Aug 24

Samuelson transforms Glaeser’s hackery into The HSR Stupid / Update

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Morris says he and his tag-team High Speed Rail partner Ed Glaeser … that’s HSR or #HSrail for short … are taking at least a one week break. So Robert Samuelson steps into the breach.

He repeats the old familiar argument:

  • (1) Amtrak requires operating subsidies.
  • (2) Rail operators overseas had the same problem.
  • (3) Rail operators overseas found out that increasing the speed solved the problem.
  • (4) So if we do the same thing, it will lose money.

Why does (4) follow from (1), (2), and (3)? It doesn’t, of course, its just guilt by association given the form and shape of an argument to allow intellectually dishonest rhetoric to pass as if it were real argument.

He also channels Ed Glaeser’s hackery on High Speed Rail, and indeed using the strategy that Ed Glaeser’s hackery was built for:

In a blog-posted analysis, Glaeser made generous assumptions for trains…

… except,

  • (1) Ed Glaeser is looking at a “hypothetical” Express HSR corridor with a potential ridership of 1.5m.
  • Which is (2) not enough ridership to get an Express HSR corridor funded under the current policy – the California Express HSR system will be 10’s of millions.
  • So (3) it would be either The Big Stupid or The Big Lie to use Glaeser to criticize the current policy.
  • Notice, its easy to be generous when you have rigged the game from the start

This is Robert Samuelson, not the famous Paul Samuelson (and while I critique much of Paul Samuelson’s work, he had an impressive intellect and work ethic), so I pick The Big Stupid. This is just recycling the argument Ed Glaeser made, with an even bigger dose of (mostly inherited) reputation to make up for an even smaller dose of actual argument.

Note about the picture: the WaPo supports Samuelson pretending to engage in serious argument by showing a Japanese high speed train, with a caption about high density and such. This is of course also intellectually dishonest, since HSR has been a big success in areas like Germany, with similar population density to Ohio, and Spain, with similar population density to California. So my picture above is a Spanish high speed train, “from a country with similar size, population density, and geography to California”.

Update: Dean Baker at Beat the Press says:

The density for the United States as a whole would be relevant if the plans were to build a train network going from Florida to Alaska, but that is not what is on the agenda. Instead, the issue is about deepening and improving the network in relatively densely populated parts of the country, like Ohio (277 people per square mile), New York (402), and New Jersey (1134). The population densities of much of the United States are very comparable to the regions in Europe through which high speed rails travel.

Robert Samuelson doesn’t like trains. He told us that this morning in his column. He didn’t tell us anything else.


    • BruceMcF on August 24, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    … the work of a smarter man would have taken more work to debunk. If Paul Samuelson was on the warpath against HSR, it might take a week or more of work.

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