Posts tagged ‘Brian Doherty’

Heroic Assumptions

Previously, I have criticized the proposed California high speed rail line (from San Diego to San Francisco) as grossly underestimating potential costs.  Brian Doherty has an article this week reality-checking its projected ridership, after the California legislative analysts' office questioned the contingency analysis in the high-speed rail plan.

Eric Thronson, a fiscal and policy analyst for the office, called a risk assessment in the business plan "incomplete and inappropriate for a project of this magnitude.''

Thronson warned that there is no backup plan to keep the rail system solvent if it fails to draw 41 million people yearly. A bond measure approved by voters to help pay for the train network prohibits public funds from being spent on operating costs.

Doherty provides this reality check:

The future: where all of California's fiscal messes wait to be addressed! By the way, that ridership figure of 41 million averages to over 112,000 train riders every single day of the year. The average daily usage of I-5--the entire road--is around 71,000, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Here are a couple of other reality checks

  • The entire passenger traffic from LAX to and from every other city in the country is 44 million a year (excludes international passengers)
  • The current air passenger traffic between LAX and SFO is 2.7 million a year
  • The passenger traffic of Amtrak in its entire national network is 28.7 million (including local commuter operations)

Answer: Wealth

From the NY Times:

People of Valentin Keller's era [mid 19th century], like those before and after them,
expected to develop chronic diseases by their 40's or 50's. Keller's
descendants had lung problems, they had heart problems, they had liver
problems. They died in their 50's or 60's.

Now, though, life has changed. The family's baby boomers are reaching middle age and beyond and are doing fine.

"I feel good," says Keller's great-great-great-grandson Craig Keller.
At 45, Mr. Keller says he has no health problems, nor does his
45-year-old wife, Sandy.

The Keller family illustrates what may
prove to be one of the most striking shifts in human existence "” a
change from small, relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are
so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable.

Scientists are looking for the explanation of a generation of humans so much stronger and healthier than those who preceded them.  Hypotheses seem to center on pre-natal maternal health and early life nutrition.  But I can give the bigger picture answer:  wealth.  Not Bill Gates wealth, but the generally enormous increase in wealth, even among the poorest Americans.  I discussed this issue along with other related ones in this article on wealth creation.  And this cartoon seems relevant.  Also makes you wonder about whether the obsession with obesity nowadays makes much sense.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease,
lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years
later than they used to. There is also less disability among older
people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it.
And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery
keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the
way they did before.

Even the human mind seems improved. The
average I.Q. has been increasing for decades, and at least one study
found that a person's chances of having dementia in old age appeared to
have fallen in recent years....

People
even look different today. American men, for example, are nearly three
inches taller than they were 100 years ago and about 50 pounds heavier.

A nice perspective to maintain during modern media-fed health panics.

Update:  Brian Doherty makes a similar observation.

Don't Fix Immigration, Fix the Welfare State

Brian Doherty of Reason observes:

The solution to the legal crisis immigration represents won't come through
immigration law itself, which again and again has proven itself useless at
fully stemming the irresistible tides of human desire for a better life. No
matter how much money is spent or how the law is jiggered, it is not immigration
policy that has created unnecessary tears and strains in America's social
order. Rather, the welfare state is at the root of any legitimate claim that
immigration (legal or illegal) is an assault on the American nation. (There
are plenty of illegitimate complaints, based merely on distaste for
the often-imaginary hell of running into Spanish-speaking people in
day-to-day life or seeing some flag not of your nation, but such complaints
are not worthy of consideration.)...

The free market, as it usually does, has created a system of mutually
satisfactory interdependence, all of us serving each other and helping each
other get what we want. The welfare state, in all its manifestations from
medical care to schooling to pure giveaways, creates a negative sum game in
which resources are forcibly redistributed making some a problem, or a
perceived potential problem, to others, and allowing demagogues to obsess
over precious "public" resources scarfed up by the invading Other.

As long as that system is around to breed resentment and anger"”as well
as counter-resentment and counter-anger such as that seen in the streets of
L.A. of late"”immigration will continue as a political crisis, no matter
how many repeat cycles of jiggering with immigration law, or protesting it,
we go through.

California's
Proposition 187,
attempting to limit the provision of government services to illegal
immigrants, was indeed, whatever the motives of its supporters, in spirit on
the right track to a world where any immigrant ought to be, and can be,
welcome; one where they are pure contributors at the same time to their own
well-being and to everyone else's as well. It's the only permanent and just
solution to the immigration conundrum. But it involves a significant
reduction in federal power, money, and authority, rather than an expansion
of it. Strangely, it's a no-go in today's Washington.

I wrote a similar essay on how the New Deal changed our views on immigration.