Friday, September 03, 2004

Who's Counting?

Anthony Downs' insight re rational ignorance is now thought to describe, both, how we acquire and how we process data that pertain to the commons.

Moreover, it is an affluence story because it considers the ever higher opportunity costs of our time.

All of this is germane every time a political candidate, these days, says practically anything.

Beyond presidential politics, in California, the favored mantra is now that the state is projected to gain xx (fill in the number) millions of population growth by 20yy (pick a year) and, therefore we have to bite the bullet and think big and do really crazy stuff fast.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority knows how to play the game. They will soon ask voters to approve preliminary funding of a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail system to carry passengers around the state. The sales claims made are, as usual, out there. In 20 years, the envisaged system will: "Return twice as much financial benefit to the state's citizens as it costs; Carry more than 32 million intercity passengers and another 10 million long-distance commuters annually in the San Francisco Bay area, in the Los Angeles area and in San Diego; Generate at least $900 million in annual revenues; Return an annual operating surplus to the state of more than $300 million." (From their Business Plan at; many other zingers are available).

When pressed, serious people admit that big projects only get built if big lies are told. So, it's OK.
Taking a leaf from the late Julian Simon, would any of the authors of these claims put up for a bet?

Just dreaming.