Is Ideology really the enemy? It Depends…

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  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Hey Saul, careful not confuse light rail and the subway. Not that you do explicitly here, but given where you’re from, I’m just guessing. The subway largely stays out of the way of traffic; light rail snarls it. So it’s a much bigger lift that the value of aesthetics (which I agree aren’t irrelevant) have to do for light rail vis a vis its cost (and opportunity costs, as increased bus service and dedicated bus lanes really do move people around better than light rail) compared to what aesthetics have to do for subway/El. (And given that for the most part no one is proposing new subways, it may even be that today’s bus would have been better in many scenarios than building a subways, had today’s better buses been available. But the NYC subways system is built – it’s not going to stop being the backbone of public transit there. But as-yet-not-built light rail systems as as yet not built. So there are no sunk costs, only prospective ones. That changes the calculation dramatically.) I say this as a relative fan of trains and hater of buses from the perspective of myself as a user.

    I appreciate your broader point, but I’m not sure how the paragraph on Yglesias transit views (something he’s really done a lot of homework on) cashes it out very well. It’s not a particularly ideological issue: aesthetics versus efficiency – it’s all pretty much technocratic no matter how you come at it IMO. Politicians like building light rail because you can’t cut a ribbon on a bus schedule with more departures on it (well, you could…). That’s kind of Transactional Politics (Rational Choice Theory, however you want to look at it) 101. Still not super ideological in my view. Maybe you could sketch out the connection a bit more.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Hey Michael,

      Nope. I meant Light Rail. We have some in San Francisco and like the Light Rail in Portland and many other cities.

      I was worried about the Matt Y paragraph and he was possibly a bad example because I dislike him and think he is not as smart as many give him credit for. I think I said the point above but there are lots of people who think they are non-partisan and above the fray and really relying on super-impartial facts but they are really ideological because the facts somehow always come out to support their own conclusions. One of the things I dislike about the economics solves everything wonkery that seems to have resurged over the past few years is that it treats people like interchangeale parts instead of like people. People are messy, contradictory, don’t always function at full capacity, have bad days, long streaks of bad luck, and all other things that are basically chaos. I feel like the Matt Y technocrat set just chooses to ignore this.

      There is probably some truth to the idea that good policy can often be destroyed by needless partisanship but it also raises the questions what makes good policy. Jon Chait is very good at showing how the so-called non-partisan deficit scolds are really just broadcasting the concerns of the really wealthy over the rest of us and ignoring reality that the deficit is decreasing. I am pretty sure Bloomberg was sincere about his soda tax and I know a few people who supported it because of the public health crisis over bad diets and thought the economics of it would work. It was also largely derided as being paternalistic. But any economist would tell you that you tax what you want less of and if you want fewer people to drink sugary pop you should tax sugary pop.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’ve stumbled into more than I can untangle at my current energy level on a exactly a question that I have had an itch to untangle with some energy for a while now. Let me first apologize for suggesting you literally conflated light rail and subway. I only meant to say that maybe you hadn’t considered their different costs fully – and at that, only speculatively.

        I’ll also say that my inclination was not to end up saying that the technocratic approach is definitionally not ideological. Rather, that it often is. This just ended up being a bad example to show that, for me. I think technocracy is potentially not ideological in some contexts and ideological in others, unlike, say, social democracy or laissez faire, which are pretty much always ideological (but not therefore bad). As such, as an -ocracy, maybe technocracy is ideological, but by and large the approach to solving problems in the manner that Yglesias does there I think is most ideological when adherents oppose it as an overall approach – a mien, a cast of mind – to an approach that is clearly ideological. (EDIT: …And least ideological when not placed in rhetorical opposition to a competing, clearly identifuable ideology (or its lagacy). And I think this latter is the case in Yglesias’ approach to transit. I’m not clear, even if you differ with Matt about how to solve transit problems, what the ideological content of that disagreement is. Whether there’s anideological disagreement there can’t simply come down to whether Yglesias happens to think he’s right on the questions for reasons. To me, ideological dispute is precisely about the presence of some degree of a pre-exsting, coherent, and at least minimally unified set of related ideas on at least one side. You could say that Matt’s view that he can arrive at good answers by some process of taking desired outputs into account and doing calculations is ideological, but, agian, in this context, without a competing ideology, I see that – technocracy – as being at its least ideological ebb. But perhaps I am missing the ideology on the other side to which it is opposed.]

        So, an approach to, say, welfare that purports to dispassionately assess outcomes but ends up stoutly opposing itself to a particular ideological program (say, generous direct payments to the poor): then, insomuch as in context that is clearly an ideological position, labeling it technocratic doesn’t change that. But where no clear ideology is at play in opposition to a technocratic approach (that may not even don the label of technocracy, or anti-ideology), I think technocracy is least ideological. That’s why I say Yglesias’ use of the approach, which I don’t think he names or systematically opposes to others’ approaches on this topic, actually isn’t ideological.

        Which doesn’t disprove your point. It only makes it a bad example in my opinion. It applies an assessment of the ideological content of technocracy in a situation where that content is least present. I don’t see the ideology Yglesias is opposing his approach to, I don’t see where he characterizes his approach as technocratic and therefore non-ideological (or denies that it is ideological), and generally, I just see him as trying to promote the answers on transit that he likes best. This is contrast to when he talks about spending or monetary policy or taxes, where IMO he doesn’t have a problem making clear he is being ideological against others who are ideological. I just don’t know that the stakes are present here to make the point (in a way I like, that is ;)) you want to make, which is one I broadly agree with: that, in many contexts, claims to be ideologically impartial, non-ideological, or technocratic-not-ideological are just as ideological as the openly ideological claims.

        Lastly, thanks for writing the piece. As I say, it’s a question I’m interested in, and I’m glad to see it tackled here.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw

        Jon Chait is very good at showing how the so-called non-partisan deficit scolds are really just broadcasting the concerns of the really wealthy over the rest of us and ignoring reality that the deficit is decreasing.

        That depends on the scold. People who were freaking out about a deficit being run in a recession were pretty silly (and of course the deficit will decrease at this point in the business cycle). But your country has a serious problem with structural deficits, and that is a problem that needs to be solved.

        I am pretty sure Bloomberg was sincere about his soda tax and I know a few people who supported it because of the public health crisis over bad diets and thought the economics of it would work. It was also largely derided as being paternalistic. But any economist would tell you that you tax what you want less of and if you want fewer people to drink sugary pop you should tax sugary pop.

        Pigou’s work is not an excuse to tax any damn thing some politician takes a dislike to. There are technical reasons why goods that generate negative externalities need to be taxed and “people want things I don’t want them to want” is not a market failure.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        James,
        heavier use of the emergency room is a negative externality, though. (Yes, we all hate american health care system!) Yes, I’ve heard an earful about diabetics not taking their medication and winding up in the ER for completely preventable reasons.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @kim I’d be careful about that justification. The expensive part of dying is end of life care and that’s universal, whether you die young or old. If you’re going to make the economic case, the people in favor of people being free to do things that may cause them to die young will win out because they take less in Medicare and Social Security than those that are healthy and die old.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Public transit, a premier:

      Light rail are basically the modern forms of trams. Like trams, the lighter in weight and smaller than conventional trains. Thats why they are called light rail. Unlike the trams of the early 20th century, light rail operates on its own right of way. They usually run at grade/street level but some transit systems have underground stations.

      Subways or metros are heavy rail mass transit systems that run underground for the most part. Some metro systems have elevated or at grade sections. The technical term for them is rapid transit.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The American Light Rail System is what regular Americans take to work.

        The American Subway System is what Ebola-infected ISIS terrorists with calves the size of cantaloupes use to carry out their deadly work.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Michael,
      I love gondolas! Won’t snarl traffic, great view — and more economical than light rail (bridges == more money than a good strong cable).
      At least in Pittsburgh, where we have the hills for ’em.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    The problem with ideology is that no cause is so noble as to not attract idiots and opportunists who are more interested in their brands and getting power over anything else.

    Yes. And as far as I can tell, that’s extent of the criticism. That’s it! So it’s something which should produce a healthy shudder in all of us who realize the extent to which this defines ideological thinking.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

      No, part of the criticism is also that ideologues have outsourced their thinking and judgment to their tribe mind.

      (A problem that I notice is much more common in members of the other tribe, people who believe in the ideology opposite my own. If only they could rest themselves free of all the propaganda, they would start to think like me.)

      Seriously, yet another complaint is that political ideologues to easily forget the people who disagree with them do so in good faith and for reasons based in good morality. @will-Truman has an example that I have always found compelling: for some people, freedom means the ability to smoke. For other people, freedom means not having to deal with someone else’s secondhand smoke. Both camps are correct.Report

      • It’s possible to make a lock-cinch case against being an ideologue that fails to make barely any headway in a case against ideology. You’re conflating them. Just about no one defends being an ideologue explicitly (even as many who condemn it are obvious and raging ideologues), and few even do it inadvertently.

        Meanwhile, even anti-ideologicalism is an ideology. Ideology is hugely difficult to escape in one’s thinking. (And failing to escape it doesn’t make you an ideologue. What it is to be an ideologue is a separate discussion from what ideology is and whether it is good or bad or just okay or just a fact.) By my lights it remains to be proven in these threads that ideology, nor the fact that it’s extremely hard not to employ in one’s understanding of the world and thoughts about what should be done in it, is a bad thing, at least where ideology is rightly and fairly defined and considered, rather than taken as a definitionally negative-valence term from the very outset. (I.e. taking “Ideology is the Enemy” as the starting point, where ideology is standing in for something the speaker absolutely knows is bad, like tribalism or partisanship, but which really isn’t what ideology is, or at least isn’t shown to be the right understanding of the thing to which the term correctly applies.) Which starting point kind of makes the endeavor to prove the intrinsic harmfulness of the thing superfluous.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Burt,
        my political enemies do not disagree with me “in good faith” and for reasons based in good morality. They have no particular problem with ruining decent people simply because they pulled a prank, or otherwise got under their skin. They disagree on the idea that government should be for all the people (and they want Acadia back).

        My political opponents on any particular issue are a different story, of course…Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

        MD,

        Yeah, what you said. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again (right now, in fact!): principled pragmatism is just as much an ideology as any of the “ideologies” a principled pragmatist may be inclined to challenge as too ideological. Or even, if things move in this direction, by challenging specific people for being blindingly ideological in their decision-making and thought processes. I remain convinced that criticizing people for holding the ism that they do is counterproductive. That’s just a form of bitching. World views don’t change just because some “non-believer” tells us that we’re rong.

        Burt,

        Yes, you’re right that there’s more in play, but as I see it, without the type of opportunists upon whom an individual’s thinking and judgment can be outsourced, the problem I referenced wouldn’t exist. Maybe that’s wrong.Report

  3. In all fairness, Yglesias is an East Coast guy who has (IIRC) always lived in the BosWash urban corridor and hates light rail as it’s being implemented in older cities. The light-rail systems being built in high-growth western metro areas like Salt Lake City, Portland and Denver address all of his complaints.Report

    • ALL of them? What are they all, even?Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Basically, that it runs in mixed traffic and so is even more vulnerable to traffic delays than a bus line (because it can’t steer around, e.g., a stopped car) while costing a good deal more. The arguments on the other side are that it offers a smoother and easier ride, and is more demonstrably permanent than a bus line, as well as offering higher capacity.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I’m sure Tod can speak to this more than I, but in Portland, the bulk of the light rail line is segregated from the highways & roadways, except where it approaches & passes through downtown. In the downtown, it does operate on surface streets with dedicated lanes & has the right of way (no stopped cars snarling things up). It discourages auto traffic in the downtown area, which is a feature, not a bug, especially since it is easy to park a little ways away from downtown & grab a train.

        Seattle, if they ever pull their collective heads out of their collective asses, is doing something similar, but with the bus tunnels (Seattle has tunnels under the downtown area that some of the bus lines use). Now the light rail & buses share the tunnels, even though the light rail only goes from downtown to SEATAC (and misses Boeing Field completely, which was a stupid move, IMHO).Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Michael Drew says:

        The DC streetcar that Yglesias is presumably most familiar with shares a lane with cars (which I agree is a non-optimal layout–they ought to just take that lane and dedicate it to transit).Report

      • The complaints that Yglesias repeats over and over are: shares roads with cars and trucks, at-grade crossings of major streets, frequent stops, slow speeds, and inefficient fare collection (each passenger pays as they enter the car). Short version, he thinks they’re functionally bus systems, but much more expensive. Denver’s growing system has most tracks separate from roads, grade separation at most major intersections, greater station spacing, higher speeds, and fares collected as you enter the platform, not when you enter the train. Short version, it’s a large improvement on the current non-local bus system. I have said all along that Denver’s light-rail system could be more accurately described, based on funding and benefits, as “Denver’s suburbs are building a light-rail system whose main hub happens to be in LoDo.”Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Michael,
      bringing back light rail/streetcars to pittsburgh wouldn’t be the end of the world, anyway.
      We still have a lot of the right-of-ways, and it would be super scenic.Report

  4. Avatar James K says:

    There is a clear failure mode with technocrats and would-be technocrats the leads to projecting one’s own preferences onto the general public. Instead of defining rational behaviour as “That which people should do, given their preferences”, they define it as “That which people should do, given my preferences”. This failure mode is corrosive to good policy making, and should be called out whenever it surfaces.

    However, there is also such a thing as bad decision-making, and responding to every possible policy proposal with “people are complicated, who am I to judge?” is more than a bit of a cop-out. For example, are people really supporting light rail over more buses for aesthetic reasons (making a rational trade-off of cost for beauty), or have they convinced themselves it would be more efficient? And whose preferences are we considering here? The politicians who get to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony (which practically doubles as campaign spending), or the voters who have to pay for it? Preferences are heterogenous, and it’s important not to fall into the trap that a group of people can truly be said to want anything (barring a few unusual exceptions).

    I don’t believe ideology is the enemy, not as a generic statement. But I do believe letting one’s ideology affect one’s perception of facts is. The solution is to more rigorously police the is-ought gap.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James K says:

      +1.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to James K says:

      James,
      When was the last time you designed a boondoggle, as a thought experiment?
      Yglesias and company don’t want to have to deal with the stupid.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James K says:

      @james-k

      There is also the old saws of “politics is the art of the possible” and “not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

      I often feel like the technorcratic and ideologue set forget both of these statements.

      What is the goal? My goal is to have more public transportation and less car driving. If people are more amenable to light rail, subways, and trains over buses than it is good to use those things instead of maintaining another uphill battle to convince people to use buses.

      Though there is a more radicalized element that people are bus-phobic because of racial and class anxieties. In many American cities, buses are potentially associated with “too poor to own a car” which often means someone is a member of a minority as well. This does not seem to be the case in San Francisco but it is certainly the case in LA* and other cities. Even in NYC, the buses seem primarily used by the poorer and older New Yorkers over the subway even though a monthly metrocard provides transport on both and a subway ride costs the same as a bus ride. Even in San Francisco some routes are considered more “interesting” experiences than others and there are people who prefer to spend 40 minutes looking for parking over taking the bus.

      I am willing to admit that part of the aesthetic reasons for light rail is that they probably avoid this bus-phobia issue. I have no idea how to combat bus-phobia though and neither does Matt Y, I don’t think he even mentions it but chooses to talk about price. It is often people much further to Matt Y’s left who bring up bus-phobia. Perhaps Matt Y knows about bus-phobia and agrees it exists but doesn’t have a solution or argument to the problem so he ignores it.

      *There is or was an advocacy group in LA called the Bus Riders Union. They actually were making some traction until they made the classic leftist mistake of taking up causes way outside the power of the LA government (foreign affairs) and these were foreign affairs of a notoriously hot-button issue. I don’t know why my side is so prone to this mistake. One thing I do admire about the right is their ability to keep on message and understand that local governments do not have power over foreign affairs or international relations. The Bus Riders Union is a great idea but their mission should be a narrow one. The left need to make every protest be about every issue and this is a bad decision as you point out above.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Not sure how it is elsewhere, but my biggest complaint with buses here is that the bulk of the routes would be better served by trains. If you need to go to downtown Seattle, you will find a bus that will get you there quickly.

        If you need to commute to anywhere else, you will find a route that will get you there, but it will likely involve at least one transfer and probably take just as long as driving your car, if not longer. While you’ll save on the aggravation of stress of driving in traffic, you will be less comfortable in so many ways. And at the end of the day, when you compare the cost of the bus ride against the cost of driving, the bus costs more, unless you drive a Suburban.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        MRS,
        Pittsburgh prices such that parking + driving to the city is more expensive than taking the bus.

        People like trains because they’re “more convenient” (run more trains on a route than buses, generally) and “safer” (trains do not jump curbs !)Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        There are bus routes in San Francisco that are not downtown oriented but they don’t hit all the lines either. I live near some of them and use them to get to the Mission, the Presidio, Pac Heights, Noe Valley, etc but you need to live near them.

        When I visited Seattle last year, I partially decided not to check out Ballard because it seemed inconvenient to get to without a car. I kept my travel options to bus routes that went to and from downtown where I was staying and to places I could walk to. I like walking though. I walked from 1st Avenue to Queen Anne and back and to Capitol Hill many times.Report

      • People like trains because they’re “more convenient” (run more trains on a route than buses, generally)…

        This is certainly part of the appeal of Denver’s light-rail system versus its non-local express bus network. The express buses operate only in narrow rush-hour windows. When I worked for the Colorado legislature, budget committee staff usually finished up their day sometime between 7:00 and 9:00 PM during the session. Going home to the suburbs at that time of day meant (for me) taking two different local buses, changing in a sketchy neighborhood, and a total of about an hour and 20 (riding plus time waiting to change buses) to get to the Park-n-Ride lot where my car would be. When the light rail line opens in my suburb in 2016, going home at that hour means an 18-minute train ride to get to the same parking. During the several times each winter that there is heavy snow, the bus time becomes indeterminate, but much longer. Based on the experience on other lines, the train time stays pretty much at 18 minutes.

        As part of the light-rail construction, the Park-n-Ride lot will be replaced with a multi-story parking garage with a much bigger capacity. Because the light-rail ridership is enormously higher on every line that’s opened compared to the express-bus ridership. The line to the airport also opens in 2016, which is going to have huge effects everywhere.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw

        That is kind of my point, the buses are great if you want to get to downtown Seattle from anywhere around Seattle, but if you work somewhere else & don’t live in downtown Seattle, it’s a crapshoot.

        The system has a nice set of Transit Centers/Park & Rides, but very poor connections between them, since it is setup in a hub & spoke configuration, with Seattle & Bellevue the two primary hubs, and everywhere else is a spoke. If you need to get from one spoke to another, you have to go through a hub & switch buses, which, if traffic is not in your favor, could add an hour long wait to your commute.Report

      • Rereading my comment, I may have given the impression that while I worked for the legislature I rode the bus. The times are what it would have taken if I had done so; I drove because at 9:00 PM I could be home in 30 minutes.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw

        It is important to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but it is also important to let the bad be the enemy of the good. Some ideas are just bad at achieving their stated objectives, and some of those ideas are really popular always, because most people don’t have the right tools to understand why they are bad ideas. When formulating policy it is important to understand and respect people’s terminal values – the end states of the world they care about. But most policy arguments happen up at the level of more instrumental values and an instrumental value can be wrong if it conflicts with the person’s terminal values.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @james-k

        Those are fair points. I admit that I have a lot of friends who I think practice something that can be called “Magical Thinking Kindergarten Liberal Politics” and this means that they really believe in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good and if Obama gave just one more speech, we would have universal single-payer healthcare

        These people make me very cranky, just like a technocrat banging up and down about how X is horrible makes me cranky.

        And I do think I have a point that both crowds have a horrible aversion to retail politics and actually getting out there and convincing voters to elect politicians who would enact their preferred policies. They would rather be noble and complain about how rotten the system is.

        A lot of friends are complaining about how the ACA isn’t perfect even though it is a million times better than what existed before.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James K says:

      I don’t believe ideology is the enemy, not as a generic statement.

      Neither do I.

      But I do believe letting one’s ideology affect one’s perception of facts is.

      Yes, absolutely. I think that’s a perfect and concise formulation of the problem we’re all talking about.

      The solution is to more rigorously police the is-ought gap.

      Yeah, that. As well as teasing apart some distinctions regarding a priorism and emotionalism in decisionmaking. Neither of those strike me as necessarily entailing an is-ought type problem.

      Excellent comment James K.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I don’t think Tod’s complaint is against political parties, or that he’s asking for technocracy. I think perhaps you’ve misinterpreted his meaning.

    As far as I’ve understood him, his critique is captured in what Burt says above, that “ideologues have outsourced their thinking and judgment to their tribe mind [and] to easily forget the people who disagree with them do so in good faith and for reasons based in good morality.”

    Everyone has some degree of ideology. My undergrad mentor described ideology as being the set of ideas that helped us make sense of, and give intellectual order to, a complex and messy world. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact it’s probably cognitively necessary.

    The problem is when it becomes rigid; when you uncritically accept as necessarily true whatever you’re told fits within that ideology, reject uncritically as necessarily false whatever you’re told does not fit within your ideology, and assume that everyone with a different ideology is an idiot and/or evil and there is nothing of value you can learn from anything they might say. That’s when ideology is the enemy.Report

    • This. The problem arises when policy positions become principles unto themselves rather than mere means to further certain principles. This problem does not necessarily have anything to do with whether one is a technocrat or a partisan, though. Instead, it has much more to do with forgetting or minimizing the actual goal of a particular policy or denying that said policy has effects on other legitimate goals.

      I seriously need to trademark this, but once again, “Have too many principles and you soon have none.”

      The problem isn’t ideology per se, it’s rigid ideology that mistakes means for ends, policies for principles, and positive claims for normative claims (and vice versa).Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to James Hanley says:

      This is similar to James K’s comment above. Both are sound on the surface. In practice, there’s very little difference between saying to an opponent “you’re wrong because your ideology is wrong” and “you’re wrong because your ideology is blinding you from seeing the facts in this case”.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky says:

        Yeah, I agree with that Plinky. Telling someone they’re WRONG isn’t any way to promote change. It just compounds and exacerbates the perceived problem, in my view.Report

  6. Avatar Mo says:

    The problems with buses is that buses are crappy and light rail is shiny. Buses can be made shiny and nice. The problem is that buses are treated as a way to skimp out on public transport and so are budgeted accordingly. If light rail advocates treated buses as a legitimate alternative instead of something only poor people ride*, we might get nicer buses. Maybe take a page out of the Hampton Jitney or MegaBus playbook. A nice, clean bus with free wifi is still a heck of a lot cheaper and more flexible than light rail and can be nicer.

    * In fairness, most people treat buses as something only poor people rideReport

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mo says:

      From the mid-20th century to the late 20th century, most American cities treated public transportation as a social service for people too poor to own cars or who could not drive because of handicap rather than a legitimate transportation policy. There were exceptions in some cities but that was the general rule. It was part of the cult of the car.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The thing is, you have more millionaires riding Metro North and the subway, and fewer riding the bus, in the same metro area. Sometimes the bus is significantly faster, but aside from the rich old ladies, you are far less likely to find a high income New Yorker (especially a male one for some reason) on a NYC bus at a given time than on the subway or commuter rail.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @mo

        That just sort of makes sense because you take Metro North or LIRR into Grand Central or Penn Station and then it is easy to get on the subway to your job. When upper-middle class people live in the city, they tend to live and work more on subway routes like Cobble Hill to the Midtown West or something like that.

        People who take the bus in NYC generally seem to live and travel in areas that are harder to get to without going into Manhattan. I knew a woman who lived in Coney Island and worked in Canarsie as a public school teacher. She took the bus because the subway would just take too long and require getting to Union Square or 6th and 14th and then taking the L back into Brooklyn.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @saul-degraw But there are places in Manhattan where it’s faster to take the bus (e.g. Yorkville to Midtown on the M31), but lots of people just never think of taking the bus.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @mo

        When I travel within NYC, the only place where I take the bus is the Javits Center.

        For those of you not from the area, the Javits Center is along the Hudson River and is inaccessible by subway.Report

  7. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I read Howe’s description of the invention of the modern political parties in What Hath God Wrought (by Martin Van Buren) and it was an eye-opener. They are quite valuable in terms of organizing a large group of people and getting them pointed in the same direction. And that is a necessary precondition for getting something done.Report