Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
By Bryan Caplan
Winston on planes:
Airport expenses are covered by passenger facility charges and landing fees, which are set by local airport authorities based on an aircraft’s weight… Congestion at a given airport varies by time of day in accordance with the volume of aircraft traffic. Aircraft weight has little effect on congestion because a plane waiting to take off or land is delayed by roughly the same amount of time as a jumbo jet as by a small private plane; thus, weight-based landing fees bear little relationship to airport congestion.
Winston on trains:
[W]ith the single exception of BART in the San Francisco area, every U.S. transit system actually reduced social welfare. Moreover, they [Winston and co-authors] could not identify an efficient pricing policy or physical restructuring of the rail network that would enhance any system’s social desirability without effectively eliminating its service.
Winston on automobiles:
[R]eplacing gasoline taxes with marginal cost congestion tolls and pavement-wear taxes and building roads to optimal pavement thickness [i.e., markedly thicker] would generate an annual welfare gain of $23.9 billion.
This really is a fascinating book. Winston paints a picture of pro-market economic consensus that far surpasses even my own. The reason for the disparity, perhaps, is that Winston reports the consensus among active researchers, topic-by-topic, instead of just reporting what the average economist thinks.
I wonder if Dan Klein would agree?