Vacation’s Over. Back to Work, You Scurvy Dogs

Vacation season is over. It’s back to serious business — like catching up on the latest profundities found only in Bacon’s Rebellion. The Sept. 4, 2007, edition is now available online.

If you don’t check the Bacon’s Rebellion blog religiously, you might miss the next edition. Take no chances, sign up here for a free subscription to the ezine.

Here are the current highlights:

Economy 4.0: Introduction
Virginia needs fresh thinking about how to build more prosperous, livable and sustainable communities in a globally competitive economy. The “Economy 4.0” series is a start.
by James A. Bacon

Peak Performance in a Flat World
There is no easy path to prosperity and sustainability in a globally competitive economy, only the relentless pursuit of productivity and innovation. Virginia must bend every institution to that end.
by James A. Bacon

A Second Stroll with Katrina
We haven’t made much progress preparing New Orleans for another hurricane, but at least we have a clearer idea of what went wrong. Dysfunctional human settlement patterns + Business As Usual governance = disaster.
by EM Risse

Love Hurts
Christian Americans are conflicted on the issue of illegal immigration: torn between compassion for poor, struggling newcomers and respect for the Rule of Law.
by James Atticus Bowden

Don’t Write Off “Reading First”
The Reading First program has led to dramatic gains among pupils in high-poverty school systems. Why does Rep. David Obey want to cut it back?
by Chris Braunlich

Nasty, Brutish and Short
The life of the pit bull is marked by violent struggle and death. The only creatures more bloodthirsty — a long line of them, since the time of the Romans — are the humans who fight dogs for sport.
by Norman Leahy

Castles of Sand
America’s love of sea and sand is leading to rapid over-development of the East Coast barrier islands. Mother Nature is fighting back.
by Norman Leahy

HOT Commodity
HOT lanes on Interstate 95 could make way for public-private partnerships and congestion pricing across Virginia. But questions about the project linger, and public support is fragile.
by Lyle Solla-Yates

Berkeley the Butcher
Gov. William Berkeley, suppresser of Bacon’s Rebellion, instituted race-based slavery in Virginia and organized the Cherokee raids that enslaved thousands of Native Americans.
by Richard L. Thornton

Nice & Curious Questions
School Days Governing the Academy in Virginia
by Edwin S. Clay III and Patricia Bangs

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12 responses to “Vacation’s Over. Back to Work, You Scurvy Dogs”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    From the HOT commodity article

    “Electric signs will state the price of entering the next section of HOT lane, which will be locked in when drivers enter it. Signs also will indicate likely prices on downstream segments, which are subject to change. Drivers will be given the choice of leaving the HOT lane if the price of the next length is too high.”

    If implemented, this idea will be a disaster. I can’t imagine anyone would propose this with a straight face. Imagine what will happen if only a few people decide the HOT lanes are too expensive (just when demand is greatest) and attempt a right hand merge into the non HOT lanes.

    Congestion relief? I don’t think so.


    Reid Ewings contention that “Sprawl is in large part due to the ridiculously low cost of driving,” which is “highly subsidized,” does not square with the facts. Drivers support a higher proportion of their costs than other transport modes. If subsidizing driving is a problem, then why isn’t subsidizing mass transit? Doesn’t VRE support sprawl, too?

    Besides, if you believe the hype, HOT lanes will reduce congestion and make travel easier and faster. While fees will make driving more expensive for those that use them, presumably they won’t pay unless they feel it is a “bargain”.

    If that is the case, then HOT lanes will only make sprawl easier and more convenient.

    If the demand for driving is elastic with respect to gasoline, then it is also elastic with respect to road pricing. We can expect that increasing road pricing by 50% will make people drive 30% less. But the difference between that and gas pricing is that changeing gas prices by raising taxes does not require us to spend millions on new infrastructure first.


    Also, European cities are no longer compact. They are suffering the same increase in auto use and suburbanization as their American counterparts.

    In the case of England, the cost of driving is and has been only part of the reason cities remained compact for a long time. Development rights were nationalized after the war, and for many years the entrenched bureaucracy failed to realize that as Britons became wealther they desired more space and larger Gardens.

    One result is that prices are so inordinate that if you are fortunate enough to inherit a home, you will probably inherit a long mortgage as well. Another result is that Britons are cashing in their hugely expensive homes and retiring to France.

    As a result, Britain is re-evaluating its long held green zone policy.


    “New highway capacity can induce demand by reducing the time cost of driving greater distances. If enough people choose to move farther out and commute greater distances, congestion can actually get worse than it would have been without the added capacity.”

    Yes, but where does the congestion get worse? Close to town. At the same time roads added capacity, how much new demand was created in central areas by increasing office space? If there isn’t sufficient capacity to meet the needs of those office buildings then it makes very little difference how far away the traffic comes from.

    Sprawl is not what causes traffic congestion.

    We do need to look at the full range of transportation and land use alternatives, but when we do, we need to look at the full range of facts and information available, not just those select items provided by Ewing and Schwartz.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Yo, Bowden,

    What’s the difference between a Southern Redneck and a Southern Redneck Evangelical Christian?

    A Southern Redneck cracks the whip and deports the illegal immigrant.

    A Southern Redneck Evangelical Christian kneels down with the illegal immigrant, prays with him, tells him how much he truly cares and then cracks the whip and deports him.

    A Sweet Yankee

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Some laws are so unjust they aren’t worth respecting.

  4. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon. Are only Southerners, or Rednecks, in favor deporting illegal aliens?

    Some Evangelicals, like Presidential Wannabe Huckabee, are in favor of amnesty.

    Thanks for your comment. You may have captured the essence of conundrum even though you mistakenly might like to attribute the motivation to regionally based racism instead of the rule of law and the laws of economics.

    The Evangelical messages about ‘love thy neighbor’ will be lost on deportees.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    You are the one who introduced regional racism into the debate by your continual “Yankee” bashing.

  6. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: Sorry about your gentle sensitivities. I didn’t bash any Yankees in that piece.

    Yankee is shorthand for the Northern sub-culture in the U.S. and a moniker for folks who come from that sub-culture. Identifying people thusly, doesn’t constitute regional racism.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Even if you agree that as a matter of law illegals should be deported, you still have to confront the cost and logistics of doing so.

    If it should turn out that the cost of throwing them out and keeping them out is higher than the cost of having them here, then maybe the law is a bad one.

    Painting over the problem with religious, regional, racial or legalese colors doesn’t help get to the root of the situation.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    You could say exactly the same thing about Southern Rednecks — or don’t you listen to the “John Boy and Billy Big Show” every morning on the radio? Check out their Website. They have made an artform of defining the Southern Redneck.

  9. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    RH: I wasn’t discussing the cost-benefit analysis. That is a separate important discussion of policy.

    I wrote about the moral issue and conflict that many Evangelicals face.

    I wasn’t reaching for the solution to the whole problem.

    Anon 8:50: I’ll check out the website. Thanks.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    If it turns out that you have a policy that hurts us, Evenagelical Christians included, as much or more as it hurts them, then where is the moral imperative to keep the policy? At that point, the moral imperative is to change the policy.

    If I order you to jump over the moon and you don’t do it, whose fault is that? What’s the point of arresting someone for violating a law that you won’t allow them to obey?

    Setting a high standard for immigrants is one thing (learn English, get a GED, whatever) but when it takes two years to get a one line response out of the INS with regard to an application, well, to me, THAT is immoral. If we know the law is screwed up, then not changing it is what places us in a moral dilemma and not changing it is immoral.

    As you point out, we could export still more capital investment to other countries, but we can see where the problems are there, too. Anyway, if you are going to give them a helping hand, why not do it here? After all, they are sending something like $23 billion home every year anyway.


  11. RH: Thank you for your comments.

    Fair point, I didn’t talk about the on/off ramps much. That’s where drivers opting to save cash and wait in traffic can line up off the HOT lane and wait to merge into gridlock. This is how the existing HOV system works now, and Fluor Transurban say that they will be adding more on/off ramps as part of the improvements.

    RE: mass transit subsidies. In theory, mass transit promotes compact development, fights congestion, and promotes equity in transportation by giving alternatives to those who cannot drive cars. So, if all of that is correct (I believe this is so, but have not researched it thoroughly), then the social good provided by mass transit produces a positive return on investment for each public dollar.
    Cars on the other hand also produce some excellent benefits in mobility, but they also produce air and water pollution, respiratory disease, carbon emissions, noise, collisions, obesity (lack of exercise), foreign entanglements to supply our energy, landfill space, congestion, stress, higher tax burdens, and contribute to urban sprawl and spatial segregation of our society. Jane Holtz Kay does a nice job of listing the problems with cars in her book Asphalt Nation (dry but edifying).
    So subsidizing cars offers a very different return on investment for your government dollar than mass transit. I have not seen this ROI analysis done properly. I think it would be an incredibly useful policy tool.
    Drivers support a higher percentage of their direct costs, but most of their indirect costs are externalized into society at large as the ills I listed above.

    As I understand it, HOT lanes will make sprawl easier and more convenient, but it will make healthy communities easier and more convenient still by providing choices and thus better options. It’s a win/win.

    There can be congestion pricing without new infrastructure (except the pricing tech itself of course, which is not cheap) more or less like gas taxes. The important difference that I see is that congestion pricing offers a service: reliably faster commute times, revenue, and better use of existing public assets. Gas taxes do offer a kind of service by reducing greenhouse gases, birth defects, asthma, emphysema, cancer, and other costs. Terry Tamminen’s recent book Lives Per Gallon pegged the true cost to society of each gallon of gas at $10. An economist would say that, if Tamminen is correct, society is harmed equal to the difference between the total gas sold in America times its retail price and the same amount of gas times its true cost. It’s an astounding number, I’m sure. For this reason, I call Gas Taxes by a different term, Fair Shares, because they allow consumers to pay their fair share for the gas they buy. I support them for the public good they provide, not for the money they generate.

  12. Anonymous Avatar


    That’s an excellent comment. I don’t agree with all of it, but still excellent.

    We could use more of that here.

    “In theory, mass transit promotes compact development, fights congestion, and promotes equity in transportation by giving alternatives to those who cannot drive cars.” If I thought that was true, I’d support mass transit more. “

    I don’t think promoting compact development is a good idea. How many times do we have to watch masses of people trying to flee a city? For all their “vibrancy” how much bad press vs good press do cities get?

    Mass transit does nothing to prevent congeston, as our thirty year experiment in DC proves. It is exactly equivalent to adding another lane or two, it is just that they are steel. Anybody who moves from car to rail opens up another (better) tranportation opportunity for someone else to drive.

    As long as there is more demand for access to jobs in one location than there are means to get there, you wil have predictable (and preventable) periodic daily congestion. Even on Metro.

    If we want to provide equity to those that cannot drive cars, we should provide them with cars with drivers, instead of a shabby, slow, inconvenient, expensive public transprotation alternative.

    Public welfare agents frequently state that the best thing to do for inner city poor is to get them a car, which gives them access to far mor job opportunities than public transit.

    Winston and Shirley have published a number of studies on the social value of public transport. Their most recent one concluded that only one public system truly exhibited a net public benefit. And it was’nt even New York, it was BART, believe it or not.

    I’m sure they did not use the same equations as Tamminen (who I have not read). I have seen some similar claims that I thought were laughable. If you go to the same extreme in counting every conceivable externality, you can make a case against anything.

    For example, cement and steel are some of the most energy consuming products we have. If you cout all that goes into Metro, then their energy usage looks not so good. Metro doesn’t even use regenerative braking: they accelerate, and then create heat to stop, over and over and over.

    If none of that convinces you, the cost per passenger mile on all of metro is $0.85, last I looked. The passengers pay about half of that. But, money is a good proxy for energy and resources: if it costs more, it is probably wasting more.

    Even if autos have a high social expense, their owners pay a high proportion of it, unlike transit riders.

    I know my position is unpopular. I would love to be shown wrong. So far, no one has come up with enough to convince me.

    EMR says the combustion engine is dead. I hope so. But I’m not holding my breath till it happens. I doubt it will be uninvented. When we have evidence of less use, I’ll start to believe him.

    I favor higher gas taxes. Much higher. Call them fair shares if you like. But lets say the higher taxes provide a public good (in additon to revenue). Who is that good being provided to? If it is being provided to people who choose not to drive (along with the revenue from people who do), then how exactly is that fair?

    Even if some p[eople exit their vehicles because of these new fair shares, they get that benefit, but they lose the benefits they had from driving. They become like the inner city poor, who really need cars. How is that fair for them, either.

    The only people it is fair for, is the people who look at the cost, and decide it is worthwile to pay. It’s the same with HOT lanes. For those that decide to pay, its fair. Everyone else gets either nothing, or free money. How is that fair?

    Ten dollars is probably too high, though that’s just a guess. Six might not be.


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