Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Would fewer voters make for better government?

The commission has debated this issue before, and has not been able to agree with the central premise, primarily due to the inherently undemocratic nature of limiting the number of people who can vote.

Jamie White -- a philosopher by trade -- has come up with a different approach...

Jumping off the Cliff with the Governor...

The Commission had heard that NJ Governor Christy's speech to the New Jersey League of Municipalities was good, but had not been able to find it on-line.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock apparently went further than the Commission and tracked it down on NJN and did a partial transcription.

When he was running for Election, Mr. Christy repeatedly said that he wanted to fix the problems he saw, and was not concerned about re-election. So far, he has seemed to keep his word. This speech to the Mayors and Council members could not have been more clear.

It will be interesting to see the continuing choices and impacts reverberate through the state. Will the citizens really appreciate being told that they cannot actually have something for nothing?

Time will tell, and the Commission will be watching.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Its alive...

The Commission is still with us, but the combination of work, an election, and a variety of household issues have kept us a bit too busy...

Rest assured, there are plenty of discussions here at the commission, and we expect to be back to regular blogging soon...


The Commission

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Fear And Loathing In New Jersey

So--whatcha doin' next Tuesday? As the campaign trail has unfurled before us, we have seen an unforgiving landscape of potholes, twisted guardrails, unkempt weeds, and week-old fast food detritus. But let's face it--we live in a representative democracy. This election is our mirror, folks, and we've let it get this way.

Tell me, as you read this, has your hedge fund manager called to tell you that your multi-thousand-dollar investment is now your multi-million-dollar investment? Has your local police chief called you to not to worry about that speeding ticket you got last week?

Here's something scary--I've got nothing to pick on Daggett about. I don't know if that's good or bad, actually.

In delis, in diners, in bars, the talk has been the same these past few months: ABTE--Anything But The Election. For something that's going to affect all of us for at least the next four years, it's almost like we couldn't give a damn--and maybe we'd couldn't.

Have we reached that critical point in our society where apathy has become the accepted norm? Government has already proven that it doesn't understand the concept of vox populi, vox Dei, at least on an intermittent basis. Is it our fervent hope that government can join the white noise, the incessant hum of commerce that forms the backdrop of so many of our lives? Do we not care about what happens to us?

From the absence of clamor, one thing is apparent--this election isn't so much about electing someone as it is about making sure somebody else isn't the person in the driver's seat. But when you stand in that booth on Tuesday, ask yourself one question:

"Was this trip really necessary?"

Yes? Well, then--welcome to the Revolution.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Congestion Pricing?

Eric A. Morris, a researcher at U.C.L.A.’s Institute of Transportation Studies and a regular contributor to the Freakonomics blog points out the results of a new study on the effect of Congestion Pricing in London.

Since most of the current members of the 108Warren Commission live in the fine state of New Jersey, arguably home to more congestion per mile of paved roads than any other state, there is a great deal of interest in any economic solution to the scourge that is traffic congestion.

Now as Mr. Morris points out, the study (which found that the benefits DID outweigh the cost) was conducted by the entity that manages the congestion pricing scheme in London, so this information should be viewed with some skepticism. Yet in the overall analysis, the numbers do seem to support the use of a congestion pricing system to reduce traffic (and generate revenue).

Folks that live anywhere near New York City will recall that Mayor Bloomberg tried to implement a similar system in NYC and was soundly defeated. Philadelphia has never even considered it, and not surprisingly, people in London are wildly NOT in favor of the system either -- so, even though it appears to achieve the goals set out for it, it may not be long for this world. The current Mayor of London is already talking about making the area where it is charged smaller.

The Commission is not surprised. The positive impact is measured at the Macro level, while the cost is felt on a Micro level. In other words, people don't notice a 2% reduction in their travel time, even thought it does add up to considerable savings overall, but they certainly notice a £8 charge in their own wallets.

The challenge is that traffic congestion is what Economists call a negative Externality -- a cost that is imposed on others, rather than the individual who makes his choice. Managing externalities like this is one of the functions that some people feel should be the role of the Government. Congestion Prices are essentially a Pigovian Tax to try and discourage those additional drivers at the margins whose presence on the roads leads to extreme traffic.

The Commission is torn when it comes to Pigovian Taxes. In general we agree that they can be effective in reducing behavior that produces negative externalities. The issue is in determining which "Public Good" should be addressed. There are days when the Commission would sell their souls to remove congestion at the Turnpike Merge @ Exit 8...