“Quack, n., An untrained person who dispenses advice and expert opinions.”

First Rule of Quack Identification:

If a known Quack consistently cites a third party as a source of support for their strain of Quackery, then the third party is also a Quack.

Exception to the First Rule of Quack Identification:

If the third party suffers from an affliction that limits their ability to articulate reality, the third party may or may not be a Quack.

Case in point:

In METRO FINGER POINTING (posted 24 June 2009) Dr. Clifford Winston was cited as being an “anti-rail quack.” Upon further review Winston may just suffer from one of the common symptoms of Geographic Illiteracy:

The inability to identify the impact of dysfunctional human settlement patterns.

In the book he co-authored with Chad Shirley (“Alternative Route: Toward Efficient Urban Transportation” 1998) or in the 2007 item published in Urban Economics cited in METRO FINGER POINTING, had Dr. Winston just noted in Bold Face that:

“It is impossible to provide efficient (or functional) transport service to dysfunctional human settlement patterns.”

Then Dr. Winston could have been deemed intelligent, perceptive and not a quack – or a Quack. He would also have saved himself a lot of wasted effort and would not be widely cited by Quacks.

This does not excuse Dr. Winston from coming to conclusions about transport efficiency in the Alternative Route based on data that is unrelated to settlement patterns nor does it excuse him for transgressions in cost benefit analysis alleged by Dr. Goddard in the review of his work noted in METRO FINGER POINTING.

EMR apologies for any embarrassment, discomfort or confusion that the attribution of Quack may have caused but there is now supporting evidence for the use of the appellation “Quack.”

There is a book now available which is written to identify and discredit “anti-transit troubadours” which is in the context of the book is not far from “anti-rial quack.” The book is Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind’s 2009 book Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation.

Weyrich and Lind have taken on what they call “the anti-transit troubadours.” In Chapter 3 they consider anti-transit myths (aka anti-shared-vehicle system myths). They cite the work of 22 anti-transit troubadours including both Drs Clifford Winston and Chad Shirley. While Dr. Winston does not rank with Wendell Cox (13 citations) or John Semmens (8 citations) he garners a respectful three citations which ties him with luminaries in the field such as Peter Gordon and Randal O’Tool.

The Weyrich / Lind book is well worth reading for any who doubt the importance of shared-vehicles in addressing the Mobility and Access Crisis in New Urban Regions.


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11 responses to “QUACK, QUACK, QUACK”

  1. Larry G Avatar

    I would submit that a "Quack" can be practicing in a legitimate field with valid and credible 3rd party references.

    In fact, that'show many quacks operate.

    they often latch on to a respected/legitimate concept and then they corrupt it with their version.

    For instance, Cancer can be, in many cases treated effectively but sometimes not – and then people go to "alternative" Cancer clinics where it turns out that "quakery" is rampant.

    In the world of cause and effect with regard to settlement patterns – to be honest – I'm pretty skeptical of many of the assertions because the data that supports claimed conclusions is often cherry-picked – and the proponent either ignores the contradictions or disses the person who asked for the contradictions to be explained.

    in this context I see the word "quakery" as an attempt to discredit those one disagrees with – which.. is in my mind not intellectually honest.

    I'm not accusing anyone of this – only adding my take on the definition and use of the word quack.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    "There is a long history of Federal dominance in transport infrastructure. It started with post roads, stage routes and canals …."

    Which had a lot to do witht the bankrupty of private enterprises that tried to do the same kind of work.

    We are learning that again with the delay of part of the HOT lane project on account of financing.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Dr Winston never made any claim to be a geographer. All he did was apply a consistent methodology to adding up the costs and benefits of various transportaton modes.

    As a result, without any mention of Geography or Settlement patterns he came to the conclusion that rail transport is cost effective IN SOME PLACES.

    For an economist, that is a remarkable piece of geographic deduction, and he should be given credit.

    But now, if you go from there to the idea that we should duplicate and expand those kinds of places, just so we can "afford" to have more rail travel, then the effort and cost expended in making those places has to be considered as a COST of rail transit, or a subsidy to rail transit.

    And both of those count against the cost effectiveness of rail transit, not in favor.

    ONE of Winstons conclusion was that we could save billions by reducing some rail transit and replacing it with much more cost effective road transport.

    God forbid that anyone should propose reasonably well researched arguments, without being labeled a quack by the environmental religionists.

    If you haven't got a better argument than name calling, better to let it ride. My read of his book wasn;t that he was so much opposed to rail or other mass transit as he was in FAVOR of saving money and promoting the net public welfare. Considering the dollar value of the benefits provided, they just don't compute for the most part.

    And if you want to make economic arguments based on geography, you ought to be able to make at least as good a job of it as Winston.



  4. Larry G Avatar

    when you have the govt build roads are you not favoring the government taking property from property owners?

    in two ways.

    you're taking property in the form of taxes to then provide infrastructure for others and not necessarily the person who pays.

    then you're taking property directly …

    you made the point about how setbacks steal property rights.

    Doesn't the DOT do exactly the same thing when it only part of a property and what is left is worth far less…

    … or the "taking" is in the form of additional noise and decreased access…

    isn't that "taking" property rights also?

    and if you take property and the entity that takes it is the one that decides it's value isn't that just another way of "stealing" also?

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    "..are you not favoring the government taking property from property owners?"

    The government is allowed to take property for public use as long as they compensate fairly. I never, ever, suggested otherwise.

    The only issue is what, exactly, constitutes property, and what, exactly, constitutes public use.

    That is why we need a better definition of property rights, better definition of what constitutes public use, and better protections of whatever we decide.

    We cannot have government promising one thing, and then taking it away without compensation.

    It is stealing. It is not in the public interest to act this way. It is lieing. It is wasteful of resources, and it is not green.


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    "you're taking property in the form of taxes to then provide infrastructure for others "

    Everyone has equal opportunity to use the infrastructure, whther they choose to or not. Everyone benefits from those that use the infrastructure to deliver goods and services, whether they consume goods and services or not.

    We are not talking about individual costs and individual benefits here: there is simply no way to do that without having the transaction costs outweigh the benefits.

    What we are talking about is NET SOCIAL BENFITS for the ENTIRE system under consideration.

    What we are talknging about is getting the best, and most conveneint transportation for the most people to the most locations at the loest cost, whether that means road, rail, bicycles, or horses.

    What we are talking aboput is those things which we know cannot be provided well by private eneterprise.

    We like to beat up on government, but no one suggests that we privatize national security and let it out to the lowest bidder. There are some things tha twe recognize goevernment does best, even if they hire private contractors to do it.

    This is NOT about YOU prvding infrastructure to OTHERS, it is about US providing infrastructure to ALL OF US.

    Be honest now, if you had to pay $1.60 a mile for your recent road trip, how far would you have gone?


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    In Akron Ohio a shared vehicle motor bus costs 99 cents per passenger mile to operate.

    According to Edmonds.com, I can buy a brand new Prius and opertat it for five years at a toat cost of $0.49 cents per mile.

    And tha tis with ONE passenger. If I average 1.25 passengers then it is only $0.39 per passenger mile.

    And the bus and the Prius each suck up the same amount of road use and maintenance.

    OK, so the bus can carry more passengers in less road space, potentially, but it weighs a lot more than the Prius and does hundreds of times the road damage.

    Then there is the capital costs and maintenance of the motor coach vs the Prius. You can buy a bunch of Priii for the cost of a motor coach.

    Especially if you are talkning about a hybrid motor coach.

    We can analyze this to death, but I'd be willing to bet that at least in Akron, the city would be better off to shut down the bus system and ust give all the riders a Toyota.

    Which would serve a lot more locations than the bus.

    That is how bad it is, really.

    This isn't that hard to figure out, if you just look at the numbers instead of belieeving what we would like to believe.

    And, that is just the five year costs. The Prius looks even better if you look at the ten year costs, and buses routinely run ten years.

    They STILL have lousy statistics.

    What happens if you have Prius Smart cars, that get REALLY good mileage? Would that be clse eneough to persanal public transit?


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    "Doesn't the DOT do exactly the same thing when it only part of a property and what is left is worth far less…


    "… or the "taking" is in the form of additional noise and decreased access…"


    Margaret used to be able to walk to visit Aunt Elsie, but if Elsie were still alive Margaret would have to drive to see her. The highway reduced our local access but increased our global access.

    The highway reduced the value of the remaining property: a 200 acre farm is worth less than a 260 acre farm. There is no place on the farm that is quiet, now. My home in Alexandria is quieter.

    The (state, VDOT, federal) highway also potentially increased the value of the property, but the county took that value away.

    If this was anyplace else in the state, it would be zoned light industrial, and it might go begging in spite of it.

    But here it is zoned agricultural, and that is what the state paid for the land it took: agricultural prices that were $200 an acre at the time.

    And that is all they paid for, they did not pay for ANY of the other costs that you have rightly recognized.

    Those costs were reductions in property rights that until you brought it up were never recognized, or compensated.

    I'm glad to see you are finally on board.

    Now, if the state and feds plowed a raod through here and I was suddenly light industrial, then I maight owe something for the increase.

    But, you would have to subtract from whatever I owed for my "windfall" whatever I contributed to other people's "windfall" for the last 40 years or so.

    That is your argument, right? That I am paying for other peoples infrastructure?

    OK, so having paid for it, when do I get to take credit?

    But, that isn't the way it is turning out. Instead of getting credit for the unpaid contributions (which you accurately described) the family made to the constrction of Route 66. Now pwoplw think I should pay tolls for the limited use I get from it.

    What is wron with this picture?

    Prperty rights have not been adequately described and protected: which is the governments main job.


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    "and if you take property and the entity that takes it is the one that decides it's value isn't that just another way of "stealing" also?

    Yes, exactly.

    That is why, for ecample, the same tribuanl of judges that allowed the power line should NOT be the ones to set compensation.

    It is one of the PRIMARY recommendations that was made by a blue ribbon panel conserning the handling of eminent domain in Virginia.

    NONE of those recommendations has been adopted, because of the COMPLETELY mistaken idea that it would cost US more than WE lose.

    Think about it for two seconds. It is an utterly ridicouluos idea that WE save money by STEALING from each other. It is ONLY if we are ALL better off, or at least no one is worse off, that ANY government action makes sense.

    As you have pointed out, over and over and over again, we can disagree about the boundary line. But once we agree on the underlying principle, all we are taling about is things we can measure. If you run a elevated train that runs every five minutes pas my bedroom window, that is a whole diferent level of intrusiion than widening a county road a mile away.

    We can easily measure those kinds of things, and we do it all the time. Just not enough.

    And even when we have good measurements that suggest what the costs are, our legal fabric leaves no way to compensate.

    Primarily because we believe we are better off stealing. In fact, THE BIG WE are not even better off if we get away with it, but the little WE sometimes are.

    As TMT points out, this is both a source and a result of corruption. What I am trying to point out is that the way you prevent that is strong rules that protect property rights.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Just so you don't think I am biased, the Boston trolly bus system costs $0/61 per pasener mile. Notonly does it ALSO use the same (subsidised) street resources as auto traffic, it gets its own dedicted lanes.

    The true, appes to apples, cost is then far hgiehr than a fleet of new Priuses.

    But, just as cheaper solar power raises the quustion of who will pay for the electrical grid, cheaper auto transit raises the question of how do we pay for the transportation grid.

    If we ever get to the point where cheap rail tranist raises the question of how we wil pay for the grid, then please wake me up.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    "In a blog-posted analysis, Edward Glaeser made generous assumptions for trains ("Personally, I almost always prefer trains to driving") and still found that costs vastly outweigh benefits. Consider Obama's claim about removing the equivalent of 1 million cars. Even if it came true (doubtful), it would represent less than one-half of 1 percent of the 254 million registered vehicles in 2007. "

    I suppose that makes Ed glaeser a quack, too.


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