Wednesday, October 03, 2012

MTA construction taking longer than it should -- is anyone surprised?

I'm not.

The escalator from Grand Central North to Madison Avenue routinely breaks down, as does one of the escalators at the White Plains Metro-North station. I've seen five workers when the latter happened: two talking to each other, one standing around, one showing his cell phone to an MTA policeman, and the fifth actually making repairs.

By comparison, last week I saw only one repairman was needed to work on an escalator at the White Plains Galleria Mall. It was no small repair, either. This burly, 50-ish guy was pulling entire plates out by himself.

The difference is clear to any thinking person. As Milton Friedman said, when you spend other's people money, you don't care how much you spend, and when you spend money on other people, you don't care what you spend it on. Every morning for a few years, I'd shake my head after noticing the "work" on the bridge at the Chappaqua Metro-North station. I didn't have to wonder how a private business could stay afloat with four workers perenially just standing around while only one did actual work. Why shouldn't that private company take its time, when it was paid by the state government and federal government (hurrah to all you federal taxpayers living outside NY, you got to help!). The total cost was $17 million for one damn bridge.

Every progress report on the Second Avenue subway line seems to push back the completion date. Originally Phase 1 would be completed in 2014. Then it became 2015...2016.  And that's just Phase 1: the total project is now expected to take until mid-2019, with at least $1 billion in overruns. It's good odds I'll have a nice head of gray hair before it's done.

Apply Bastiat's test: "See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime." Could your neighbors decide to tunnel underneath your home, spreading dust and dirt that harm your health, blocking your sidewalk, and generally ruining your quality of life for several years, and making you help pay for it?

Now here's food for thought: applying Bastiat's test, there is nothing that government does that neighbors could do themselves without committing a crime. Your neighbors can't come to your home or workplace every two weeks to demand their "cut" of your paycheck, else you have to pay even more and/or be kidnapped and housed in a concrete room against your will. From that first usurped power, that of taking people's money without their consent, all other governmental powers proceed.

"No legal plunder: This is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony, and logic. Until the day of my death, I shall proclaim this principle with all the force of my lungs (which alas! is all too inadequate)."

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