Be prepared to be watched
Posted by aogSunday, 14 August 2011 at 16:38 TrackBack Ping URL

Apparently the FBI thinks anyone preparing for civil disasters needs to be watched because obviously a good subject citizen will sit passively waiting to be rescued by The State. It would be unseemly at best to take care of one’s self, and at worst damaging to society (just look at the hoodlums who dared to try to stop the misunderstood and underserved youth of London — don’t they know that the government has everything under control?).

Of course, it wouldn’t be the government if it didn’t provide a guaranteed failure, with the Department of Homeland Security encouraging people to be prepared. But maybe that’s just so it’s easier to justify watching everyone.

If the government were actually concerned about helping people with disasters rather than fostering dependency, civil defense and preparedness would pay enormous dividends without being particularly expensive. Unfortunately, like feudal lords, our ruling class and their minions can’t stand the thought of the serfs living lives that aren’t controlled by the ruling class. Those bitter clingers would be simply unable to cope if they did not have their betters in charge.

It certainly makes the idea that public transport is much more about control than economy or ecology quite plausible.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
erp Monday, 15 August 2011 at 16:54

Let’s review:

1. Your car(s) is in your garage awaiting your pleasure to take you wherever you want to go, when you’re ready and with as many of your belongings as you wish to haul. Feel like driving across the country tomorrow, stop your mail and paper online, email your neighbors you’ll be gone for awhile and go.

2. Public transportation - none of the above. They set the schedule, the type and size of luggage, the ETD and the ETA, they probe and scan and confiscate the tiny little folding scissors you’ve had for 60 years, they encase you in a metal tube, they make you sit next to morbidly obese people who eat disgusting food from paper bags, then they take you to a collecting/dispensing area from whence you must make your way to your destination.

PJ is late to the game. I’ve been saying that the push for public transportation is about control for a very long time. I got my first car at age 20 (unheard for a girl at that time) and never looked back.

Freedom was what it was back then and freedom is what it’s about now. I was stunned that my 19 year old granddaughter* didn’t have a drivers license and wasn’t anxious to get one.

*Okay, so she’s half French and has lived her whole life in la Belle, but even so those American genes have to pop up sometime.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 11:56

One might also note how many of the leaders of those promoting public transportation would never use it themselves. A classic hallmark of a privileged ruling class who get to consume goods that are not appropriate for the serfs citizenry.

Harry Eagar Monday, 26 September 2011 at 20:42

I don’t like public transportation very much, except in New York, where it is very good; and Montreal, where it is very, very good, but it never occurred to me that it was a plot to control where I go. That explains the passport control at the subway station entrances . . .

I think we’re in tin-foil hat territory now.

And the post office. Do you know the government looks at every piece of mail anybody sends me? The horror!

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 10:50

it never occurred to me that it was a plot to control where I go

That never occurred to me either, until you brought it up. You do seem to introduce the most bizarre conspiracy theories.

Harry Eagar Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 14:53

You didn’t read erp’s comment?

Anyhow, when it comes to public transportation, this allows me to bring up a problem that prosperous people like you and erp probably are not aware of.

In the villages of flyover country, where the only common carrier transportation used to be intercity buses, the buses have mostly stopped running. In the small towns, there are millions and millions of old, poor, young or sick people who do not have autos and are trapped in Podunk. Need to see a medical specialist or visit a grandchild?

Well, if you believe Adam Smith, some businessman will provide you breakfast at a fee or a ride. Want to travel out of, say, Glidden, Iowa? Walk.

erp Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 15:51

Harry, people in Podunk and everywhere else have friends, relatives, neighbors, church groups, etc. who drive them places and people are generally helpful to each other in many other ways. Amazing as that must seem to you who think the federal government needs to put a program into place for every human act.

Of course public transportation as well as roads funnel people to places where they’re meant to go.

You disagree with that?

BTW – Glidden IO looks like a nice place to live.

Bret Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 16:33

I have to agree with Harry that transportation for the rural poor is an issue which probably doesn’t have a good solution and definitely not a market based solution. Especially in Appalachia, there are significant communities where car ownership is very low and car ownership is very expensive because you have to drive a long way to get anywhere because of the very sparse population. You can probably get a ride out of town once, but daily transport to a job is much less likely.

However, for the same reasons, public transportation is also untenable. You actually have to be able to get to a bus stop and in sparsely populated areas, logical bus stops might be miles away, yet the bus route will still lose a lot of money.

This is one of those cases where there really is no private or public solution.

erp Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 16:52

Bret, the examples Harry was giving for public transportation weren’t job related. Unfortunately, one must go where the job is or be prepared to get their independently. When the US had lots of small industry in rural areas, companies would have buses or trucks which would pick up and deposit workers back to their homes. Thanks to the unions, all that’s gone now and replaced with welfare checks and food stamp credit cards. Ain’t progessivism grand.

Harry Eagar Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 19:06

I was not thinking so much of Appalachia (or New Mexico), but those are good examples. I was thinking of comparatively prosperous parts of the Midwest, many of which have shrunk so much that although the villages still exist and have people in them, there may be no grocery, drug store or other services (other than a saloon) within many miles.

Friends may or may not help out.

Bret is right. There isn’t a cheap solution to the problem. That does not mean the problem needs to be ignored.

Unions had nothing to do with the decline of 900 towns just in Iowa, although union-busting did.

IBP destroyed thousands of small abattoirs, which were the economic drivers of small towns. When they went, so did the drug store, the grocery, the elementary school, the dentist, the doctor, the hair stylist.

Erp, as usual, has it exactly upside down. The unionized (to a considerable extent) abattoirs supported the towns. Unionp-busting IBP brought in illegal immigrants by the tens of thousands, crippled thousands by their reprehensible work rules (which there was no union to step up and protest), IBP was run, curiously enough, by a Communist agent. A real one.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 22:08

Mr. Eagar;

You didn’t read erp’s comment?

I did, and I just re-read it, and I still fail to see where she writes about controlling where you go. She mentions quite a number of things but that doesn’t appear to be one of them. I have to ask, therefore, did you read her comment?

I will also agree with Bret that there doesn’t seem to be a good solution. The failure in your analysis is that you presume there is a solution and that it can be provided by government. I would dispute that. The question isn’t so much “is it expensive” but “who is to pay?” and “is that the best way to help those people?”. But you do seem to lack the very concept of comparison and the related concept of “trade off”.

Let me now use the Eagar style and dismiss all analysis with personal experience. The local bus situation here (in the prosperous MidWest) is an excellent counter example. Rural people around here are desperately trying to incorporate their areas specifically to avoid public bus service. They don’t want it and think it might well be worth setting up new towns to prevent it from being imposed on them. It’s faded out mostly now as the local public bus system has gone stealthy about expanding service.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 12:31

Where did I say government had to provide the service?

All I said was that, contrary to the myth of the market, there is a persistent, unmet demand.

Funny about personal experience. My rural county has just recently begun providing fairly comprehensive bus service.

For years there were attempts to provide private common carrier buses, which all failed, largely because of illegal poaching; and there was a limited subsidized service.

Once the subsidized service was made into a real network, usage exploded —up something like 50%/year compounded over 3 years.

It turns out that either a) there was a genuine demand which the market failed to recognize or exploit; or b) there was a hidden demand that required government intervention to reveal.

And why do you claim there is no analysis behind my remarks? They are based on extensive analysis (not by me) into the problem, especially in the Midwest, that was done by the newspaper I used to work for.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 13:25

Where did I say government had to provide the service?

I took it as implied by this statement — “That does not mean the problem needs to be ignored”. If the market doesn’t meet the demand, but it should not be ignored, what other mechanism is on the table to address the problem?

P.S. I note you once again fail to reciprocate by backing up your own claims about erp’s comment. It never ceases to amaze me how you can throw stuff out like that without the slightest apparent belief or interest in justifying your snark against a person.

contrary to the myth of the market, there is a persistent, unmet demand.

Where do you get this stuff? I have certainly never claimed any such thing, nor am I aware of any non-loony free market supporter who believes anything like that. Of course there is unmet demand — that’s implied by almost every supply vs. demand chart ever made. Have you not read any actual arguments by free market types? You certainly don’t seem to have read any of mine.

which all failed, largely because of illegal poaching

I am quite curious as to how there could even be “illegal poaching” of private common carriers. Do you mean “competition”?

And why do you claim there is no analysis behind my remarks?

I do not make nor have made any such claim.

erp Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 14:54

If we’re doing anecdotal stuff, here in a small, mostly rural county in central Florida, there is a little jitney type bus which picks up the elderly at their homes and takes them to the Adult Ctr, doctors, shopping, etc. around the county and then brings them back home at a stated time. Fare: $1/trip.

There are also volunteers through RSVP (Retired seniors Volunteer Program) who volunteer to take the elderly to hospitals, doctor’s appointments, etc. outside the county. They drive their own car. I’m not sure how it works, but it’s a very viable program done on the cheap.

There are also ad hoc taxi services (I don’t know if they’re regulated by some massive bureaucratic agency or not) which will take anybody of any age wherever they want to go, airport, mall, visiting, etc. It’s a bit pricey, but nevertheless it is available and a lot cheaper than maintaining your own car for the occasional longer trips.

Then there are dozens of service organizations and churches who also lend a helping hand to those in need many of which are “manned” by the elderly ladies who don’t drive and avail themselves of a helping hand by those who do.

People are not confined to quarters because the federal government hasn’t addressed the pressing problem of moving people around without resorting the the private automobile.

Harry, BTW what about us old grannies whose grandchildren live in France? Should the federal government have a program for those of us in that predicament who can’t afford an airline ticket too — or are you just worried about getting us to the airport?

Bret Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 16:52

Harry Eagar wrote: “…contrary to the myth of the market, there is a persistent, unmet demand.

aog responded: “Where do you get this stuff?

I don’t know where Harry gets this stuff, but that one is priceless - I haven’t laughed so hard in days.

Harry, aren’t you a business writer?

I demand a Ferrari. I only have $5 to buy it with. Bummer! Another unmet demand! I just hate it when those unmet demands are mine. And when my demands are unmet, I absolutely consider it a market failure!!! :-)

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 17:01

I’d say a persistent unmet demand to be able to obtain food is in a different class from a wish for a Ferrari.

And I wonder who erp thinks is paying the other part of that $1 trip fee.

As for alternative methods of transportation, a variation of what in Hawaii is called the ‘neighbor island through rate’ might work.

Nobody could afford to pay actual costs to deliver people or goods to the smaller islands, so a social policy has been made to allow private common carriers to charge the same rate to all ports, with the larger ports paying slightly more than the actual costs plus a ‘reasonable profit.’

We do that with public electric utility rates, too, and there are proposals to extend the idea to things like water.

Market efficiency, of course, demands that everybody pay his own way — as long as it isn’t done in the form of a tax — and people who cannot afford to pay that much can just die.

There are alternative ways of looking at things. Visit Stuttgart, Arkansas, for a good example of how that works out in practice.

‘Illegal poaching’ is what it was erp might want to look into the jitneys. The history of private common carrier intercity bus companies is littered with the corpses of carriers who could not compete with ‘jitneys.’

Bret Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 19:02

Market based economics, myth or not, tells us that all of the demand below the supply curve will be unmet. Doesn’t matter what the market is - food, ferraris, whatever.

You’ve introduced a second myth of the market in this last comment: “Market efficiency … demands that everybody pay his own way…” Well, no. An obvious counterexample is that children are clearly not going to pay their own way. But Market efficiency doesn’t preclude other activities and organizations like charities.

erp Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 20:20

Harry, taxpayers are paying the rest of the costs for the local jitneys. I thought that was obvious. The dollar fare is symbolic, but you’d be surprised at the way the old folks clutch that buck in their hands. Unlike youngsters, they’re used to paying their way.

Illegal poaching is hilarious. There is no market for public transportation. Jitney’s go to the homes of the elderly and bring them back again.

My point isn’t that we shouldn’t all chip in to pay for services in our communities. My point is that the federal government shouldn’t be confiscating our money to build huge bureaucracies to do it — like swatting flies with surface to air missiles.

Personally, I’d rather chip in for Bret’s Ferrari than for checks to millions of drunks and druggies and where in the US are there people starving to death or perishing from lack of water because it’s being withheld from them for lack of payment.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 21:08


What about this one?

Once the subsidized service was made into a real network, usage exploded —up something like 50%/year compounded over 3 years.

It turns out that either a) there was a genuine demand which the market failed to recognize or exploit; or b) there was a hidden demand that required government intervention to reveal. [emphasis added]

Gosh, I’ll bet if there was a subsidized delivery of Ferraris at $5/car we’d discover a genuine demand the market failed to recognize or exploit. And then there’s this

I wonder who erp thinks is paying the other part of that $1 trip fee.

That’s gut splitting coming from Eagar, who never seems to ponder that about anything the government does (for instance, the $800B of Porkulus).

May I also note that it’s beyond what you wrote, it’s a market economy that makes charities possible. Only when people have their own property and can use it as they want, can they donate the support that charities require.

Unfortunately we are left to ponder the questions —

  • What’s the difference between “genuine demand” and “hidden demand”?
  • What’s a reasonable profit and who decides? That last is generally the rock on which non-market approaches fail.
  • What the heck is “illegal poaching” of private common carriers? Apparently it involves jitneys somehow.
  • Why is the cartel approach used by the Hawaiian transport companies good when government sponsored but worthy of fines and jail time when done by private companies?
Bret Wednesday, 28 September 2011 at 23:22

You know, I just might be convinced of the big government approach if, because of government subsidies, I could buy a Ferrari for $5. Especially if it’s red! :-)

I haven’t had time to comment much lately, but I am genuinely enjoying reading these comment threads - nothing hidden about it!

erp Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 08:50

Bret, delighted to hear you’re too busy to comment even though I miss your input.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 08:53


Let me note that the primary force behind the resistance to bus service was that for once the cost of the subsidies was plain - roughly $1500 to $2000 per household per year in additional taxes. Imagine what kind of private service you could run if you charged $1500/family for a year’s pass (in addition to state subsidies). Then, to rub salt in the wound, the agency offered discount passes to the victims potential customers - a $50/year discount. Yes, people would have to pay the taxes and then also pay to actually ride the bus. Unexpectedly it was unpopular.

Bret Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 09:44

aog, those subsidies are only a couple of orders of magnitude from what’s required to enable purchasing red Ferraris for $5. I say let’s go for it. (I don’t know why I’m stuck on this Ferrari thing - I don’t even really like Ferraris all that much though for $5 I wouldn’t hesitate :-).

Harry, it’s not to say that the government can’t possibly ever do anything right or that it can’t rectify market failures (which certainly exist). It’s that in a lot of cases, the government fails as well. We taxpayers just lost a half-billion in a few months subsidizing Solyndra and there are more energy boondoggles in the works (for example, one company owned by Pelosi’s brother-in-law is getting a sizeable chunk of pork). A friend recently gloated that GM’s bailout was a success, but the taxpayers are expected to lose $14 billion on the stock portion of that bailout. I’m bemused by this because on one hand, blowing $14 billion seems like a very bad thing, yet on the other hand, only losing $14 billion does seem like one of the governments better projects.

So government fails, businesses fail, markets fail. Failure is actually required for progress. The question then becomes which failures are easier, faster, and less costly to recover from. Because of special interests and based on the work of Mancur Olsen and others, it’s clear to me that government failures are more entrenched, slower to remedy, and more costly on average than business and market failures. That doesn’t mean to me personally that government should never be involved in providing goods and services, rather that a very, very strong case needs to be made before I’ll buy into it and as time goes on, I’ve been disappointed more and more with government attempts at intervention.

Harry Eagar Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 15:24

If you don’t know how jitneys destroyed the private city bus systems (no, it wasn’t General Motors’ cpnspiracy), then you probably are not really qualified to discuss mass transportation, public or private. As I sometimes say, knowing economic history is a curse. It narrows the range of things you can believe.

The difference between a private and, as you call it, a public cartel is that the public had a chance to say no to the ‘public cartel’ but was persuaded that making it possible even for old people in the backwoods to have electricity was a good idea.

This is noncontroversial in most of the world.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 29 September 2011 at 16:34

Mr. Eagar;

If you don’t know how jitneys destroyed the private city bus systems […] then you probably are not really qualified to discuss mass transportation, public or private.

Or, apparently, even ask a question on the subject. So I am clearly not qualified to ask how jitneys aren’t private city bus systems either. And far be it from a journalist or business writer to deign to explain such a thing! For someone who claims to dislike ignorance, you certainly show a strong tendency to prefer its continuation.

The difference between a private and, as you call it, a public cartel is that the public had a chance to say no to the ‘public cartel’ but was persuaded that making it possible even for old people in the backwoods to have electricity was a good idea.

How did we go from local Hawaiian water transportation to backwoods electricity? Are you reading some different comment stream from the rest of us?

I would also dispute that the public gets a chance to say “no” to public cartels in most cases. Is that how you think Chicago works?

Harry Eagar Monday, 03 October 2011 at 13:13

Well, I could write a short history of how municipal bus systems were destroyed, but that seems to be putting the street car before the draught horse.

You already have your narrative set up.

But that’s asking rather a lot of short blog comments. Besides, I have in the past pointed out that so-called market efficiencies are incapable of valuing networks. The jitney-bus problem is just another version of that misconception.

erp Monday, 03 October 2011 at 14:21

Why is it a problem by you that old people and those with disabilities have an individualized door to door transportation system paid for by the taxpayer. All the passenger has to do is call a day ahead and give the driver a dollar.

There never was bus service in this county and I doubt there ever will be any. It’s too big and has too few people. The jitney’s didn’t put any one out of business.

The concept is ludicrous.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 03 October 2011 at 14:30

Mr. Eagar;

You already have your narrative set up.

Which is? Could you point it out somewhere here? I don’t see my setting up a narrative on that anywhere. Unless by “have your narrative set up” you mean “asking inconvenient questions”. I do think you could fit an explanation of what you meant by “illegal poaching” in to a short weblog comment.

market efficiencies are incapable of valuing networks

Where do you get this stuff? Have you never read anything from the tech industry? It’s all networks, all the time, network effectfirst mover etc.

Harry Eagar Monday, 03 October 2011 at 20:45


erp, maybe if you read up on your state’s requirements for certificates of public need and convenience it will become clearer to you.

Or you might do a search in your friendly newspaper archives for the attack that FedEx made, in the name of free markets, on the postal network a few years ago.

Guy, they recognize networks they build. When they see a network they didn’t build, they don’ even recognize what it is, much less that it has value.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 03 October 2011 at 23:38

they recognize networks they build

So your previous statement “market efficiencies are incapable of valuing networks” is now inoperative, because they recognize some networks. Do you never tire of making absurd statements that you have to immediately walk back?

I don’t even believe the quote above because I have seen many counter-examples. If you’re not aware of them then you probably are not really qualified to discuss networks and free markets.

erp Tuesday, 04 October 2011 at 09:21

aog, lately I’ve been getting some odd hieroglyphics when typing in the comment box and have to resort to typing the message into Word and then copying it into the box?????

Harry, the jitney service here is not public, i.e., it’s targeted to a specific need, the elderly and disabled, so it’s probably not governed by the “requirements for certificates of public need and convenience” or any other overreaching rule or reg designed to centralize power into the hands of the lunatic left ala forcing home day care providers and other small entrepreneurs into public service unions.

I don’t need to do any research in my local liberal rag’s archives because I welcome whatever actions FedEx or UPS or any other company take to provide good service at an acceptable price. Otherwise we’d still be at the mercy of the union thugs who man and run the once proud USPS and who are a large part of the current economic disaster.

Harry Eagar Tuesday, 04 October 2011 at 15:40

erp, I bet you my Xmas bonus that your jitney service does have a certificate of public need and convenience, although I don’t know if that’s the exact wording used in your state.

Most likely issued by your version of a public utilities commission.

And you just proved my point about the marketeers not understanding networks. Alfred Kahn rides again. Or, as the Old Downeaster once said about the road network: ‘Youah cain’t git theaah froam heaaah.’

erp Tuesday, 04 October 2011 at 18:14

Harry, although I understand your individual words as being English, but I really don’t understand what you want to say by putting them in the order you do.

I can get pretty much wherever I want to go in this great land of ours because I don’t need to rely on public transportation. I can drive over our excellent roads or in the case of your state, flying or sailing first and then driving and/or boating among your islands.

Christmas bonus?




Don’t you mean Winter Holiday Bonus.

Whew! That was a close one.

Harry Eagar Sunday, 09 October 2011 at 12:25

You drive on socialized roads.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 12 October 2011 at 15:05

I didn’t deem that worthy of a reply, but John Hawkins did so I’ll let that stand for me. The ultimate point is that if government restricted itself to the things that people like Elizabeth Warren claim people like me would dance in the streets. It’s just another demonstration of how fundamentally dishonest the MAL is.

Harry Eagar Thursday, 13 October 2011 at 12:59

Hawkins sez: ‘Those are the basics that ANY government would provide’

Historically, of course, libertarian/conservative governments did NOT provide those basics, and currently libertarians want to stop providing them.

So I won’t be wasting any more time with John Hawkins.

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