Saturday, November 03, 2007

when the economic solution doesn't work

1. One of the things that delights Sean about economics is the way you can use it to subtly fix problems that you can't legislate away. Taxes and interest rates and all sorts of things can be manipulated to make people do more or less what the government wants them to do. Things like taxes on cigarettes are an interesting example - how many people can afford two packs per day any more?
Reading an article on CBC about traffic, I ran across an interesting example of where this didn't work at all.

Jim Baxter, president of the U.S. National Motorists Association, says the troubles started 30 years ago. "During the late '70s and early '80s, there was a movement to make travel in urban areas as inconvenient as possible. It was motivated by fuel conservation and was an attempt to convince people to leave their cars at home and use mass transit. Traffic signals and controls were used to obstruct traffic rather than expedite it."

(When Baxter first told me this, I figured it was just another conspiracy theory, up there with those around the moon landing and President Kennedy's assassination, but then I started to see things his way. How many times have I sat in the left turn lane at my least favourite intersection wondering why there can't be an advanced green? After all, the traffic coming towards me has an advanced signal. Has a planner or a city official never driven this route?)

An interesting thought.

2. School yesterday was surprisingly low key. Latin was cancelled - the better to study for Monday's midterm I suppose - and my frosh classes were mainly taken up with discussing assignments (I get to write a critique of the UNB website, haha). When I arrived in Greek, Professor Murray wasn't able to be there, so he left a note to do the reading and a set of exercises without him (writing down the exercises as proof). It was actually pretty fun, and we finished the work within half an hour.

3. Sean was away last night, and I really don't like sitting around the house alone, so I stayed after class to attend a lecture about reconstructing fifth century Greek triremes (very fast boats with three banks of oars). It was not as interesting to me, personally, as the textile archaeology lecture last year, but well worth attending.
After supper I came back to campus to watch this week's Classics Society movie - The Holy Grail. Good times, though no one I really knew was there. I suspect they were at the post-lecture reception.

4. And here I am at work. Honestly, my work is more or less done, except for trying to hack Outlook for Amy, which I'm pretty sure isn't going to work very well, but I ought to keep it open til 2 anyway. Unfortunately the cafe seems to be closed today, so there's unexpectedly no lunch for me.
Tonight... Sean's getting home, and we may play D&D with Will if he's early enough. And the rest of the weekend? Studying. 440 lines of Virgil. So exciting.


Blogger dp said...

interesting about the traffic flow. It does make you wonder.
Not so fun about no lunch. Nice cafe... why wasn't it open today, I bet the ballerina moms were disappointed as well

2:31 PM  
Anonymous obtuscated said...

There's actually some pretty complex interplay at work with the cigarette issue. It's interesting to note that increases in tobacco taxes do their part in increasing smuggling and other tax-free workarounds. This is interesting since many tax hikes are justified for use to combat smuggling.

Triremes are vital in preventing an early collapse to randomly spawning barbarians.

6:12 PM  

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