I’m concerned.

February 23rd, 2007 by De Onion

Arrogance, corruption, false hopes, half truths, buying votes, poor management, broken schools, backlogged planning.

Those things concern me – but what is really worrying is the regular failure of the public discourse to correctly define the problems we face.

For example: “There are too many cars on the island.”

The implication of this belief is that it logically follows that we should reduce the number of cars on the island. To accomplish that goal there are a slew of strategies such as banning second-hand cars, encouraging public transport, banning cars to temporary residents, limiting car ownership to politicians and other select individuals.

The problem is that there aren’t too many cars on the island.

The problem: “There are too many cars trying to go into Hamilton between 7:30AM and 9:05AM and between 4:45PM and 5:20PM”

While traffic is heavier at other times than it was 20 years ago, the reality is that there are no significant delays at any other time in the day and so we can effectivey assume that there are not social costs to that greater than the utility of being able to drive a car (and the same could be said of rush hour traffic if there are indeed alternatives). So starting from this alternate definition we are then in the much better position to logically look at solutions. From this point of view it’s clear that banning fractional owners from having cars will have no effect, since they don’t participate in rush hour. So we can look at why people are making this trip in this time – basically getting to school, getting to/from work. Then we can look at why it’s better to drive than use the alternative – bus, bike, or ferry, or not make the trip. Then we can play with those variables and perhaps introduce a driving tax made possible by the proposed RFID system and charge people say $4 for the privilege of driving into the City in the peak hours…

This is true in the case of housing (which is a land use problem, not a housing crisis), racism (which is a social mobility and educational issue), government fishing initiative spending (which are guaranteed loss rather than potential loss), etc.