A Post Which Isn’t About the Question Marks Swirling Around High Speed Rail

Michael Giberson

In a post that actually isn’t about the “question marks swirling around high speed rail,” Eric Morris quotes approvingly a remark from Randal O’Toole, a big fan of trains and also a big critic of public subsidies for trains: “I don’t expect taxpayers to subsidize these preferences any more than if I liked hot-air balloons or midget submarines.”

In a way, the remark reflects my own attitude toward my libertarian impulses. I have libertarian attitudes and they certainly affect the way I see the world and what I think public policy should be more like. But when I approach a policy question, I can’t expect folks who don’t share my feelings to simply acquiesce without thinking for themselves. In fact, I think it a quite reasonable Hayekian position to want other people to think for themselves, otherwise that giant discovery process and information generating system comes crashing down. Seems just as true whether we’re talking about pencil making or public policy.

I suspect Morris will have something to say about those swirling high speed rail question marks in future posts on the Freakonomics blog.

2 thoughts on “A Post Which Isn’t About the Question Marks Swirling Around High Speed Rail

  1. What often gets me is that pleas for subsidies are framed as “if we can afford two wars…”

    Just because we’re wasting money on X does not mean we should be wasting money on Y. I do think there are activities (those with positive externalities) that deserve subsidy… but I wish we could discuss each proposed subsidy on its merits, such as the great quality-of life improvements brought to society by micro-submarines and balloons.

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