Comment of the Week: Where there’s a will, there’s a way (to end traffic deaths)

Last week’s post, about how Multnomah County wants to end traffic deaths, described a Multnomah County report on traffic deaths that took an epidemiological perspective. It offered a sensible range of recommendations, some of which were a first, including working with state and city officials to increase the registration fee for heavier and taller, non-commercial vehicles.

What was appealing about the report was that much of it was common sense to people already engaged in trying to make our streets safer, so the County’s quantitative analysis of the problem was a welcome contribution.

But BikePortland commenter Charley pointed out the obvious, what is missing is not good ideas, but political will. And he described what it would take to get everyone on board with tackling traffic deaths.

Here’s what Charley wrote:

This kind of reminds me of that “Step 3: Profit” meme. There’s a missing step in the report.

The list of proposed policies mentioned in the report is very reasonable and would head us in a better direction. The problem of automotive violence has been well-tackled in other places, and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

What’s missing is Step One: building the political will for those policies and standing up the transportation alternatives that allow people to go about their lives without feeling like their freedom has been stolen.

Many of the policies would force driving voters to endure slower travel, more commuting time, with worse traffic, or even potentially force drivers onto bikes or mass transit unwillingly. As much as us transport nerds understand the benefits of that tradeoff, the average voter will likely hate it.

There’s no guarantee that voters will always be able to live near their job, or near the current bus lines- not to mention people working multiple jobs every day. Some people have co-parents who live on the opposite side of town, but need to shuttle children home from school daily while the co-parent is at work. Contractors work all over the metro area. Some people cannot even fathom the idea of riding a bike in the rain in the winter.

We all have a limited number of hours per day and we have to acknowledge that these policies would increase the amount of time people “spend” on getting around. Less recreation time, less work time, less family time. That’s a hard sell.

Without transportation alternatives in place, forcing people like this into a slow-car or low-car life will probably generate a lot of resentment.

Even if the policies work, would voters care? Just reading the article, a quarter of victims were homeless and four out of five tested positive for intoxicants. Most people probably think “it can’t happen to me”… and from those figures, they’re not entirely wrong.

That’s why the killing of Jeanie Diaz was such big news: she was a “normal” person doing a “normal” thing during “normal” daylight hours. This problem usually isn’t “personal” to the average voter: they don’t see themselves at risk.

As long as this problem is concentrated in less politically engaged constituencies, there will be less political will for the kind of shift that would save lives.

So I wish our leaders would spend more time creating politically attractive alternatives and thinking about how to generate political will for the shift. In a democracy, policy is accountable to the voter, and voters don’t generally vote for deprivation. In the absence of a personally motivating purpose and attractive transportation alternatives, all we have to sell is… slower driving times and traffic. That’s a problem!


Thank you Charley and everyone else who commented last week. Your perspectives are an invaluable addition to our work. You can read Charley’s comment under the original post.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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pierre delecto
pierre delecto
10 months ago

So I wish our leaders would spend more time creating politically attractive alternatives and thinking about how to generate political will for the shift.

It’s amusing that the author of this comment ends with the same “Step 3 profit” (e.g. chicken before the egg) logic they were decrying. Without a political movement that elects individuals* willing to transform the status quo we will never see “leaders” creating alternatives or “political will for the shift”. In just about every case in wealthy nations, transformative programs that successfully shifted cities/regions away from automobility and towards safe streets required a government take over by left-leaning coalition.

If one accepts that political transformation/revolution is a requirement for this shift then there are staggering structural barriers in Portland:

1) Partisan elections are illegal in Portland which blocks left-leaning coalitions from promoting a slate of candidates.

2) Campaign/government ethics — third parties can still spend unlimited funds on campaigns and lobbying (and in most cases this spending is hidden from the public eye).

3) Candidates who forgo public financing can still spend unlimited amounts (due to unwillingness to enforce existing rules as a result of constitutional questions).

4) Single transferable vote systems are designed to block coalitions from sweeping candidate positions and therefore reinforce status quo-oriented politics.

* or transforms our system of government

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

I largely agree, but an even more basic problem is the lack of popular support for the types of changes such a left-leaning bloc would champion. As far as I can tell, the number of people clamoring for large-scale change in the transportation space is lower than ever.

The only current issues I see energizing a critical mass of the electorate (and thus driving city council policy) are the cluster of issues centering on crime, homelessness, and drug use.

In other words, if we get any mandate for “transformation,” it’s likely to be in a rightward direction, and not touching on transportation at all.

aquaticko
aquaticko
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I wouldn’t say “lower than ever”, but it’s definitely true that the car-centric transportation paradigm we all live in is taken by most to be an immutable fact of American life, rather than a by-now century-long project to force basically everyone to drive basically everywhere for basically everything, whether or not they want to or can really afford to. Of course, part of why this seems like just a Natural Fact is because we’ve built our cities such that you really don’t have a choice about it if you want to avoid being involved by economic necessity in that other cluster of issues you mention (crime, homelessness, drug use), not that car ownership is a surefire ticket away from it.

The fundamental issue, here, is that this Natural Fact–even if/when it becomes electrically powered–has carried with it, both domestically and abroad, huge costs of every kind that sure don’t seem necessary for a 1st-world quality-of-life.

I know the idea that middle class Americans may have to be in any way even trivially uncomfortable to avert mass social failures and ecological catastrophe is just completely off the table (to say nothing of the gross excesses of the global upper class), but….C’mon. A big part of why there’s so little political support for change is because we’re not paying those costs, ourselves. I’m not saying I know how to make people accept those costs–taxing gas so it’s $8-10/gallon is going to have little mass appeal–but it feels at this point like we’re debating whether or not an insulin-dependent diabetic with no self-control and little comprehension of the dangers of high blood sugar should be allowed to eat whatever they want.

We need to start being more real with ourselves about the situation we’re in. Self-deception isn’t sustainable in the long term, in any sense.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

The point of pierre delecto’s post is that we are transitioning to a government structure that will make it much harder to make any significant change, especially one that lacks geographically broad political support. That is, we have made ourselves less nimble at a time when we need to be better able to respond to rapidly developing challenges.

It strikes me as highly ironic that there is significant overlap between those urging large-scale urban and societal reorganization and those who supported changes to the city structure that makes transformative change much more difficult.

Who is performing an act of self-deception?

Watts
Watts
10 months ago

I’m always up for witty remark at my own expense, but I honestly don’t understand your comment.

cc_rider
cc_rider
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

It strikes me as highly ironic that there is significant overlap between those urging large-scale urban and societal reorganization and those who supported changes to the city structure that makes transformative change much more difficult.

The idea that the new structure will make transformative change harder is, simply, silly.

Right now, all of our city councilors need to maintain the status quo because they all are appealing to the entire city. What’s got to work with the old monied interests in the West Hills also needs to work with new money interests in the central eastside. The result is the same generic neo-liberal candidates that are beholden to capitalist class while having no problem waving a pride flag.

The new system will allow people with actual conviction to run and win. For the first time, East Portland will have actual political representation on the council and for the first time we can hire actual competent people to run the Bureaus instead of empty-suit trust fund losers like Ted Wheeler.

I’m personally sick of choosing between the well-funded PPB/PBA candidate or the well-funded Street Trust/ Non-profit industrial complex candidate.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

The idea that the new structure will make transformative change harder is, simply, silly.

Eudaly was able to get the Rose Lanes going essentially as a solo effort, mostly be keeping things under the radar, and working with staff from PBOT that she could commandeer in her effort.

If we want to do something like this again, it will require a formal council resolution with majority support to even request the resources to develop a plan, with a report back to the full council before any decision is made. It will be more open (which is probably a good thing), but it will give skeptics plenty of time to rally against it.

The logistics of getting anything big done will be much harder than it was.

You may disagree with my analysis, but you’ll have to do better than calling it “silly”.

For the first time, East Portland will have actual political representation on the council 

The first time?

cc_rider
cc_rider
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

If we want to do something like this again, it will require a formal council resolution with majority support to even request the resources to develop a plan, with a report back to the full council before any decision is made. It will be more open (which is probably a good thing), but it will give skeptics plenty of time to rally against it.

I’m not sure how you made up this conclusion, but it’s incorrect.

As I’ve said before, literally every other major city in the country has professionals running their departments/bureaus. Those cities function a hell of a lot better than Portland.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

I’m not sure how you made up this conclusion, but it’s incorrect.

Good to hear. Since you seem to be up on how things are going to work, and I’m obviously clueless, please explain to me how a member of council will get PBOT staff to develop a plan like the Rose Lanes without going through council.

cc_rider
cc_rider
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

You’d ask them to develop a plan and then you’d take it to council to try and get it voted on, like what happens pretty much every where.

But the Rose Lanes shouldn’t need to go through City Council. That’s just a symptom of our broken system. Professional transporation employees should work together to solve problems and make changes. Professionalizing our city Bureaus is a huge step in that direction.

Portland is moving to a system that works literally every where else. Portland was the only city to have our system of government and it’s been an utter failure over the last 30 years. Change is good.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

You’d ask them to develop a plan

Letting council members go around council and the city manager and assign work to the bureaus seems unworkable.

Would PBOT and other bureaus be required to give staff time to develop any plans that council members would want developed? That might lead to them working on 12 (or more!) sets of potentially mutually conflicting plans, draining staff time and resources.

Would bureaus get to say no? That would allow them to be gatekeepers and do favors for allies or reject out-of-hand ideas that they don’t support.

By the way, the bureaus are already “professionalized”; charter reform doesn’t really change them at all. It just insulates them from political oversight, allowing them to hunker down and conserve their inertia and keep on keepin’ on, in service to the status quo.

This is a change that will make other change harder.

cc_rider
cc_rider
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Letting council members go around council and the city manager and assign work to the bureaus seems unworkable.

Uh, have you ever heard of a legislative concept? It’s how all state governments work and probably most cities work.

Would PBOT and other bureaus be required to give staff time to develop any plans that council members would want developed?

PBOT would advise and the council persons staff would develop the legislative concept.

That might lead to them working on 12 (or more!) sets of potentially mutually conflicting plans, draining staff time and resources.

But in reality it wont.

Would bureaus get to say no? That would allow them to be gatekeepers and do favors for allies or reject out-of-hand ideas that they don’t support.

Again, this dynamic has already been worked out tens of thousands of times throughout the country.

By the way, the bureaus are already “professionalized”

The last three leaders of PBOT have been a bookstore owner, an activist, and a political science major.

harter reform doesn’t really change them at all. It just insulates them from political oversight, allowing them to hunker down and conserve their inertia and keep on keepin’ on, in service to the status quo.

There is currently zero political oversight. They literally exist to maintain the status quo at this point.

This is a change that will make other change harder.

Considering it’s only conservative folks who oppose the change, I seriously doubt that’s what you’re concerned about.

We are moving to a system that actually works. I can’t say why that bothers you, but we are moving from broken system no one uses to a widespread system that has been shown to work throughout the world.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

“PBOT would advise and the council persons staff would develop the legislative concept.”

They might do this for ideas that they like, but if they don’t like it, there’s not going to be much of a legislative concept developed. That gives PBOT a lot of gatekeeping power, and that bends towards the status quo.

“This dynamic has already been worked out tens of thousands of times throughout the country.”

I’m not sure that we really want to replicate the process that in most other cities has led to a far more car dominated world than we have in Portland. I’m not seeing how this dynamic gives us progressive change when it has done the opposite in so many other places.

Your post exposes a misunderstanding of how things work today. Eudaly, Hardesty, and Mapps provided PBOT’s direct political oversight. They did not manage the bureau; that is the job of the professionals in the top leadership positions. Those people will remain the same, as will the work that they do. They will only change course if they are directed to by a majority of city council, none of whom will have the deeper level of understanding that at least one member of council has today.

The city manager will provide some high-level oversight, but with 5x the number of bureaus to look after, it will be much less than today. And the manager will not be answerable to voters, thereby offering a greater level of insulation for the bureau managers from members of the public who want to do things differently.

Please come back in 5 years, when we have our great new transit system and the protected bike network is being filled out, and tell me how wrong I was. I really do want our new system to work, but all I am seeing is a lot of wishful thinking.

aquaticko
aquaticko
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I’m not supportive of the current city govt reform proposal, but it’s hardly like Portland or Oregon are facing a particularly unique situation and handling it unusually poorly. Bad governance is a national issue, occurring in every form and at every level of American government.

The self-deception is the idea held by most Americans is that things will be able to stay the same, and that stasis would represent an equitable state of affairs, if we only had the right people—and fewer of them—in government, when we need more people, and most importantly, more change, to help make moderating consumption—not the continuous expansion of it—more tolerable

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

We don’t need more government, or less government, we need more effective government.

I can’t say whether Oregon is uniquely bad — it probably isn’t, sadly, but we have a nearly endless list of policy failures at both the state and local level, and it is a lot worse than it used to be.

“Better than Mississippi” isn’t much of a recommendation.

aquaticko
aquaticko
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

No, we do need more government. Specifically, we need more planners to design, implement, and manage housing and transportation projects. Lack of state capacity is a big part of why public works projects of all kinds in the U.S. cost more and take longer to carry out than in most other wealthy countries. We also, at this point, should be consulting with other countries’ public agencies to learn from them what they’re doing right that we aren’t, not because they’re doing everything right but because there’s so little that we are.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

Specifically, we need more planners to design, implement, and manage housing and transportation projects

Can private developers build housing much more cheaply because they have more planners? Interesting if true.

aquaticko
aquaticko
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

If there was a sub-department of planners whose sole job was to fend off NIMBY complaints and get those people to feel ashamed and embarrassed of holding and expressing the positions that they do, I can guarantee the private sector would be able to build more housing. Also changing/reforming zoning codes, providing more transit so NIMBYist complaints about traffic would have less ground to stand on, etc., etc.

Also, we need more government so that we can provide public housing if the lower-but-still-positive profit margins that the private sector would ultimately need to tolerate if they build enough housing to dramatically reduce rents prove to be meaningfully discouraging to private housing production.

I put it to you plainly this way: if we want/need good things, and we treat/run government like it can be/do good things, then we should want/need more government. In our nominally democratic society, it is possible to influence government action directly. By contrast, a solely market-driven approach is still going to result in private actors doing what they want, not what we want (however that latter ends up being defined).

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
10 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

the lower-but-still-positive profit margins that the private sector would ultimately need to tolerate if they build enough housing to dramatically reduce rents prove to be meaningfully discouraging to private housing production.

The fundamental flaw of supply-side urbanist logic is that real-estate speculators will never build enough housing to substantially reduce rents because this would evaporate their profit margins (and increase risk of failure and/or bankruptcy).

Instead, developers will keep on doing what they are doing today — chasing margin/profit, building luxury housing, and patting themselves on the back for the immense subsidies they receive from public coffers.

we need more government so that we can provide public housing

Public housing is illegal in the USA.

Legalize it!

(And build many tens of millions of units.)

aquaticko
aquaticko
10 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Yes, the Faircloth amendment needs to go. It’s also hard to argue–in light of how freight rail “works” in this country–that there isn’t some floor of profit margins below which private housing construction isn’t stifled. Nonetheless, it also seems likely that we’re not there yet; you absolutely can find anecdotes of private developers who would build if it were less complicated to do so.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

Well, I also want good things, but I don’t see the government as delivering very many of them for the amount of resources it consumes. I have always been very pro-government, at least until the last couple of years when Oregon and Multnomah County basically beat it out of me.

Now I’m in a bit of a bind because I still think there’s important things that only make sense for the government to do (educate kids, for example, or provide drug treatment to addicts), but the government can’t seem to do them even when money is available.

Things seem to be better at the federal level, at least for the moment, and in other places I visit.

(And definitely don’t want a government department charged with making people feel bad for holding the views they do.)

aquaticko
aquaticko
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Well, it doesn’t help that at least half of our government–at all levels–has spent the past few decades trying to convince the public that government is inherently bad, and ensuring that it functions poorly enough that people agree. If it were clear that the private sector could/would deliver public good, I’d be all for it.

However, there’s no obvious reason to believe that it will, and–as we see in how private education has worked, privatized freight railways, etc.–plenty of hard evidence that predictably enough, private enterprise works for private interests; we have no say in how they work. That’s what makes relying on the private sector to do things so haphazard even when it isn’t outright hazardous.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

Well, it doesn’t help that our government–at all levels–has worked to convince the public that government functions poorly

The Multnomah County Animal Shelter gets a gold medal for this.

John
John
10 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

Hell, and when the private sector takes care of some important function (that government should be doing) and they fail, the government just bails them out.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
10 months ago
Reply to  aquaticko

when we need more people, and most importantly, more change, to help make moderating consumption—not the continuous expansion of it—more tolerable

We very much need this — thanks for commenting here.

Arturo P
Arturo P
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Well a slight shift toward the political center in Portland WILL make our streets safer. As we would then actually enforce our traffic laws via traffic officers and a non officer approach (cameras). Currently Portland suffers from a bizarre form of progressive libertarianism where adherence to the social contract is not expected and laws meant to protect us and give us a livable community are no longer valued nor enforced.

Charley
Charley
10 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Sure. Maybe if Portland were way more liberal than it is, we’d see bigger changes.

However…

Portland is *already* one of the furthest-left cities in the US, by most measures of the political spectrum.

The words “safe streets,” “left-leaning,” and “transformative programs” would fit perfectly in the stump speeches and marketing campaigns of just about every councillor elected since I moved here in 2007. Portland voters have already voted for candidates from the left, and candidates who speak approvingly about transportation reform.

So is this really a problem of local interest, or of execution?

I think execution!

A. I think there’s a bit of chicken and egg problem here:

Voters would hate losing their automobility if there were no competitive alternatives. Voters would quickly end any such transformative program.
However, excellent alternatives require TONS of money and, to some degree, the de-prioritization of automobility. We almost have to make driving suck to get the kind of transportation cultuer and spending that Copenhagen or NYC enjoy. But of course, we don’t have their infrastructure yet, so just making driver’s lives worse would be a short-lived strategy for any politician.

I think it’s a real challenge to get the money and reforms needed to build up the competitive alternatives, without evidence to show people how great the alternative future could be.

B. I think our local governments are clearly having trouble functioning in any competent way.

We can all list examples (Trimet, Metro, County, City). There’s a lot of money being spent, but it’s not been successful, judging by voter sentiment! Maybe it’s the overlapping jurisdictions, the form (City), the opacity (County). I don’t know. But if they can’t run our current community more effectively, that makes me doubt their ability to radically transform our transportation system.

I think our leaders should have a laser focus on how to improve our system so that there are attractive alternatives to car-centered life. That’ll probably be a slow process.

To your points individually:
1- This is just patently false. Any left-leaning coalition can promote any kind of slate it wants to at any time! I have no clue how you think endorsements could possibly be illegal. I got mailers with endorsements all the time when I lived in Portland.
2- Campaign spending is a problem, but you couldn’t spend enough money here to elect a Republican, so I’d be careful not to exaggerate the problem.
3- See above.
4- I guess we’ll see.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
10 months ago
Reply to  Charley

This is just patently false. Any left-leaning coalition can promote any kind of slate it wants to at any time! I have no clue how you think endorsements could possibly be illegal. I got mailers with endorsements all the time when I lived in Portland.

No it’s not. It’s illegal to affiliate as a particular party or coalition on the ballot-line when running for office in the City of Portland. It is also illegal to simply vote for the party/slate and automatically select every person in that slate. Anne Hidalgo was elected via this mechanism in Paris, BTW.

you couldn’t spend enough money here to elect a Republican

Any a party/coalition slate system, a republican like Gonzalez could never claim to be a democrat because he would be removed from the party/coalition slate.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
10 months ago

What’s missing is Step One: building the political will for those policies and standing up the transportation alternatives that allow people to go about their lives without feeling like their freedom has been stolen.

Do y’all remember the good ol’ days before your cell phone became so ubiquitous and a dominant force in everyone’s lives? Way back when everyone was worried about Big Government watching you? George Orwell’s 1984 and Big Brother? And then quite suddenly everyone has these tiny little devices that trace every movement using GPS, every transaction with every retailer, with users voluntarily, even enthusiastically, allowing anyone and everyone to watch 24/7 as we take images of what we eat, who we hang out with, and so on, surrendering our privacy willingly to major corporations like Google, Apple, Twitter/X, and so on?

The transportation revolution towards a clean alternative future will not be brought about by political will, democracy, and similar outdated claptrap, but by the marketplace and people who figure out how to make a profit by that change, folks who can convince the gullible common person that such change will be fun, entertaining, and without further loss of freedom. It will be a brave new world.

John
John
10 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

by the marketplace and people who figure out how to make a profit by that change

This is a big problem, and why I’m skeptical of any market-based approach. There is no guarantee, nor should there even be any expectation, that any of the changes we need to make will be “profitable”. Sometimes the things we need to do are simply a loss. We already made the profit by burning the fuel in the first place, now we are stuck with paying for that externalized cost. People are just crossing their fingers and hoping (coping) for the wizard hand of the free market to solve all the problems.

What we need is something like the Green New Deal. Because the “fReE” market only works towards whatever maximizes profit, we have to artificially make things we want more profitable for individuals (i.e. regular workers, i.e. most people). People will accept some minor inconveniences for good paying, stable, safe jobs that let them live a comfortable life. Big projects, the kind that would need to be done to improve public transit in Portland for example, are expensive but necessary. We should be taking those billions from the stupid I5 crossing boondoggle and making public transit in Portland world class. And double the pay of the drivers (or whatever – pick your number), which will create tons of new jobs as well as alleviate car dependence. People whinge on about driver shortages – but that’s nonsense. There is no labor shortage, only misaligned priorities. But that’s not set in stone, pay better and suddenly poof – no driver shortage.

Anyway, I could go on, but the point is that the “free” market is really bad at doing hard things that we need but for which there is no clear way to profit. Hell, look at healthcare, child care, school. The free market is terrible at this stuff because there’s no way to make tons of money on it. And that’s not because there isn’t some clever solution yet, it’s because some things that we need just don’t make a profit. Which is why we should treat profitability as the poor indicator of worth that it is.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
10 months ago
Reply to  John

The market isn’t “free”. It never was. It’s expensive, not only materially and financially, but also socially and at a huge loss in human capital. However, it being costly is partly what drives certain humans to try to exploit it – and us – for personal gain – a drive that has for better or worse given us most of the technologies that we now use. Douglas Adams among others have written whole essays on marketing committees discussing in 35,000 BC how “fire” might be exploited for material gain.

As for your examples, healthcare is massively exploited here in the USA for profit; private schooling is massively profitable in the USA and UK; child care (and nannies) is exploited by the rich in any country.

However, over-relying on “government” to fix society’s problems has proven again and again to be a non-starter in the USA. We “freed” slaves in the 1860s but we still discriminate, we still enslave convicts, a vast disproportion of whom are black, and it wasn’t for over 100 years that we made any inroads on ending some of the more blatant forms of discrimination. If we rely on government to fix our climate issues, are you willing to wait over 100 years for any effective change? If the answer is “no”, then I’d start looking for alternatives such as the marketplace and the exploiting capitalistic profit motive.

John
John
10 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

If we rely on government to fix our climate issues, are you willing to wait over 100 years for any effective change?

Your examples make no sense to me. The free market existed in those 100 years, why didn’t it end slavery, etc etc? It was only government action that did that.

And yes, heathcare exists and is profitable, but it doesn’t actually get to everyone that needs it, and it’s absurdly expensive and bad.

Sure, we have daycare, and it’s so prohibitively expensive that only upper middle income earners can afford it. It costs as much as a home mortgage (in Portland!). For ONE KID. And the workers are paid horribly and are overworked. One adult for 8 toddlers is how thin they spread themselves. This is a prime example of the failures of the market to provide what is needed. Let alone the fact that daycare should not even be a necessity if not for the fact that many families require at least two incomes to get by. This shows what the market values – childcare is to either be done by underpaid and overworked laborers or it is to be done for by a parent who does childcare for free instead of work.

Private schooling is profitable the way luxury houses and cars are profitable. It’s for the few who can afford it. It’s another market failure. Generally educating the public is not something the market is willing to do.

The only way this country has ever accomplished any large, focused, concerted efforts was through government action. The New Deal, organizing around WWII, etc. The kind of massive scale stuff that happened back then would put anything we’ve done recently to shame with the measly free market. We marvel at our stupid phones and yet the mundane prospect of replacing a bridge (let alone, doing it in a tunnel, adding subways, or a simple rail line) seems like this impossible undertaking.

Damien
Damien
10 months ago
Reply to  John

We marvel at our stupid phones…

Which, lest we forget, would not be ubiquitous without standing on a mountain of government action (that gave us the internet, GPS, etc and so on).

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
10 months ago
Reply to  Damien

Al Gore gave us the internet. He said so. I saw it online, so it must be true.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Damien

While it is true that the military/industrial complex helped develop the early internet and built much of our GPS infrastructure, crediting the government for creating modern smartphones is a bit of a stretch.

Damien
Damien
10 months ago
Reply to  Watts

…crediting the government for creating modern smartphones is a bit of a stretch.

That is a disappointing non-sequitur. I only said they wouldn’t be ubiquitous (=exist in their current form and popularity) without government action. Not that government action is the primary cause/creator, or that other causes weren’t also necessary for their current state. My statement is not in contradiction to, say, also saying “Smartphones would not exist without private corporation innovation.”

The full story would read “Smartphones would not exist without private corporation innovation built on top of a mountain of government action [to develop the early internet and much of our GPS infrastructure/etc]”.

All of this is in agreement with John’s point:

The only way this country has ever accomplished any large, focused, concerted efforts was through government action.

Watts
Watts
10 months ago
Reply to  Damien

Phones (and much else), probably wouldn’t exist without roads, schools, clean water, the military, and international trade agreements either, all courtesy of the government, so I guess… point taken?

Jed
Jed
10 months ago

I agree we don’t need to reinvent and the irony is that part of streamlining traffic is removing options not cramming more junk in… look at IN-N-OUT burgers menu. Simple and built for speed. Bikes and small mobility need more of their OWN space dedicated and cars get in the way of other cars (and everything) and are the cause of so much property damage when given the option. My vote is on simplified streets that keep cars going with fewer intersections because they are the things that create the wait. Cars are too fast for their own good anyway and people cannot make decisions that fast. Very short blocks in Portland. How much fuel, money, and time is wasted with all the stop, go, circle the block, cross bike lanes etc. also people get hurt. Look at heatmaps and just give micro mobility their own car free streets already, jeezus. Enough have died to prove its worth it.

Charley
Charley
10 months ago

Woohoo!!!! I am famous!!!!!

Thanks BP. I’ve been reading since 2007 and can’t wait to see what the next 16 bring.