July 18, 2003

What is this blog for?

Patrick Crozier | Blogging

Why do I ask? Right at the top, underneath "Transport Blog" it says: "For a free market in transport" Doesn't that answer the question? Pretty much, but it didn't stop Brian and myself spending half an hour discussing this issue this afternoon on the telephone.

What Brian was saying was that he wants examples and ideas from everywhere that can be used everywhere. He wants to hear about, for example, horse transport in Russia, and how it might apply to London, Lisbon and Kuala Lumpar. I agree. I don't want it to be a London-centric ghetto. I too want to hear examples of how other people around the world and (for that matter) in other times have solved their transport problems. Dammit, it's not even their transport problems. We move ourselves and goods around the place for a reason and I am just as interested in alternatives to moving goods and people around the place. That's why we have a category called "Staying put".

While on a personal level I am in favour of trains (or at least the idea of trains) as a libertarian I am entirely neutral on the question of whether that is the best way of getting around and even whether that getting around is actually necessary. Dammit, if the answer (given all the plusses and minuses) is smoke-belching buses, or trams, or segways or air cars, or even taller buildings or sitting at home with a video link, I want to hear about it.

I also want to promote the idea that there are no no-go areas for (pace Perry) libertarianism. If the free market is the best way of producing Mars Bars why shouldn't it also be the best way of providing underground railways? In that respect, although I am in currently in favour of compulsory purchase, I am very keen on hearing arguments against it. If it were possible to build railways and roads without engaging the full might of the coercive state, or even that it isn't and that the alternatives are acceptable, I want to know. I also want to know if the opposite is the case. If there is a role for the state and there are limits to freedom then let's hear it. Let us at least know where those limits lie and why.

Brian and I also discussed what Transport Blog isn't. We sort of instinctively agreed that space travel is off limits. It has to be mundane. So, why talk about Concorde? There is also the issue that the more you get into transport the more you realise that it touches on all sorts of other issues such as architecture and technology. It's all part of that Staying Put/Land Values debate. At what point do we draw the line? Are PDAs and the Gherkin appropriate subjects for Transport Blog?

Our discussion also made me realise that I want Transport Blog to be a lot bigger both in terms of readership and writership. What if a posting on, say, air conditioning on the London Underground could touch off a flood of informed comments from around the world? With, perhaps some people discussing the origins of the system and others talking about the engineering issues and others talking about the situation around the world and others saying: "Well, it's all too expensive and anyway, other people's sweat is good for you."

And what if, because it was the place where all the interesting debates took place, Transport Blog could become the first thing that transport professionals and enthusiasts around the world turn to in the morning? And could we develop a social side to this? There are stacks of people who have e-mailed me or commented over the last year or so who I would love to meet in the flesh.

Now, there's a challenge.

Trackbacks

Transport Blog: goals
Patrick Crozier lays out some ambitious goals for Transport Blog: Our discussion also made me realise that I want Transport Blog to be a lot bigger both in terms of readership and writership. What if a posting on, say, air...
Catallarchy.net on July 22, 2003

Transport Blog: goals
Patrick Crozier lays out some ambitious goals for Transport Blog: Our discussion also made me realise that I want Transport Blog to be a lot bigger both in terms of readership and writership. What if a posting on, say, air...
Catallarchy.net on July 22, 2003

Comments

Transport Blog is one of the most intelligent sources of interesting fact and perspective on the web.

BUT, and SO... I am surprised as a statement such as

"If the free market is the best way of producing Mars Bars why shouldn't it also be the best way of providing underground railways?"

There is such an obvious difference between the purchase of an ITEM for personal consumption and USE of a SYSTEM (whose value is in direct proportion to how many others can also use it) i.e. a personal good and a social good.

The fact that the private market can produce a foodstuff (broadening your example) offers no suggestion whatsoever that the market can produce a social good.

In fact, assuming that our ancestors were not all idiots, we have group-action through government for that very reason: to produce social goods which are individuals are unable to produce on their own. No?

Transportation, in particular, requiring as it inevitably does the crossing of _Private_ property, must as a practical matter have the force of public coercion behind it. Without it, you have highway men and Rhine Counts offering Private coercion at every opportunity.

Posted by David on July 19, 2003

>>"If the free market is the best way of producing Mars Bars why shouldn't it also be the best way of providing underground railways?"

The big difference between underground railways is and Mars Bars is that underground railways (and other forms of transport) have very large externalities, both positive and negative, and pure free markets aren't very good at handling externalities.

Posted by Tim Hall on July 20, 2003

>>"If the free market is the best way of producing Mars Bars why shouldn't it also be the best way of providing underground railways?"

Railways don't operate in a free market. Because the vast social investment they hold is so easily shut down by a small group of employees they are always captured by their unions.

Railway technology is thus inefficient not because it is technically backward but because it cannot support real competition.

Long live road transport and airline competition, and my freedom and that of millions of other citizens, and two fingers up to the railway unions, who bedeviled my youth with their arrogance and poor service!

Posted by JK on July 25, 2003

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