False Denials of Comparison Between Roads and Families

In further proof of his lax moral standards,* it took Mangeek too long to read my post responding to one of his recent comments for his own response to attract much attention, so I’ll reprint it here:

… what I’m trying to say, Justin, is that I think conservatives (for the most part) are finding all the wrong explanations for why things are the way they are…
I can put a dollar-value on the per-pound impact of the weight of a car on roads. It’s a direct cause-and-effect relationship that allows large vehicle drivers to externalize part of the societal costs they are responsible for onto those of us who live more modest lifestyles.
Meanwhile, while you can draw correlations between marital status and costs on society, I’m not sure they’re cause-and-effect. In any case, we already ‘reward and punish things we like/dislike’ via different tax rates on married people, homeowners, business owners, and trust-fund kids.
Maybe society would be better-served overall if families were encouraged to (for example) drive safer, more efficient, and less costly vehicles (or buy smaller homes, or not take out $BIG student loans, etc.) than if we mandated which gender and legal configurations they were allowed to be. Just Sayin’.

It’s important to note that my post was in reaction to his questioning the necessity of moral judgment in society. In the above, he does little more than agree that he’s got no problem with the practice in concept, just on the particulars.
But on those particulars, his argument is clearly flawed. As a point of fact, he cannot “put a dollar-value on the per-pound impact of the weight of a car on roads.” He could, perhaps, put such a value on the effects of a specific car under very narrow circumstances, but it could hardly accurately describe the different usages of the actual people he’d like to tax.
Let’s say Joe drives a vehicle with a heavy curb weight — some kind of SUV — but he hardly ever puts additional weight inside it (after all, he’s only 120 lbs), and he only drives it a quarter mile each morning and afternoon before he is across his city’s border and therefore off the roads for which he’s ostensibly being taxed. Meanwhile, 400 lb Bob has a much lighter curb-weight car, but he typically drives it filled to brimming with books and other heavy objects; moreover, his routine calls for him to drive it 10 miles each way across the town in which he lives.
And that’s before we get into their driving styles. Joe takes it easy, while driving, and tries to slow down for intersections over greater distances. Bob is heavy on the gas pedal and the brakes, very often peeling out when starting and skidding when stopping.
In short, Mangeek cannot present his moral preference as a clear transfer of cost in a cause-effect relationship. Indeed, work in all of the relevant variables and defining the cost of cars by their weight isn’t much different than attributing costs to divorce and out-of-wedlock births. All else being equal, I’ve no doubt that heavier vehicles exact more of a toll on the roads, but the same can be said of broken families.
Nowhere is Mangeek’s skewed comparison more clear than in his closing. We aren’t comparing a soft “encouragement” of vehicle types to a stiff penalty against particular relationships. Quite the opposite is true: He wants to exact a penalizing tax against owners of larger vehicles, while he objects to mere recognition of a family type that still ought to be considered to be ideal.
* Note: This opening phrase is tongue in cheek.

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

“or buy smaller homes”
I wonder if this won’t take care of itself. Perhaps “quality homes” will replace McMansions.
When I was pre-teen and Victorian homes were not in fashion, the state put a highway through our property. My mother disliked the noise and wanted to move. I accompanied her on several trips to look at houses. The brokers showed her a number of large Victorians. The sales pitch was along the lines of “I can get you a deal on this, no one wants them any more because of the maintenance, high heating costs, high taxes, etc”. I wonder if the McMansions “all made out of ticky- tacky, and all look quite the same” won’t meet the same fate.
The same may be said of SUVs, they are just a fad. I have long kept an old 4 cylinder mini van around, sort of as a wheel barrow. A few years ago I was in for an oil change and met a woman with a large SUV. She mentioned that she had had a minivan like mine but had “graduated to an SUV”. “Graduated” a term to inspire later reflection. Obviously, she was participating in a fad in order to keep up with the Joneses. I remember when Mercedes were first favored,they were small but “quality”.
I think Mangeek and his cronies spend to much time attempting to develop philosophies to combat fads. The philosophies linger when the fads are gone.
I recall the hue and cry in the late 70’s and the 80’s to “get rid of smoke stack industries”, “high tech” was the thing. Now we wonder where our manufacturing has gone. I went to another industrial auction today.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

All laws are overinclusive and underinclusive to some degree. Every one of them catches in its net some who should have been left out and fails to catch some who should have been swept up. Progressives don’t care about such details as long as the ends justify the means in their mind, but lawmakers who are actually thoughtful try to target laws as much as possible and use them as a behavioral tool only when absolutely necessary.

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

“I wonder if this won’t take care of itself. Perhaps “quality homes” will replace McMansions.” Interestingly, Rhode Island has the second lowest carbon footprint (not that I think that term matters much for more than indicating fossil fuel usage) per-capita of the states. Lower than more moderate climates. Why? Because we have a big proportion of people living in high density configurations (triple deckers). Earlier this year I prepared a presentation for the ‘extended family’ of the home, which includes my tenants. The subject was ‘let’s use less water/gas/electricity and save money’. Turns out that our uninsulated 1899 duplex uses 25% of the water, 60% of the natural gas, and 40% of the energy per-capita of the average American home BEFORE we even started trying to cut back. That’s money we get to spend on things that actually make the economy better instead. I understand and share the conservative argument against ‘central planning’, and I don’t like the ‘mileage targets’ set by the federal government, but the American consumer has shown over and over again that they will make very poor decisions for themselves. We know that people respond disproportionately to small incentives when they’re presented up-front, and I think that a little carrot-and-stick on the vehicle taxes would yield big changes in the economy. The funny thing about Justin’s example is that it’s one I used myself to dissuade a young friend (many years ago) from ‘cussing out’ a driver of a Hummer. I said “Hey, I drive my Focus 80+ miles a day, this guy might live around the corner. Who’s doing more harm to the environment?” The way I see it, we’re going to be taxing stuff, we need to to have schools and roads. If we’re going to tax things, we may as well try to… Read more »

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

I vote for more state-run lotteries to replace mandatory forms of taxation. Let stupid people who don’t understand probability tax themselves.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

One of the reason Rhode Island houses have a small footprint is the predominance of 2 storey houses in the Northeast. Much of America is housed in “ranches” and “ramblers”.
“We know that people respond disproportionately to small incentives”
I have an uncle who has a truly enormous Mercedes, I don’t know how many times I have heard him justify the truly enormous cost by pointing out that it has dual pane windows.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

I have a 6 year old smallish SUV which I bought for practical reasons-all wheel drive and storage space.It gets so-so mileage,but for long trips I have a 13 year old Camry 6 cylinder that gets over 30 mpg highway.
Maintenance is the key.
Both my vehicles are function oriented-I don’t need to make a rolling statement-I just need to get where I’m going with reliability.
Same with a house-I’d like a ranch nowadays due to medical problems,but I can’t imagine a mansion type place-again-the exterior of my house should be neat and presentable-it needn’t throw itself in someone’s face with pretentiousness.
It’s amazing how well one can do on a modest income(well under six figures)without being a cheapskate-I meet people who make a lot of money and they’re always poormouthing-they must eat the stuff.
I buy my clothing at places like Bob’s and Walmart and Job Lot-I feel no need to impress people I probably don’t like anyway and my friends could care less.
Shopping at Price Rite instead of Whole Foods is a huge saving right there.
All the liberal elitists swarm around Whole Foods and overpay for everything-but they’re the intelligentsia,so what do I know?
I sent my daughter to RIC and she was successful-and no tuition debts.
People send their kids to Brown and wind up with unemployed “Occupy” protesters-so go figure.

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

“I vote for more state-run lotteries to replace mandatory forms of taxation.”
Um… As nice as it sounds, it suffers from the same problem as ‘just tax the rich to pay for [heath care, free unimited education, deficit reduction, everything]’: There isn’t enough to do that.
Rhode Island is far-and-away the state that gambles the most per-capita and that only covers 4% of the budget. You would literally need the average person to gamble an amount more than their income for it to work, since gambling’s ‘take’ is lower than the current income tax.
So even if we mandated that every private and public paycheck in the state be delivered in the form of RILOT scratchies (in lieu of income tax), you wouldn’t meet the budget.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“Rhode Island is far-and-away the state that gambles the most per-capita and that only covers 4% of the budget.”
Okay by me. How many of you would like to pay 4% less in taxes every year?

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

We already do, Dan. What I’m saying is that even if we doubled our gambling and doubled the revenues, it would only cover another 4%. Not 4 points, 4 percent of the tax levy.
Basically, there’s no way to boost gambling to cover a substantial portion of government. Gambling can help ease the pain, but it plays a minor role.
What gambling and other sin taxes CAN do is attract business. I’m all for auctioning off some small-to-mid size licenses for gambling parlors in the cities, where their impact could be beneficial to existing nightlife/dining sectors. I don’t think we’d serve ourselves well trying to build a ‘contained’ (either in a suburb or in a megaplex) destination casino; we just can’t compete with Foxwoods or whatever Massachusetts builds. Instead of competing, we should offer (via the free market) things that help keep RI gamblers in RI.
Also, if we hadn’t boneheadedly banned prostitution (which is alive and well, just underground now), and wet-fish-handshaked on gay marriage and marijuana, we could have had a cool niche to take advantage of. Rhode Island, land of the free!

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
10 years ago

Ha! The marketing slogans would be endless.
“Give us your delinquent, your doped up, and your perverted.”
“Bring your appetite; leave your family behind.”
“You get the good times; we’ll get the bill.”

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

Hey, I’ll take any $BILLION business we can get at this point. We’re about to have a mostly-empty downtown. Again. The difference is that this time, nobody will issue the loans like we took last time to build-out Waterplace Park, move the highway, and renovate dead space.
I still stand by my old assertions with ‘sinful’ businesses that they can be properly contained via zoning on the local level to reduce harm, taxed to produce revenue that offsets costs, and regulated to prevent horrors seen under prohibition.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
10 years ago

You simply cannot “properly contain” an image when you also want to focus your state’s marketing message around that image. Apart from corruption and bad government, the policies you favor would only emphasize and cement the state’s image as a place in which it does not pay to lay down roots, set up family-oriented businesses, and attempt to raise multiple generations of people invested in the community as their home.
You’ll get your billion dollars, and then some, and there’ll be plenty of extra slush for the corruptocrats to sluice around, but the state will not rebuild a steady foundation, but sink more rapidly toward social collapse.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

The problem is really not that difficult, objectively speaking. Rhode Island should set itself up as a competitive, low-tax, low-regulation “business park” between New York and Boston. Instead, it scares off every business and professional within 100 miles with its failed progressive policy experimentation, rabid labor unions, and corrupt politics. So all the business goes to libertarian New Hampshire instead and they reap the rewards.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

posted by Joe:
“It’s amazing how well one can do on a modest income(well under six figures)without being a cheapskate”
Life takes me down Pitman St. fairly often, I always notice a fleet of Mercedes in the Salvation Army store parking lot.
Posted by mangeek
“I still stand by my old assertions with ‘sinful’ businesses that they can be properly contained via zoning on the local level to reduce harm, taxed to produce revenue that offsets costs, and regulated to prevent horrors seen under prohibition.”
“Every thing old is new again” It wasn’t so long ago, 45 years +/-, that Providence was a “Navy Town” and sin businesses were the order of the day. It was one of the few places on the East Coast where tatooting was legal, I believe the pre-eminent tatooer was Sailor West. The “gobs” coming in from Newport and Quonset chewed the city up on week-ends.
I wasn’t around for it, so I don’t know if it was “properly contained via zoning”. My knowledge comes form relatives who were in the Navy. I do remember, that as a real kid, there were a lot of “Gob Shops” (uniforms,etc) downtown. I understand it wasn’t like Virginia, no signs that read “dogs and sailors keep off the grass”

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

“the state’s image as a place in which it does not pay to lay down roots…”
Like Connecticut, where gambling ‘devastates’ the state? Besides the fact that Rhode Island doesn’t have a good reputation to save, what happens on the weekend in a lounge in downtown Providence has VERY little negative effect on your neighborhood in Tiverton, or mine right over the line in Pawtucket, or my parents who live only blocks from downtown’s nightlife. Meanwhile, having the business around DOES make for jobs and revenues that don’t have to come out of your paycheck.
“set up family-oriented businesses, and attempt to raise multiple generations of people invested in the community as their home.”
Then I suppose we ought to outlaw bars and strip clubs too. I can guarantee you we aren’t going to build an economy on chastity and piety. Rhode Island is going to have to be different from our neighbors, because there’s absolutely no way we can provide the basic services Americans want (schools, roads, police) at lower rates, given our high-density urban population. We can’t be a ‘low tax’ industrial park (though I do think we would do well with a container port in Quonset, and we could be a retail destination if we cut the sales tax to 4% across-the-board), because there’s no way we can ever beat our neighbors on per-capita costs. We’re going to have to offer things that Massachusetts and Connecticut just won’t do.
I guarantee you there are more productive, ethical, hard-working Americans who would relocate to a city that plays fast-and-loose downtown, but maintains safe neighborhoods than there are looking for another Boring Uptight Christian Suburb. If people wanted that, they have pretty much the whole rest of the country to work with.

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

And Warrington, Providence has maintained an image of a ‘fun place’ to this day, though it’s not *much* more fun than cities nearby anymore.
All those artsy hipsters go to places that are ‘fun’, and many end up staying and having families. I hate saying it, but they’re the engines of the New Economy.
Relaxing marijuana laws ($25 tickets for basic possession?), allowing full-blown gay marriage, gambling parlors, 4AM closing times for bars that don’t get complaints, eliminating the three-tier liquor distribution system… Those would do more for our economy than anything I’ve heard a politician say in the last five years.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“We can’t be a ‘low tax’ industrial park”
Why? It makes perfect sense and Rhode Island is perfectly situated for it. Ok, RI literally can’t *now* because it has instead turned itself into a high-cost progressive welfare state and illegal immigration magnet, but luring businesses through comparative advantage should objectively be the end goal. It’s essentially what New Hampshire has done with success, and they consistently rank in the top 5 now. They have an small but active government office whose sole job is to meet with MA, RI, and CT businesses to demonstrate all the money they can save and convince them to relocate. Many have taken them up on it.

Monique
Editor
10 years ago

“Rhode Island should set itself up as a competitive, low-tax, low-regulation “business park” between New York and Boston.”
Yes, indeed.
“Instead, it scares off every business and professional within 100 miles with its failed progressive policy experimentation, rabid labor unions, and corrupt politics.”
Yes. And now will have permanently scared them off with talk of its capital going bankrupt.
But the decades of one party rule which brought this on will have been worth it because, after all,
“Bush lied, people died.”
“My grandparents always voted dem.”
“Democrats are for the working man!”

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