Car and Driver(less) Link List

1) A reader pointed out this post at Volokh Conspiracy arguing that personal cars give us freedom, citing the example of automobiles helping African Americans boycott segregated buses in the 1950s. Sasha Volokh writes:

Let’s think back to 1955, when African Americans stayed off segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala. During the year-long boycott, 325 private cars, some owned by African Americans, some by whites, some by churches, picked up people at 42 sites around the town.

I don’t think that it works to think of technologies as something that can increase our freedom, per se. While cars give some people greater freedom of mobility, for those who can’t drive or refuse to drive for whatever reason have worse freedom of mobility in cities that are built for automobiles. Rather government spending and regulations that favor one type of transportation over another impede the freedom of those who don’t prefer the favored mode. And in this case of cars presenting an alternative to segregated buses, Volokh explains that drivers picked up passengers at defined stops. They were using their cars to implement a voluntary community transit system, using cars beyond their purpose as personal automobiles.

2) Many people have written about the potential of driverless cars to enhance freedom of mobility and to improve automobile safety, but Meagan McArdle points out that car manufacturers will likely face greatly increased liability when driverless cars reach the roads. Do you think driverless cars are in our near future? I’m sold on their potential to cut back on parking in city centers.

3) My colleague Eileen Norcross writes at US News on Governor Bob McDonnell’s proposal to move to funding transportation with a sales tax rather than a gas tax in Virginia:

The governor is right to note that the gas tax suffers from multiple problems as a revenue source. As cars become more fuel-efficient and motorists choose to drive alternative fuel vehicles, the gas tax doesn’t go the same distance it once did. Also, Virginia hasn’t indexed the gas tax to inflation since 1986; otherwise the tax would be 36 cents per gallon by now.

However, switching from a user-based tax to a broader source of revenue for roads violates the principles of user-pays and transparency in taxation. The merit of the gas tax is that drivers pay for road improvements—at least in theory. In reality, the gas tax is a second-best option as a user-based source. Drivers don’t pay directly for their individual road use, as is the case with a toll-based system.

Also see the debate between Randall O’Tool and the Tax Foundation on this issue.

4) At New World Economics, Nathan Lewis applies Warren Buffett’s “Innovators, Imitators, and Idiots” theory of investment to real estate and suggests that new suburban greenfield development is in the “Idiots” stage as the patterns of new developments are no longer profitable:

1) New developments are too far from anything, and often imply commute times of an hour or more each way
2) Homes are too large for people to afford
3) Waaaay too much strip-mall type development, plus the realization that it is horrifically ugly
4) Land use patterns that are dominated by Non-Place (parking lots, roadways, and “green space” to make it all a little less hideous), i.e. “sprawl”




  • Scott Johnson

    It’s worth pointing out that the (segregated) bus system in Birmingham was operated by National City Lines, a private company. Whether NCL’s policies on the Birmingham bus system were the result of rational economic analysis (a calculated decision that the business of whites was more important than the decision of African-Americans, and that white business would disappear were segregation not enforced), management prejudice, or government pressure, I’m not entirely sure–NCL operated non-segregated lines in cities where segregation and Jim Crow were not the norm.

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