Archive for the ‘ Public Policy ’ Category

The value of being wrong

I like this TED talk given by Mike Rowe.

The Mike Rowe talk appeals to me because I believe there is value in humility. The possibility of being wrong, Rowe describes in vivid detail. Usually, I think the TED conference is masturbatory. In this case, though, Rowe challenges, perhaps indirectly, the prevailing certainty that we are correct. There is a method to scientific discovery that is applicable in a social arena, but the process for observable change is far softer. The research methods are statistical where they can be, but are often anecdotal. As a result, the development of theory is much slower, and the possibility for the refutation of established theory is greater. The concern I have is that laws, new laws especially, seem rooted in the anecdotal reporting that often features very small sample sizes and is hugely susceptible to refutation. This is a problem because laws are very difficult to change, and are nearly impossible to undo. The core question, as ever, for me: Why are we so eager to entrust so much power to a structure that is demonstrably wrong so frequently, yet is bereft of the humility to recognize or do anything about it?


This Freakonomics article has an interesting take on trains vs. cars.

Not long after the Van Wyck Expressway opened in 1950, when air travel was much less widespread than today, the airport traffic alone exceeded 10,000 vehicles per hour– the official peak capacity of the whole highway. Anyone who lives in New York City will confirm that the situation has only gotten worse in the intervening decades. An original train line would have made the journey faster and more pleasant for so many New York residents and visitors.

Usually I come down on the “trains are dumb” side of this, but clearly, where there is already adequate traffic that justifies its construction and the expectation of economic sustainability is in place, a train is a vastly superior form of transportation.

Something about the marginal cost of public transportation, how to get to, where to leave your car, etc.