The Introduction of a New Order of Things

In his essay, "Valuing the Commons," Charles Komanoff discusses congestion pricing and carbon taxes and the difficulty in convincing people to pay for their negative externalities. Komanoff wrote it back in June and it’s on Grist this week:

What, then, is standing in the way of congestion fees and a national
carbon tax? The power of
an entrenched minority, for one thing. In New
York City, fewer than one in 20 working residents drives toll-free into
the intended congestion charging zone, but they know who they are and
are not shy about protecting their self-awarded entitlement to a
toll-free commute.

Conversely, the benefits of congestion pricing will be broadly
distributed but not life-changing. Indeed, judging from polls, many New
Yorkers don’t even realize they are potential beneficiaries.

"Losers cry louder than winners sing," wrote University of
Michigan professor Joel Slemrod in explaining the near-impossibility of
overhauling the U.S. tax code, and the same holds true for the
congestion fee and the carbon tax.

What is more, the benefits
from road fees or carbon taxes aren’t just diffuse; because they lie in
the future they are by necessity uncertain.


"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand," Machiavelli observed in The Prince,
"than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things …
the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the
old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under
the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well
under the new."

That is why enacting the Bloomberg congestion plan is so hard, and
so necessary. America’s civic polity is stuck in traffic, so to speak.
Getting it moving again will require us to imagine something other than
permanent stalemate and act upon that vision.

  • Despite not getting this approved on his timeframe, the Mayor and all of the CP supporters should be proud. The line of debate has moved considerably just within the last 3 months. We need to keep the momentum up over the Summer and we need to have a string of successes on areas the Mayor can just implement without the state.

  • fred

    > “There is nothing more difficult to take in
    > hand,” Machiavelli observed in The Prince,
    > “than to take the lead in the introduction of
    > a new order of things … the innovator has
    > for enemies all those who have done well
    > under the old conditions, and lukewarm
    > defenders in those who may do well under the
    > old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in
    > those who may do well under the new.”

    Didn’t the White House use this same argument against those who opposed invading Iraq?

  • I agree, Glenn.
    Komanoff is choosing words carefully. No need to quote Machiavelli. The carbon profiteers have our species in a death grip. This is a life and death power struggle. Auto ownership is growing 5% worldwide annually. China builds a new coal-fired electric plant every week.

  • Does anyone else see that this is just a new tax?

    I just think the timing of congestion pricing is interesting. At a time when gas prices are high, and global warming is such a concern – that people are looking into carpooling more. The government gets 20% of sales tax revenue from new vehicles; gasoline and registration fees are extra.

    If people carpool, then there would be less use of vehicle and thus less sales of new vehicles and gasoline. So, the politicians need to move their addiction to sales taxes of new vehicles and gasoline to a new revenue stream.

    And here it is. The government double speak of “congestion pricing”.

    Look for a new tax on carpooling in the coming years.

    They want us to have cars for the taxes and fees….but just to not use them in certain areas or at certain times of day.

    Hey I got an idea, why don’t the politicians talk about carpooling honestly and it’s role in solving traffic, energy, and air pollution issues. And maybe while they are at it, they could get to work removing government waste so that we don’t have to be so addicted to oil.

    Cause if you notice, the carpool concept is being killed so that they can convert lanes to toll roads just like they have done in California and Florida. All in the name of congestion relief.

    http://trafficbulldog.org is a carpool advocacy group committed to helping people form carpools. Carpools take pressure off of the gasoline pricess…. and get a little less money to terrorists.

  • JF

    Bulldog, think of it as making the drivers pay for their fair share of the bridge and road maintenance. Carpoolers shouldn’t be against congestion pricing, since if you split it even two ways it’s no more than a round-trip subway fare.

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