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View Diary: Cars Cause Republicanism (338 comments)

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    Several others mention the subsidies to the auto culture, which are huge by any measure.  But when people only count actual direct money subsidies much is missed.  

    The greatest subsidy of all is the "free" allocation of space to auto use.  Of course space, particularly in cities, isn't free.  The space given over to autos has about the same rentable value as the adjoining commercial space although that rent is not directly monetized. (It is indirectly monetized into suburban land prices, as well as a few other distorted prices.)  It could be monetized directly.  If we charged drivers for their use of the streets many other taxes could be lessened.  The street use charge could be proportioned to car weight, height, and pollution grade, and time of day.  If drivers had to pay the full cost of driving we can be quite certain that people would make different transportation decisions than they do in today's subsidized environment.

    The current system of massive auto subsidy in the US is probably the greatest systematic transfer of wealth in human history.  The net flow of benefits and costs has cities paying suburbanites and poor people paying rich people.  The suburban auto infrastrucure is also probably the greatest mis-allocation of resources in history.  (The economy of the old Soviet Union is the only real competitor for worst allocation.)

    My proposed solution of charging for street space fits within a larger philosophy of charging for all privileges such as driving, the broadcast spectrum, mineral rights, land, and pollution rights.  If Democrats want a real economic agenda I suggest the following: Shift taxes from productive activites onto priviliges of all kinds.  

    Regarding the effect of cars on attitudes I offer my own personal testimony.  I live in a close in neighborhood in Austin, TX and have gone to considerable lengths to organize my life to be as car-free as possible.  I bike or walk to work, but occasionally need to drive.  My experience from going back and forth, from not driving at all for a while, and then having to drive. leads me to believe that the car-centered society is causing people to be much more anti-social and hostile than people would be otherwise.

    Perhaps the oddest experience for me was catching myself, while driving, being pissed off at a bike making me slow down on a street where I often bike myself.  Perhaps I am an oddball case, but I think the structure of our society is creating a lot of the anti-social behavior, which then finds expression in the Republican Party.  

    Geonomist - Charge for privileges; abolish taxes on production.

    by Geonomist on Wed Jan 04, 2006 at 12:31:15 PM PST

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