Feudalism–an economic system in which all land is owned by the monarch and everyone else must pay rent to use that land–supposedly ended hundreds of years ago. But a map of the world showing the current status of property suggests that it is alive and well over most of the planet. Moreover, a new form of feudalism that nominally allows people to own land but severely limits what they can do with that land dominates much of the rest of the world.
For years, various surveys of economic freedom have attempted to portray the amount of liberty people enjoy in different countries. However, none of these surveys have explicitly included property rights as one of the measures of freedom, probably because there is no easy index for such rights.
That was supposed to be remedied by the new International Property Rights Index. This judges a nation’s respect for property rights using ten criteria. However, only one of these has to do with ownership of real estate, and none of them consider how regulated such owners might be. As a result, it gives high ratings to countries in which property rights are actually severely limited.
It is bumper-to-bumper traffic in the tunnel under the Hudson River, but it appears the bus will arrive on-time — 10:35 am — at Penn Station, or even a few minutes early. Scheduled at 4 hours and 20 minutes, this trip is about 95 minutes longer, but $131 less expensive, than Amtrak’s Acela.
Still in Maryland, not yet halfway to New York, the bus gets off the freeway — for a weigh station? Yes, we pass through the station along with the trucks. It only adds a minute or two to the journey, but . . . why? I’ve never seen buses have to stop at weigh stations in other states. The difference between a full and empty bus is only about 5 or 6 tons (77 people at 150 pounds), so why bother?
The old model bus system (such as Greyhound) would run a bus from New York to Washington, stopping at perhaps Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, WIlmington, and Baltimore along the way. Most bus stations were downtown, so each stop required lengthy trips through traffic to and from the station.
In contrast, the new model bus system (Megabus, Boltbus, various Chinatown buses) has mostly non-stop buses. From New York City, one bus will go to Philadelphia, another to Atlantic City, another to Washington.
But the Washington-New York bus does have one stop, in Baltimore. Rather than tediously going to downtown Baltimore, however, the bus stops at a park-and-ride station just a couple of minutes off the freeway. A sign at the park-and-ride station says an MTA bus from there takes just 2-1/2 minutes to Baltimore, presumably meaning downtown. Something like 10 people get on at this stop; I don’t think anyone gets off.
The I-95 corridor is supposed to be heavily congested, and it is no wonder. Here we have the most densely populated corridor in the U.S. and it is served by a freeway that is mostly just six lanes. Moreover, the lanes are distinctly narrower than freeway lanes that I am used to in the West — I suspect 12-foot wide lanes vs. 14-footers in the West. At one point on a four-lane section of the GW Parkway, I noted the driver was unable to pass another bus because both together seemed wider than the two north-bound lanes.
THe Federal Highway Administration distinguishes between bridges that are “structurally deficient,” meaning they require extra maintenance and may not be able to support the loads they were originally built for, and “functionally obsolete,” meaning they may be in good condition but suffer from outdated designs such as narrow lanes, low overheads, and/or overly sharp curves. A similar distinction might be made for highways. I-95 seems to be relatively smooth and free of potholes, meaning it is not structurally deficient. But it is close to being functionally obsolete. If we are going to build new infrastructure, this is the kind of infrastructure that should be replaced, not high-speed rail lines that will soon be structurally deficient because we can’t afford to maintain them.
As has been widely reported, the Antiplanner is taking the Megabus to New York City today. I’ve been on the Megabus before from New York to Washington, but this is my first trip in the other direction.
Taking Megabus at a cost of $8 cost the Antiplanner an extra hour of sleep but saved Fox News $131 over the cost of Amtrak’s Acela. I don’t really care about saving Fox News money–they would have gladly paid my airfare from Oregon and a hotel so I could appear on John Stossel‘s show to talk about high-speed rail and driverless cars. But it was the principle of the thing: I couldn’t very well pan high-speed rail after riding it, could I?
Last week’s weather report for this past weekend (October 23-24) predicted snow in the mountains, so Thursday, October 21, was my last opportunity this year to hike up the South Sister (also known as Charity). At 10,363 feet, the South Sister is the third highest mountain in Oregon and the highest you can hike without any climbing skills. Still, the trail is very steep–5 of the 6 miles averaged 20 percent grades.
I started at Devils Lake, which is about 5,500 feet, so I “only” had to climb about 5,000 feet. The trail began with 1-1/2 miles of steep uphill through dense forest. On emerging from the forest, I had an excellent view of Broken Top, a 9,175-foot mountain east of the South Sister. As the photo shows, morning skies were clear. (Click any photo for a larger view.)
My visit to Korea was courtesy of the Korean Institute of Public Administration (KIPA), which asked me to speak at a conference on “Conflict Management and Collaborative Governance.” Apparently, since Korea became a democracy in 1987, people have expressed their new-found freedom by protesting and debating all sorts of things, conflicts that one analyst estimates has cost the nation a quarter of its gross domestic product. This is probably high but it is a big enough problem to warrant coverage in the local English-language paper.
After the conference, KIPA took me and my fellow speakers on a tour of some of Seoul’s cultural sites and scenic vistas, including this palace built in 1395. (Click on this or any photo below for a larger view.)
On Monday, the Antiplanner rode a high-speed train from Tokyo to Nagano, probably the most expensive high-speed rail route in the world. According to one source, it cost more than half a billion dollars per mile in 1997 dollars, no doubt because much of the route is in tunnels. The train I was on was practically empty, and I understand that is the usual condition for that route except in high tourist season.
The Nagano high-speed rail route is a perfect example of why the U.S. shouldn’t build high-speed rail. Even if the Boston-to-Washington or California routes made sense (which they don’t), once a government starts on a project like this it can’t stop until all the most powerful politicians have one in their states and districts. The Nagano and other Japanese high-speed rail routes were built not because they make financial or transportation sense but because of politics.
Even smart-growth planners believe, or say they believe, that Le Corbusier‘s Radiant City would be an awful place to live. If you agree, then Seoul is a scary place, as much of it consists of hundreds of high-rise apartment blocks.
Seoul occupies less than 2 percent of Korea’s land area but contains 40 percent of the population. From the air, it looks like the worst of both Radiant City and urban sprawl, but the sprawl appears to be mostly factories as modern assembly-line methods require horizontal operations. Despite this factory sprawl, the average population density of the Seoul urban area is about the same as that of New York City–meaning it is five times greater than the New York urban area (which includes northern New Jersey).