The Corner

A Desire Named Streetcar

Robert Samuelson has a terrific takedown of Obama’s high-speed-rail fantasy today. I’ve already commented on it over at Powerline, but there’s always more to say about this subject. One of the favorite clichés of the rail-transit-mongers is that Europe shows that high-speed rail can be a success. This ignores some essential facts, such as Europe’s higher population density and smaller geography. 

Interestingly, there is one U.S.–Europe comparison that they never make: The U.S. hugely outpaces Europe in one key area of rail transport, but it’s freight rather than people. This report from the European Commission (table 5.1, page 68) tells the story. Measured in ton-kilometers (i.e., one ton shipped one kilometer), the U.S. ships more than six times the amount of freight as the European Union. Freight rail in the U.S. accounts for 43 percent of total ton-kilometers shipped by all transportation sources, versus only 16.7 percent in the E.U., where they ship much more by truck, due in part to the shorter distances goods have to travel.

In both cases, the freight choices are driven by markets and geography. In other words, freight rail accounts for so much more of our modal share for the same reasons more passenger rail makes no sense. When markets rather than bureaucrats and subsidies determine the outcome, rail does just fine in the U.S.

Most Popular


Is Tribalism Really on the Rise? Meh.

‘By now we all understand that America is in the grip of political tribalism,” Yale professor Amy Chua wrote in the February 22 New York Times. “We lament and condemn this phenomenon even as we voraciously engage in it.” It’s a familiar refrain, is it not? Chua’s widely discussed new book on the ... Read More
Economy & Business

Two Conservative Causes, in Conflict

Conservatives have argued for decades that the capital-gains tax should be indexed to inflation. When George H. W. Bush was president, some conservatives argued that he could interpret the tax laws in a way that let him adopt this policy without a vote of Congress. Now that Larry Kudlow is director of the ... Read More

If Amy Wax Is Wrong, Let’s See the Data

Regarding the kerfuffle Jason Richwine addressed here earlier, the economist Glenn Loury has posted an impassioned plea to his Facebook page. Loury, you may recall, hosts the video blog where Wax made her controversial claim that black students at Penn Law School rarely graduate in the top half of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Nazis, Rap Songs, and McDougals

In 1991, Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, and David Duke, a Republican, ran for governor of Louisiana. There was a memorable bumper sticker: “Vote for the Crook, Not the Nazi.” The crook, in fact, won -- beating the Nazi (and Klansman) by about 61 percent to 39 percent. I thought of this when contemplating ... Read More
Politics & Policy

San Francisco Bans Fur Sales

San Francisco has banned the sale of fur. From the CBS-SF story: San Francisco has become the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of fur clothing and products. Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a measure that prohibits the sale of fur clothes, accessories, even souvenirs in stores and ... Read More

For the First Time in Weeks, Relief Sweeps over Austin

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Austin bomber is done in by one of his own devices; some new numbers suggest that a small but significant portion of Trump voters are tiring of the chaos and aren’t showing up to support other Republicans in 2018; and the mixed news for conservatives coming out of the ... Read More

The Baleful Effect of #MeToo on Campus

Remember the series of hurricanes that pounded the Caribbean last summer? Something like that has been occurring on college campuses, as they're hit by one destructive mania after another: diversity, Title IX, anti-speech protests. Now it's the #MeToo Movement. In this Martin Center article, British academic ... Read More