Timmy Elsewhere

At the ASI.

On what the shortage of gritting salt tells us about governmental competence.

6 thoughts on “Timmy Elsewhere”

  1. Comment left here and there, because I probably won’t check for a response at ASI.

    “No mention of opportunity costs?

    How much is the salt worth, how much is the building worth the salt is to be stored in, how much is the land worth on which the building sits, how much are we paying people to coordinate this and what could they be doing instead? That is money sitting there not earning interest or being invested – that is bad.

    There is also you Tim. Imagine the Government had several thousand tonnes of crushed rock dust in storage in case the roads started melting. Imagine they had so much that they were prepared for a record hot summer every year, year in year out. All this paid for with your taxes, all that money not being used remotely usefully. It is the hounding of the public sector by people like you that means we’re not as well prepared as we could be.

    Perhaps this hounding is a good thing and being prepared for this would require being poorer than we need to be, but to use the example of exceptionally poor weather as a metaphor for government failure is a bit rich.

    [Of course the private sector railways handled this situation admirably and there was definitely not worse disruption to rail travel than road travel…no siree]”

    Tim adds: “Of course the private sector railways handled this situation admirably and there was definitely not worse disruption to rail travel than road travel…no siree”

    Quite. Only if we have private sector balancing of the costs and benefits, only if we have (with externalities included in the price system of course) a market system of balancing, can we possibly balance.

  2. I would like to make it clear that the Railways were fucking disgraceful, again. A Train froze to the tracks where I work. It froze. To the Tracks. People were stuck on there all night. Utterly appalling.

    Anyway, I think you’re getting slightly to Hayekian on this. There is a market economy, so we know roughly how much capital costs, (I say “we”, I don’t have a clue), and we know how much salt costs, and how much land costs, and how much the labour of logistically planners cost. So we pretty much have all the information necessary for a state to plan this. The Hayekian criticism is pretty weak here. There’s public choice things to worry about, but that seems quite weak, there is no one monopolising salt provision and making the state buy loads of their mate, that would provide the solution you seem to be after: Plentiful salt even where there’s no need for it.

    This is bad administration, not a useful data point on central planning versus markets. A private company plans and would probably make similar decisions to those the state has.

    Also, just to be pedantic, as I am in the pedantistan regions of the blogosphere. Command economies balance, markets clear.

  3. “On what the shortage of gritting salt tells us about governmental competence.” Nothing that we didn’t know already.

  4. @Left Outside :
    It’s worth pointing out that the railways now have a level of subsidy at least twice as high as under British Rail, doesn’t seem to have improved things 100% though does it ? There is also a degree of government control that again wasn’t as acute under British Rail. Add to that the incompetencies and inefficiencies of Network Rail ( I know what I’m talking about here, I work for them ! ), a government founded and funded organisation and I think that any claim that the railways are in the private sector fails totally.

  5. Oh yes, the railways are to one’s liking on the right or left, the workers or consumers. I just had to bring them up as 1) I’m british and complaining about the railways is up there with talking about the weather and 2) it has affected me the last couple of days fairly severely.

    I don’t know how the private sector has fared to be honest. Anyone know of any private sector companies that are responsible for gritting their own property and how much salt they have?

  6. “I don’t know how the private sector has fared to be honest. Anyone know of any private sector companies that are responsible for gritting their own property and how much salt they have?”

    Well. from brief observation, the local supermarkets have been very good at clearing their car parks for customers; pubs and restaurants keep their parts of the pavements clear; my industrial clients who work under cover – the builders are mostly fornicated – have been working with their neighbours to maintain access and egress for staff and goods right from the start.

    The local bus services here in Central Scotland have been running well. They are operated by private companies to local authority contracts. I have heard rude remarks about the city services, run by the Toon Cooncils, but wouldn’t myself fancy driving a double-decker on these roads.

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