Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’

We should pay people to fix things. Heaters in elementary schools would be a nice place to start. 

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You know what would be awesome? 

If we could borrow a lot of money for free, and then give it to people. I’m sure we could find some stuff for them to fix in exchange.

But we won’t do that, because austerity. 

No one was using those bridges anyway, except the 16,284 people who travel across them on an average week day. I’m sure we can fit thousands more cars on the highway during peak commute time, so it’ll be OK. 

Less sarcastically, King of Prussia is the biggest suburban employment center in the Philly metro area, and the only way to get there via train is the Norristown line, which will be the first to lose its bridge this summer. Traffic on the only major route into KoP from the city is notoriously bad, so the plan to bus passengers around the failed bridge will be subject to unpredictable delay. Unpredictability will effectively eliminate the rail line as an option for folks commuting to work, so this really is a big deal.

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Jastonite attacks Keynesian economics on the grounds that a focus on jobs will lead us to do dumb things like eliminate traffic signals in order to hire crossing guards instead:

Several months ago, I drove through a significant intersection with malfunctioning traffic signals, so it was being operated by traffic guards.  Under Keynsian-style reasoning that counts jobs as very important this is great!  Let’s look at all the benefits.  Surely there are over 100,000 traffic signals at intersections in this country.  If it takes 4 guards to operate one intersection, we could create 400,000 jobs by simply turning off the traffic lights!  The benefits don’t stop there; we save electricity and reduce carbon emissions.  I also noticed that people drove more slowly and safely through an intersection with people in it than they normally do with traffic signals.  So, by eliminating traffic signals we create jobs, save energy, reduce carbon, and make our intersections safer.

What did my analysis leave out?  How about the fact that we have 400,000 people wasting their time?  Focusing on jobs is not a good thing, because it leads people to the wrong economic conclusions.   If my analysis above didn’t count 400,000 jobs positively, but instead counted them as costs to be avoided, a much more honest description of the traffic signal proposal could be generated.

I agree, those people would be wasting their time! Luckily, no one would actually do anything like this, because its a really dumb idea. However, it turns out that we have plenty of useful things for them to do instead! We could hire those people to fix our infrastructure, for example. That would have the benefit of actually being useful. So an even more honest description of the traffic signal proposal would acknowledge the economy improving benefits of efficient, automated travel through intersections while noting that our would-be crossing guards are of more use elsewhere! And while were at it, all those people involved in the manufacture and maintenance of traffic lights get to keep their jobs, too.

Keynesian economics sounds really dumb when you reduce it to the absurd level of “lets just pay people to dig holes and refill them or be crossing guards for no reason” but when you acknowledge that a true Keynesian would pay those people to do actual, valuable things instead, it looks a bit better.

This message brought to you in part by Philadelphia’s crumbling infrastructure. Philadelphia: Creating an Urban WaterPark, One Ruptured 48 Inch Water Main At A Time.

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Treasury yields continue to be negative (we can borrow money and get paid for it) as they have for something like a year now, and unemployment continues to be exceptionally high, as it has been for several years. Our infrastructure is crumbling, in Philadelphia we’ve had a water main break every week for the past few weeks. I think we’re up to four.

So naturally, all we’ll be talking about in the next couple months is budget cuts. We’re doing the austerity, so everything is awesome! Confidence!

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Hidden City Philly has some cool photos, dated 1898 – 1915, from the construction of Philly’s subway system. Check it out.

See the “hot lunch” sign behind the street urchins? I like to imagine those guys are running the 1903 version of Wawa.

Mmmm… Century old hoagies…

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