December 29, 2003

Fuel Economy

John Irons points to a new Congressional Budget Office study saying that auto fuel-economy standards are a much worse policy than a gasoline tax.

Posted by DeLong at December 29, 2003 05:21 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Economics trumps administration. What else is new?

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on December 29, 2003 06:14 AM

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This is why every time I hear the word "bipartisan" I run from the room screaming.

Posted by: Chris on December 29, 2003 06:37 AM

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I only saw the first page of CBO report and my impression was CBO did not make recommendations, stopped at studying issues and alternatives.

What about standards AND taxes to encourage public transport and non-fossil fuels?

Beyond economics, it is a matter of getting civilized, you know. And America has the resources the pull it off.

You see, John Irons also points to this CS story on new Sicilion Walleys sprouting up all around the world. Which tells you futility of trying to prevent outsourcing to India. But America must somehow find a way to respond to that and other crucial economic developments.

A new transport revolution, a new way of living with less transport and even less private transport and even less and less fossil fuel consumption in transport could be part of that response. Combined with satellite based traffic control and safety systems.

Dubya team is sure not into that kind of thing ,except "talking about" going back to the moon. In terms of action, they'd obviously rather start a war with some little crippled country and go bang bang with defense spending.

What about Howard Dean? Is he developing America's response to changes in structure of economies in US and elsewhere?

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 29, 2003 06:57 AM

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Bulent Sayin,

As much as I'd love it, I cannot remotely imagine any way to make substantial gains in usage of public transportation. Certainly in already-dense areas, yes, but in general, people live in the suburbs and commute to nonurban cores.

You'd have to put streetcars *everywhere* to make it work. If you come up with a noiseless system, proper gas taxes and 1 trillion dollars to construct it, then maybe we can have this.

In the meantime, I think we should just focus on better planning to lessen commutes and any reasonably green legislative efforts at reducing pollution from private cars, which are here to stay.

Posted by: hip E. mann on December 29, 2003 10:03 AM

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"If you come up with a noiseless system, proper gas taxes and 1 trillion dollars to construct it, then maybe we can have this. "


That's precisely the kind of scale I had in mind when I said "America's response".

What's the tab on tax cuts?

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 29, 2003 10:14 AM

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Tax 'em not as revenue taxes, but as externality taxes, and we'll be okay.

Posted by: praktike on December 29, 2003 10:27 AM

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Important article - important series -

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/29/international/asia/29CHIN.html

When Chinese Workers Unite, the Bosses Often Run the Union
By JOSEPH KAHN

SHENZHEN, China — The hall had all the trappings of a solemn political ceremony in Communist China, a dais with officials and executives in the seats of honor, ballot collectors and ballot counters, and a big red banner that announced a "democratic union election."

Liao Yuanxin, the local chief of the government's All-China Federation of Trade Unions, listed candidates to represent workers of Neil Pryde, a foreign-run sportswear factory. For union committee member: two workers and two company managers. For vice chairman: the human resources director. For chairman: Huang Hongguang, a top factory boss.

Left off the dais, and off the list, was Liu Youlin, a dogged 29-year-old clothing cutter who had campaigned, petitioned and agitated until officials agreed to set up the union. But according to his account and those of other workers present, he made himself heard.

"I object to the factory manager being named head of the union," Mr. Liu shouted from the floor, interrupting Mr. Liao's address. "A boss cannot represent workers."

When the vote proceeded anyway, fellow workers protested by denying the requisite 50 percent majority to all but the two worker candidates, rendering the new union leaderless — and effectively stillborn.

Mr. Liu's struggle to unionize workers at Neil Pryde, a leading maker of sailing and windsurfing gear sold globally under its own name and for brands like Quiksilver and Billabong, is emblematic of the battle workers are waging to earn basic rights in China's fast-growing export industries.

China's socialist laws theoretically protect workers even as the country embraces capitalist ways. But the police crush efforts to set up independent unions as threats to the Communist Party. Many workers say the sole legal state-run union is a charade, a feckless bureaucracy that has only the pretense of representing the proletariat.

"Local authorities sacrifice workers for investors," said Mr. Liu, a migrant who has worked at the Neil Pryde factory for seven years. "They do not respect or enforce the laws." ...

Posted by: anne on December 29, 2003 10:28 AM

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All that labor relaitons commotion in China reminds me of guess which country at the beggining of 20th century?

The problem is, though, there are still people in that country who would like to go back to start of the previous century and have labor practices in Silicon Walley resembling those in China today!

I wonder if this could be the real reasons why US admnistrations have been soft on China concerning human rights?

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 29, 2003 10:51 AM

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What America needs: Big increase in gasoline taxes. Compensating decrease in payroll taxes.

Next question please.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on December 29, 2003 01:11 PM

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Interesting -- one assumption is that any improvement in fuel economy is eaten up by a desire for a larger car. Doesn't that hit an upper limit at some point, though? That is, isn't there some point at which consumers would just buy the same size car, but enjoy a bit of fuel economy?

Posted by: Kimmitt on December 29, 2003 01:33 PM

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Why can't the Americans stop attaching so much importance to their cars?

Here is something I have recently scribbled -- December 11:

I was standing on a street corner this evening (don't ask why) and a car stopped in front of me, waiting to make a right turn. I first notice that it is a twenty or thirty year old, beat up car of very common make -- beat up but in process of repair, apparently. Then I notice this woman at the wheel, very ordinary looking woman, I mean she is pleasant, pretty, in fact, but certainly not the kind that makes heads turn. She is the type that you normally hardly even notice if you don't know her. All of a sudden, though, she sitting at the wheel of that old beat-up car, she looks unusually attractive to me, even though I can hardly see the details of her face, because it is pretty dark, street lights only. So she moves on. And I move on. My thoughts keep going back to her, though. I wonder why. Then I figure it out: She looked unusually attractive to me because she had no qualms about sitting at the wheel of that old car and she gave me impression that it would not make an iota of difference to her if she were sitting at the wheel of a brand new luxury car: She'd have the same hair make; same kind of dress; and same body language, posture -- all very much together, by the way. I think she gave me the impression that she had a character strong enough so that it could not be changed by the kind of car she was driving, and that's why she looked attractive to me. I think I would still notice all this if I saw her in a brand new luxury car, assuming I looked inside the car (I usually don't, I am prejudiced against luxury cars, I tend to think repulsive characters drive luxury cars). I'd probably not notice any of this at all if she were sitting in a regular sedan of recent make in reasonably good condition.


Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 29, 2003 02:05 PM

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Isn't Europe providing a good example here - high fuel taxes, better cars, fewer SUV's?

Posted by: Mats on December 29, 2003 02:49 PM

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Some of the comments on this board explain why the Democratic Party has been reduced to a minority party. There was a time when most men would vote Democratic because the Democrats believed in using government to empower every individual so he/she could buy their own car just like the "top 1%". And building roads, bridges and tunnels were no-brainers because they would give people more places to drive around (plus help out the union workers).
Today "Liberal Democrats" believe in levying regressive gas taxes for the explicit purpose of financially burdening regular people and coercing them to give up their cars and use public transport.

Do you know how unappetizing, how domineering this is to most people? Americans enjoy jumping into their cars and going whenever, where ever their heart desires. Waiting for public buses at bus stops sounds absolutely horrid to most people. People who HAVE to use public transport wish they could afford to drive.

Posted by: G. Legard on December 29, 2003 02:58 PM

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Well, some people make a point of living places where they can use public transit.

The problem with cars is that we all have to breathe the exhaust.

The real fix is cars that don't have exhaust; that'd be relatively easy, even with current battery tech. But for the ten years of the switchover, sure, higher gasoline taxes are one way to have fewer kids choke their lives out with asthma.

Posted by: Graydon on December 29, 2003 04:03 PM

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Well, some people make a point of living places where they can use public transit.

The problem with cars is that we all have to breathe the exhaust. (and live in the world
with the atmosphere that exhaust is altering.)

The real fix is cars that don't have exhaust; that'd be relatively easy, even with current battery tech. But for the ten years of the switchover, sure, higher gasoline taxes are one way to have fewer kids choke their lives out with asthma.

Posted by: Graydon on December 29, 2003 04:08 PM

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I second Andrew's view, with either an emissions trading system or gas taxes coupled with payroll tax relief? If that comes with eliminating some of the more distortionary rules (like fuel economy ones which ironically favor SUVs), this Republican is happy to support the package. We can deal with an externality in a revenue-neutral way and even give the working poor a boost in the process.

We'd have to phase things in of course so people have time to adjust. But this tax would NOT be regressive, and cyclists like me can breahte a little more freely. However, this requires getting Democratic politicians (who generally hate using market mechanisms since there's no favor to be allocated) and Republicans (who are pretty thick with regard to taxes) to agree on something that requires thought. So I wouldn't bet on it.

This is one of those really good ideas that I think only economists would support. Eliminate most nitpicky pollution controls but then tax the heck out of it. Too elegant to actually be implemented.

Posted by: Chris on December 29, 2003 04:27 PM

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B. Sayin:

That was a beautiful essay on a woman in a junker. Too bad nobody made a painting of it yet.

We drive junkers a lot up north because they get rusty so fast up here.

Regarding your comment way way back on Mr. DeLong and the WSJ article- I would not give Mr. DeLong an inordinate amount of credit for being top on that list. I believe it was an alphabetical list, or else gave the most credit to the one with the most kids, or something like that.

I'll bet you sure give that dictionary a workout if you read this blog. I know I sure do.

Posted by: northernLights on December 29, 2003 05:42 PM

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Raising gasoline taxes immediately costs everybody, including the poor with old cars. Obviously gas tax reduces consumption quicker--and lots more unfairly. Raising fuel standards penalizes only those who trade up to new cars, perhaps often for narcissistic reason.

Let’s penalize narcissism, instead! I’ll bet the CBO didn’t factor in emotional growth!

Until icemelt floods the coasts, transportation policy will be density-dependent.

In the sparsest suburbs cars are undoable, so you’re not going to find people wanting to give them up, or pay more.

But various sorts of high-speed trains between suburban crossections and cores CAUSES further property improvement to take advantage of this ease. Public transportation’s a natural. Take out bonds and it’ll pay off. It can even be fun and pretty, and put people to work.

In the highest densities, even WITHOUT car exhaust you’d get gridlock.

Posted by: Lee A. on December 29, 2003 07:13 PM

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Setting fuel economy standards also rewards getting around the standards as much as it does improving fuel efficiency. Hence the current infatuation of automakers with SUVs. Furthermore, raising fuel economy standards makes new cars more expensive, and encourages people to keep older, more polluting cars on the road longer. Not to mention that people talking about encouraging my emotional growth evoke a strong desire to bonk them on the head.

Raise the gas taxes - I get 40 mpg so what do I care?

Posted by: Jake McGuire on December 29, 2003 08:59 PM

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"Raising gasoline taxes immediately costs everybody, including the poor with old cars. Obviously gas tax reduces consumption quicker--and lots more unfairly. Raising fuel standards penalizes only those who trade up to new cars, perhaps often for narcissistic reason.".

I think you're missing something important here. That money doesn't just vanish. It goes into the federal budget and can be passed back to people, including, if one prefers, poor people with old cars. So, if raising gasoline taxes has no effect on consumption, then we're just moving money around and there's no reason it has to be regressive.

On the other hand, raising gasoline taxes is likely to reduce consumption (that being the point). The question then becomes whether the
current level of taxation is high enough to account for the negative externalities that people burning gas on everyone else (key word: Pigouvian tax). If it's not, then when the level of consumption goes down in response to the tax, we're collectively richer--though again, there's nothing that says that that improvement gets evenly spread around.


Posted by: EKR on December 29, 2003 09:17 PM

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I invented a schema that would combine regressive fuel tax with a relief to people with modest incomes.

Suppose that we levy extra 10c on every gallon and convert these money into subsidy to the most fuel-efficient vehicles. It would suffice to subsidize a million new cars to the tune of $ 7k,
enough to bring a car like Prius to cost as little as a Korean econo-box.

If only one-half million people would opt for the most efficient cars, they would get them almost free. One million would get them cheaply. At this point economies of scale would kick in and the cost of hybrids (or similarly efficient vehicles) would go down.

Given 20c tax per gallon, one could have an ambitious program subsidizing people of modest income when they replace old in-efficient cars and trucks for new ones.

My second schema was to promote sub-urban bike-paths so "socker moms" would stop hauling their kids to after school activities -- let the kids use bikes, and let the moms have some time for themselves.

Posted by: Piotr Berman on December 30, 2003 12:19 AM

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Well duh! What a surprise - a tax that raises private costs to align them with public ones is found to be more efficient at dealing with an externality than quotas and regulation. And the welfare gains are enough that the losers can be more than compensated (in this case, by using the extra revenue to reduce a regressive tax). Now who would have thought it?

Folks, this really is Micro 101 stuff. I think it was Paul Krugman who observed that economists have least political influence when they know most and are most agreed (and, conversely, most influence where they know least and are least agreed). This issue is a classic illustration.

Posted by: derrida derider on December 30, 2003 12:43 AM

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Mats:

"Isn't Europe providing a good example here - high fuel taxes, better cars, fewer SUV's?"

Well I keep saying; Americans should talk more with Europeans.

------

G Legard:

Times are changing. What's good for GM is no longer good for America.

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NorthernLights:

" Too bad nobody made a painting of it yet."

If you are woman, maybe they did- title: The Woman Who Holds The Light (in Turkish)

http://bulent.ifrance.com/bulent/jpsourire.htm

(Warning: Bout 100K download and maybe irritating poup-ups.)

(Warning again: I just lied. That picture was made in 1998 and has a completely different, but ordinary story.)

-- --

NorthernLights:

Huw shucks! You mean Brad doesn't even have a Nobel prize!? I'll drop him right away! As soon as he no longer fits the following description:

"...WSJ writer David Wessel once identified Dr. DeLong, if I recall correctly, as economic historian, for good reasons. Judging by his articles, Dr. DeLong concerns himself with productivity, welfare, corporate governance, the new economy / "the next" economy /tomorrow's economy, investment and growth, wealth and poverty issues, and technological innovation... and, of course, public policy..."

--
NorthernLights:

Yes I do check the dictionary, when I'm not too lazy to do that -- I have the added reason that English is second lang to me.

----

Others:

I see there is still hope that America could invent and build a new, more advanced civilization.

If Dubya gets relected, though, hopes would have to be deferred, and for no good reason.

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 30, 2003 01:06 AM

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Build it and they will come.

Once light rail goes in, it is interesting how it directs building to areas that have service. The effect is not immediate, but over a couple of decades, the urban area will be better organized to utilize public transit.

In some places, it is cheaper to use busses than trains. This is the approach of some Brazilian cities. There, busses have loading platforms. You pay to get on the platform, so loading is more efficient.

Concentric circles of local bus lines connect to five lines that radiate from the centre of the city in a spider web pattern. On the radial lines, triple-compartment buses in their own traffic lanes carry three hundred passengers each. They go as fast as subway cars, but at one-eightieth the construction cost.

http://www.globalideasbank.org/BI/BI-262.HTML

"The buses stop at Plexiglas tube stations designed by Lerner. Passengers pay their fares, enter through one end of the tube, and exit from the other end. This system eliminates paying on board, and allows faster loading and unloading, less idling and air pollution, and a sheltered place for waiting - though the system is so efficient that there isn't much waiting."

Making the a transit system heavily subsidized increases ridership. Universities can use student fees to subsidize the bus system and get agreements to let students and staff ride anywhere on the system by flashing an ID. Ridership goes way up and parking problems are lessened. Travel at night is safer for students.

There are lots of solutions. The US just lacks the will.

Posted by: bakho on December 30, 2003 05:30 AM

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dd:

You're right, that this is econ 101 stuff. However, in my experience it's sufficiently counterintuitive that if you explain it to 5 people, 2 won't get it, so I find it generally necessary to try it again.

Posted by: EKR on December 30, 2003 08:13 AM

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Exactly. For most people econ 101 is harder than econ 201, since there's this big fixed cost to thinking marginally. The rest is filling in details. Part of it is maybe economists' fault for not being more outspoken in these instances, and part of it is probably the fault of those who just don't know or care what economists do. Lots of people watch the financial press and think that the job of an economist is to predict unpredictable stuff or to fool around with money. I know that I was surprised when I took econ back in undergrad, surprised enough to join the profession.

Posted by: Chris on December 30, 2003 10:16 AM

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I'm all for public transport (PT), but in discussions like these I rarely see other "secondary" issues addressed. Unfortunately, I cannot present good solutions, but here goes. (Please also note that I'm trying not to make value judgements.)

PT works well in or between densely populated areas, but typically any efficient (i.e. feasible) system has to be organized around hubs, and doesn't scale well into large areas (quadratic growth). That means that many people in outer area parts have to (a) use multiple stops to get where they want, and (b) have to walk/drive/take a lift to enter the PT system if they want to leave their local area. (Local in the sense of traffic/walking proximity.)

This I believe is the strongest opposing force -- the tradeoff between being limited to your local area or be taxed with a large transaction cost (time) when going elsewhere. Among the consequences are: (1) limited choice of employment (long commute), (2) limited choice of shopping, (3) significant transaction cost for getting kids to school (unless the school is in walking distance or kids are old enough to go alone), (4) significant transaction cost (time) when visiting "distant" friends, (5) when at work, restricted choice of lunch places, as you are effectively bound to walking distance.

Out of these, (1), (2), and (5) lead to the effect that your choices are restricted, and employers and businesses have to compete less for you. If you work in an industrial/business zone, in (5) you may be at the mercy of a few overcrowded cafeterias.

Basically it conflicts with the notion of "freedom" of choice that is propagated by the media, education system, and others, and that many people cherish (regardless of how many of their choices are really made freely). In the business world, your freedom of choice is your business provider's need to compete with quality and price for your patronage.

The point I want to get at is that efficient PT requires (in many cases) a radically different lifestyle than many people conduct today. The bottom line is perhaps how many activities of your choosing you can comfortably fit in a given unit of lifetime, or how you spend your lifetime (on the road or on the activities that you want to pursue).

I'm not sure how many of this forum's participants are driving to work, and would be willing to take a hit in the flexibility individual vehicles provide. (And of course that flexibility comes at a cost to you and others.) And please note I'm not saying that a lifestyle with a higher "barrier of traffic" is worse.

[In my own case, I used to live in an outer city part in a European city with a very effective PT system. My job was approx. 8 miles away (within city limits), and PT took me about 50 min door-to-door (including walking from/to stations, and changing trains), whereas once I got a car, it took me 25 min (both in rush-hour traffic). Shopping was good, plenty of local retail stores where I could (and would) walk. That's a good 50 min/day commute difference of which about 20 min was available for some serious reading (which is rather little), and 15 min gave good exercise walking briskly (one thing I miss here in the US). Also I missed the reading part when I started to drive.]

This type of lifestyle impact is one thing I see rarely discussed, also generally in other economic contexts.

What do you think?

Posted by: cm on December 30, 2003 01:10 PM

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Oops, make that 20 min reading/15 min walking _each way_ in my previous post. The wording is unclear.

Posted by: cm on December 30, 2003 01:19 PM

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I think a notion or concept of "convergence", if that's a good choice of a word, needs to be present in discussions of transport.

I think the satellites and automation and leaps in control technologies could change a lot of things.

Once the cab driver is replaced by automata, I believe, it is going to be cab on demand 100 percent of the time any where with may be a bit of lead time in remote places.

Then no one will want to own a private car for transport purposes.

The need for the cabby changes every thing, I think. To pay the cabby and still make a profit, you need to maintain price levels. To maintain price levels, you limit cab licences. Once you limit can licenses, cab license itself becomes an object of speculation, something like a concession, concession traded, which makes it expensive, which further enforces need to maintain pries.

Once you get rid of the cabby and install satellite tracking systems to ensure user responsibility, thereby reducing risk of rental, (cab is very short term rental with a chauffeur) then cabs will be not be much more expensive than private cars.

And then there would be seamlessly integrated systems of cabs, shuttles, and coaches, the public transport system in state of convergence.

Who would care to own a car, then?

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 30, 2003 01:42 PM

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Re: Bulent Sayin, December 30, 2003 01:42 PM: A system of the scale that you are proposing would probably have to be monopolistic (as other infrastructure like power, water etc.), thus owned collectively or by the government.

Also it would be very advisable for it not to be highly centralized; otherwise outages (of automatically operated equipment) would be paralyzing.

However, I cannot see robotic technology to be at a stage where operating such a complex system (non-rail vehicles moving at relatively high speeds) would be feasible in the near future (10-20 years).

There may also be privacy aspects -- usage of the system would probably be linked to some kind of electronic payments, making it possible to track your individual moves, a notion that many people may be uncomfortable with. Today you give pay the bus driver cash or use cash to enter the subway. I wouldn't be comfortable using an identifiable payment where the system tracks where I get on and off (by your argument there will be no in-person enforcement of ticket purchses). Prepaid charge-cards would be a solution, but would be prone to tampering and forging as today phone cards -- however this can and will be addressed by better security hardware.

Moreover, to partly reiterate a point of my previous post, ownership of private vehicles convey a notion of independence that may be hard to give up, and that may pose a very strong opposing force. But maybe I think people are more stubborn than they really are.

Posted by: cm on December 30, 2003 02:14 PM

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Econ. 101 ignores Poli. Sci. 101, where poor people don't get tax reductions.

Posted by: Lee A. on December 30, 2003 02:39 PM

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AFTER icemelt floods coasts, transportation pollicy will be MORE density-dependent.

Posted by: Lee A. on December 30, 2003 02:48 PM

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Power and phone have already been deregulated -- you can choose your power supplier, e.g.

If they want to track your movements, they can track your movements any way, today.

Desire for car ownership is a cultural phenomenon. I expect most people to become oriented towards "being", rather than "having". That includes Americans as well.

Yes, I speak of planning horizons like 10-20 years and I can assure you, on the basis of my 50 years, that 10-20 years pass much more quickly than many young people tend to think.

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 30, 2003 03:12 PM

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All of this calls to mind this, from Joyce Carol Oates (I forget where):

"As long as he owned his own car, he knew that he was an American and he would never die."

That's more or less the view that makes prudent change unlikely until crisis makes it inevitable.

Posted by: slacktivist on December 30, 2003 03:25 PM

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Another 50-year old concurs that 10-20 years is a wink of a snort, but I wonder whether a new orient to being is rather a function of advancing years. (Or perhaps "years" are just a ratio of somethings else.) Economics posits rationality, sometimes AFTER we have decided to do something. Meanwhile all the old-timers are spirited and away.

Posted by: Lee A. on December 30, 2003 03:43 PM

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"If they want to track your movements, they can track your movements any way, today."

I disagree. You may be able to track the movements of a few individuals, but not everybody. The (automated) tracking of individuals is mostly a matter of digital processing of your transactions. If you pay credit/debit card in a store, the bank knows you made a purchase, the store knows (usually) what you purchased. If you visit a friend, there is usually no digital record with which that can be tracked. But anyway, that is just a side issue.

"Desire for car ownership is a cultural phenomenon."

Yes, very much so. I was focusing more on the aspect of "possession" than "ownership". The important thing is the desire for independence/individualism, which is largely a cultural thing.

"I expect most people to become oriented towards "being", rather than "having". That includes Americans as well."

I would certainly hope so. On the other hand, I believe that many people are actually oriented towards "being" even today, but are (or feel) pressed for the time in which they can "be". This is probably true in the US more than in Europe, as suggested by the yearly work hours figure -- 1900 vs. 1500 or so.

That is what I (unsuccessfully?) tried to articulate: that many people feel squeezed for time, and rightly or wrongly assume that using more public transport would rob them of even more time. My judgement is that public transport _will_ take more time, but getting some idle time in which you can think, read, talk (or entertain yourself with handheld game devices if you're into that) may not be so bad after all. Otherwise the time may go towards more work, or towards less relaxing activities.

"Yes, I speak of planning horizons like 10-20 years and I can assure you, on the basis of my 50 years, that 10-20 years pass much more quickly than many young people tend to think."

I'm only 30+, but I do notice how time flies. I had a conversation with a 60+ years gentleman once where he offered a perspective how the "flying" of time accelerates with age. Scary stuff.

Posted by: cm on December 30, 2003 03:46 PM

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"Another 50-year old concurs that 10-20 years is a wink of a snort, but I wonder whether a new orient to being is rather a function of advancing years."

Not directly but indirectly -- as a child/adolescent your time is less constrained than as an adult, and as a consequence you may not have learnt its value. As you realize how your time is going by without your enjoying it (?), you will probably focus more on being, which essentially means spending your time how you would like to spend it.

As I said earlier, I used to live in a city with good public transport, and as a teenager/early twen I also wondered why I would ever want to own a car. Once I could no longer spend 1/2 day or so going to libraries and places (after joining the workforce), my opinion changed.

"Economics posits rationality, sometimes AFTER we have decided to do something."

Very true as well -- you create a situation for yourself, then complain how external pressures are forced upon you. (Which is not to say that external pressures do not exist, like the need to make a living, take care of family etc.)

Posted by: cm on December 30, 2003 04:00 PM

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Not scary, but it happens automatically outside any ability to foresee and calculate it. Since it has "come on" I suppose (but only at my age suppose) that it accelerates. And when you think back to being a little child, you may already notice that it was an unfathomably long time between any two holidays when you got off from school.

Economics will one day have to consider BIOLOGICAL time change, and might hope to see it as some fractal dimension of some whole system. I once had an argument with Murray Gell-Mann, who insisted (it was the early days of "complexity") that ecology would be subsumed by economics. I argued just the opposite, that economics would become a subdivision (although a very large one) of ecology. It's probably not decidable. Or: both will be cast aside.

Posted by: Lee A. on December 30, 2003 04:13 PM

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cm,

if you own a cellular phone, it is possible to know where you are at any instant. In the UK, the police used that to pinpoint the victims of a murder in the vicinity of the suspect.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on December 30, 2003 04:14 PM

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"if you own a cellular phone, it is possible to know where you are at any instant. In the UK, the police used that to pinpoint the victims of a murder in the vicinity of the suspect."

No I don't. Not because of privacy concerns, but because I don't want people from work to call me anytime, anywhere. (I could switch off the phone, but then why have it, or I could screen, but that may be considered rude, and there is still the nuisance of the ringing.)

I know managerial people in my business unit who are effectively on the job from getting out of bed in the early morning until going to bed in the late (?) evening. Not entirely by their own choosing; it is a thing that comes with the job that is hard to refuse in their position.

Somebody once speculated (plausibly) that to the extent that you are reachable anytime, people are not planning when to approach you, but just call you up whenever they feel the need, or _whenever they don't have to attend to people who are not always reachable_. Then you may end up in a situation where people (subconsciously) figure out they don't have to manage their communication with you, and it's hard to get out of it. And it is probably rude or at least not helpful to refuse giving your cell #.

Now you may call this view cynical, but it happens to be mine. There is also mild pressure from friends towards having a cellphone, but so far I have resisted.

Well this does not relate much to fuel, but the issues of fuel/traffic/lifestyle/time are somehow intertwined.

Posted by: cm on December 30, 2003 04:41 PM

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Mad-cow-type health hint: you should not use your cell phones much! A host of paid industry hacks will now descend, and tell us this is hooey! But electrical engineers have known for fifty years that fields cause tumors, and I would love to see the statistic of their use of cell phones. Cell phones have been in use LESS than the average gestation time of cancer, and the great variety of phones and field-strengths has forestalled comprehensive testing. AT THE VERY LEAST young children should not use cell phones! British results last year showed kids’ brainwaves unusually scrambled for an hour after! SERIOUS?

Like many multivariate systems effects, this cancer may be demonstrated only in the future, and still disputable by the “factory doctors” after then.

Go back to being mildly unreachable.

Come to think of it, I wished I was 14 watching THE RETURN OF THE KING! To live “inside” all those moments, when your time is young and slowed! You can tell from the choppy edits it will be masterly when extended--like the way he smoothed out #1, DVD-extended into an extraordinary picture. Peter Jackson has shown the way to the ten-hour Extended movie--act one, act two (at the moment, is this everybody’s favorite?), act three.

But I old-agedly ramble

Posted by: Lee A. on December 30, 2003 05:30 PM

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Fuel economy, public transportation should be very important priorities right now. There has to be enough gas to do fun stuff like vacations, camping, hiking, fishing, and to get husbands out of the house during deer hunting. Lack of gas could be a disaster for the recreation industry. Why waste gas on going to work when we should be saving it for the fun stuff?

B. Sayin:

Regarding Mr. DeLong's qualification according to David Wessel- whoops, I guess I must have missed that paragraph- I thought ALL economists were supposed to know about those things.

Don't let the lack of Nobel prize bother you- I think he has his own secret piscean methods of getting one, but do you really want that anyway? He will be so puffed up with pride that he'll start charging us by the word for what he writes!

I think I made a mistake on the kids, though. It wasn't based on the number of kids, but who had the nicest kids.

Posted by: northernLights on December 30, 2003 07:48 PM

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NorthernLights:

It is my paragraph, in fact, and perhaps I should have phrased as such:

"...WSJ writer David Wessel once identified Dr. DeLong, if I recall correctly, as economic historian, for good reasons. Further, as I gather from Dr. Delong's articles, he concerns himself with productivity, welfare, corporate governance, the new economy / "the next" economy /tomorrow's economy, investment and growth, wealth and poverty issues, and technological innovation... and, of course, public policy...

"... I thought ALL economists were supposed to know about those things..."

"Knowing about" is different from "concerning himself with", which means "thinking about". Not all economists think about all of those subjects. Especially Nobel prise winners don't seem to do so.

I did think "two is the largest number of kids?"; and then I thought "well, maybe that has changed too in America".

Yo, you got something against pisceans?


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The young gang:

For me a year is one fiftieth of my life experience, and for you... well go figger...

And maybe looking ahead in time versus looking back has something associated with like Doppler effect ... who knows?

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 30, 2003 10:14 PM

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Re: Lee A. at December 30, 2003 04:13 PM
"Not scary, but it happens automatically outside any ability to foresee and calculate it. Since it has "come on" I suppose (but only at my age suppose) that it accelerates. And when you think back to being a little child, you may already notice that it was an unfathomably long time between any two holidays when you got off from school."

Oops, I missed this earlier, I was out on an errand while you posted (driving, BTW).

It is true, school can appear as drudgery. However, for the most part (at least for me) it followed a very predictable schedule: stand up early enough to leave home at 7:10, walk (!) 40+ min to school (during my high school years), you are out by around 15:00 (around 11:00 on Saturdays), and the rest of the day is yours. Sometimes the homework was challenging, but I always had enough time at my hands to pursue various interests. Minimal chores and errands to be done. School vacations measured by the months.

I guess in hindsight it was the lack of additional responsibilities, and the luxury (?) of basically unconstrained use of my spare time that helped me to what I think was a happy childhood.

Regarding your first statement, what I read into it is that uncertainty about the actual amount of leisure time will create the impression it flies faster? That would be consistent with my view about predictable schedules.

My parents used to have a 43 3/4 hour workweek (Mon-Fri, 8 3/4 hours daily), but it again was on a very predictable schedule, and I have to listen to things like "we worked 43 3/4 hours, raised a child, went to town shopping, and still managed a life" when complaining about my perceived lack of time.

Maybe having a regular working schedule with "guaranteed" daily time off is fundamentally different (and better) than an uncertain schedule that over the weeks/months results in a similar distribution of work time/leisure time, only that there is no certain daily time off?

Posted by: cm on December 30, 2003 10:55 PM

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B. Sayin-

"Yo, you got something against pisceans?"

Yo, no. Whatever gave you that idea? Just because they are secret doesn't mean I am against them. I generally tend to be in favor of aquatic type things.

Posted by: northernLights on December 31, 2003 12:13 AM

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This is how I'll sign a post from now on -- it is easy and does identfy me -- and I'll post homepage URL once every uhm ten posts?

Sorry for this diversion off the thread.

Posted by: Bulent on December 31, 2003 12:19 AM

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Secret? Why do you say that?

By the way q@q.q is obviously not valid, I put that cause it is easy write -- me lazy!

Posted by: Bulent on December 31, 2003 12:26 AM

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Bulent-

Re: "Secret? Why do you say that?"

Mr. DeLong may have inside track that no one else has. I can say no more. It makes my head hurt.

I happened to look at your website. Very impressive. Plus, you are good looking too! Just one thing- that wonderful piece you posted on women and junker cars should definitely go in there. Beauty and economics combined is a very rare thing, and it would be a shame for it to get lost in this comments section. Once in awhile Mr. DeLong accidentally deletes posts, and usually it is the most beautiful ones that get accidentally deleted!

Although I must admit that Mr. DeLong really surprises me sometimes and comes up with some real masterpieces himself. He wrote one on Machiavelli that you should definitely check out, as even a jackpine savage such as myself could really appreciate.

Finally, you should not criticize too hard if women want certain things. I do not care that much about a fancy car, but I keep threatening my husband that I will leave him for the first man who lets me park in a garage! So far no good prospects, and he knows it. Pretty sad situation. Garage all full of his man type stuff and no room for my car, so I have to brush off snow and ice, and plug it in outside in the dark, which is a real pain.

Posted by: northernLights on December 31, 2003 07:54 AM

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Yo, good looking! Tell yer hubby that my ex a me dumpée cause I wouldn't buy a car and drive her to work and she didn't even wait for another man coming along willing to do that. Your husband might then get the message. And you know what? I now want to buy a car and drive her to work.

Rest assured about the essay, I copied it here from my web site - Page Néolithique is for that kind of, uhm, diversion stuff.

Mein Gott! I shouldn't post things like "ho ho Brad's getting fried again and me is glad"; he is a dangerous man!

Posted by: Bulent on December 31, 2003 09:33 AM

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Here is the one Machiavelli, I guess, if any one else is interested:

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/archives/001582.html

Once in while I toy with the idea of web site, a forum, in which people would play-act historical figures whom they know about, understand, to the extent of pretending to mymic their thought processes. One would pretend to be Machiavelli, for example; another one would pretend to be Karl Marx; another one would play-act Ludvig von Beethoven -- and it might be interesting if someone simultaneously imitated Theresa von Brunswick (spell?)--; an improvised conversation / discussion between Alexander the Great and Queen Elizabeth on India could be interesting, for example... or maybe a complete non-starter!?

Posted by: Bulent on December 31, 2003 04:12 PM

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Bulent-

"I now want to buy her a car and drive her to work."

Of course, isn't a car cheaper than a divorce and a good lawyer? There may be more to the story than you are telling. Maybe she was getting more tired, and needed to get a ride instead of walking(?) or taking the bus (?). Maybe she was just mad that you couldn't see she needed a break. Maybe she needed a little more help with the cleaning and dishes. Remember: a man who cleans a bathroom well will never have trouble keeping his woman!

Re: fried Brad

Yep, that fried Brad I am sure let you have it, and I hope you are not fried too badly. Don't let it bother you though. He just likes to act super duper tough sometimes, usually after he gets out his thesaurus and lets us have it with some more of those big words that he loves so well.

Posted by: northernLights on January 1, 2004 01:04 AM

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Fried Brad:

Chuckle.

When somebody called my attention to "fried Brad" before, it didn't have much of an impact on me. Now what you say, though, makes me chuckle because what you say causes me to imagine the picture of Brad on his main page with thunderbolts emanating from his head as he figures out a good way to let me have it!

I used to watch Turkish Parliament's sessions at one time. I remember this veteran politician speaking and others in the room heckling him. At one point the master politician interrupted his discourse and said something else:

"Don't get me talking now in a different way because then I'll say things to you so loaded that you can't even get off your seats!"

There was immediate silence -- for a few seconds.


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"Of course, isn't a car cheaper than a divorce and a good lawyer?"

No, it is not that at all. It is that I want to drive her to work. I now realize it was important to her and she wasn't being capricious. And I was a clunk head in more than one ways. And on top of that I was / am a rare bird in a number of ...sort of stormy ways -- for example I've always been trigger happy with resignations. And so... I guess all that was pretty tough on her...

Posted by: Bulent on January 1, 2004 02:47 AM

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Is that "fuel economy" for your life? I know sometimes it's hard to switch from ideas, where you argue the positives and negatives a lot, to people and life events, where it seems better sometimes not to argue and debate, or think about the whys and wherefores too much, but just ride it through the best way you can.

Posted by: northernLights on January 1, 2004 10:53 AM

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Is that "fuel economy" for your life? I know sometimes it's hard to switch from ideas, where you argue the positives and negatives a lot, to people and life events, where it seems better sometimes not to argue and debate, or think about the whys and wherefores too much, but just ride it through the best way you can

Posted by: northernLights on January 1, 2004 11:07 AM

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A couple more things. (Have a hard time posting in archives.)

It is a good sign about your future with someone if you have dreams about them and/or think a lot about driving with them in your car.

A lot of men act at home like they went the the Chicago School of Economic Meanness, and the one thing that women find the hardest to forgive is meanness.

Posted by: northernLights on January 1, 2004 12:52 PM

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