At last, an election about who gets whose money
Paul, I'm so impressed with how you keep on top of so many issues and express them to the general public so well.
I for one would read quite a bit more about the diminished "state capacity" we see so widely.
Are there remedies?
I agree with Russil that this column is "... both interesting (as always) and somewhat depressing ..."
I also think that we really are in a bad way when we have governments that are afraid to do anything because we object when they do ANYTHING. The old adage that we get the government we deserve has never been more true than it is today.
Ultimately, I attribute this disfunction to a society that always want more, more, more but is unsatisfied at anything because everything is unsatisfactory. [Spoiled children, you know.]
In truth, this is, to me, a symptom of a society that is spoiled and unwilling to take responsibility for it's own issues; we expect governments to do things for us that we can (and should) do ourselves and we expect governments to solve problems that are essentially unsolvable and that we just have to learn to deal with.
So, to quote those Nike advertisements, we should "Just do it" and we should simply learn to lump it on a vast number of fronts as life is not perfection and we need to deal with reality, unpalatable as it may from time to time be.
How very bleak. Of course pricing can be a tool to encourage transit ridership while discouraging personal vehicles, by pricing road usage (or, less directly, by increasing gas taxes).
I would also argue that using lower fares to generate increased demand for transit may, in some circumstances, be useful for making the political case to subsequently invest in transit, by neutering the argument that the investment would be wasted for lack of ridership.
A post that's both interesting (as always) and somewhat depressing. In Vancouver, the Canada Line opened three months ahead of schedule (in 2009, ahead of the Winter Olympics) and on budget. The Broadway Line is currently under construction; it's more expensive because it's using a tunnel-boring machine instead of cut-and-cover, but it hasn't turned into a big political controversy.
How did we ever build an Adam Beck Generating Station in Niagara Falls that lit up an entire province; the original Highways 400 and 401; the St. Lawrence Seaway; and the grand daddy of them all: the Canadian Dream of an east coast-west coast transcontinental railroad that ties together this great land. And all the too numerous infrastructure projects all built before the first rocket got off the ground at Cape Canaveral Florida in the 1960's, built and paid for by a hard working, visionary society that could see the future and wanted to be part of it. Challenges galore, doable, obviously. What's the difference to today? Today's projects are not special to an entire populace. Society, fueled by governments pandering to every hand out, gives everyone a "say". When you try to please EVERYONE, you please NO ONE. So you're paralyzed, watered down, nobody buys into the "dream", they just want what's in it for them. Society is so used to getting their way, which usually means things are stopped more than they get done, that everything takes on giant implications for everything except what its purpose is. This, to me, is the definition of pandering: being told I can have what I want, when I want it, without having to sacrifice or pay for it. Willful denial of reality, hey, let the "other" guy pay for it. But we ALL are the other guy, duh! Proportionately more was built, and more was done and paid for, including two world wars, in the first 50 years of the 20th century, than has been accomplished with waaaayyyy more since. Think about that. Why?
I've always thought public transit should be free. There are many pluses actually too many to mention. The biggest problem is when will the bus arrive at my stop, fix that and I'm all in.
I think the $9.5K EV/charger subsidy is equally ill-conceived. Do we really need to give public funds of that magnitude to someone buying a $50K vehicle?? This would be on top of the 5K the federal government is already giving.
“when governments spend money on things they don’t get the things they hoped to buy”
I think you’re missing a comma here.
I liked Ford's announcement for the removal of license plate fees and the gas tax but not for the commonly accepted reason: they are utilization-based road maintenance funding models however electric cars are not consuming gas, and self-driving ride sharing is going would not work with those models. We were going to have to find another way to fund road maintenance anyway.
Reading your article, I'm starting to think the same way about public transit.
Public transportation is a service and as such should be affordable and efficient to meet a growing need. I'm not sure how you could walk this back in 2024? Could the loss of revenues be sustainable?
Scott Alexander on cost disease seems relevant to the transit issue, almost more than any other area of spending. https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost-disease/
Who took the photo on the subway ? (Great photo).
Economist William Mitchell:
The government could address the inflationary pressures by, for example, making all public transport free of charge, thus encouraging a transition away from the reliance on private cars.
If the whole world did that simple change, workers would be better off, the environment would return to the reduced emission levels we witnessed during the early days of the pandemic when the cars went off the road, AND, the greedy OPEC oil producers would be forced by the shrinking profits to reduce oil prices.
Between them Lib-NDP-Green currently have the support of nearly 60% of Ontarians. When are are going to get real democracy representing the will of the people?
Great article. The list goes on, down to things as simple as letting our PM residence fall into complete disrepair (which will now cost many times more the original price for repairs, if it’s ever fixed). You and Matt Gurney, and likely others, have been beating the state capacity drum for a while now, please tell me this is known to people inside government and there are attempts to fix it??
We seem good at things that have been largely unchanged for 50 years - redistribution of wealth, education, postal service, air safety various types of other inspections far to numerous to mention but anything that seems to involve either massive change or massive expenditure or both is an utter embarrassment. Healthcare, where we spend incredible sums for mediocre returns, procurement, infrastructure, etc. I am a longtime believer in big government but I find it hard to continue believing and quite ironic that government keeps expanding in the face of its own failures.
What do we do to change this???