If you look at old blueprints for projects in the past, they are a LOT less detailed. They had to be, because it was physically more difficult to produce them since they had to be drawn by hand. A lot was left to the contractor to figure out in the field.
Now, drawings are more detailed and contractors are incredibly reluctant to make even the smallest decisions on their own. They don't want to assume the liability and risk getting sued if they do something wrong, so they push that off on the engineers and architects.
This means every time there's a question, it has to be submitted through a formal process, tracked, answered, documented. And if the change has any cost impacts, the contractor tacks on a hefty premium because they know they can get away with it (and they probably underbid in the first place to win the job). Delays pile up, every clarification becomes an expensive change order, construction workers twiddle their thumbs while designers get around to addressing questions and this all costs money and time.
If I walk down the street and there is a group of workers excavating a road, there's a lot more of a relaxed attitude about fencing, walking underneath construction equipment, etc.
After all - use your common sense - don't fall into the hole. If you do, isn't it kind of your own fault? Nobody's going to sue anybody.
Additionally, it's not a big deal to close or severely impact a road due to construction - just shift around the fantastic public transit infrastructure, and everyone carries along. A bus only needs one lane in both directions. Another thing that would never fly in North America.
Both of these problems are deeply cultural. Lawsuits have become a form of welfare. Sure, you might not have government healthcare if you get hurt or sick, but maybe you can sue somebody and get paid for your suffering?
And America's love affair with the automobile is a well-known abusive relationship that America will never have the courage to leave.
Just like a an abusive relationship, the car love affair still produces some good things. It's not all dark and dreary.
"I hate that he comes home drunk and hits me, but he's so loving and apologetic the next morning."
"I hate that I get so stressed from my daily commute, but being able to drive to the countryside on the weekend is so nice."
You can be in a relationship without dealing with abuse, and you can get to work less stressfully and still have the freedom to explore the world.
That's what makes the relationship so sinister; it's Stockholm syndrome.
"How could I ever live without him, even though he hits me sometimes?"
"How could I ever live without driving everywhere, even though the country on the whole is getting more unhealthy, we continue to use up our limited resources, and the ability to walk around and individuals' quality of life is reduced?"
Of course you can live without those negatives. There are ways out. There is a better life possible.
btw, I live in a place that definitely is an urban sprawl, and is in danger of getting worse as more and more people move here (Orlando, FL). So, I'm in the same place as it sounds like you are ... and I wish _more_ people would bang on
It's not going to change anyway. The car haters on HN are in the minority of Americans.
So, if a minority, then a very under-served one. Those cities are going to stay expensive unless the supply of walkable cities increases.
I generally agree though, but to think that SF in particular is anti-car isn't exactly true. Much better than the rest of the country, but not as public transit friendly as it could/should be.
>By year-end 2016 road travel had hit an all-time high, north of 3.2 trillion vehicle-miles. Gasoline demand has followed apace, also hitting new highs. So much for peak driving.
Now look at that list of used cars.
No, seriously. Just look. Then come back here, because I want your upvote. Now here's s 3 of them to refresh your memory. 3 out of 10. That's 30%. Nearly a third.
3. Subaru WRX — 26.4% share
5. Volkswagen R32 — 25.7% share
7. Nissan GT-R — 25.4% share
These are not normal people cars. Practicality? Is that what millenials like? That's what the article claims! But judging by this list, all I can say is: my arse. The R32 has a fucking V6. In a hatchback. Are we mocking millenials here? Because if so, let me join the queue. If you want practical, you can find something better. Or are we mocking the article? Well, am I allowed to join two queues? Because count me in if so! These are not practical cars.
Or are we mocking the theory that millenials are buying cars. Well, let me join that queue as well, and frankly I don't care if that's not permitted. Because if the VW R32 is the 5th most popular car sold to millenials, and the 3rd is the Subaru WRX, and the 7th is the Nissan GT-R, then I'll bet that your average ordinary normal millenial is probably not, on average, buying a car. Because these are stupid cars that car people buy. They are not cars that average ordinary normal people go for.
Also: check carsalesbase.com! Total USA sales for WRX+STi were around 100,000 since 2010. The market for second hand examples is probably not very large. The Nissan GT-R? Never sold more than 2,000 per year. There's, like, less than 20,000 in the entire country. And that's the 7th most popular second hand car buy for millenials.
The explanation of course may just be that the snake people are buying a huge amount of Dodge Magna and Chrysler Pacificas. That would make sense - these two cars do indeed look relatively practical. Or maybe that they're buying a lot of new cars, since this is a table of used car purchases. And that would make sense too, since new cars, while a bit expensive, do probably have good fuel economy, good in-car functionality (iPod, Bluetooth, etc.), and don't require much in the way of upkeep.
But as evidence that millenials are buying a lot of SUVs, I do dare to claim that this is bullshit.
(And if you call me out on that, then I will downgrade that to merely saying that it does not follow from the evidence provided - which, in my opinion, is the same thing.)
(One of the other links - http://www.autonews.com/article/20170227/RETAIL/302279963/th... - has a section entitled "Need, not want", which fits better with what seems to me to be the general trend. And over time this will probably result in greater sales for SUVs and family-friendly cars and the like, I suppose, for obvious reasons. But I still suspect there's something of a change here, and that people will be purchasing what 15-20 years ago might have been an aspirational-type vehicle with a minivan-/estate-type mindset. Which, of course, just as how you today think nothing of having the equivalent of a 1980s Cray supercomputer in your pocket, running off battery power, is evidence of progress.)
Still, I stand by my conclusion...
What is not useful is going into vaguely related threads on Hacker News and posting extended analogies between cars and abusive boyfriends.
Seriously, look at this entire sprawling "I like cars"/"I don't like cars" subthread that has derailed discussion of the actual article and tell me: Has it brought America one iota closer to a solution?
Unlike complaining about what people choose to talk about, which has a long track record of success.
I changed jobs (twice) to move closer to home. I used to have a job with a 45 - 60 minute car commute (the train was over 2 hours due to the need to make 2 connections), then took a job that was only about 10 miles away (just under an hour by bike, 12 - 30 minutes by car depending on traffic). I took a bit of a pay cut for that job, but it was worth it for saving about an hour/day commuting.
Then I moved to a job that was 2 miles away (10 minutes by bike or by car). My job also happens to be close to shops, restaurants, etc -- everything I need for daily living. And I get around 1.5 hours/day of my life back compared to when I had the original, longer commute.
But I didn't just "happen" to end up living where I don't need a car, I actively sought it out.
Many people say that they don't have the option to change jobs, yet when they get laid off or the factory where they work shuts down, they find a way to survive even if they have to make sacrifices to do so.
FWIW, people living in poor rural areas, the rust belt, Reservations, etc. are surviving, true, but doing so in conditions that aren't quite first-world.
People for whom the American dream of a car for everyone has left them stuck in one place when they can't afford that car. People that need an expensive car because it's the only way to get to their far-flung job, or get groceries, or go a doctor's appointment? Where even if there's a bus, it only runs a few times a day and may require long transfers to go across town.
MORE people need to be making a stink. If this annoys you...sorry not sorry.
Advocating for something means thinking it's a good idea. That's all.
I have a car and driving it can be fun, but saving many lives and accidents would be even better.
We're on the cusp of autonomous self-driving cars! A transport revolution, lives saved, traffic optimized, pollution reduced, etc, etc. Why all the drip-drip-drip poison words about cars?
Does GP and our numerous sibling commenters have a case of the premature sour grapes? Are they wrong even after all the pot banging?
Consider cars today: polluting, wasteful in time/money/energy/lives, loud, dangerous killers ... transformed into cars tomorrow: a nimble, safe, convenient, "zero-carbon" (battery-powered), direct and fast conveyance! The old arguments evaporate in a cloud of red smoke!
We who are so blessed to own (or hire) cars can all feel GREAT about avoiding the urban density, travel villages, inconvenient bus routes, foul smelling light rail cars with their stabby/gropey fellow passengers, etc! Soon, we'll travel in comfort, productive and safe in our cars, as we merrily scoot from our far-flung, clean, beautiful, sprawling suburbs to our glittering commute destinations on the other side of the map forever! Smiles everywhere you look!
The above is all just theory. I mean, who knows what is really behind peoples' complaints these days.
Only if you exclude traffic congestion as a problem. Self-driving cars can help with some optimization (i.e. closer following distance on freeways, less traffic disruption due to erratic drivers), but they aren't going solve the overriding problem of too much traffic in the city.
San Francisco is already experiencing extra congestion from the precursor to self-driving cars, car sharing 
And wide-spread use of self driving cars may make congestion even worse. Instead of the office worker driving to work and parking in the garage all day long, his car will drop him off,
then will go drive around and look for someone else to pick up (or will seek cheap parking outside of the city center),
so that's an extra car on the road.
And anyone that's tried to drive past a school in the morning or afternoon knows that traffic is going to be a nightmare during commute hours when every office building is surrounded by cars that are dropping off/picking up the 1000+ workers in each building.
Not to mention that your "zero-carbon" (battery-powered)" cars don't exist, even if powered by solar cells (that were created by non-carbon fuel sources), the processes that go into mining materials and manufacturing a car still emit tons of CO2 and we are a long way away from making all manufacturing carbon neutral.
Single occpancy cars are just not very efficient at moving people. A single train can carry 2000+ passengers and deliver them every few minutes. In comparison, car freeway lane carries around 1000 cars/hour.
I have truly never understood this line of thinking. These two are not tied together.
I grew up in a car-centric city, but moved away in my teens. I've never personally owned a car and haven't had one in the household since I was 17. I hear this supposed "upside" of cars from my friends who are still stuck in LA, and what no one has ever been able to answer is:
What prevents you from renting a car when you want to drive out to the countryside? I drive out somewhere beautiful on a sunny weekend probably 3x as much as any of my friends who own cars, and I'm still paying less for total transportation than they do (let alone the occasional hassle that owning a car exposes you to). The only actual negative I can think of is the mental friction of having to pay each time, and this is just an irrational speedbump that really isn't that difficult to surmount.
I live in US now, in an area that is the edge of suburban sprawl, and I can tell you this: owning a car is very liberating on an emotional level. You can go wherever you want, when you want it, without making plans around it or having to share your space with strangers. For the first couple of years, I would go driving entirely on a whim. On a few occasions, my weekends became spontaneous multi-day road trips. It was very enjoyable, and I still rather enjoy driving in general.
I wouldn't switch back.
Yes, I know, cars come with a lot of externalities. That's not my point, though. I just wanted to show that not everyone is in a "love/hate relationship" with cars. Some of us actually do find it all genuinely enjoyable to the point where any associated inconveniences are minor, while the benefits are major. So when your solution involves taking those benefits away, don't be surprised if you get pushback.
Most of all, if you go around telling people that they don't really derive any benefit from their cars, and if only they could surrender their preconceived notions and listen to the voice of reason, it would be better for them in all or most respects - don't be surprised if your argument is dismissed out of hand.
It may well be that we need to give up cars for some important reason. But you'll have to convince me that the reason is important enough on its own merits - not because I don't have anything to lose. I know better.
Nothing, but it is a barrier. When you own a car, you just get in, make sure you've got gas, and go. When you don't, you need to go out and find a rental place, get there, find a car you want/like, etc.
It's a small barrier, and mostly psychological, but it's there and it affects decisions.
I own a car but I've considered renting cars for trips multiple times (you don't have to care as much about a rental car, you don't mind if other people are driving it, it's normal to split rental car expenses but weird to split, say, the depreciation on your car) etc. But it's often a hassle.
Most rental car centers in the city do not open before say 9 am (the best I have seen is 8 am) and close by 5-6 pm. After you do all the paper work and blah blah it's typically 9-10 am before you can leave for your trip. This is just not practical for a lot of weekend trips. The other option is to rent it on Friday (which means you pay for a day more), but since they close by 5 pm you need to rent it on Friday morning at 9 am which means you have to now plan it along with your work day.
The other option is to rent from the airport where the centers are generally open 24/7 but charge more and the airport is far so now you have to take that into account.
The other problem is when you rent for a long trip and have to pay per day when you know you'll actually be driving only on a few of those days.
* Most US car rental price comparison sites let you book a car months in advance to lock in the price, but you don't pay till pick up. There's almost never a penalty for booking and not picking up, so I used to just block book the weekends months in advance, whether I needed the car or not.
* I just used the big rental firms - at the time services like ZipCar were priced to heavily incentivise you to only drive between ZipCar areas and drop off, e.g. use a different car for the outbound journey and the return one. Using them for all-day tripping often ended up being significantly more expensive than a traditional rental. I've no idea if this has improved. Car sharing services appeared to really rely on both your start and end destinations being in their 'coverage' areas though.
* Once I got to know staff at my local rental place, I started getting 'free' upgrades a lot.
However, after four or five months I ended up buying a modest low mileage 3 year old Honda. The cost of running isn't actually all that much more, and now I don't have to factor in travel time to rental place, having to refill the rental before return, clock-watching etc. This is entirely selfish of me of course, but very much caused by the small 'barrier' you mention.
Hell, I live in Manhattan and I now don't do a lot of things I used to do when I lived out in the suburbs and had a car, for precisely this reason. Instead I do a lot more things on my bicycle, including long weekend trips -- it's basically become to me what my car used to be to me when I lived in the suburbs. Except using it actually improves my health.
The difference between the magnitude of the two ways of stating this "downside" are vast, and I hear people conflate them constantly.
- I drive my car only on weekends, so Friday - Sunday
- It tends to break down every 3 months, at around $1000 a repair each time(BMWs have expensive repairs.) That's $4000 a year
- Insurance is about $1750 for a year
- Looking at rates at www.enterprise.com for my city, it's about $100 CAD for a rental car for 3 days (pick up at 7:00AM Friday and drop off at 4:00PM on Sunday.)
- $100 CAD * 4 is about $400 a month for a rental
- $4000 (repairs) + $1750 (insurance) + $120 (stickers) is about $489 for owning
It looks like using rental cars on weekends is not a great investment still and that makes me sad. I only save $89 a month and have to deal with picking up and dropping off the car and also not using it through the week. $1068 in yearly savings is not worth it!
Note: Gas is not included because I have to pay for gas for both cars, I guess it might be a little cheaper for the rental cars since they tend to be gas efficient, but I still don't think it's huge savings.
That's really not good. Even BMW's are not that expensive to maintain, something is really wrong with your vehicle. Unless it's a classic and you're using it as a daily driver.
I also don't think it's a given that you'd need a rental car every single weekend. If you need a car every single weekend then owning one yourself clearly makes the most sense. It's when you only need the car occasionally that it would make more sense.
Don't underestimate this. People will pay a large premium for unlimited internet, for example, just to relieve themselves of the mental burden of maybe, possibly, once a year going over and getting hit with $5 or $10 in overage fees. Companies know this. They exploit the hell out of it!
Public transport is a good thing overall, but I do get tired of people talking about it like it's heaven 'if only it were more available'.
It's pretty much impossible to leave this relationship unless you live in one of the larger US cities. If you live in a suburb, rural area, or city that's not in the top 10-15 in terms of size there's literally no other option that exists or that could easily exist.
Cars are more useful when people need to go to random places at indeterminate times.
Yes, and in a sane nation, this would mean that people could live in small cities, take transit to work, then take transit back. But there are many, many places where this is not the case.
I lived on the outskirts of Dallas; it took ages for the rail system to approach usefulness, and individual cities along the route could opt out of having stations (and therefore, opt out of paying for them.)
The only way to fix the problem is to encourage people to move out of the suburbs and small towns and live in denser regions.
I like cars, but I'd never want to use one for commuting. Random places at indiscriminate times — this is what cars are for indeed.
But that's a far cry from, "Why do information workers need company offices at all, ever?"
I agree that it might be a transitional phase, or something necessary to acquire the skills needed, but it needs to be rid of at the first sight of an opportunity.
For what it's worth, I have zero tolerance for long commutes, and always lived close to my jobs. It took considerable expense, and relied on life situation flexibility I no longer have, but my patience for driving is maybe ten minutes.
Public transit only works when people live in high density areas. It makes no sense to have a transit stop where very few people live in walking distance of it. People with cars don't really want to drive to the bus stop and then catch a ride downtown, though some do. But most companies are spread out just as much as peoples homes, so business isn't even high enough density to warrant public transit in most cases.
And for a few things it IS better. But there are a whole lotta costs, too, with the top 3 being being actual financial cost, grinding on the faces of the poor, and making us fat.
If U.S. launched its missiles while all these people just came home from jobs say at 11pm ET/8pm PT, and people in the Soviet Union were on the way or at their factory jobs during Moscow morning on Siberia mid-day, it would be a slaughter for the Soviet Union and an easy win for the U.S.
Sounds like a completely made-up justification after the fact.
Surely someone would have raised the point that the soviet union could just launch it's missiles in the middle of the work day.
Also, Moscow is tremendously sprawled out.
"... While it is true that various factors contributed to phenomenal growth of the suburbs between 1945 and 1960, historians have thus far paid little attention to policymakers' fears of atomic attack as a significant factor in population dispersal. ..."
The Reduction of Urban Vulnerability: Revisiting 1950s American Suburbanization as Civil Defence K. Tobin, Pages 1-32 | Published online: 06 Sep 2010
I work in tech/finance. I am old enough to remember that, after the 9/11 attack in 2001, banks were required to set up their datacenter/DR sites at least 50 miles away from their main offices to avoid a complete wipe-out in case of nuke attack.
Which doesn't mean that building sprawling subdivisions is a great idea, but space is a pretty easy thing to sell.
Now imagine an airburst nuclear explosion over this, just low enough to maximize the blast wave.
There's a reason why Soviets heavily invested into protecting the populace from such attacks - the entire Moscow Metro system doubles as a nuclear bomb shelter, complete with blast doors.
But likewise, I have no references either.
It doesn't explain the bridge blowing up thing, however.
And you cannot utter their names or locations because?
It also explains the "white flight" of the time. What we now call the "inner city" was allowed to remain black and brown with the expectation that the country would be alright if they were incinerated while the more -valuable- people had been relocated to the suburbs.
The Soviets would be able to get their retaliatory body count while eliminating people that the US didn't really value in the first place.
Given that sprawl is not a new phenomenon but obesity is I don't see how you can claim this is responsible for making us fat.
Remember, we're talking about relative density within a metro area, not how close each metro area is to the others. If you look at cities that were more or less fully developed prior to WW2, like Boston, you find that they're more compact, as opposed to, say, LA or Phoenix.
That said, I don't think it's the only thing making us fat. But I do think it's one contributing factor.
To be fair about the 'single small bridge', it seems like smaller projects suffer proportionately larger delays due to being considered low priority, ridiculously lax work scheduling, etc. Although the financial scales are completely different, it takes my city (Toronto) approximately the same time to build a subway extension as to renovate the bike trail that runs near my house.
The difference is networks of buses and trains that the countries and cities invested in over decades.
America went in another direction, and looks no closer to changing it's mind.
Suburbs now spread for miles around towns and even former villages, for ten or twenty miles around major cities.
And small towns and villages lost their railways and stations 40 to 80 years ago.
New developments havebeen getting more sprawl in China though, as cars have become more popular.
New York, sure. Everyone's heard of their subway.
The first time I'd ever heard of BART was when I visited briefly, and in doing so I learnt 2 things:
1) BART is pretty bad: noisy and a small network
2) Talking to people during my short stay made it pretty clear San-Fran and the bay area was considered 99% car territory, and traffic/congestion/commuting around SF was a significant problem commensurate with that fact.
Edit: understand this is a genuine question asked as a foreigner who has only formed an impression from short visits.
I couldn't see myself ever wanting to take that mode of transportation.
From what I have read, Millenials are putting noteworthy pressure on this aspect of American culture.
Also, I gave up my car years ago. With the magic of the internet, I work online. I mostly walk everywhere and occasionally take public transit.
I think we can change this substantially.
Since then, I haven't driven a single day. I walk, take the metro or get an Uber.
I haven't been happier. Driving was easily the worst part of my day.
Humorously, we have had occasion to put me on a bus for some reason while they walked to the destination in question. I would get ahead of them, then the bus would get stuck in traffic and they would get ahead of me. We all arrived at the spot in question within a couple of minutes of each other.
Unless you are driving quite a long distance and/or on the open highway, car travel is not as much faster than foot travel as some people seem to believe. Short local trips don't see as much gain in speed as Americans seem to imagine. I think this belief persists in part because so many people just don't walk anywhere at all. They drive everywhere, even if they are only going 1/4 mile or something silly like that.
I'm going to have to disagree on this one.
I can drive to my local Wal-Mart in about 5 minutes. It would take me 30 minutes to walk there. I can drive there. Do my shopping, wait in line, pay, cart my stuff back out to my vehicle and drive home in less than the amount of time it would take to walk there.
The closest WalMart to me (checking...) is 13 miles away.
The average speed limit on municipal roads in Ontario is 50 km/h, which means that anywhere within 5km will take 6 minutes and, within 10km, 12 minutes.
Running 5km takes me 18 minutes, and running 10km takes me closer to 40 minutes. Humans walk at about 5km/h, which means that 5km would take about 1 hour, and 10km would be 2 hours or more, since exhaustion starts to factor in.
Car travel is unimaginably faster than walking. I don't know anybody who wants to spend 2 hours on a round-trip to a grocery store 5km away when they could do it in 10 minutes in a car.
I do groceries by walk and it never took 2 hours. The store is not 5km away pretty much from anywhere. You have to be out of city or in the middle of night for it to be that far. Unless there is some kind of law to prevent it, stores with what you need daily pop up around cities everywhere.
In any case, 5km is still nothing on bicycle which I might take for that distance. Just to kill two birds with one stone and get a bit of exercise.
* Slowdowns, sure, but many drivers also exceed the limit, and the walking:driving ratio is still massively lopsided.
* Pedestrians are not immune to red lights.
* While there are certainly pedestrian shortcuts that are faster than driving, this is definitely not the case for most combinations of start and end points. Far more often, while the pedestrian might gain distance, the car is still literally 10x faster.
* In fact, unless you live in an extremely dense city, it's highly unlikely that there will be a grocery shop, book store, electronics retailer, Italian restaurant, furniture store, etc. less than 5km from your house. Plus all of the people who you might want to visit, your school, place of work, and so on.
* A bike is not walking. Most bikes are for one person, so if you're in a group they're not much use.
* Carrying purchases home is a pain. I should know, I did this for two years.
My favourite part of visiting Amsterdam was the excessive bike usage. Pretty much everyone has 1 or more of them, you just ride together in a group or catch a tram, even out of the city everyone would either catch a train or simply ride on the side of the highway between villages.
I actually got to test this. My office was about 8km from my house. If I was to leave around my usual time, it would take me about 55-65 mins minimum to reach home.
One day I hadn't taken my car and couldn't find a cab. So I said screw it and decided to walk home.
Reached home in flat 71 minutes. Would have been faster had I taken detours that cut the distance by a kilometer or so.
Which is great for us developers, but not so much for most service industry workers.
I am a writer. I am quite poor. In fact, I am currently homeless. I have been bitching via blog here recently about my frustrations with the widespread attitudes that writers don't deserve to be paid dirt, never mind that people online expect good quality writing to be readily available on the internet. Somehow, that high quality writing should magically appear without paying anyone for it in any way.
I don't make much money. I wish I had a better income.
I am really glad I can make money online at all, but, no, I am not part of some privileged elite with money, power, mobility, etc. I do have mobility. I do cherish it and it enormously enhances my life.
But life is a great deal more complicated than those who have ALL the bennies and those who are nothing but crapped on in every way imaginable. This isn't even a case of shades of grey. Life is incredibly Technicolor and varied.
I think it is completely legitimate to give some push back against the enormous amount of assumption in both that reply and yours.
I would like to see us come up with better solutions than we currently have. That will not happen if we blithely tolerate what amounts to classist assumptions dominating any and every supposed intelligent discussion.
> most service industry workers
Those are folks that predominantly need to be physically present. We weren't assuming anything about your membership in a privileged elite, just pointing out that lots of people still need to transport themselves to work.
Good luck with your writing! I agree that we need better business models to reward it.
I know there are a lot of options for basic online work that isn't developer based, but I'm not sure what is available that truly pays a decent living wage.
I can make better than minimum wage in fits and spurts, but I currently don't have much earned income. A large part of this is rooted in my medical situation. The details probably aren't really of interest to you.
Due to the societal and environmental effects, I think it's pretty clear roads should be in no way subsidized like they currently are. If the "suburbs" had to carry their full economic costs, they would be unaffordable.
It is a combination of population density being artificially lowered through cheap road subsidies, constant pressure to eliminate taxes, and gutting alternative transport meaning roads need to satiate all human mobility and thus need huge capacity.
The light rail lines in my state (MN) don't even make enough from fares to cover their day-to-day operating costs, much less maintenance, and of course tax payers were 100% on the hook for initial construction - with a large chunk of the money coming from automobile taxes.
So yes, I would be fine with the costs of roads coming more directly from the people using them, but then we are going to do the same with transit. Deal?
Building to support multiple modes of transportation is the freedom-loving thing to do. Want to walk? Go for it! Transit? Sure! Biking? Why not? Driving? Works for me!
Want walkable, bikeable, mass transit, etc? Live downtown. Want bigger homes, yards, quite, etc? Live in the suburbs.
Obviously there's a limit to how reasonable multimodal transportation is. Nobody's expecting decent transit among rural farmland. But we could do better than we're doing now -- MUCH better.
> Want bigger homes, yards, quite, etc? Live in the suburbs.
The biggest problem with this is that in the US you usually have to choose between one of two extremes which dovetail with your examples. You're either in a big ugly apartment block downtown (or in a downtown-ish area) or you're in a super low density suburb where Cars Are Law.
Plenty of countries manage to have more of a gradient, where you can have, say, suburbs of middling density, where driving is easy, but so is walking, biking, and taking the train to the city. I live in Munich at the moment and the suburbs nearby fit this mold perfectly, but in the US such towns are extremely rare.
There are still plenty of cars in Munich proper, for that matter. There are just lots of other options too.
* Also in most American cities even the downtown still isn't very walkable, definitely isn't bikable, and has crappy transit. There really are only a handful of cities in the US where these things all work reasonably well.
But really really really, biking is not incredibly dangerous.
Everyone I know has been in an accident of some sort. Hit & runs, side swipes, doored, pushed (deliberately), etc.
After better infrastructure, the most effective way to improve safety is to have more cyclists. I think we're in a rough transition period, but things are definitely getting better.
One of my bike buddies thinks things will really change once moms start cycling en masse. That'd change the perception from gonzo bike dudes to totally uncool in a heartbeat, evoking much less hostility.
These are both avid riders with professional-grade equipment taking a short Mission-FiDi route.
Regardless of its "project zero" marketing, SFMTA has bikes last on its priority list. It has to be pushed by guerrilla infrastructure groups to do anything meaningful.
I used to ride bikes all the time as a kid but I would not make a habit of riding on our roads. It's too much of a gamble.
I am talking about opening up options, not putting a gun to anyone's head and forcing them to give up their car. We currently have many people who feel they have a gun to their head in terms of being forced into needing a car they don't want. Where is your sympathy for their right to choose?
Only one of us wants to "change this substantially."
Urban cores are often insanely expensive and not necessarily where someone wants to live just because they don't want a car. I am wholly unimpressed with your hypocritical comments here that boil down to "Don't tread on ME or interfere with my right to own a car and drive all over the place while the world bends over backwards to make that convenient, but your lifestyle preferences? Oh, fuck you."
This is dismissive, insulting of my preference to live without a car and rather hostile. If you were intending to say that you support my right to choose, you failed to communicate that. It came across as contemptuous and is in no way sympathetic to the fact that walkable neighborhoods and public transit are not hostile to drivers the way the current car centric American landscape is hostile to pedestrians.
And before you say, "well then just move to the city center!" perhaps you should consider that we're talking about a very common urban form across the world that is strikingly uncommon in the US due to government forces? Not exactly "people making their lifestyle preferences", more like "government imposing lifestyle preferences", and it's mostly just due to cultural momentum at this point.
As opposed to being completely dependent on public roads for transportation? Or out away from the "urban core" do you just get around on four-wheelers and snowmobiles? If so, maybe we can stop spending so much of our taxes building roads out to wherever you want to live.
After I moved to Kansas, I ran into a soldier I did not remember, but he clearly remembered me. The soldiers who knew what it was like to carry a 60 pound ruck sack had all kinds of respect for me.
It can be done. Not by everyone and I am not saying you are required to live that way. But giving other people options doesn't preclude you from driving everywhere. And that's the entire fucking point here.
Feel free to drive. But I like walking. I liked walking even when I was carrying groceries home in a backpack with an infant strapped to my chest and a toddler sitting on my shoulders.
It can be done, but most of us want to progress.
Preferring to walk in no way makes me some undeveloped savage. Maybe you haven't noticed, but I am online. I spend a lot of time online. I make my earned income online.
For the last time: My desire to see more walkable environments and better public transit in the U.S. in no way bars people from driving. Busses use the same roads that cars use. This is in no way whatsoever a situation where we must choose one or the other.
What you describe could also be understood as an inefficient way of organization that is peculiar to the United States, and a by-product of American business and economic logic. Firms (i.e. vertical integration) exist to reduce the comparative inefficiencies of having separate, independent entities. Most other countries still have huge conglomerates (e.g. Japan, Korea), or contractors enjoy closer and longer-term business relationships.
With rare exception (Berkshire Hathaway, Elon Musk, etc) Americans have systematically shifted toward looser organization of smaller, independent business entities. One of the downsides is the exploding cost of orchestrating these entities for big projects, and the loss of knowledge about how to manage such projects.
As for direct liability costs, I can't remember if I've read any recent studies of those. But I went to law school (I'm not an attorney, though) and several of my family members are tort lawyers, and I can tell you from everything I know and have learned that liability costs are overblown. The fact of the matter is that every society will force negligent businesses to internalize the costs of their negligence. Some countries (esp. common law countries) emphasize the ability of individuals to seek compensation for actual damages. Other countries emphasize prevention and enforce a much stricter regulatory regime. Either way the costs can be considerable, but in any event the U.S. doesn't stand out among developed countries AFAIK.
I just watched the Wizard of Oz this past weekend and in one of the opening scenes Miss Gulch, who was bitten by Toto, threatens to sue Dorothy's Aunt & Uncle for everything they have, taking away their farm. Point being, Americans have always had a somewhat irrational fear of litigation. It's a cultural thing. That same fear existed back in a time when building big infrastructure projects was cheap.
That's luck of the draw, not anyone's aversion to having engineers on a jury.
How do you know that? It seems like a really difficult number to account for like the cost of medical lawsuits. Sure, you can look at malpractice insurance, legal fees, and damages awarded to plaintiffs - but how do you properly count the extra tests, procedures, pharmaceuticals, man-hours, etc. that result from the increased defensive posture of doctors and hospitals?
I guess also, ever do a home renovation on a house > 40 years old? You usually walk into a disaster of things not up to code. These days, it would just be done correctly, just as cheap as possible, and not built to last. Most recent housing developments near here are just ways for developers to make money and run, as the infrastructure (housing, not utilities, etc) is not going to last all that long. The developers don't care - they'll be enjoying their profits States away, as the city that is home to their developments are quickly crumbling.
Not that I'm bitter on the changing landscape of my city, or anything. But a housing boom has dark sides.
I don't know why you think proper change control is a bad thing. In both software and systems engineering you submit change requests that are tracked, reviewed, assessed for risk, approved and documented. You do this to create an audit trail to identify "how we got here". Any concerns? It's documented in the ticket.
Now when it comes to civil engineering projects, where bridges can collapse, you should WANT that kind of rigorous change control of tracking, approving, and documenting.
Yes, documenting change control requires more work, but it also saves lives and creates an audit trail in case of a grave error.
As it stands now, some unforeseen circumstance in the field will necessitate a minor modification to the design. The contractor knows perfectly well what needs to be done, but instead of simply doing it, they will ask the designers to tell them to do it, so they aren't the ones responsible for it. The designer of course can't simply rubber stamp whatever the contractor says, so they have to spend time figuring out what the issue is and whether the contractor's solution is adequate. All that adds up.
You always want peer review, even for a minor modifications. We have a similar process called code review.
It's not bad, it's just more expensive than not doing it. Thus, infrastructure built today costs more.
Both true. But the interesting question is if and when the costs outweigh the benefits.
There was an article shared to HN some time ago arguing that the kinds of cost overruns that we see so often on infrastructure projects in the US are almost endemic to common-law countries, and radically less prevalent in civil-law countries.
I haven't been able to find that article again, but its conclusion has come up in many similar discussions since.
From time to time, each of the siblings has built a new home, and they just do it themselves in their spare time. My friend was telling me about helping his sister with her home. His sister has moved into a very rural community in the western U.S. When the family showed up to pour the footings, they asked for a copy of the footing plans. Their sister handed them an 8.5x11 sheet of paper with a hand-drawn floor plan.
"Where's your official plans? The plans you submitted for your permit? The ones with the footing details?"
"That is the paper we submitted for our permit. See the stamp that says 'Approved'?"
All the other siblings live in Clark County, Nevada. The permitting process there is excruciating. They looked at the paper, looked at each other, shrugged, then built the house. They know how to build a footing. They know how to frame. They know how to build a house. The sister's house was built with the same quality as the other siblings' in a fraction of the time.
But if one of the big builders tries to put in a subdivision in that little town, I hope the municipality watches them like a hawk. Big builders don't build homes. They cheat and connive and do everything to push product at the lowest possible cost.
In a world without trust, you cannot afford to let people self-manage.
I always say there are not too many lawsuits, but too many laws. Legislatures think they are making something better by passing more rules, regulations, and laws. But, for every rule, regulation, or law, you have an opportunity for a lawsuit. Use more common sense? Sure, but then don't pass a multitude of laws regulating the subject.
Why are infrastructure projects' costs higher here? I don't know really. My guess would be that compared to say Germany and Japan, everything here is the U.S. is huge. I mean probably 10-30% larger in size than those other countries with the resulting higher costs. But, this is just my personal observation.
Actual construction is performed by contractors, corporations that are contracted by the government. In the US, it is rare for a construction project to be built, or even be designed, by government workers. These corporations and their workers can be sued, and take on additional liabilities due to the contracts and laws that apply specifically to them.
Which is to say, you are spot on. Most of the work government engineers do is oversight. Oversight is really important.
I've constantly read that in the US due to ideological reasons the agencies that handle oversight are chronically understaffed which results in delays and inefficiencies. Delays are a big problem in the US. The slower a project is done the more it costs. Without proper oversight, you have an inability to efficiently manage design changes leading to delays and or less efficient construction.
What? Two women suing McDonalds because they got fat from eating too many cheeseburgers is not a regulatory issue. A canoe company being sued for not having lifeguards posted every mile of the river they serve is not a regulatory issue. Parents suing a city because their idiot kid fell off a slide is not a regulatory issue.
America is lawsuit-crazy. Anybody can sue anybody for anything, regardless of whether regulation surrounds the issue or not. If anything, regulation acts as a legal protection against lawsuits, and many regulations are enacted in response to frivolous lawsuits from assholes who think the world owes them something because they can't take personal responsibility.
The litigousness argument seems to be interesting from that perspective, but I'd be hard-pressed to believe that France or Germany are less detail-oriented in their planning, given that the same tools that allow better blueprinting are available everywhere.
Europe is less litigious, mainly because they have massive government oversight and regulations.
In summary, end contracting and subcontracting.
You might claim that there are no state-run construction companies because of free-market ideology or some such bogeyman. But that doesn't explain why the private contractors don't integrate vertically.
My own guess is that even a vertically integrated entity would be risk averse and have to create expensive, slow, internal sign-off procedures.
I also wonder about the effect of building codes, etc.. It might be interesting to plot construction costs and number pages of building code vs. time for the U.S., Japan, France, etc., and see if there are any correlations. That type of plot seems like it might almost be doable.
So basically in digital terms it went the opposite way from HTML where everything is more relative to each other to print where everything is exact.
I wonder if there is some underlying principles hiding in this. Have to think about it some more but thank you so much for your insightful comment.
Now it could be that litigation pays for medical costs, whereas other countries pay medical costs separately from project costs.
Design/build raises the level of dumb even higher by giving all parties powerful incentives to build the cheapest, minimally viable slop possible.
That suggests that U.S. costs are high due to general
inefficiency [...] Americans have simply ponied up more
and more cash over the years while ignoring the fact that
they were getting less and less for their money.
For example, if a big irrigation project will force taxpayers to subsidise corporate farms, the corporations have a big incentive to spend on ads and campaign contributions. Or if you have to give $60 to a private company for tax filing software, they have a big incentive to lobby and make campaign contributions to keep the tax system complicated.
I'm sure construction projects are subject to the same pro-waste incentives.
I'm not sure what the solution to this is - campaign finance reform, perhaps?
Abso-fucking-lutely. I think in order to run at any levels of office, you should be using public money. For simplification, let's say if one wants to run for president, they can only use whatever is in the FEC public coffers. In return, we levy a federal FEC tax to boost it way higher than its current rates. We replicate a similar tax at state and local levels. Completely remove private donations and PACs and all that shit from the lawbooks. A fuckload of people want to run for president? Well, you better get creative with your tiny slice of the pie. Show us how fiscally responsible you really are.
People would scream and holler about it not being American, but it's one of the only ways, I think, to really take a large stab at our chronic corruption.
The idea is a sort of non-partisan "un-PAC" -- a fundraising organization explicitly dedicated to combating corporate political donations. If a presidential candidate or his affiliated PACs recieved eg. $5MM in fundraising from oil executives, the un-PAC would spend $5MM on negative advertising linking him in the public's mind with that industry. If the un-PAC raised enough money, eventually a large multiple of corporate donations could be spent counteracting them, and at some point it would become uneconomical for politicians to accept those donations at all.
We spent about $6B on the 2016 federal elections (https://www.opensecrets.org/overview/cost.php). That comes out to about $20 for every American. That's a big number to beat, but not impossible, and every bit along the way helps.
This should be more obvious in US (and Canadian) politics than it is. But politicians are rarely willing to admit their malleability when it comes to both businesses and non-profit organizations (or special interest groups) influencing them. So the problem persists.
This is a big thing many small-government conservatives seem to miss. They think that capping financing of political parties is anti-business. But in reality it's only incumbent businesses who fleece the government for contracts or exploit government policy to create barriers of entry for their competitors who back ending these policies.
Even though small/medium business represents 60%+ of employment they are largely ignored policy-wise. Then when big-corps exploit market dynamics then ever more regulation are put in place that only hurts the small businesses rather than the big corps (see: minimum wage).
So those of us who support small-government, we're often left with only choosing between big government liberals who are indifferent to the ROI of ever-expanding government power/tax base or small government conservatives who let corporate influence in politics run free. It's difficult to tell which one results in the most abuse these days.
Even if this stops being a problem it has existed for decades and these 'gray' connections between politics and business is everywhere in North America. It would take decades to reverse their influence which is a shame because it's very existence is self-reinforcing (much like those organizations whose very existence depends on the continuation of government financing as opposed to depending on their utility to the public).
Eliminating money from that scenario reduces the tiny number of companies who currently influence politics and push it closer to 'interesting' or 'popular' issues rather than ones backed by incumbent connections and wealth.
What in particular would they not be allowed to use private money to do?
Would individuals that aren't running be allowed to use private money to do those things?
Also, in the pre-election time mass media have to offer equal conditions for all parties - if you own a TV station and run ads for one party for $1/minute, then you have to offer the same ad slots for the same price to all other parties as well.
I mean, it's not simple and it does require some limitations of what the people and media can do - which might conflict with USA 1st amendment, but in general the problem is somewhat solvable, it's somehow done elsewhere and so you can look at worldwide experience to pick out the bits that work best.
Can I buy a $10k radio ad supporting some particular issue that the candidate also supports?
Can I buy a radio station and hire talk radio hosts that argue in favor of the candidate or issues the candidate supports?
>but in general the problem is somewhat solvable
I think that depends on what you count as "solvable". The systems which address the problem probably work better for some people and less well for others. Which people do you have reason to believe are beneficiaries of these systems, and what reason do you have to believe that?
On the other hand, it has some advantages for the established politicians as well, after all they set the rules for this system - in essence it avoids an arms race. Lifting the limits would give them some advantage over the smaller parties and upstarts, but nothing over their real competition, but that would mean that all the major players would suddenly need to raise many times more money, making everyone more dependent on donors.
Who are the losers in this case? Probably the very wealthiest individuals (not "the 1%" but the top 10-100 richest people), since it limits their influence. At any one point of time one or another party (not necessarily the largest one) may have an advantage in financial support and would be happy to lift or raise limits so that they could buy more votes, but if something like that happens, then it motivates everyone else to not let that happen.
Regarding your questions - it depends, that's more a question for the lawyers. IMHO ads supporting some issue would be fine but talk hosts arguing in favor of some (any) candidate would be prohibited in pre-election campaign time window - e.g. all mass media interviews with candidates during that time would be only in the scheduled slots or as advertising. Sure, if you control important media or people then the limits can and do get bent quite a bit beyond their intent, but it still sets a limit. I mean, if the stated limit is 10 then everybody might push it to 11 by various means, but you can't really do a meaningful large scale money-influence campaign without it being obviously illegal.
I would guess the opposite is probably true. The top 10-100 likely have very strong influence over the media, either due to just owning media outlets or due to business relationships (e.g. buying advertisements not related to politics). If people without those relationships can't buy advertisements, then the people who influence media in other ways benefit.
>IMHO ads supporting some issue would be fine
So it would be fine for someone to spend a few million on anti-immigrant ads a few days before an election where immigration is a key point of disagreement between the two front-runners?
>Sure, if you control important media or people then the limits can and do get bent quite a bit beyond their intent, but it still sets a limit.
Why exactly is the existence of a limit relevant? People will receive information about the candidates, and many will decide how to vote based on that information. I don't see how it matters whether the information comes from paid advertising or from control over the media. Some individuals will decide what information the masses will see. Those people have enormous influence over the election. I don't see how it matters if they got that influence by paying for it directly or indirectly.
In regard to promoting political candidates, what in particular should individuals unaffiliated with the candidate not be allowed to spend their private money on?
For example, should I be allowed to spend my own money to buy a computer which I then use to post comments on message boards which argue in favor of some candidate?
Should I be allowed to spend my own money on a computer which hosts a website which argues in favor of some candidate?
Should I be allowed to buy a newspaper and then selectively hire journalists who I believe are biased in favor of the candidates that I prefer?
Nobody in their right mind would elect me, but I have yet to see a fair way to exclude me.
And while it isn't giving that politician money, there are plenty who will recognize that my paying for their add is giving them a service that is worth money. It isn't quite as direct as donating, but the effect is the same.
How can we even decide whether an ad is for some candidate? If it doesn't mention them by name, but is plainly obviously talking about them, would that still count? What if it's less obvious? What if it doesn't have anything to do with the candidate, but promotes some policy that the candidate also happens to support? All seem to fall under the category of 'giving them a service that is worth money'.
I believe such a ban would be in keeping with existing reasonable constraints on free speech, and help contextualize paid messaging in general.
But that requires to unfuck the entire american political system and weird fascination for corporations being people, so this might take a while.
> cap individual donations
Direct contribution cap for individuals is $2,700
> forbid companies from donating
Direct contributions are not allowed, although PACs can give up to $5000.
> create a government entity whose goal is to ensure donations are respecting those rules
Aka the FEC
> candidates having to deliver their list of donors to said entity
Already required for federal elections, also candidates must detail how they spent the money as well.
> Make it actually illegal to get private money from PACs and other complex setups.
PACs aren't complicated and for the most part are a positive step towards fair elections (that's why they were created in the first place).
> And eventually reimburse part of the campaign past a certain percentage of votes.
Federal elections already have public funding and the system in place is much better than reimbursement after the election.
I don't think there is an alternative. What is needed in order to solve the problem is a complete overhaul of how campaigns are financed, including making quite a lot of currently protected speech illegal. And that cure may be worse than the disease. Without it though, politicians will continue to require massive quantities of private cash, and I don't see any way to make that not suck for the country as a whole.
Basically, it's all fucked, I guess would be my considered opinion. Democracy just doesn't work when half or more of the population can be trivially manipulated into believing anything you want them to believe.
Can I spend $10 million creating the youtube video, if I have that much money as a private individual?
Can I organize a group of 10 friends to each spend $1 million on the youtube video?
Can I organize 1 million people to spend $10 each on said video?
Note that under McCain-Feingold (which is the law that was at issue in Citizens United) the answer to the second question is "yes", as far as I can tell: the law instituted restrictions on corporations and unions, not on rich individuals.
Whether the answer is "yes" for the second and third question would have depended on whether youtube counts as "broadcast, cable, or satellite communication" as well as whether a gofundme campaign should fund under the law, and so forth. So it's really not that hard to come up with loopholes around this stuff, if you want to allow spontaneous grassroots production of political youtube videos.
(Also, one person's "political ad" is another person's "documentary", often enough; this goes in both directions.)
>Can I spend $10 million creating the youtube video, if I have that much money as a private individual?
Yes. However, if it turns out that those ten million were gathered from other friends, explicitly in the goal to make this video without disclosing your donors or ignoring the caps, you should be fined and be made unelectable for multiple years.
>Can I organize a group of 10 friends to each spend $1 million on the youtube video?
Not if that video is part of your campaign, because then the amount each person can donate is capped.
>Can I organize 1 million people to spend $10 each on said video?
The only real problem in those four is the third. Because it is infinitely easier to organize only ten friends to donate one million to your campaign than to organize one million people, especially if you're already in the category of people that can afford to blow ten millions like that.
As a bonus, at least having one million people donating to you demonstrates that you actually have people following you.
However, TV and cable channels (as well as press) should have strict equality rules when it comes to candidates for a given period until the elections. What good will your ten million dollars video do on CNN when they are legally obligated to give every candidate the same amount of air time? But of course, you could skirt around it, and make your video subtly hint about said candidate, never mentioning him. But if countries with civil law can manage to make that work when it comes to respecting the spirit of the law, I have no doubt a country with common law will have no issues realizing that this is quite obviously violating the spirit of the law.
Why do you think that there is a difference here?
> But if countries with civil law can manage to make that work when it comes to respecting the spirit of the law
For what it's worth, said countries typically have nothing comparable to the constitutional free speech protections the US has, and have no problem with the government imposing all sorts of speech limits that would get laughed out of court in the US.
And as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, speech that is not "for" any particular candidate but "against" a particular candidate is not trivial to apportion in an "equal time" regime.
It's really not clear to me how one can draw a sane line between the first and second question, for this case, unless you want to forbid any political video that actually takes time/effort/money to do research for (see "documentary").
And then the problem becomes that either you privilege the political speech of rich individuals over non-rich ones even more than we already do, or you have to allow non-rich individuals to pool resources to speak.
The "loophole" is then.. what exactly? What form the pooling takes? Whether the pooling is voluntary? Something else? I see a lot of people who are unhappy with the Citizens United decision, but not many proposals for what the law on this should be apart from "political speech from organizations I disagree with should not be allowed". For example, I see lots of "corporations shouldn't be able to engage in political speech" but very little of "unions shouldn't be able to engage in political speech" from Citizens United opponents. Amusingly, I see a fair amount of "unions shouldn't be able to engage in political speech" from people who support the Citizens United decision. And I have met absolutely no one who opposes the Citizens United decision and also thinks Michael Moore shouldn't be allowed to create movies in election years. Though I expect such people do exist; there just aren't many of them.
Corporations should be able to engage in political speech, as long it is done through their CEO or anyone that represents them officially, who then would be nothing more than just another citizen who happens to own a company, defending its interests. By all means, have an interesting debate, explain your point of view, reason as to why you'd like X or Y.
Money is _not_ speech. By allowing those citizens to contribute financially, in an effectively unlimited way through superPACs and other setups, you are throwing away the very foundation of democracy and equality amongst citizens when it comes to being represented.
>unions shouldn't be able to engage in political speech
Go ahead, same thing, debate! Make yourselves heard, in the streets or on television. But, once again, money can fuck right off.
There is no such foundation. You're lying to yourself. At the very least, the owners of media outlets have far more influence than other citizens due to their ability to set the conversation. There is literally nothing you can do to achieve your ridiculous ideal of equality, or to even come anywhere close to it. All you can do is change what rich people have to do to get what they want, and maybe make it more expensive. And by the way, making it more expensive just means the richest get even more of a say.
>money can fuck right off.
So I can't pay someone to build a website that (directly or indirectly) promotes a candidate?
Yes, whoever owns CNN can use up all his airtime telling you that X is the greatest vandidate that's ever lived and yes, he will reach more people than I ever will. Yet, his vote has the exact same value as mine.
Impose limits, educate people. You'll see that things will improve. Yes, it's expensive. Yes, it takes some time. But you can either do that, or slump in your apathy and watch your country descend ever lower into the depth of intelligence and be the butt of everyone's joke even more than it is right now.
Interesting logic. Let's try applying it to the completely obvious parallel:
"Yes, whoever owns boatloads of money can use up all his money buying TV ads telling you that X is the greatest candidate that's ever lived and yes, he will reach more people than I ever will. Yet, his vote has the exact same value as mine."
The second paragraph as far as I can tell boils down to "educate people" as the answer. Who should be doing the educating?
Making yourself heard on television commonly takes the form of TV advertising, which is all about money, unfortunately.
Like I answered in your other post, equality of air time for each candidate. I know, you've had twenty something candidates, and it would be hard to make that work. Tough luck, that's the price to pay for a fairer election.
I don't envy your ridiculous two year long campaigns, but at least you'd get some diversity, unlike your two-candidates-blow-100-million-in-total-and-bombard-you-for-months current way of doing it. And who knows, that might even bring you to reform your woefully outdated political system.
Where "air time" means "time across all possible cable channels", right?
And presumably equality of "youtube time" too? How do you even measure this?
Seriously, we're way past there being 5 broadcast TV networks and nothing else where you could try enforcing some sort of mandate.
Keep in mind that Citizens United wasn't even "for" some particular candidate. It was against a particular candidate and wanted to show its movie at a point in time when it wasn't even clear who the candidate's opponents would be. Assuming you imposed the "equality of air time" doctrine in this situation, who's air time would the movie come out of, exactly?
It's easy to just claim the system is broken; figuring out how to fix it sanely is much harder.
(And for the record, I agree that the current campaign lengths and costs in the US are ridiculous. What I don't see is how to make them less so without imposing some pretty totalitarian speech controls, which would immediately get coopted by those in power to completely shut down anything resembling third party candidates.)
YouTube time is different because there's not one single place controlling your entire feed, noone dictating what you are going to watch. You can decide on your own to watch ten hours of your favourite candidate and ignore every other, because you made that choice and noone imposed it on you.
The Citizens United question is a bit tricky indeed, but two things:
- Ultimately, it is the TV channel's responsibility to have aired such a video, and as such should match any time campaigning for a candidate with others. But, like you said, it was more an attack then anything else. Which brings us to our second point:
- Straight up outlaw such clips that are an attack on a candidate. It serves no purpose other than to drive down the level, it makes the campaign absolutely worthless and is a danger to democracy. It is the most basic level, the dark depth of political life. It kills every debate, destroys every effort made to educate people, because ultimately attacks are cheap, entertaining and efficient. It truly makes society worse as a whole, and people stupid. Yes, that's maybe an attack on free speech. I believe keeping a higher level of debate is a tad more important than being able to take a dump on someone you don't like on live TV.
Let me give you examples of where I live, France, to alleviate some of your fears.
We have a council that ensures what is aired is either nonpartisan, or matched, with the ability to shut down entire TV programs if needed. It has not been done in decades, and most of it ends up being fines. The shitstorm that would happen if they did cancel an show would be quite the sight. Attacks are forbidden. Total campaign funds are capped. Campaign clips are of fixed length, are aired something like four times a day, randomly ordered, shown for all candidates. Public TV has an obligation to give financial and material aid for smaller candidates to ensure they can have a clip. You cannot start officially campaigning on TV and in the press before a set date. You could say we have some rather intensive speech control.
This previous election has seen the two traditional parties (LR & PS) failing miserably. The socialist party, one of the most important parties in the country and previous president's party ended up with a pitiful 6.5% of votes. REM, the new president's movement was born out of nowhere barely a year before the elections. FI managed to crystallize the leftist electorate and reach 19%, barely a percent below the traditional conservative candidate. The FN, as much as I despise them for everything they stand for, is not a traditional party. We have communist candidates. Yes, multiple, because the only thing harder than herding cats is getting communists to agree. We have one that intends to go to Mars. Every election, we have a dozen candidates. Every election, debates are held. They're even rather polite, usually. This year, Fillon has been bogged down in embezzlement affairs, Le Pen too. Aside from one deliciously satisfying bash during one debate, an which lasted 3 minutes over a 3 hour long debate, things stayed civil.
And that's just an example of how we do it here, and I definitely not believe it's perfect. Our political system has issues. Plenty of them. Look at other countries, look at how it's done. Improve on it, and take the best from each.
That's true with cable too.
> Straight up outlaw such clips that are an attack on a candidate.
What constitutes an attack? Is a clip pointing out that a candidate is wrong on some matter of fact an attack on that candidate? What about a matter of almost-fact (i.e. one where disagreements exist but the preponderance of the evidence is considered to be on a certain side)? This is a serious question; people disagree vehemently on this very matter. As a concrete example, can one point out that a candidate's policies will likely lead to increased atmospheric CO_2 levels? Can one point out that a candidate has not been trustworthy in the past?
I think pointing out potential problems with candidates is _critical_ to democracy functioning. The _tone_ is a separate matter, of course, and I agree that the tone it's often done in is not good for democracy.
I would really like to understand what you consider an "attack" vs "not an attack" and how those definitions match up with how you'd have to define them sanely for an equal-time regime.
> Let me give you examples of where I live, France, to alleviate some of your fears.
France is pretty bad on freedom-of-speech issues, I know; not just in this area. That doesn't mean the US should follow France's lead down that lane.
> We have a council that ensures what is aired is either nonpartisan
Really? And they do this while ignoring their own political biases, including unconscious ones? I am dubious, but it's possible if there is enough of a tradition of doing so that people would be embarrassed to show even implicit partisanship in this situation.
> Attacks are forbidden
"Attacks" defined how?
> Campaign clips are of fixed length
Defined how? Are Michael Moore movies considered "campaign clips"? Should they be in the US?
Again, I agree that the way US elections work is far from optimal. I've just had a hard time finding things to change that would not cause more harm than good, including starting down some seriously slippery slopes to things we have consciously moved away from in the past (e.g. government control over the content of what can be aired on TV).
I'm not personally convinced I know which of those two options is preferable, but those are the options. I am fairly well convinced that you can't do the latter without the former.
Hardly. Some citizens own media outlets and can hire and fire journalists based on their political leanings. Some citizens pay millions of dollars to media outlets for non-political advertising and can adjust their purchases depending on the reporting of the media outlet. Are you going to tell media outlets they can't talk about politics? Or do you disagree that media outlets have influence over elections (at least, more than I do)? I'd guess they have more influence than paid advertisements.
Which leads to the other possible amendment, up ending the monopoly the political parties have on the primary voting system. One way that sounds nice, but is specious, is destroying the political parties - simply disallow their existence. Probably better is to change the voting system:
a. Range or preferential voting in a single election rather than the current tribal primary system which is not controlled by law but by each political party. Primaries encourage members of the tribe to vote in a reactionary way, the extremes of each party tend to win.Range or preferential voting is better than runoffs, it's basically an instant runoff system.
b. Get rid of the Electoral College. The idea it will keep us from getting incompetent presidents is pretty much proven wrong, plus it's been broken again by the two political parties who have gotten states to enact laws that require electors explicitly to not vote their conscience, under penalty. So it doesn't at all do what it was designed to do; and it comes from our racist slave history, the southern slave states wouldn't ratify the constitution without this provision. So get rid of it. The only thing worse than tyranny of the majority is tyranny of the minority.
Anyway, it's not going to fix itself. People will have to want to fix it.
Imagine that you are the Sierra Club and you want to block construction of a new highway. You can lobby:
* The President, who signs the appropriations bill
* EPA, Department of Transportation, and any other three-letter federal agency that gets to weigh in on the project
* Congressmen and Senators of affected regions/states, and remember that Senators can filibuster legislation to make it require a super-majority
* State governors
* State legislators
* Local governments whose land the road will pass through
* Indian tribes, if their land is affected
And if above doesn't work, you can sue in federal/state court.
All that adds to the time and cost of a construction project, assuming that it will be even approved. And once its approved? You still have a million ways to delay/obstruct the project through lawsuits and lobbying the bureaucratic process.
That's why there are no 'shovel ready' projects. We'll never be able to build another Hoover Dam or the Interstate Highway system.
Obviously other countries have division of power too. But the effect is much less pronounced.
EDIT: As for why the U.S. of a century ago wasn't as paralyzed, well, that's partly because of the growth of the administrative state (bureaucracy), growing importance of interest groups as sources of campaign funds, more regulations in general (which makes lawsuits possible), and fragmentation of party discipline.
Damming our rivers like that has had such terrible and unforeseen environmental and economic consequences that I can only hope we un-dam wherever possible.
Sure but there are better alternatives to either coal or hydro-electric.
I think even a modern natural gas plant would be better until we can build a smart grid that can store during off-demand and handle peak-demand loads.
Democracy is, after all, a system in which a determined voting majority can use the hammer of the state to extract wealth from the rest of the population. Many people vote in self-defense.
I know that arguing for smaller government and less democracy is an unpopular position, but it is the only way to achieve long-term success. The areas of the economy with the most government involvement and regulation are where we find costs ballooning out of control: healthcare, prisons, infrastructure, student loans, military. Continuing on the present course is not sustainable.
Come on. Really? Healthcare is heavily regulated, yes, but a lot of that comes from regulating a fucked up mix between public and private institutions along with insurance companies thrown in the mix. Single-payer would absolutely lower these costs substantially. That's the opposite of less regulation.
And prisons? We have private prisons...as in, corporations that have a financial incentive to put more people in prison. Not just that, they lobby the government to create more laws or have stricter penalties to keep more people in prison. You can't seriously tell me that's too much regulation.
Infrastructure? Absolutely needs to be government run. Private companies have no incentive here, unless heavily subsidized by the government, in which case they would just balloon costs as much as possible in order to squeeze as much blood from the stone as they could.
Student loans...if a dog put on a pair of glasses it could get a student loan. That's a lack of regulation. The only real regulation making it balloon out of control is that bankruptcy doesn't absolve your loan debt (whether it should or shouldn't, that's another issue).
Military, I agree with you on! Less military spending! We can use the money for (public) schools and make sure our country isn't made up of complete imbeciles in 20 years.
The US has the most money in politics per capita in the western world, and yet, given how much a company can get per dollar spent, lobbying and donations are an absolute bargain. Handing money to a politician directly is very effective, but in practice, even a lobbying group that didn't spend a dime in elections would still be worthwhile for industry groups.
The dynamics of collective action don't even need government to be true: You see the same behaviors in large corporations, where departments can cause a lot of overall damage to a company by causing small inefficiencies to everyone else: Not enough to organize against. Having worked in government and in big enterprise, if anything government is better, as the lobbying and the cajoling is far more visible.
The solution to the general inefficiency problem in infrastructure in other countries is, against what you would think, is to align goals empowering government vs contractors. The places where we have more inefficiencies is where we are trading not money fork work, but knowledge for expertise: The more layers of expertise we borrow, the harder a contractor is to replace, and thus the higher the final markup.
There's a great study on this regarding the Madrid subway. The subway authority has a budget, and in practice it will go up if they have more ridership. It's in their very best interest to have a large, high quality network, so to keep costs down, they do most of the planning themselves, have a lot of the engineering in house, and most of what they farm out is basic construction and drilling: They'll go as far as to give different contractors different sections to drill, because different sections of tunnel are easier to handle with different techniques and machinery. It's not as if Spain doesn't have insane infrastructure inefficiencies overall, but in this case there's enough goal alignment, and enough decision making outside of the political arena, that they save an order of magnitude per kilometer and per station than the US equivalent, while typical highway construction, decided at the political level and handed to big contractors, aren't really any cheaper.
In software terms, it's the difference between handing the work to a small startup that lives and dies by its runway, or handing a project to big software contractors, healthcare.gov style: The big project handed to the big contractor will very rarely work right, and it will be incredibly expensive.