Monday, April 04, 2005

Evidence with theory

Yesterday's LA Times (April 3) ran a banner op-ed by Richard Rothstein that included various quotable passages. For example, "Cheapskate Conservatives Cheat Students ... True, spending and achievement don't always go hand in hand, but the conservative argument still doesn't make sense."

Well, uh, yes. Unless one can explain the failure of spending to matter. A government-run highly politicized and unionized system is not up to the job, no matter how much is spent.

Wendell Cox offers a compelling set of statistics on transit use in America's largest urbanized areas (in 2002). Transit's share in all of the U.S. urbanized areas is just 1.6%; remove NYC and it is barely over 1%.

This is after many hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers subsidies. By itself, the numbers prove nothing. But what Richard Rothstein and the LA Times and the other special interest toadies omit is that there is a very good explanation for the numbers. Most people prefer personal transportation and purchase it as soon as they can. They also prefer personal communications (few in cell-phone-nation could fathom party-line telephone service), personal over communal kitchens, personal toilets over communal privies, etc.

Not only is there good "theory" to go with the data. But the explanations are simple and intuitive.

This morning's WSJ includes a letter to the editor by a writer who identifies himself as a law professor. Responding to P.J. O'Rourke's recent op-ed re transit, the writer notes, "[i]f 'nobody' uses mass transit, why do I usually have to stand up every time I am in the New York and Washington subway?" The writer explains that there are cities where transit use is low but that is because transit service is low in these places.

No, it is not "chicken and egg". The proof is the negligible impact of mega-dollar transit subsidies -- over, at least, the last forty years.