John, the argument is there was quite a bit of government extending rent-seeking favors to developers that helped create the demand (or made it feasible to support the demand) as much or more than simply responding to it.

          The argument is, of course they love their cars, but they love them because their current use has been eased through subsidy.

          1. But why did those subsidies exist? It wasn’t because aliens came down to earth and became rent seekers. It was because the voters themselves demanded that the government build roads and make commuting easier. If people had loved the idea of taking mass transit to work every day, they would have demanded that. Indeed they did in many cities before cars.

            If our system of roads is the result of rent seeking, then our subway systems are too. Both systems were built because the voters demanded that the government provide cheap and convenient transportation.

            And don’t you find it a bit ironic that whenever the subject of government spending comes up you and other liberals point to roads as this great government triumph. But whenever the subject of mass transit comes up, you paint roads as the result of some kind of evil rent seeking plot? Which is it?

            1. John, surely you don;t want to argue that subsidies always exist due to popular demand? I mean, rent-seeking 101 dude.

              As to your last point there, there are roads in cities John.

              1. In the case of roads, they exist due to popular demand. I defy you to find one poll or reading of public opinion in the 1950s and 1960s that didn’t show the public overwhelmingly approved of the interstate highway system. I defy you to find one single case of even a large minority of people objecting to the building of highways before the historic preservation boom hit in the 1970s. It wasn’t the result of some evil corporate plot. It was a result of the people collectively deciding that is what they wanted.

                1. I don’t know the history of all that, I know the other side claims that if you examine the history you will find a lot of rent-seeking and manipulation preceding demand. I’d have to read both sides to decide.

                2. But if I cite an example of a road most taxpayers didn’t want that was built at taxpayer expense, won’t you try to explain it away as a mere exception? Would you actually reconsider your stance? I suspect not.

                  1. Did this happen in the 1950s and 60s? If not, it is not relevant to my point. Sure people object to roads now. But they didn’t when the majority of them were built.

                    1. Yes, I’m speaking of a road that was unpopular with most taxpayers prior to its construction and during its construction. Would that suffice?

                3. I defy you to find one poll or reading of public opinion in the 1950s and 1960s that didn’t show the public overwhelmingly approved of the interstate highway system.

                  I think if you look at some of the polls taken then, you might also find overwhelming support for prohibited gay or interracial marriages.

                  But, the problem is that the effing government built the roads, which allows all kinds of rent-seeking and subsidies due to the coercion inherent in forcible taxation.

          2. What rent seeking favors? The developers in a new housing development are the ones building all the civil engineering aspects like roads as required by code.

            1. I imagine you’re talking about roads to the first developments before there were roads. Of course a lot of those roads had already been built to connect farms to cities for obvious logistic reasons. But also, the cities were building roads to the suburbs in order to expand the property tax base through incorporation.

      2. Of course, missed in all of this is the push by central bankers at the behest of commercial bankers to lower interest rates so they can write more loan contracts such as mortgages — cheaper mortgages can get offered on cheaper dwellings built on cheaper land farther out from the CBD.

        Yet, you never see the kiddies arguing here about the interrelated effects of the forces of economic geography and central banking.

        Roads get built to move products. That people can move along those roads is a bonus.

        Environmentalists suffer from childish rationalism.

    6. i enjoy the free time & money derived by urban living only 5 minutes fm where i work. same for walking to the corner store for groceries

      1. And those new kitchen appliances fit so well in that trendy reusable shopping bag.

    7. John, that’s just not historically true.

      Robert Moses (and Adolf Hitler, for that matter) were envisioning ways to encourage suburban development well before the first commuter freeways were built.

      The first Levittown was a marketing revelation. “Wow, people are willing to live out on Long Island and drive to work every day?”

      Get it through your fucking heads you cosmotarian douche bags. Not everyone is like you. Not everyone wants to live in a fucking apartment near the sustainable organic grocery co-op and the green high efficiency street car line. Most of us like our houses and our yards and don’t want to live near you much less like you. So fuck off and take your God damned trains with you.

      By using the state to do it you’re just another fucking slaver.

      Fuck off, slaver.

      In any event, it’s not just a matter of roads. It’s a matter of zoning, and of restrictions on construction. Without those builders could just follow you to your suburb and urbanize it.

      Your houses and your yards require the enslavement of every property owner in the land, in order to force them to cater to your desires. Be proud.

      1. It called Democracy Fluffy. People supported those zoning laws and those roads because they liked it that way. You don’t like that, too fucking bad. These laws are the result of the majority of the society not being like you and not having your tastes. That sucks for you and people like Lee.

        But I don’t really see what the solution is. You and Lee’s solution seems to be to set yourself up as dictator and make the country look like you want it to. Well, that isn’t happening and you are no better than the majority. In fact you are worse, at least they are a dictatorship of the majority.

      2. By using the state to do it you’re just another fucking slaver.

        But you will gladly use the state to keep them from doing things you don’t like and to make sure they live just how you want them to.

        You are the biggest slaver on here Fluffy. Bigger than MNG. You like Democracy as long as everyone does exactly as you wish them to.

        1. You are the biggest slaver on here Fluffy

          This is literally one of the stupidest things you’ve ever posted here, John, and is indicative of how fucking stupid and unhinged you get when you get on one of your hysterical KULTUR WAR binges. Thanks for turning this thread into a retard fest, though.

          1. “how fucking stupid and unhinged you get when you get on one of your hysterical KULTUR WAR binges”

            Hey, its John. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim and all that.

          2. Fuck off. You are as tiresome as Rather. You two deserve each other.

        2. By this argument we should keep every government subsidy and regulation that’s popular? Your distaste for Social Security and Medicare means that you hate democracy.

          1. I am not saying that at all. If you want to get rid of the subsidies, go right ahead. But don’t kid yourself and think that cities are going to look much different.

            1. So we live in a world where subsidies don’t distort the market? That’s awesome.

              If stores were going to build the same amount of parking spaces without being required to, there wouldn’t be a need for parking regulations. If there wasn’t a market for increasing density in some suburbs, there wouldn’t be a need for density and height restrictions. Yet, the market has found sufficient demand for these things that the entrenched locals had to legislate these things away.

              1. “So we live in a world where subsidies don’t distort the market?”

                Sometimes yes. It depends on the market. Just because the government comes in and gives you something, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t buy it yourself if you had to.

                1. Like health insurance? Because the percentage of people living in cities rather than the suburbs is higher than the percentage of people without health insurance.

                  1. the government sucks at providing anything. why are roads any different? if anything we would have more and better roads if the government hadnt butted in

      3. The first Levittown was a marketing revelation. “Wow, people are willing to live out on Long Island and drive to work every day?”

        You just proved my point. People wanted out of the city. Robert Moses became the most powerful man in New York because he gave people what they wanted. Levitttown succeeded because people wanted it not because they were manipulated into wanting it.

        Come on fluffy, that is leftist bullshit and you know it. It is no different than claiming people eat fatty foods because of advertising. You would never make such a ridiculous claim in any other context.

        1. I don’t think its just creating the demand John, people want all kinds of things but ultimately don’t find the cost to be worth it, it’s a case of using the government, i.e., other people’s money, to subsidize it therefore making it less costly and then, yes, more people choosing it because it is now relatively less costly.

          1. If the government hadn’t built the road to Levitttown, a private developer would have. It was easier to use tax money. But it wasn’t necessary. Gas is much more expensive now than it was then, yet people still choose to live there. They would have paid the price. And don’t forget, had the government not built the roads, taxes would have been lower and people would have had more money to pay the tolls.

            And since when are you against government funded roads?

            1. “They would have paid the price.”

              Er, if the price had been higher then less people would have paid it. That’s how economics works and that’s kind of the point, that a lot of people chose it in large part because of the relatively lowered price, lowered ‘artificially’ via government action.

              1. We don’t know that MNG. Depends on how elastic the demand was. And also, people would have had more money because taxes would have been lower.

                1. But they would have had more to spend on other stuff, including urban services.

                  1. What Mo, the towns outside don’t’ provide services?

                    1. What I’m saying is, if people in the ‘burbs had to pay for all of the extra roads and infrastructure built by the government, the city would look relatively cheaper. Yes, they would have ended up with slightly lower taxes, but the taxes plus extra to pay for the roads* would have made the city look relatively less expensive, changing the economic equation.

                      * Since

                    2. * Since less than 100% of the tax base moved out to the suburbs.

                    3. The problem with that argument is that the private sector would build those roads and infrastructure a lot cheaper than the government does.

          2. Bingo. And, at the same time making the alternative MORE expensive (the subsidy has to come from somewhere).

            John said:
            First, people generally like houses and yards.

            and

            High rents are an indication that the people who do so are willing to pay a premium for the right [to live in the city]

            And didn’t catch the connection, I suppose.

            1. Some people NM. Not all people. If there is a small minority willing to pay a premium for a product, someone will charge them that premium. Some people pay a premium to live in suburbs.

              1. If there is a small minority

                Depends upon what you call “the city” but something like 200 million people live in urban areas in the USA. Close to half of that number lives in the central city in their urban area. That’s not a small minority.

                1. However, let us not be too quick to endorse the silly metric that is the MSA. It is too generous by far – ask somebody on the outer edge of an MSA if they consider themselves within the metropolitan area and the answer will be a universal “no”.

                  1. As an example, the DC MSA extends to West Virginia.

                  2. The MSA is what determines the boundaries of the suburbs, exurbs and such. Below that is the urban area is a subset of that that and typically includes the core suburbs. Beneath that is the central city. Granted, the central city can have quirks. In older cities like Boston, you have neighboring towns, like Cambridge that are, for all intents and purposes, part of the main city (in fact Cambridge is denser than Boston). In newer cities, like Houston and San Antonio, the borders extend out to include the city’s suburbs so the city borders do not include what most people would consider an urban environment.

                2. Close to half of that number lives in the central city in their urban area. That’s not a small minority.

                  Most MSAs’ central cities are not high-density urban zones. We’re talking Columbus and Kansas City here.

                  1. Okay use Seattle, NYC, Chicago, etc…You get about half of the population living in the central city of the metro area. Seattle has several dense areas in the Metro area outside of Seattle. Now, of course, Seattle is not that dense, but it certainly isn’t a suburb…

      4. I don’t think my subdivision is zoned, per se. I think it’s all deed restrictions and land use covenants. I don’t see those as affecting every other property owner in the land, Fluffster, just the property owners in my subdivision.

        1. If doesn’t affect them anyway because they know what they are buying. If the land comes with a covenant that says “no building high rises”, you price it accordingly and can’t complain later. If you want to build a high rise buy land that comes with the right to build one.

    8. Well, there’s at least one little thing wrong with your bigoted little rant. The freeways were built before bussing started. Now go back to foaming at the the mouth.

  3. So, he’s saying, Blame Ike?

    1. He don’t like Ike.

  4. It’s also important to keep the big picture in mind. In the decades after World War II, urban planners across the country pursued a variety of aggressive “get people into their cars” policies.

    And now the planners complain about the very sprawl they helped to create as they try to come up with ways to encourage people to use public transportation.

    Why can’t they just leave people alone?

  5. This is kind of the libertarian dilemma: the structural conditions created by past government interference must be allowed to stand continuing to have a heavy impact on society because any measure to address such conditions is current engineering.

    Libertarians find themselves in the position of the teacher who, having stumbled upon a group of bullies who have taken other kid’s lunch money but who are now cornered by said kids, declares that taking things would be wrong, horribly, horribly wrong.

    1. MNG, your analogies aren’t very good.

      And how is this a dilemma for us when we’re the ones who said no social engineering at all? Not to mention we had no say in the policies, nor do we now. Your whole argument just doesn’t make much sense to me. What are you trying to say?

      1. The analogy is spot on, the teacher certainly didn’t bless the original bullying. Yes, yes, libertarians would have opposed slavery, jim crow, sexism, subsidized suburbanization, robber barron rent seeking, etc., but those things happened and structural inequalities were produced that still today impact people’s welfare and choices. To just say “any attempt to address that would be social engineering itself and therefore bad” leaves you in exactly the same position as the teacher in my analogy (if you’re worried about the power thing change the teacher to a powerless student who stumbles upon the scene and offers their suggestion of a resolution)

        1. But the analogy is bad because that’s not what we would say. We(or maybe just me?) would say that using the same solution that got us into the mess will likely make things worse. Social engineering caused undesirable outcome, lets not make the same mistake again. I still don’t see the analogy. The teacher or the student are not in the same position as someone making public policy. Do you mean that we’re late to the game, therefore our solutions don’t apply?

          1. Sure, you could say that the solution will cause many of the problems the original injustice caused. But then you get this strange idea that justices cannot be addressed because we risk creating more injustice, and then, yes, you have to let the past injustices set the pace for society.

            1. Justice is an absence of injustice, just as cold is an absence of heat and dark is an absence of light.

              You don’t get justice by piling on more injustice.

              1. Well, I’m not sure that a measure to do justice piles on injustice. For example, in murder and in self defense you are doing the same thing but in the latter it’s considered not only excused but justified because the intent and circumstances are different.

                1. Action and reaction. How does it work?

                  1. Er, I guess you need some help on this because that is what I’m saying. The current actions are actually reactions to past government injustices.

                    1. The only “action” to be done to react to government injustice is to remove the injustice.
                      More government is not the solution to too much government.

                    2. But the problem here isn’t too much government (not to say there isn’t, but that’s not the focus here) – it’s that government created and subsidized something (highways and suburbs), and now that something exists regardless of government entities. How do you correct if?

                    3. Goddamnit, I pressed submit too early. I meant to say: If that’s an injustice, how do you correct it? The highways exist and are being used, and people can’t exactly homestead over them to create conditions similar to the pre- eminent domain era.

                      Here’s a thought experiment: let’s say Paul Krugman was the Emperor of the USA and had come to the conclusion that we’re in a giant liquidity trap, and that the only way to get out of it was to dig a ditch the size of New Mexico in New Mexico. And so it would be done. All the New Mexicans would be evacuated (also the Arizonans, due to the new giant mountain in their state), but hey, at least we got full employment! Because they can’t all move elsewhere, after a while they would have to return to their home state to relocate into the ditch, but their lives would forever be miserable because a ditch is a pretty horrible place to live in, what with the logistics, landslides etc.

                      Krugman then becomes a libertarian and realizes his mistake, but what can he do? He can’t fill the ditch again because it would force the ditch-dwelling New Mexicans and the Arizonans on the mountain to relocate again, and the operation would cost taxpayers trillions, so all of it would be unjust, even though would allow the lives of the Southwesterners to eventually pick up again, given that they once again would have flat lands to roam. (Plus, Krugman has already reduced the size of government to a night watchman state, which means no government agency is presiding over the injustice that is El Ditcho Nuevomexicano anymore) However, no private refilling operation is possible either because it isn’t in the immediate self-interest of anyone (even though plenty of people would accept it if it were an organized effort), and no investor is willing or able to take such a long term investment. So Krugman, being the principled libertarian that he is, can only say “OK, sorry about the ditch, my bad. But let’s have laissez-faire starting… now!”, which to Southwesterners just sounds like a giant fuck you.

                      This is the crux of the problem. It isn’t that the government is actively doing something bad (although it certainly does that too), but that it has opened a Pandora’s box, the reclosing of which is either impossible or unjust.

                    4. Krugman then becomes a libertarian and realizes his mistake, but what can he do?

                      He can do nothing, get out of the way, and allow the previously fucked over to negotiate a way out of their problems. Any other solution involves coercion.

                      Not that hard.

        2. If you have to explain your analogy then it’s ineffective. It was a poor writing. Accept the criticism and do better next time.

          1. Dude, you are obviously new here and to political discussion boards in general.

            1. I’m an infrequent poster, but that doesn’t matter. Your analogy sucked and now you’re spending post after post defending its construction. Just write a better analogy next time.

            2. Yeah, if he actually takes you seriously enough to criticize, he must be a newb.

        3. MNG, which is more stupid, claiming that two wrongs don’t make a right, or claiming that the right wrong (if only we could design that perfect wrong!) makes a right? You are arguing the latter. Now in some cases this makes sense. For example, putting a murderer in jail for his crimes. But that is completely different from what we are talking about. We are talking about the innocent being wronged in order to benefit the victims of past crimes. Do you see the difference?

          This is not a case of the bully being forced to give back the lunch money he stole, this is more analogous to a teacher taking lunch money away from all the students in order to reimburse the one student whose money was stolen by the bully. Seek retribution from the bully (i.e. the government) not the rest of us, who are just living in the world produced in part by the misdeeds of the bully.

          1. I think it is more complicated than that.

            For example, the government actively worked to limit the choices and opportunities for black Americans to develop financially and socially for decades. This not only left most black Americans with far less social and financial capital than whites, it created negative cultural beliefs about blacks. Both of these did not disappear when the government intervention stopped, the conditions continue to limit opportunities and the well-being of blacks in general while giving some advantages to whites in general.

            Now, should the government try to fix this? I think yes, though of course it should try it carefully in a way that will not cause more or new harms. But the libertarian is forced to just accept these conditions, and that strikes me as strange.

            1. I think it is more complicated than that.

              And yet you started off with the simplest analogy…

              Now, should the government try to fix this?

              The answer is neither yes nor no, because it depends on how they are going to fix it. If the fix involves coercion, then the only coercion allowed is against the government, who committed the crime. The libertarian doesn’t have to accept any conditions, we never supported what the government did in the first place, nor are we barred from trying to change people’s minds about race. No solution involving an initiation of coercion is necessary or justified.

              1. Analogies are meant to illustrate a similar principle running through two different fact patterns, so yes I picked a simpler fact pattern (not simple enough for some, see KDN above), but the principle is the same and not complicated, it’s about confusing redressing injustice with the original injustice.

            2. “the conditions continue to limit opportunities and the well-being of blacks in general while giving some advantages to whites in general”

              WTF does that mean?

              1. It means in general blacks have less financial and social capital due in large part to this legacy and having less of those results in less opportunities and well being for blacks in general. I’m not sure how else to say it. I imagine though that you understood me, it just made you uncomfortable and so you disagree.

                1. “I imagine though that you understood me, it just made you uncomfortable and so you disagree.”

                  Wrong on both counts.

                  I was born after civil rights and I’ve seen affirmative action first hand.
                  From what I’ve seen blacks have less financial and social capital due to a culture that feels like those things are owed to them as opposed to something to be earned.

                  1. That’s just silly. In 1959 over half of blacks lived in poverty, black elected officials were far less numerous, black college attendance and graduation rates were much worse, etc. Those numbers are much, much better now, though indeed many indicators have been somewhat ‘stuck’ since the mid 70s.

                    1. Ah yes. “The Man” been keepin you down.

                      Bullshit.
                      We’ve got a black president. You’ve got nothing left to bitch about.

                    2. We’ve got a black president. You’ve got nothing left to bitch about.

                      Yes, and that black president sure has fixed the conditions that ensnare so many black people, like the drug war and the out-of-control justice system. Nothing more to see here, move right along.

            3. Ahhh…I think I see the source of your confustion. It isn’t that the libertarian is forced to accept these conditions, it’s that the libertarian believes that market pressures will eventually correct many of these injustices if left to itself. There will always be bigots but green eventually makes most people color blind. No, the conditions don’t stop immediately once government intervention stops but once people realize that there is money to be made from increased inclusion in business and society then opportunities also increase. Does it take time and will a lot of people suffer in the mean time? Yes, and that’s the connundrum. The natural urge is to help but libertarians understand that government help often creates as many problems as it solves. It’s a classic case of “is the cure is worse than the disease?”

              1. Exactly. I think you summed it up well. I also struggle with the short term suffering that a laissez-faire policy may create. That is why it’s important to adhere to the non-aggression principle, and constantly promote free markets, and free minds when going about your daily business. In the long term, these actions will produce true prosperity and justice.

    2. poor liberals, always bullied.

    3. This is a pretty good point, I think. In a relatively wealthy country like the US, I think the best approach is just to say “no more stealing from now on” and let things sort themselves out. But in a poorer, more fucked up country where the leaders have been actively stealing from people for a very long time and the elites are largely in their positions of wealth and power because of corruption and lack of property rights for ordinary people, the situation is a lot more difficult. Without a robust system and tradition of property rights, it is much harder for a productive capitalist society to take off, even if you can somehow get rid of the kleptocrats.

      1. Because government protected monopolies perform just sooooo amazingly well when free markets are introduced.

    4. Your analogy needs to be tweaked just a bit. First of all, the effects of past government coercion are not so simple as one person stealing from another. We are talking about broad advantages and disadvantages to certain people that resulted from government action, not a clear act of theft (you know, tEh ExTeRnAlItIeS!!!1). The only clear criminal in these situations is the government itself.

      That being said, further coercion does not “solve” or “negate” past coercion in these circumstances. And claiming that libertarians being against further coercion means they support the coercion you are trying to negate, as both you and Lee do, is stupid. We are against both forms of coercion AND we don’t think one will negate the other. It’s not that hard to get.

      1. “The only clear criminal in these situations is the government itself.”

        Perhaps, but there are defintely beneficiaries and disadvantaged groups as a result. Can that be redressed?

        “That being said, further coercion does not “solve” or “negate” past coercion in these circumstances. ”

        Maybe. That’s an empirical question.

        “libertarians being against further coercion means they support the coercion you are trying to negate”

        I don’t claim it makes you supporting the original coercion, just that you are supporting the results or outcome of it by saying we can’t address them.

    5. Stupid analogy from a stupid person.

      Libertarians believe in justice.

      When the law empowers an individual in government to do what for a citizen would be criminal, then we have injustice.

      Taking back property that has been stolen from you is justice.

      Holy shit you’re a moron.

    6. I agree wholeheartedly with the first paragraph; we can’t just cut off all of the programs that should have never been enacted in the first place because society has already evolved around the assumption that these programs would be there. It’s a very effective political argument for keeping them in place; eliminating SSDI, for instance, would effectively screw over a great many already disabled people even though the country would likely be better served if Aflac, etc handled their problems instead. Unfortunately, most of the non-regulatory programs out there have to be unwound slowly if they ever are going to be.

    7. This is kind of the libertarian dilemma: the structural conditions created by past government interference must be allowed to stand continuing to have a heavy impact on society because any measure to address such conditions is current engineering.

      It’s really just a subset of the reform v. revolution problem inherent in radical politics. Reform means tinkering with the edges in the right direction, revolution means hitting the reset button.

      For something like libertarian reforms, you get things like smarter tax codes, smaller military, no drug war, etc. For something like libertarian revolution, you have to seriously consider destroying Wall Street and the interstate highway system.

      With every reform, you’ve got interests for and against, and libertarians can be pigeonholed as a tool of those interests (and sometimes, they actually are). With every revolution, you have the terrible record of revolutions and the high probability of Reigns of Terror. Do nothing, and you perpetuate injustice.

      In this case, it’s very libertarian to oppose building more trains. Of course, it’s also very libertarian to defund the interstate highway system entirely, taxation being theft and all. Keep building trains and roads, and you’ve got a society whose vital links are not market-based, with all the deep distortions that entails.

      1. Regarding your last paragraph JP, here I think you are absolutely correct. Certainly if we just ended all the support on both sides there would still be this advantage for suburbs and cars, but so what? Is this really so horrible that in a time where the floor is about to drop out of the economy we need to engage in some massive effort to redress past interference? This isn’t like Jim Crow and slavery or something…

        1. I really have no idea what you’re trying to say.

    8. If the teacher had a policy that encouraged bully’s taking other kids lunch money, the correct position is to remove the policy. Libertarians don’t think of government as being in place to correct social inequities. Government should avoid creating those inequities.

    9. Libertarians find themselves in the position of the teacher who, having stumbled upon a group of bullies who have taken other kid’s lunch money but who are now cornered by said kids, declares that taking things would be wrong, horribly, horribly wrong.

      The problem with this analogy is that the teacher

      1. knows that the bullies took the money,
      2. can easily restore the situation to what it was before they took the money, and
      3. will not harm anyone but the bullies who took the money by doing so.

      None of these are true of some project to “get people out of their cars”. A better analogy would be if the teacher found out that last year, 8th grade bullies who had since left that school, had been taking a 6th grader’s lunch money so that he went hungry every day last year, and failed his math class which was at the end of the day because he was too hungry to pay attention.

      The messiness and difficulty in “fixing” that problem is quite analogous to the transit and land use situation, except that the latter is even more complicated by the fact that we don’t really know how much of the suburban development was natural and how much was social engineering.

  6. Where I live, many communities’ zoning laws mandate insanely low population densities and discourage locating businesses anywhere near their potential employees or customers. Then people wonder why those communities are so car-dependent. In one of those “Queen Carlotta has proclaimed today as Backwards Day” situations, defenders of such zoning laws say that they are necessary to fight sprawl.

    1. Umm, Houston’s zoning (lack thereof) never mandated the creation of the suburbs by insisting on low density only, but it happened anyway…and to a much greater extent than other cities.

      1. This strikes me as the key fact that settles the issue.

        Before we blame zoning and whatnot for suburbs and low-density development, shouldn’t we look to see what happened in the absence of zoning?

        Lo, it was . . . suburbs and low-density development. The zoning was done not to “force” this evolution, but to implement it.

        Kind of a difference.

        1. Yes, but I guy in Houston has a beach house with a roller coaster 5 feet from his bedroom window.

          And he is cool with it.

          Lack of zoning is awesome.

          1. Okay, not exactly cool with it. But they arent going to sue. Also, a few dozen feet.

            picture from coaster

          2. I live right next door to a roller coaster, plus a concert hall. Not as close as that guy, but still close.

            It’s honestly not bad at all, although I can see people getting upset if they have equity in their home.

          3. That ain’t Houston. No roller coasters left in H-Town proper, and there weren’t any that close to the water.

              1. Oh, Kemah. I forget that roller coaster exists.

                Suburb of Houston != no zoning. Houston proper has no zoning. The actual incorporated suburbs usually have something.

        2. Acutally it’s a myth that there aren’t zoning or land use requirements in Houston.

          http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/pa….._id=837244

          “In fact, a wide variety of municipal regulatory and spending policies have made Houston more sprawling and automobile-dominated than would a more free-market-oriented set of policies”

          1. Yeah, but the point is that the development has always followed the demand for development rather than creating it. Developers know that people want to live on acreage and commute in quickly, so they have the city and munipalities build them the roads to the MPC’s they know they can sell. Urban planners didn’t develop Houston, the developers did.

        3. Houston doesn’t have zoning, but it still has minimum parking requirements…

      2. I would argue this has more to do with how people in architecture programs are educated to think of constructing urban areas than the result of “market forces”. And not just architects themselves, but people who own property and build on that property across the country, and people who run construction companies, etc., are all predisposed to think of building in a way that conforms to the heavily regulated urban planning of the rest of the country.

        I think it just shows Houston’s lack of innovation rather than being the result of market influences. It’s only the result of market influences insofar as the market is already so heavily distorted everywhere else that it would be prohibitively costly for people to rethink the paradigm in the rest of the country.

        1. I would say it just shows the people of Houston have better things to spend their money on than urban planning. Houston is built to be an efficient city not a beautiful one.

          1. I think that it isn’t a question of “efficiency” either, though. It’s really just a question of dumb people thinking “well, that’s just how things are done!” without actually contemplating better alternatives.

            To me, when a city like Houston builds a city that’s essentially the same as every other city in spite of the many flaws that those other cities have, without making substantial correction to the flaws even though the regulations aren’t there to prevent them from correction, is just a form of laziness really, and lack of innovative thinking.

            For example, I live in Kansas, where private education is virtually unregulated. As in, if you give your school a name and register the address with the state, parents can enroll them there and basically the state just assumes they’re actually being educated. And the really dumbing-fucking thing is, people will get together and pool their resources for a small (usually Christian) private school, and they immediately divide their kids into age-based “grades” and hire different teachers for the different grades and they buy the same or very similar textbooks to what their children would be using in the public schools, all because they usually don’t know enough to realize that they could operate under a totally different paradigm of education, and their kids might actually learn more and the parents could cut the cost of running the school. But people are too lazy and ignorant to think outside the box a bit and pursue other options.

            This is the problem I see with Houston. I’m sure that for the most part it works just fine for them, but I still think it’s the result of people who make construction decisions just following the standard assumptions, and it isn’t really proof that that method of city construction is some kind of libertarian, market-driven ideal.

            1. I also feel like I should correct myself because I keep saying “when the city of Houston does (blah)” as if Houston were just some intelligent hive of people that builds itself. The point I’m making is that when someone buys up property thinking “We’ll put apartments here”, usually that person isn’t contemplating the market benefits they might see if they included, say, a small grocery store amidst the apartment plans and worked out a deal with a grocery store company to provide service to the apartment dwellers, or whatever. The point is that there are market alternatives to be explored in a city like Houston that I doubt are actually being explored because people are operating under the “standard” way of looking at things.

        2. There is some of that in architecture schools, but it’s really coming from “urban planning” programs. Not all architects are urban planners or think like them.

      3. All that shows is the danger of trying to draw a curve through a single data point. I’d like to see you back up your “to a much greater extent than other cities” assertion with non-cherry-picked statistics of population density.

        1. Don’t all shout out at once.

          According to the numbers that I got from Demographia, Houston is in the top quintile of US urban areas by population density.

      4. As a native Houstonian I would like to point out that while Houston itself and some of the surrounding communities have “no” zoning laws, many of the suburban and inner city cities (there are cities within “Houston”) DO have zoning laws.

      5. Houston does actually have some stupid zoning type laws. Also, I want to live near a roller coaster, and a boardwalk bar.

    2. Round here they won’t issue a building permit if you’ve got less than an acre of land.

  7. He accidentally gets to the heart of the matter. Powerful big city property owners are mad that sprawl has hurt their property values.

    1. Exactly. The suburbs are the distributive answer to big local government. Taxation forced a lot of people to look to suburban areas for housing, not any force into the automobile. My grandmothers lived in the suburbs and never drove once in their lives. They relied on walking (yes, in the suburbs!) and the local bus services (private operators). And the occasional taxi. The few times they went downtown they took a bus to the train.

      It was the steel-belted radial tire that made driving an automobile so much safer and less hassle that sliced into the customer base of neighborhood bus lines.

  8. It’s true that we shouldn’t support any kind of social engineering. But for the most part, people do demand parking in cities (seriously, ever tried to park in NY, SF, etc.?), and they do want highways. Most of this cost is covered by user fees in the form of gasoline taxes, vehicle license and registration fees, and tolls.

    People generally don’t demand trains, and especially the American kind run by municipalities that are overpriced, rarely run on time, serve few locations, etc. IIRC US generally require a subsidy equal to an additional 150% of the actual fare. Even places like NY still require a substantial subsidy. This compares to, say, Japan, where both private and public operators are profitable.

    1. Even in Europe, where trains are unbiquitous, cars are much more convenient unless you are going from population center to population center. In the US, due to our size, planes are the trains of Europe.

    2. People generally don’t demand trains, and especially the American kind run by municipalities that are overpriced, rarely run on time, serve few locations, etc. IIRC US generally require a subsidy equal to an additional 150% of the actual fare. Even places like NY still require a substantial subsidy. This compares to, say, Japan, where both private and public operators are profitable.

      The train is part of an integrated system…most calls for trains are calls for the subsidies to go towards improving the rail part of the system rather than the road part of the system. All travelers are subsidized whether on a train or in a car.

      1. Is there any case where trains are more efficient than cars or buses? Maybe the people movers at large airports. I can’t think of anywhere else.

        Politicians love trains. It must be a genetic flaw.

        1. “Is there any case where trains are more efficient than cars or buses?”

          You’re just being an idiot. If you are defining efficiency by time, energy, distance, cost, etc., subsidized commuter rail or rapid transit in conjunction with subsidized roads can be far more economical than subsidized roads alone. It would be impossible for cities like Chicago and its suburbs to ever have the road capacity to handle all commuters efficiently at peak times. Buses would cost exponentially more in labor alone, nevermind equipment, to equal the capacity of one commuter train. Chicago, in fact, had the last profitable PRIVATE passenger commuter rail in to the 1970’s, before it was subsidized.

          Both public subsidized roads and rail have the same problems such as taxation, public employee wages and benefits, and central planning.

        2. I am not saying that building a new rail system would ever be more economical than existing road transportation that is already handling the traffic. That’s just retarded.

  9. And by the way, road and turnpike building in the United States began in earnest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries well before the automobile was created. The roads were just made out of dirt, cobblestones, and planks and used by horse and carriage is all.

  10. Perhaps to allow for society to progress you encumbered, we can now work to repeal these laws? We do not want to socially engineer, but I believe we can make amends by attempting to undo the original incentives that lead to this quasi-social engineering. Oh and what is with all the hate on city dwellers who like their local food stores? Suburbia is
    the quintessential American dream…but it looks like a nightmare in terms of resource use, societal progress, and complacency. Or maybe I just grew up in the wrong suburb.

    1. Any time you make a decision to spend money on something someone isn’t directly paying for, you’re socially engineering. Government can’t help but do that. The libertarian position is that the government should be as restricted as possible on what it can socially engineer so individuals have as much freedom as possible to make their own decisions with their money. Whether we stop at roads or healthcare in how far libertarians are willing to fund government work is a continuous debate, but just defines the limits are our libertarianism. MNG wants to give alot of the money to the government in hopes it will spend it the way he wants. I would give it alot less, but still have preferences on how I would like it spent.

    2. but it looks like a nightmare in terms of resource use, societal progress, and complacency. Or maybe I just grew up in the wrong suburb.

      I would say it doesn’t look like a nightmare to the people who live there. Some one must like it or such places wouldn’t exist in a free country.

      How about this idea? Why don’t we just let people live how they want and stopping trying to enforce our ideas of aesthetics and efficiency on them?

    3. but it looks like a nightmare in terms of resource use, societal progress, and complacency. Or maybe I just grew up in the wrong suburb.

      I would say it doesn’t look like a nightmare to the people who live there. Some one must like it or such places wouldn’t exist in a free country.

      How about this idea? Why don’t we just let people live how they want and stopping trying to enforce our ideas of aesthetics and efficiency on them?

      1. How about this idea? Why don’t we just let people live how they want and stopping trying to enforce our ideas of aesthetics and efficiency on them?

        So you are in favor of the proposal…removing the zoning laws that are under discussion, making developers foot the bill for roads to their development (which raises the cost of the houses in the development), etc…

        1. I go back and forth about that. But if you do, the cities wouldn’t look much different than they do now. The cities are how they are because the people who live there like it that way.

        2. making developers foot the bill for roads to their development

          Do the developers then own the road? I mean, if they are footing the bill, they should.

          1. My subdivision owns every freaking road within the community. And boy, I hope I’m gone before that maintenance bill comes due because the ignuts running the community are not preparing for it.

            1. I think dirt roads would be quaint and peaceful. Like old New England, the Wild West, or SOMALIA!!!

        3. The roads to the development generally already exist. The road was there to service the farm and then it gets subdivided. Now this doesn’t always hold true for places like the desert, but by and large the road was already built. The roads inside the development are built by the developer. Now sewage lines of a capacity to handle the new development, i think, is a much more pertinent argument.

          1. skr,

            Indeed. I, of course, come from the desert…and the roads are built to service the development…mostly. Often in ridiculous locations.

    4. it looks like a nightmare in terms of resource use,

      How so? As far as what people pay for out of pocket – the car, the commute, teh house, the yard, etc. – well, those are their own resources, so they seem to be using them they way the want.

      societal progress,

      Que?

      and complacency.

      I’m utterly mystified.

      1. Part of the nightmare is what has happened to the hidden areas of transportation markets and land use. State and local road maintenance is already trending towards some sort of meltdown.

  11. Whatevs. Welch, you’re a good man.

    http://uga-saildawgs.livejournal.com/

  12. But I think it’s a mistake to focus so heavily on the government’s relatively modest efforts to get people out of their cars while ignoring the older, bigger, and more systematic efforts to push people into their cars.

    ____________________

    Relatively modest? These train projects are always well into the billions of dollars, even if you accept the absurdly low-ball government cost estimates. They are hugely expensive and being pushed at a time when we simply don’t have the money to build them. They are even more expensive when you consider where they’re being built and the laughable ridership projections. The ridiculous Orlando to Tampa train is a good example, and the California train to nowhere may be even better.

    Here in Atlanta the metro counties are pushing an extension of the rail system to Emory University that will cost at least 1.5 billion, and probably well more than that. Emory U. is already within a few miles of at least two rail stations and is served by several bus routes. Why does anyone need to spend gobs of money to put another station directly under the University — especially when the high income workforce of doctors, professors, etc. is never going to use it?

    The opposition to TRAINS! therefore does not need to be an ideological issue. We just don’t have the money right now, and I don’t think the TRAINS! proponents have made a persuasive case that people will use the TRAINS!, as opposed to their belief that people should use the TRAINS!. If and when we get our balance sheet straightened out, we can re-visit the issue, though I doubt they’ll ever be able to make a persuasive case for TRAINS! on the scale they’re pushing.

    On that score, in my experience the TRAINS! argument usually boils down to your ususal global warming hysteria and peak oil fantasies. Keep in mind that many of the peak oil people are the same folks who adamantly oppose drilling in ANWAR, fracking, and even worse, the trans-Canada oil pipeline. Not to mention the fact that greens have been predicting peak everything for decades and have always been wrong.

    1. The metro in Atlanta is almost never used. And I love how they are trying to extend it to Emory instead of the Turner Field, a destination that might cause people to ride it once in a while.

      1. that’ll change when retail gas gets to $5/gal

        1. No it won’t. Even if you have to commute 50 miles a day, that is only 250 miles a week. In an average car that is maybe 15 gallons or sixty bucks a week, which is not a lot of money to most Americans.

        2. I commuted in Cali when gas was around $4.50+, as did many other people. It barely had effect on train ridership.

          Plus, MARTA is fucking awful.

          1. What looks like a rainbow and smells like a refinery?

            MARTA Bus!

          2. Atlanta is fucking awful.

      2. The Ga State station is used for riding Marta to baseball games.

        I never had a problem with that walk.

      3. The best thing that could be said about Denver’s light rail system is at least the planners were smart enough to build a line through the Platte Valley that runs right by Mile High Stadium, the Pepsi Center, Elitch’s, and then takes you right to Union Station where the 16th Street Mall commercial district begins (with Coors Field and the LoDo bars just a short walk away).

        Of course, if the river ever floods again like it did in 1965, the line will be rendered worthless, but it’s pretty rare that those would happen as long as the Chatfield and Cherry Creek dams hold up.

  13. They used the power of eminent domain to push freeways through the heart of urban areas, destroying some neighborhoods outright and cutting others off from the rest of the city.

    Does Mr. Lee somehow think that a railway that facilitates a train moving at 200mph couldn’t serve the same exact purpose?

  14. I think this guy is trying to (tactlessly) backtrack on his support of government building of trains, but he’s pretty much spot on about how urban sprawl is the result of rigoddamndiculous zoning restrictions that make it so that nothing can ever be built conveniently next to anything else.

    After living most of my life in a small, rural town, I just moved to Johnson County, Kansas which is apparently the urban sprawl capital of America. I can’t take out my garbage without going in my car. There are people hear who, when they want to go on a walk, drive to a fucking walking path. There is literally NO WAY to move about in this god-forsaken shithole of a county.

    I’m sure it has nothing to do with the government explicitly favoring cars, but it’s clearly the result of teams of politically appointed urban planners who at some point passed some stupid fucking law that says commercial buildings all have to be built together, and shopping districts all have to be built together, and housing developments all have to be built together… because urban planners are fucking morons who don’t realize that I don’t want to have easy and convenient access to my asshole neighbors when I’m at home, and I don’t want easy and convenient access to Bed, Bath, and Beyond when I’m at Target, and I don’t want easy and convenient access to someone else’s place of work when I’m at my place of work, I, and most other people, would rather live in a neighborhood where someone would be permitted to build a local fucking grocery store or put up a small family-owned business that I might visit sometime and not have to drive fifteen minutes to get there.

    I never really realized how much zoning destroys communities. But I don’t think governments throwing money at train boondoggles is going to fix that for anyone.

    1. Zoning does destroy communities. I have really turned against it. But the problem is the zoning, not the building of roads.

    2. As Ive said on nearly every zoning thread, I want a fucking pub on my street.

      1. I just want a golf cart so I can drive back and forth to the pub just outside the subdivision.

  15. creates the illusion that people are freely choosing a suburban, auto-oriented lifestyle.

    The main problem with this is that the very beginning of the “suburbs” was rail-based long before the automobile was affordable for the middle class. In some cases train lines had fare structures that kept the riff raff out, and mileage-based fares essentially allowed the richer people to move farther from the city center. And those rail companies were private concerns getting rights of way by government fiat and corruption rather than sheer market forces.

    Basically, same shit, different technology. So one can leave the “government philosophy” out of the argument and make the entire argument to logistical efficiency. And for moving passengers trains are inefficient compared to automobiles and buses except perhaps for hub destinations. And hub destinations will definitely have a market effect on property values in the hub that will likely price out a portion of the people in the larger community.

    While I do share Lee’s gripe about parking lots, nearly all of the zoning that requires them are supported by the local voters; even in a shitty democracy the local voters should get what they want sometimes.

    1. Exactly. The voters like it that way. And Lee just can’t accept that and has convinced himself the whole thing is the result of some evil rent seeking plot.

      1. Those aren’t exclusive options, John.

        In fact, the voters like it precisely because it’s an evil rent-seeking plot.

        1. You would never claim such bullshit in any other context. If the rent seekers are so good at manipulating rather than reacting to public opinion, then I guess the liberals have a point when they talk about the evils of corporate political spending and advertising, right?

          1. John, the rent-seeking of your own individual home is equal to the dollar amount you would have had to personally pay to all other property owners in your area in order to induce them to restrict their property use to conform with your idea of a “nice suburban neighborhood”.

            That’s leaving to one side the % of your property’s value that’s the result of “convenient commuting to location X by highway” and the ever popular “our public school system is in the top X% in the state”.

            People vote for zoning, highway construction, and public education because those things enhance the value of their properties. The number of people who get to seek rent in this manner is pretty high. It’s certainly enough to impact or control local elections.

            Especially since the entire country is operating this way. In such a system, if you don’t personally engage in this rent-seeking yourself, you end up bearing the cost of everyone else’s rent seeking, because the undesirable land uses they stop in their own neighborhoods move into yours. So because some people are rent-seeking, everyone must, or allow themselves to be taken advantage of.

            It doesn’t require political spending or advertising or anything else. It just requires people to be able to understand the current system and how it impacts their personal economic well-being.

            1. John, the rent-seeking of your own individual home is equal to the dollar amount you would have had to personally pay to all other property owners in your area in order to induce them to restrict their property use to conform with your idea of a “nice suburban neighborhood”.

              No. You completely misunderstand the economics of it. The people in my neighborhood all benefit from the restrictions. They all paid a premium to live in a place where they know the person next person won’t build a factory next to them

              Now maybe the original person who owned the property when they passed the law benefited unfairly. But everyone after that paid a premium for the right and didn’t get anything they didn’t pay for. And indeed the future people who want to build factories are unaffected because they just don’t buy the land.

              You have the strangest view of property rights. Rather than property being a bundle of rights. You have this strange blood and soil view of land being some kind of magical thing that comes with inalienable rights to the owner even if he didn’t purchase it.

              As far as your rent seeking argument. To you any form of government is just rent seeking. When people get together and voluntarily form a town and a police department and other things that make it more livable and makes their property more valuable, I and the rest of the world call it government. You call it rent seeking. I see the internal logic of your argument. But it is just a broad definition as to pretty much prevent every form of government known to man. Good for you. But I don’t see how it is very convincing or particularly relevant.

              1. There’s a right to not live next to a factory?

                1. Mo,

                  If I purchased an easment on the property next to me that says one can’t be built there, there is very much a right to it.

                  Further, if I and other people bought property and paid a premium under a given set of rights, yes there is.

              2. Now maybe the original person who owned the property when they passed the law benefited unfairly. But everyone after that paid a premium for the right and didn’t get anything they didn’t pay for.

                No, because it’s ongoing.

                You continue to benefit from being able to stop your neighbor from starting a hog farm.

                You paid a premium that you deserved to lose. You can only avoid losing that premium by continuing the original offense.

                As far as your rent seeking argument. To you any form of government is just rent seeking.

                When people gain private value by the expenditure of tax dollars, and that value accrues to them but not to every taxpayer, that’s rent seeking. When people gain private value by limiting what others can do with their property, that’s rent seeking. When people gain private value by exploiting the delta between their existing property value use and the difficulty others have in developing their own properties, that’s rent seeking.

                These are not wildly controversial or expansive definitions, John. You just don’t like that I’m directing the rent-seeker accusation at you. And, hey, at me. I’m just as big a rent seeker as you are. We don’t really have a choice.

                Any progressive could just as easily write your post here in defense of any progressive program. “Hey, the people are entitled to get together and form a government and try to make everyone’s life better!”

                1. Jon Rauch makes this point extensively in Government’s End. We’re all rent-seekers anymore because if we aren’t, we get screwed. You have to lobby in DC so the rules don’t get written against you.

                2. It is no more ongoing than me buying a covenant on my neighbor next door. If I buy an easement or a covenant and he sells to you, the right never transfers. You never purchased the right to build that there, period. So you don’t own it.

                  Again, fluffy, you have a bizare view of property. You only own what you buy, nothing else.

                  1. You only own what you buy, nothing else.

                    Or is given to you, or you make, or you grow, or…

                    But, of course, there are certainly those that would argue that calling a restriction on someone else’s behavior (your easement/covenant) “property” is pretty bizarre.

    2. While I do share Lee’s gripe about parking lots, nearly all of the zoning that requires them are supported by the local voters; even in a shitty democracy the local voters should get what they want sometimes.

      All of the parking in my municipality is metered/pay. Even the shopping center structures. That’s the market based solution.

    3. “And those rail companies were private concerns getting rights of way by government fiat and corruption rather than sheer market forces.”

      Just like roads, and airports for that matter, railroads too would have probably been constructed far more efficiently without government manipulation and as a result could have more conveniently served the populations that grew around them. As an example, the Illinois Central land grants basically forced the duplication of many existing towns, because the grants specified that the railroad was to be built away from developed areas. A completely market based railroad would have logically done its best to serve existing populations.

  16. I said it on the other thread — the mistake was having the INTERSTATE system go thru big cities.

    The interstates should have been loop roads around cities (like we generally have) with the interstates hitting them on a tangent instead of going thru the city.

    Cities may have still subsidized limited access highways from the suburbs to downtown, but it would have been cities doing it, not done partly with federal money.

    1. They go into big cities precisely because the big city governments wanted them. They were scared shitless that “progress” was passing them by which would cost them tax dollars. In many cases the interstates were the perfect excuse to knock down large swaths of low-rise slums and put the displaced into high-rise slums that took up less footprint.

      Hey, what kind of moron WOULDN’T want to live in a de-luxe apartment in the sky? Turns out, 5% at most want that lifestyle. So the other 95% aren’t morons.

    2. Sorry, but people go where the road/transportation is. Albuquerque is an example. Back in the day, Bernalillo NM was the big town. When the railroad wanted to build a station there, the town’s leaders thought they would soak the railroad for some money and set a high price. A village south of Bernalillo said, “you can build it here for free.” Albuquerque is now the major urban center (by NM standards) and Bernalillo is hardly any larger than it was (although growing fast now that two new major highway improvements go through it).

      1. You are generally right. Look at Atlanta and the number of tall building on the perimeter (I-285).

        But, we would have dispersed businesses instead of a central core, which Im cool with. Everyone can live near where they work.

        1. I think the dispersal/centralization has more to do with geography. The geography dictates the transportation system. Outside of a few small man-made waterways the natural transport corridors drive growth patterns more than anything else. As engineering improved geography became less than 100% of the driver, but it probably still is the majority.

  17. So, is Timothy B. Lee saying one should or shouldn’t support high speed rail? He sounds conflicted. I think y’all have been more than clear about your opposition to eminent domain, corporate welfare, extraneous gov’t construction projects, etc. So what exactly is his point?

    Also, technically the “consistent, libertarian position” is to privatize all roads, which would admittedly be a pain in the butt but would reduce urban sprawl inherently.

    1. Word.

      We should start by selling the interstate system, getting rid of federal subsidies, taxation, and regulation of transportation, energy, and land use, and letting state and local governments take care of their own infrastructure. Most states are already about to completely implode.

  18. Also opposing present racism against white people is the same as supporting past racism against black people.

  19. This strikes me as the key fact that settles the issue.

    Before we blame zoning and whatnot for suburbs and low-density development, shouldn’t we look to see what happened in the absence of zoning?

    We should look at what happened in the absence of zoning and in the absence of mass highway construction.

    When we look at that we end up with the dramatic centralization and movement to the cities of the 2nd half of the 19th century.

    The economic considerations that drove that process didn’t disappear. They were still extant in the 40’s and still exist today.

    They were deliberately overridden by state action.

    What’s done is done, for the most part. It’s too late to fix it. We’ve been on one track for too long.

    And that’s fine.

    Just don’t pretend that it was “the market” that did it. It was the state.

    The fact that it might have represented many peoples’ preferences is irrelevant. John appears to find it highly relevant, but it’s not. If the state creates a good that the market would not have created and people buy it, that’s a market distortion and social engineering even if people really, really like that good.

    People like Medicare, too.

    1. “The economic considerations that drove that process didn’t disappear. ”

      yes they did. You may have missed it. But it was in all of the papers, it is called THE AUTOMOBILE. If the government hadn’t built those roads, the private sector would have.

      You can make a good argument that the government should have left it to the private sector to build the roads. But if you think the private sector wouldn’t have built those roads to meet the demand, you are living in a fantasy land.

      1. There are a lot of network effects in the automobile culture, John.

        The automobile is a powerful draw on human behavior – once there are road networks already built for it. But if you own the only car and there are few roads to drive it on, it’s not so strong a draw.

        No one except a daredevil or an enthusiast would have thought about driving from New York to LA in 1920.

        The urbanization of the US was already under way for a half century when cars came on the scene. Would privately-created road networks have been enough to counteract all that momentum? It’s an open question.

        Especially when the second half of your argument is, “People left cities because cities sucked so bad!” The same process that was driving people into cities was dramatically changing the conditions of life in those cities. There’s a reason science fiction writers of the 10’s and 20’s assumed the world of the future would have giant, flawless, ultra-sophisticated cities in it. That was an extrapolation from the observed changes in cities from 1860 to 1910.

        1. “The automobile is a powerful draw on human behavior – once there are road networks already built for it.”

          Then how did the roads ever get built? Did Henry Ford pay off the government? Of course not. The roads were built because the people demanded roads as a transportation system.

          And you act like there was never a reason for roads before the car. People got around in buggies and horses and electric street cars before the car. As someone pointed out above, they originally built the street car systems so rich people could get out of the cities and away from the rif raff.

          Here is the bottom line. People if given a choice generally will not live in some densely packed city. In the 19th Century rich people who could afford the time lived outside the city. The invention of the automobile made it possible for average people to live further out and have more space. Once that happened, they were going to do it. Sure, maybe they committed the original sin of using their democratic power to collect tax money to build roads the vast majority of people wanted. And for that you can hate them I guess. But stop pretending that suburbs arose for any other reason than people in general wanted things that way.

          1. “People if given a choice generally will not live in some densely packed city.”

            And I suppose New York City and Tokyo is not a desireable place to live for the millions of people who chose urban living? Why do you continually make these sweeping generalizations? Lots of people, myself included, love living in cities and would never want to live in the dull, cookie cutter suburbs.

            1. Sure you do. And you live there because you choose to. Good for you. It is a free country. But millions of other people live in suburbs. Why is it so hard to understand that they live there by choice as well and not because of some nefarious government plot?

        2. No one except a daredevil or an enthusiast would have thought about driving from New York to LA in 1920

          How DID they get to San Francisco in 1849? The railroads didn’t go there yet.

          They drove. OK, it was horse and buggy on dirt roads (called “trails” in the olden days). But the impetus to use one’s own means of transport instead of fully relying on someone else was still a highly motivating factor.

          Turns out, most people TODAY wouldn’t bother driving a car from NY to LA. AND THEY WOULDN’T TAKE A TRAIN EITHER.

    2. And also, people would have created their own zoning via neighborhood association and planned communities.

      Sorry Fluffy, but the country likes the way it is.

      1. people would have created their own zoning via neighborhood association and planned communities.

        And that would be fine.

        And plenty of people would still live outside of HOAs.

        1. Part of the problem now is that HOAs are mandated. In Louisville, you cant get approval for a new neighborhood without there being an HOA.

    3. We should look at what happened in the absence of zoning and in the absence of mass highway construction.

      Conveniently ignoring the mass railroad construction also subsidized by government.

    4. Sorry, Fluffy, but I think you are seriously underestimating the impact of the automobile.

      The auto was powerfully attractive before there was a modern road network. I think autos and modern roads are symbiotic, a positive feedback loop.

      I especially don’t think that you can look at the prevalence of urban density before a transportation revolution, and say that would be the natural result after the transportation revolution.

      1. Damn right.

  20. How about this idea? Why don’t we just let people live how they want and stopping trying to enforce our ideas of aesthetics and efficiency on them?

    Fine. Stop building or maintaining roads, and stop imposing your sense of aesthetics on me when I buy a piece of property and try to build a factory or high-rise next to your suburban house, and then we’ll see the outcome.

    1. Sure. We have that in Houston and we have a huge amount of sprawl. If I don’t want you building a high rise, I will just form a community association or buy an easement on your property.

      You want to kill zoning, you will not get an objection from me. It is your fantasy that the cities would look that much different after we do that I object to.

      1. See the roller coaster example I gave above. You tell me any city with zoning laws where that would happen.

        Houston looks much* different.

        *for some definition of much. That one thing is enough to define much for me.

        1. If anything Houston has more sprawl than most cities. The idea that suburbs exist because of some evil plot amongst city planners and developers rather than as a market response to demand is just fucking ludicrous.

          1. You can’t even keep track of what you’re saying in different sub-threads.

            Sure, maybe they committed the original sin of using their democratic power to collect tax money to build roads the vast majority of people wanted.

            That would mean it’s not a market response, dude.

            So that would mean that your claim that it is a market response would be ludicrous.

            The market is defined by what it cannot do just as much as by what it can do.

            1. People are like water. They take the easiest path. If Fluffy had been God dictator and swooped in and told them “thou shalt not use tax money to build roads”, would the roads not gotten built? Hell no. The private sector would have built them. They just did it with tax money because that was easier not because it was the only way.

              You are just being fallacious because you know your wrong. The government build huge amounts of public sector housing. Does that mean that the market wouldn’t have provided housing for the poor? No. It just means the government did something the market would have done any way. Roads are the same.

              What is your position? Is it your position, we wouldn’t have suburbs if not for government funded roads?

              1. Hell no. The private sector would have built them. They just did it with tax money because that was easier not because it was the only way.

                We can’t exactly run an experiment.

                But look at it this way:

                Suburbanization required considerable investment in transportation “on spec”. When the freeways were first built, they were largely empty, certainly by our standards today. (That was actually part of their attraction.)

                In the absence of direct government subsidies, very few railroads were built on that same kind of spec. Privately funded railroads with some notable exceptions tended to follow and not lead economic development.

                I think private sector road building would have been less systematic and more ad hoc, would have run into natural barriers to how far and how fast it could proceed without the tool of eminent domain at its disposal, and would have suffered from competition based not even on other transportation systems but based on urban improvements themselves.

                In the 19th century, people could have invested even more heavily in railroads and moved even more people into first-ring suburbs. That happened to a certain degree. But the more common market response to urban crowding was to expand up. Increasing land values and increasing crowding in cities often led not to suburbanization but to innovative land uses that allowed greater density. What response would have won out? That’s not just a preference question – because maybe “da people” really would have preferred to suburbanize. It’s also a question of what would have been a better use of capital.

                In 1920, would capital have preferred to build more skyscrapers or to build roads out to potato fields in the middle of nowhere?

                I don’t think we can know the answer to that question.

                1. I think we can answer that question in 1946. And the answer is clearly capital wanted to go out. The first suburbs were served by trains. It wasn’t until the 1960s that we had big interstates running through cities. And that was at the demand of the cities.

                  And once the burbs got built, there would have been a market for someone to build a big toll road from there to the center of town so that people could drive rather than take the train. I think the world would look about the same in the end. Just lower taxes and more toll roads.

                2. And further, you can answer that question for the 60s and 70s even easier. The social changes of the 1970s in the form of busing and crime made people willing to pay just about any premium to get out of the big cities. The roads would have been built.

                  1. There would have been a more diversified mix of transportation and land use, than what we have now. I think even road oriented low density suburbs would be more efficient. Roads are expensive to build and maintain, which is why governments often build but don’t adequately maintain them. The road entitlement is near failure in many areas because the true cost has been hidden for so long. These are not market forces.

          2. You might as well claim that since the voters want public schools, public schools are a “market response” to the demand for education.

            1. “You might as well claim that since the voters want public schools, public schools are a “market response” to the demand for education.”

              Sure they are but so what? That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be any schools if the government didn’t’ build them.

              Look, follow the argument. I am not saying the government shouldn’t have built roads. That is a different debate. I am saying, those roads would have been built by the private sector had the government not built them because there was a demand for them. Therefore, your claim that we have sprawl because of the government is bullshit.

          3. If anything Houston has more sprawl than most cities.

            No, it doesn’t. See above.

    2. You are soo full of shit with the factory strawman. No one is going to build a factory on expensive suburban land and you fucking know it.

  21. If zoning would allow me to run a business out of my house, I wouldn’t have to get in my car (or truck) and commute into the city.

    I don’t want to live in the city, with its dense population, much higher crime, high taxes, high housing costs, and crappy schools. The adjacent county is far better in all of those respects. But I drive into the city every day because that’s where most employment opportunities are.

    I am, however, working on changing that whole scenario, for myself, anyhow…

    1. Which is not to say that all zoning inherently is bad. I mean, who wants a hog slaughterhouse right next door, or even a gas station (or porn shop, or 7-11…)? But many small home-based businesses could (and often do) operate just fine out of houses in suburban neighborhoods with no problem or offense to neighbors.

      1. I mean, who wants a hog slaughterhouse right next door

        The “butchertown” neighborhood in Louisville is gentrifying. Some of the new residents are complaining about the smell, because, while it is nothing like early last century, there is still a large slaughterhouse in the neighborhood, and depending on wind direction….

        1. WSJ article from 2009

          Idiots. YOU BOUGHT A HOUSE/BUSINESS IN FUCKING BUTCHERTOWN. WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU THINK IT WAS GONNA SMELL LIKE?

          1. The common law accounts for that. Under the common law you can’t sue when you came to the nuisance. If we just went back to the common law, we would be a lot better off.

      2. I would kill to have a porn shop next door.

        1. This is what the zoning laws prevent. Stuff that doesn’t really cause any quantifiable harm but some people don’t like.

      3. You don’t need zoning to prevent a slaughterhouse from being built in a residential neighborhood.

        Ye olde common law had something to say about that. Google “nuisance”.

        It also had something to say about moving in next to a slaughterhouse and trying to shut it down. It was called “coming to a nuisance”, and would get you laughed out of court.

        I miss the common law. It was chock full of, well, common sense.

        1. Except that nuisance suits can only get the other guy to pay damages, and the smell will still stay there. In thoery, judges could rule damage payments so large that they put the offending businesses out of business, but that of course would be horrible for the economy. On the other hand, anything less wouldn’t really really do any justice, because some facilities, like rendering plants, can smell HORRIFIC, and that smell stays forveer, effectively wiping out the value of neighboring land.

          Furthermore, lawsuits are not a good form of regulation because you lose predictability, which an economy runs on. Few people will invest in buildings or businesses if they don’t know how they’ll be treated legally.

          It is unavoidable that some form of land use regulation is necessary, absent developers buying up huge swaths of barely populated land and working together to create CC&R to build entirely new cities (which I think should be done, perhaps with some government/private help – anybody got Kochtopus’ number?)

          Modern zoning can lead to shitty urban sprawl, of course. The best place to live in the world, Bergen County, NJ, where I live, is the epitome of the OPPOSITE of zoning because so much of it was built so long ago, which is what makes it so gorgeous and livable.

          1. IF the damages to your property are less than the money the guy is making by running the plant, we want him to run the plant and pay you.

          2. Except that nuisance suits can only get the other guy to pay damages, and the smell will still stay there.

            Not entirely true. If nuisance suits have been made and won before for certain types of behavior such as putting a slaughterhouse in a suburb (see below for way this is about the stupidest argument ever), it will PREVENT that behavior from happening because it will be a known cost that will factor into the decision making process regarding whether the slaughterhouse would be profitable.

            1. only if the judges codify very specifically where and when they’d consider it a nuisance

              but at that point they’re writing a zoning code anyway. Only it would be the judges themselves without the voters and the representatives. Not to mention that judges are not professionals in urban planning, whereas the zoning companies that write zoning codes are.

              You starting to get why we have that whole “legislation” thing?

              1. Bullshit. The uncertainty would have a chilling effect without codification and the precedent would establish harm their lawyers would warn them about.

              2. And it’s a stupid argument anyway because of economit realities that would preclude it.

      4. As others have already pointed out regarding moving to “butchertown” well, you fucking moved there, caveat emptor. Now if you are talking about an existing suburb and the prospect of someone building a slaughterhouse right next door, you are full of shit. No one is going to look at a shitload of expensive 1/8 or 1/4 acre properties on one hand and inexpensive rural property on another and think, “gee lets spend a shitload of money unnecessarily to put a slaughterhouse in an already developed suburb instead of on this cheap rural land where I only have to deal with one seller instead of 40 to get all the land I need without a bunch of whiny bitchy neighbors”

  22. Lee’s defense of subsidizing rail isn’t much of a defense. His point is well taken that government meddling created the conditions that encouraged people to move out to suburbs, create the urban sprawl that new urbanists despise, and generally created a very favorable environment for automobile traffic. If you want to call that social engineering, that’s fine by me.

    His point seems to be reduced to, “we meddled before and I don’t like how that turned out, so let’s meddle again and make it right.” This logic is ubiquitous among the people that want the government to “fix” whatever ails them at the moment.

    Regardless of what was done in the past, we presently live in a society where rail projects just aren’t going to suit our needs that well. I’m sure that isn’t the case in every single American city, but for most of us, it is. The solution I would propose is just getting rid of the zoning restrictions he takes issue with, not encouraging more government spending in ways that doesn’t make sense across the country.

  23. Lots of uses of the word “people” in this thread. The people want this, the people want that.

  24. Assuming the assertions regarding government engineering the use of cars (and it would be mostly wrong — demand for roadbuilding came from heightened car usage in the 1920s/1930s; federal road scheme like the interstate were a respinse to the autobahn in Germany and were tied to civil defense frameworks), those infrastructure elements exist and will continue to used. Arguing over it is like arguing over libertarian support or opposition of 19th century slavery: pointless..

    The main issue I have with government transportation scheme is their inevitable disconnection from the realities of demand. Light rail and high-speed rail can work in dense, relatively static population areas like Manhattan, but the change of demand — if new patterns of habitation or consumer centers changes, you have a transport system that is locked in patterns defined by rail. Altering the course of a train is expensive. A bus can be retasked as needed. This is a major problem with the current Edinburgh scheme in Scotland — the city council wants a tram on Prnces Street…and area serviced by several bus companies and conveniently so. The work will be long, damage businesses along the route by hampering access to them, and will cost huge sums. It is patently idiotic.

    In small geographic areas like Britain, trains can be economically sound and convenient (although once you’re off the beaten path between population centers — say Glasgow to Edinburgh) that convenience quickly disappears.) As another commenter pointed out, the scale of the United States, coupled with the vy migratory nature of settlement patterns in the country makes train travel expensive and unworkable once you are away from hubs of traffic (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles…)

    1. As another commenter pointed out, the scale of the United States, coupled with the vy migratory nature of settlement patterns in the country makes train travel expensive and unworkable once you are away from hubs of traffic (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles…)

      Well, um, yeah.

      That’s why I’m saying that in the absence of social engineering by the state, the economic incentives were mostly driving people from rural areas into hubs. And without a massive highway network built for commuters to counterbalance it, that would have gone right on happening.

      The main issue I have with government transportation scheme is their inevitable disconnection from the realities of demand.

      Right, but I see it as the opposite: state subsidies for road networks distort demand by allowing people to not bear the full costs of transportation to their own neck of the woods.

      The very inflexibility of capital-intensive transportation networks itself becomes a factor favoring centralization. It’s a self-reinforcing loop.

      1. That’s why I’m saying that in the absence of social engineering by the state, the economic incentives were mostly driving people from rural areas into hubs. And without a massive highway network built for commuters to counterbalance it, that would have gone right on happening.

        And you are living in a dream world. People were already moving out of the hubs as soon as the street car was invented. All the automobile did was make it economical for more people to move out. The people wanted to move out. That is why they voted more taxes and had the government build roads. And had the government not built the roads, private developers would have built the roads so people would have been able to use their new toys.

        Your mistake fluffy is you assume that no one would have ever wanted to drive a car and live out if the government hadn’t built them all these roads. That is just laughable. Cars are these great things that everyone loves. They got the government to build them roads. But they didn’t need to. They could have and would have built their own if they had had to.

        Indeed, isn’t the fact that people are willing to pay for roads the whole argument behind privatizing roads?

        1. But they wouldnt have built the exact same roads.

          1. The point being, there would have been a counterbalancing economic force. Some people would have stayed downtown, some would have moved to suburbs. The economic breakeven point would have been different without the government subsidy.

            The supply curve would have been shifted. Maybe dramatically.

            Would roads from suburbs to downtown have been built? Of course. As many? No. Significantly less? Probably.

            1. We can’t run the experiment. But it is very unlikely that they would have built so fewer roads that trains would be viable. And here is why. The social convulsions of the 1960s and 70s. Once busing hit and the crime rates went up, white people were getting out. And they would have gladly paid a toll road every day to do so. If you want to blame anything for sprawl, blame busing and the failures of the big cities to control crime in the 1970s.

              And oh by the way, trains are not free either. Once the burbs got built, big roads are generally cheaper.

              1. Trust me, I know busing. Far too well. And of course, in the libertopian alternate universe where roads didnt get subsdized, busing wouldnt have happened either.

                It may have been different elsewhere, but in Louisville, busing was county-wide (the city and county school systems were forced to merge, in fact) so to avoid it you had to move outside the county. While many of those people commuted, a lot worked in their new counties instead. Which may have meant they were driving LESS, as an odd twist (probably not true at first, but by the 80s).

        2. Your mistake fluffy is you assume that no one would have ever wanted to drive a car and live out if the government hadn’t built them all these roads. That is just laughable.

          I’m assuming that it would not have been economical for our current road network to have been built in the exact form it has now without using tax dollars.

          You can “want” something all you want. I “want” to only spend $20 and get to go to the International Space Station. The market is not satisfying this want for me, and without massive state intervention and tax dollar expenditure it probably never will. Or it will do so on quite an extended timeline.

          So, sure, I bet a lot of New Yorkers might have said to themselves, “Wow, I wish someone would build a highway from here to Massapequa so I could go out and live there and drive back here to work every day!” The question is whether the market would have met that demand. Starting from scratch, with no road, no commuters, etc.

          After Robert Moses built highways to nowhere, sure – a lot of people can look at that fallow resource and say, “Holy shit, look at the opportunity! Let’s build houses out there and supermarkets and blah blah blah blah!” The question is whether someone would have looked at Long Island and said, “Hey, let’s build an empty road and hope we make money later when people decide to move out here and use it!”

          Granted, the market often shows that kind of foresight and patience. So maybe it would have in this case. I still don’t think we can be sure.

          1. “So, sure, I bet a lot of New Yorkers might have said to themselves, “Wow, I wish someone would build a highway from here to Massapequa so I could go out and live there and drive back here to work every day!”

            Those people were willing to pay higher taxes for that road, why not a toll? It is not like roads cost that much. Every toll road ever built has paid for itself any number of times. Someone would have built the New York Thruway and made a bundle off of it. And oh, highways tend to explode the value of the property around them. So they wouldn’t have needed eminent domain. Property owners would have been lining up to get the big new toll road to run through their property.

            Think about it, you are telling me that in 1946, if I came to you with the idea of spending a few million building a road to White Plains and then buying up the property around it and later selling it at a profit to developers, it wouldn’t’ have been a good idea?

            1. Every toll road ever built has paid for itself any number of times.

              No, they lose even more money than public transit systems. The maintenance is astronomical.

              1. Not true

                In the vast majority of cases, toll roads – whether public-sector or public-private partnerships – are self-supporting. And their only revenue comes from people who choose to drive on them, because the time savings and other attributes of the toll road are worth more to them than the price of the toll.

                Bottom line: toll roads, both old ones like the Pennsylvania Turnpike and newer ones in places like Texas and Virginia, are paid for by tolls, not taxes. And those tolls are paid voluntarily (unlike taxes) by those who drive on the roads. Use them and pay the toll. Don’t use them, and you don’t pay.

                http://reason.org/blog/show/to…..g-subsidiz

            2. Because they could impose the cost on the New Yorkers that didn’t move. The New York MSA has 19 million people, while NYC proper has 8 million. So at the very least, they’re forcing 40% of the people to pay for something they don’t want.

              Also, the cost isn’t just building the road, but all of the eminent domain that had to go on to get the land to build the highways. Look how hard it is to build a basketball arena in New York City, think it’s easy or cheap to get a parcel of land that wide, connected and in a straight line to get through Queens, the Bronx or Brooklyn?

              1. So Mo, those New Yorkers would never have any desire to leave the city? They never want to go upstate? Never use those roads and wouldn’t have paid a toll to do so? I don’t think so.

                Second, the value of land around highways is higher. You don’t need ED. The only thing ED did was allow the government to fuck people.

                And you may not realize this, but people do have to travel some way. If you didn’t build roads, you would have to build trains and they take track and that requires land just like a highway. If the private sector couldn’t have built roads, what makes you think they could have built trains? The answer is they would have built both if that is what people wanted.

  25. Two wrongs don’t make a right! Get the government out of it all. Let the market decide whether we want to drive in our cars, ride trains, or innovate the teleportation machine.

  26. The cities are so crowded nobody lives there anymore.

  27. FINALLY: a logically-consistent libertarian! This touches on another point that’s always bugged me: too often libertarians criticize “Big Government”, but forget to criticize “Big Business”, which with the financialization and securitization of EVERYTHING has become as bloated (if not more bloated) than government (as the 2008 Financial Crisis illustrated). We need to realize that the market liberalization that we’ve been sold by the elites of the “Washington consensus” over the last 30 years does not produce truly “free” markets.

    1. Don’t come ’round these parts much, I see…

  28. But I think it’s a mistake to focus so heavily on the government’s relatively modest efforts to get people out of their cars while ignoring the older, bigger, and more systematic efforts to push people into their cars.

    This is a red herring that deliberately ignores the effects of current government bloat, economic realities, and land use/residential patterns.

    The base argument the rail supporters are using is that development would have the effect of 1) boosting jobs while 2) providing an alternative to sitting in traffic.

    The problem is that, like any public transportation project, unless the train runs along a mixed-use residential/commercial/industrial corridor, where the users are by necessity confined to living, working, and consuming in that corridor (like say, Manhattan)the broader long-term benefits are essentially nil, with the train system eventually costing more to run than its passenger totals will support.

    A bus system is theoretically more flexible because routes can be altered to accomodate changing passenger use patterns–but even then, unless the bus drops you off relatively close to where you want to go, there’s little point in using it.

    The rail advocates are trying to recreate an early-20th century transportation system in an early 21st-century world, while blithely dismissing the current bureaucratic bloat and resource/labor cost issues (which cannot be ignored as they are the ultimate drivers of the development) as less important than their good intentions.

  29. Doesn’t sound like a anything that much higher gas prices/taxes can’t solve.

    1. You and your crazy, market-oriented solutions. CRAZY, I say!

  30. To each his own, but I for one will never understand the appeal of the suburbs.

    It shouldn’t be as difficult as it apparently is to understand the point. Government policy dictates what kind of transportation we have, and hence how dense our communities are. A laissez-faire system would produce some result. It would probably be an unappealing patchwork that wouldn’t work for a modern economy, but that’s OK. You don’t have to twist yourself in knots defending a certain lifestyle. Suburban sprawl is no more libertarian in origin than urban organization. Maybe it’s best for you guys just to accept that the world is not remade anew with each generation, and that you can’t get away from making policy built on existing society, and forget about trying to make a utopia in which you finally get invited to an orgy. Just go to the gym for christ’s sake.

    1. To each his own, but I for one will never understand the appeal of the suburbs.

      Have children and you’ll get it soon enough.

      1. To each his own, but I for one will never understand the appeal of children.

        1. there’s that liberal self-centeredness coming out. Of course you don’t want kids Tony, that would involve you loving and taking care of something other than yourself

          sorry, that was a bit harsh, but I just can’t get the hard-line liberal mentality.

          1. I prefer to love and take care of people from a distance, it’s true.

            But if you won’t impugn my moral rectitude for choosing not to have offspring then I won’t criticize people’s selfish lack of concern for the environment or the blind following of a genetic imperative as a moral failure either.

            1. it ever occur to you that people just genuinely DON’T BELIEVE the enviro hype about global warming and other things?

              I don’t hate the environment Tony, I just know that there is not enough evidence to be so sure of AGW, and a lot of other stuff, like worrying about running out of landfill space, is bunk

              Like I’ve said before, a lot of this comes from experience, doing actual work. I’ve used pesticides and herbicides, gotten them on my skin, ain’t shit happens. Our land improvement guy had a hydraulic oil leak, I cleaned it with kitty litter like you’re supposed to, and kept it in a container behind our trailer. This was a year ago. The top cracked and the rain collected in it and now a cattail is grwoing out of it. How bad for the environemt could it be if a cattail is growing out of oil-saturated dirt? The way enviros talk, I should be deathly afraid of that shit and I’d already be mutated by now. But all that’s happened is plants are growing out of this pollutant.

              If you ever did real primary/secondary sector type work, actually producing something or running a business, you’d be amazed how much it’ll change your assumptions.

              1. Assumptions and beliefs are worth shit if they contradict data. You personally could win the lottery tomorrow, but that doesn’t make winning the lottery any more likely.

                1. yeah, you’re right, and there’s very little data to show conclusively the man is warming the planet or that using pesticides is dangerous when used appropriately or low exposure over a long time is bad to you, or any other enviro bullshit

                  1. At this point not believing that the data suggests that humans are warming the planet is willful ignorance.

                    1. suggests, doesn’t prove

                      and there are many problems with the data in the first place

                      it’s really quite loose

                      being absolutely sure is blind faith, and ignoring climategate is willfull ignorance

                    2. Who said anything about absolute certainty? But when 98-99% of scientists say something, only a fool pretends there is some controversy.

                    3. asking us to spend billions upon billions of dollars would imply great certainty

                      and there isn’t actually that much consensus, anybody can play with statistics

                      and since when was consensus so great? The most consistent element of science is that consensus has repeatedly turned out to be wrong.
                      But again, there really isn’t that much consensus

                    4. We already spend billions upon billions of dollars to maintain the fossil fuel status quo, so it’s really just a question of priorities. Let’s not get into the too-familiar libertarian habit of defending the status quo as freer than all alternatives (as is going on with respect to the subject of this thread).

                      On the evidence side, you’re just gonna have to do a little reading. If 98% isn’t a consensus then there is no such thing. Besides, to reject GW you’d have to explain why the laws of physics don’t apply AND concoct an elaborate global conspiracy of scientists; you have more work on your hands than I do.

                    5. no we don’t spend that much maintaining the fossil fuel status quo. Any subsidies ending could easily be covered by the revenues power companies make.

                      And it’s certainly no comparison to the costs, both in government spending and deliberate restriction of our economic output, that the enviros ask of us.

                    6. and I’m not saying 98% isn’t a consesnus, I’m saying it isn’t 98%. That’s fucking bullshit. They keep spitting out studies with highly selected populations.

                      and I don’t need a global conspiracy to explain people’s idiotic tendencies to parrot off other people.

                      and bullshit on the laws of physics, what the fuck are you talking about?
                      Meteorology and climate science is extremely complex and far from well withing our grasp. Like most other things, we just don’t know that much about the natural world in that subject.

                    7. We are fairly well versed on the laws of physics, and if pumping billions upon billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere doesn’t in fact trap heat, you need to explain why.

                    8. On the evidence side, you’re just gonna have to do a little reading. If 98% isn’t a consensus then there is no such thing. Besides, to reject GW you’d have to explain why the laws of physics don’t apply AND concoct an elaborate global conspiracy of scientists; you have more work on your hands than I do.

                      I should preface my reply to this with the obvious: I believe in AGW. Think we should take steps to avoid it.
                      Having said that, I don’t think you’re being fair here. You don’t have to have an elaborate global conspiracy to explain why lots of people are wrong about something (if they, in fact, are). “Phlogiston” was once the dominant “explanation” for fire – and phlogiston is quite clearly a word without a referent. People are wrong. A lot. Just siding with the majority has, throughout history, proven to be a bad discriminator between truth and falsehood. And the whole point of science is to look for good discriminators. Argue the evidence, not the consensus.

            2. the blind following of a genetic imperative

              What makes you think not having children is not a genetic imperative?

              I mean you are gay right? and i assume you think, just as i do, that you are gay not out of choice but because you were born gay….if natural selection can create your sexuality why could it not create the desire not to have children?

              1. It’s a fairly common misunderstanding of evolutionary theory to think that people have some natural instinct to have kids. It doesn’t look like such a thing could possibly have evolved: if you have an instinctive terminal value, you have to think about how best to fulfil it, and such causal reasoning is a very recent thing in evolutionary terms. People are adapted to want to have sex, and when they have children they’re adapted to want to take care of them, but there’s no adaptation to make them desire to want to have children – such an adaptation would provide no advantage except after the invention of the contraceptive. So in fact those who want kids are really following a cultural imperative, not a genetic one. This is all just a long way of saying you’re right – it’s perfectly congruent with natural selection for people not to want children.

          2. Edwin|8.30.11 @ 2:18PM|#

            there’s that liberal self-centeredness coming out. Of course you don’t want kids Tony, that would involve you loving and taking care of something other than yourself

            sorry, that was a bit harsh, but I just can’t get the hard-line liberal mentality.

            No problem then…the “liberal problem” will solve itself in a generation.

            Christ what an idiotic sentiment.

            1. No problem then…the “liberal problem” will solve itself in a generation.

              This is actually true whether we want it or not.

              The people choosing to have kids will produce kids who want to have kids….the people not wanting kids won’t.

              Natural selection is a bitch that cannot be denied.

              Of course I have no idea if the desire to have kids is conservative or liberal.

              Christ what an idiotic sentiment.

              I love it when left wingers who claim that evolution is absolute truth (which it is) but when it actually has real world effects they completely fail at the science of it.

              There has been a fundamental shift in human reproduction….people are no longer tethered to “Sex = babies” for the first time in history. To think that a complete rewriting of human sexuality will not have evolutionary effects is pure idiocy.

              1. Well, let’s remember that political belief isn’t actually written into DNA. Grown adults often disagree with their parents over politics. And while conservatives having more children (and I would think they almost certainly are) might introduce a slight bias over time, the sweep of history seems to be in a liberal direction. It’s quite possible that there are certain kinds of selection pressures that act on ideas – but ideas aren’t exclusively inherited from genetic parents.

            2. josh,

              Having a hard time following your tangential comment here. Are you saying you agree with Edwin’s idiocy? The desire to have kids isn’t liberal or conservative(nor, btw, is “self-centeredness”).

              I love it when left wingers who claim that evolution is absolute truth (which it is) but when it actually has real world effects they completely fail at the science of it.

              Is that aimed at my sarcastic first sentence? Surely not.

              There has been a fundamental shift in human reproduction….people are no longer tethered to “Sex = babies” for the first time in history. To think that a complete rewriting of human sexuality will not have evolutionary effects is pure idiocy.

              Okay. Who is claiming otherwise?

              Hidalgo –
              I think you took my comment too seriously. But, of course, political ideas aren’t genetic. I mean the Reagan youth were the children of hippies for the most part…no?

              1. I tend to do that. I don’t have much of a sense of humour.

        2. To each his own, but I for one will never understand the appeal of children.

          Have children and you’ll get it soon enough.

  31. I wonder if this will become a factor in the arguments?

    http://www.foxbusiness.com/on-…..ing-cars-0

  32. Government policy dictates what kind of transportation we have, and hence how dense our communities are.

    Technology and the economy have something to do with what kind of transportation we have, you know.

    A laissez-faire system would produce some result. It would probably be an unappealing patchwork that wouldn’t work for a modern economy,

    Because the modern economy couldn’t possibly have any laissez-faire underpinnings.

    The Statist Fallacy permeates everything, doesn’t it?

    1. When a modern economy that originates in laissez-faire principles emerges, we’ll take a look at it.

      1. And when a freedom-friendly command-and-control economy comes along, we’ll be sippin’ ice water in hell.

  33. The mistake that people are making is that they are assuming that the roads are somehow better and more desirable than they otherwise would have been because the government paid for them. I say bullshit. Everything else the government provides when compared to the private sector, why are roads any different?

    The people who got the interstate highway system may have been rent seekers, but they were fools. They got ripped off. Instead of the great road system the private sector would have provided, they got the expensive inefficient politically driven one the government gave them.

    If the interstate highway system had never been built, the private sector would have created a much better system. But it wouldn’t have been trains, it would have been roads. Instead of a one size fits all four lane system with roads to everywhere, they would have built to places that needed it and built to capacity that was demanded. So the road to small places may have been two lanes instead of four, but I 95 would be about 20 lanes wide by now. Trucking companies would have built their own roads. Subdivision developers would have built special roads out to their new suburbs. And theose roads would have been cheap since it was the private sector doing it avoiding the usual government graft. One can only imagine how amazing our road system would be if the government had butted out of it and let the private sector do it. But one thing is for sure, it would be a bunch of trains and high density living in most places. It would be roads and the car because that is what the market demanded and what it would have supplied better than anything as it always does.

    It amazes me how people let their cultural biases influence these things. In any other context Libertarians totally see and understand the amazing ability of the private sector to provide what people want. Mention trains and suburbs and all of that faith goes out the window and a zombie Episiarch stumbles out of his hole yelling “Roads, kulture war, trains” and the rest of you clowns follow.

    By all means, lets stop funding roads and trains and other bullshit. And lets go back to the old common law for property. Let people form their own subdivisions and grant covenants to each other that act like zoning laws.

    But when we do that, understand that the market is going to do what it always does and give people what they want in ways no one person could ever dream of. And that ain’t going to be hip urban communities. It is going to be the burbs in most cases.

    1. How on earth do you build a straight highway over 1000 miles without eminent domain power?

      Isn’t that the relevant measure of efficiency? That they are straight?

      It wouldn’t work, and I’m confident in that claim, because it never has. Which means you don’t have any evidence, which means you’re talking out your ass.

      1. “How on earth do you build a straight highway over 1000 miles without eminent domain power?”

        You buy it. And value of property goes up when a highway goes by. Their will be plenty of people willing to sell. And government built highways don’t go straight either. They curve mostly because they were built to go by the property of the politically connected.

    2. It amazes me how people let their cultural biases influence these things. In any other context Libertarians totally see and understand the amazing ability of the private sector to provide what people want. Mention trains and suburbs and all of that faith goes out the window and a zombie Episiarch stumbles out of his hole yelling “Roads, kulture war, trains” and the rest of you clowns follow.

      Wait, you think Episiarch, Fluffy and the other regulars are advocating and arguing in favor of government trains?

  34. Great piece. I have always said the reason we are “hooked” on cars and oil is because the government built such a huge highway/freeway system in the first place. If transportation systems were to have evolved naturally through the free market who knows what interesting concepts would have been developed. Perhaps more rail systems, or underground systems, or hovercraft, or….

    1. Or perhaps they would have just built really kick ass roads to the suburbs so people could drive the cars they love so much.

      To believe the private sector would not have done that is to believe that people only love cars because the government built roads. And that is just not true.

      1. Government also subsidized home ownership over renting, which contributed to less dense residential areas and more car travel.

        You are free to love your car but you are lying to yourself if you think government policy didn’t have a huge role to play in the prevalence of cars in US culture.

        I for one think mass transit represents more freedom. Freedom from death by auto accident, freedom from the stress of traffic and driving (you can actually get work done on a metro!), freedom from auto repair costs, and from having to buy a new multithousand-dollar machine every few years. But whatever floats your boat. There is no such thing as a mode of transportation or a transportation infrastructure that isn’t influenced by public policy. Some of us just aren’t bothered by that fact of life.

        1. “Government also subsidized home ownership over renting, which contributed to less dense residential areas and more car travel.”

          That just means people would have rented the houses rather than bought them. They wanted the houses and would have gotten them either via rent or buying. Nothing says renters must always live in an apartment.

          “I for one think mass transit represents more freedom.”

          Good for you. Most other people disagree and would like their cars.

          1. No it means more people would have chosen to rent where there are more rental properties, in urban areas.

            People might change their minds about cars if they had to pay for their full cost, including their cost to the environment. Everything sounds great when you get it subsidized by someone else.

            1. “No it means more people would have chosen to rent where there are more rental properties, in urban areas.”

              No Tony. It means people would have built rental properties in areas where the people would have lived. You don’t understand. The consumer drives the market. If people had been unable to buy their houses, the subdivisions would have still been built. The companies that built them would have just rented the houses and made a fortune rather than selling them.

              And tons of people rent in the suburbs.

              1. In other words, your preferred lifestyle is obviously God’s chosen lifestyle for red blooded Americans, and decades of government subsidies that encouraged that lifestyle only confirm that.

                1. No Tony. It just means that the market provides people with what they want.

                  1. How do you know what people want when the demand picture is so completely distorted by government subsidy?

                    1. Because so many people pay such a huge premium in time and energy to live in the suburbs.

                    2. How do you know what people want when the demand picture is so completely distorted by government subsidy?

                      @Tony: That’s a great question. You’re sounding a bit libertarian though, better be careful.

                      @John: I do think you’re letting your personal preferences get in the way of realizing that we really don’t know what transportation choices people would’ve made without government subsidies and distortions. Really, it’s happened all over the place, and I’m sure society would be a lot different if the market really had been allowed to decide.

                      Of course, we have to also realize that zoning and rent controls distorted things a lot too. I think it’s quite possible that we could be living in really tall superurban areas with lots of multi-tiered gardens and parks, if we had unrestricted building allowances.

                      Hell, if I had a choice, I’d have much rather take a fifteen minute walk, climate controlled of course, to my job instead of a 45-60 minute drive across the entire city. But that choice, in those terms and that context, doesn’t exist.

                      We have to realize that the distortions are huge, ubiquitous, and in a way, invisible.

                    3. “I think it’s quite possible that we could be living in really tall superurban areas with lots of multi-tiered gardens and parks, if we had unrestricted building allowances.”

                      I don’t see any evidence of that. Time and time again cities spend billions subsidizing high density communities only to see those communities fill up with young people who move on to the suburbs once they have kids.

                      And what makes you think I like the burbs? I have never said what my preferences are. I am just observing what people seem to want. And that is the suburbs. I tend to give people in general the benefit of the doubt. Mass migrations of people don’t happen because of some half assed government plot. They happen in a free society because that is what people want to do.

                    4. I am just observing what people seem to want.

                      Again, we can’t be sure of what their choices would’ve been without zoning laws and freeway construction based on eminent domain. All I’m saying is, the whole transportation market is a distorted mess, and we’re really removed from what an actual free market would’ve created. If only we had private roadzzzz.

                    5. We will never know for sure. But I have a hard time believing American love affair with the car was somehow artificially created.

                      Beyond that, Lee’s point is ridiculous. Even if we do subsidize roads too much, that is no reason to try and make up for it by subsidizing train boondoggles.

                    6. Well of course, the best thing would be to have never subsidized either. Still, there is a crucial difference between driving for pleasure or vacations, and grinding away every damn day to get to work.

                      Although I don’t know that Lee is necessarily making a case for rail subsidies, is he? It seems like he’s mostly wondering why they get so much attention. But on that note, I don’t think it’s too difficult to grasp. It’s because rail is the flavor of the month (or decade, reall) for the idiotic “smart growth” enthusiasts.

                    7. Joe M you don’t have to be a libertarian to understand supply and demand. It’s just that I don’t have a problem with government being the agent of demand for selected purposes. On cars and home ownership I think it got it wrong.

                    8. In that case, I’ll have to call you out for declaring to John:

                      In other words, your preferred lifestyle is obviously God’s chosen lifestyle for red blooded Americans…

                      Can’t have it both ways.

                    9. I think there are many, many virtues of urban density compared to suburban density. Basically, it uses much less energy per capita. That’s not to say I think that all people naturally want to live in cities. I do think that people tend to “want” what is economically rational for them in a given environment.

                    10. why focus on the environmental aspect? There’s just not much of a reason to live in a house far away from downtown and public transportation. Way more work to maintain and much more time to drive. One oft-cited reason to live in the suburbs is the school systems, but said areas have plenty of apartments and condos and multifamily houses near downtown (I don’t know about other places, but here in Jersey that’s the case).

                      Only real reason to live in a house is if you have dogs and/or really like gardening. But even then, there are plenty of dog parks to give your dog recreation near downtown areas (again, at least that’s so here in Jersey)

                    11. I will give another reason Edwin, you can’t afford the real estate closer. The inner burbs are really expensive. people live out because that is where they can afford a yard and such.

                    12. there’s plenty of 1 bedroom and studio’s in downtown suburban areas, the rent doesn’t vary THAT much,

                      ditto condo prices, though that varies a bit more

                    13. yards and such are overrated. It’s just a shitload to maintain. Unless you grill like twice a week, or have a dog and actively play with him on the yard, you’re paying a shitload for something you don’t actually use that often.
                      And pools are similar. I don’t get why people spend so much money on a pool. There’s no point to a PERSONAL pool – everything that you could do that’s fun in a pool you need a good number of people to do. Better to buy a house in a subdivision that already has a pool, then when you take your kids, they can play with the noodles with the other kids in the neighborhood.

                      Too many things are way overvalued, and people often put too high a value on them because they think OTHER PEOPLE value them so much.

                      It’s how you end up with subdivision with shitloads of cul-de-sacs and 7 houses squished onto one cul de sac. As long as the developer can stamp “cul-de-sac” on the listing, the moronic public eats it up, because they assume so much about and focus on what other people want.

                      This is all part of what contributed to the housing bubble

                    14. “Too many things are way overvalued, and people often put too high a value on them because they think OTHER PEOPLE value them so much.”

                      Says you. Freedom sucks that way sometimes. Who are you or me to say that people over value things?

                    15. I dunno, genius, maybe there was just a huge housing market crash or something?

                    16. Energy cost per person feeds into many of the other virtues. One of my favorites is that people are less fat in cities because they have to walk a little more.

                      If there was ever evidence that depending on personal responsibility over public policy was a fool’s errand it’s that people in suburbs get fat because they don’t walk anywhere as a part of their daily lives.

                    17. How do you know what people want when the demand picture is so completely distorted by government subsidy?

                      Cuz before there were cars everyone lived in the county.

        2. well, it’s just basically freedom from needing to drive, which is annoying. I don’t understand the appeal of having to drive 15 minutes just to do even the most minimal of shopping.

          It’s also freedom from the need to find a parking spot and pay for parking

          1. Sure. And if you like that good for you. But a lot of people don’t and would rather die than live in the middle of a city. To each his own.

  35. So he is against government provided roads? Awesome. Another ancap for the club.

    But really it sounds more like he is saying that transportation goods/services that he doesn’t like are “subsidies” and transportation goods/services he does like are good, honest, common sense government at work. Which I’m probably guilty of too, but thats one of the reasons I want the government to do as little as possible. As soon as government is involved it becomes a de facto political/cultural decision.

    I mean how many times do we have to deal with “ROADS! SOMALIA!”. Except now if we stop being contrarian ancaps on that subject we are instantly converted to rent seeking whores unless we profess the superiority of the Manhattan model. Fuck that.

    1. Exactly. I don’t understand why people can’t understand the simple fact that most people don’t want to live in a crowded city if they can avoid it.

      1. I don’t understand why you can stand having to drive 20 minutes for even the smallest errand.

        1. I prefer living in cities and not owning a car, but honestly, when I lived further out I’d pick up most things on the way back from work. And I enjoyed driving. To each his own.

  36. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe where roads have been banned.

    Urban planner: these personal hovercrafts are ruining our cities!

  37. Lee’s definitely correct in his assessment of history. The federal government destroyed the railroads and promoted automobiles for most of the 20th century. Now, they’re swung back in the other direction, with the intention of destroying automobiles and promoting rail. It’s disgusting.

    However, I’m sure if this were fifty years ago, Welch & Gillespie would’ve argued against imminent domain abuse to build freeways back then, so it’s not fair to act as if they’re explicitly pro-car and anti-rail. They’re merely dealing with the current problem.

    1. The feds didn’t destroy the railroads. First, the railroads were the beneficiaries of huge subsidies. Second, the railroads, much like the modern American automobile industry were the victims of unionism an arrogance as much as anything.

      1. Well, see, the cycle goes back even farther then. They subsidized, demonized, and are now subsidizing again. But come on, there was a ton of anti-“robber baron” zeitgeist, trust-busting, etc.

      2. The feds did a lot against the railroads. The huge subsidies had a lot to do with their later undoing. Too many railroads were built to too many places. The ICC then prevented them from shedding excess mileage. The railroads were required to keep a lot of unprofitable services at the expense of streamlining profitable ones. There was also top-down, often arbitrary planning of rates, mergers, and labor issues by the ICC and the subsidization of highway and air competition. The federally mandated speed limits for trains also absolutely killed schedules. The railroads could have done well enough without the feds from the beginning.

        1. Very true. And so would have highways.

        2. That sounds a bit like Atlas Shrugged.

        3. The feds did a lot against the railroads.

          If you mean used eminent domain to create rail roads, gave out huge subsidies to rail roads, gave out loans to rail road projects and gave rail roads special property rights…

          then yes you are correct.

  38. I’m suprised there has been no mention of the fact that GM had a hand in getting rid of a lot of the public transportiaion systems.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G…..ar_scandal

    The other big problem is that the modern American lifestyle is largly built on a finite and diminishing resource (oil) that is going to get much more expensive.

    I think it’s going to be a rough transition as we get to something more sustainable.

    On a side note, I would love it if there were more mixed zoning etc, and I could walk to work.

  39. First of all, government support of rail is not modest.

    Second, what he’s proposing is the correction of an imbalance via another imbalance. That’s never a good idea. The most effective solution to correct an imbalance in a complicated system like “where people live and how they get from place to place” is to remove all artificial inputs to the system.

    You can see the negative effects of this in the aftereffects of affirmative action & the Indian reservation system.

  40. We need to fight both kinds of socialism and so Timothy B. Lee instead of fighting the two socialisms decides to fight Nick and Matt because they actually fought one of them.

    What a fucking dipshit.

  41. I think people on this forum need to take it easy. If you read the article Tim states that he enjoyed the book and just had a critique about the last third and wondered why rail transit had gotten so much attention.

    1. though I’m curious to read reaction in the comments.

      First off welcome to the internet and second Matt practically begged us to freak the fuck out.

  42. “if pumping billions upon billions of tons of heat-trapping gases”

    Sold your car yet, Tony? Biking every day, are you?

  43. The consistent, libertarian propertarian position is to not oppose both styles of social engineering: genocide of the first families, and the big-government entitlement program of privation property rights.

  44. I just want to live near and be surrounded by sexy young women who like to drink and get naked–that’s all.

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