Three good reads, two slightly wonkish, that I don’t know how to make into full posts, but thought I’d summarize briefly with links.
1. Apropos of Kain’s post on passenger rail, the Economist has a piece on American freight rail, which is among the cheapest and most used (in terms of share of the freight market) in the world. Some of the roots of American freight rails’ success lie in the deregulatory Staggers Act of
2008 1980. According to this article, the freight rails are worried about increases in passenger rail service, since freight and passenger often share the same lines (though they won’t with any of the new very high-speed services). Some of the piece sounds a bit like anti-regulatory propaganda for the freight rail industry, but still interesting.
2. Crooked Timber has a great piece about differences between American and European economies. In recent history, the US has had about third to a half higher per capita GDP than most European countries, caused in roughly equal parts by higher rates of
unemployment, productivity, and average hours per worker. The gap in rate of employment has leveled fairly dramatically in some cases and the gap in productivity is in single digits when one compares with France, Germany and the Netherlands. Now, the difference in per capita GDP is mostly a result of the fact that Americans work longer hours.
3. The New York Times (h/t reader d) has a piece on the paradox of Alaskan glibertarianism, summed up well by one of the authors of the state constitution:
“There’s all this verbiage that says we’re the frontier, rough and ready. The Feds paid for everything, but the conflict runs through our history.”
There’s a side of it I can sympathize with. They like living in a less populated, more wilderness-like area in part because of an apparent live-free-or-die ethos. But such an area is prone to have fewer employment opportunities, higher infrastructure costs per capita (footed by the federal government), and more federal representatives per capita (because of the structure of the Senate) leading to more earmark money. So it’s a recipe for self-styled frontierspeople becoming dependent on federal money.
I’m thinking of doing posts like this on the weekend more regularly — let me know if you think it’s a workable format or an annoying snooze.