Friday, January 27, 2017

Civilization, sans Traffic

This is about engineering a system that eliminates rush hour traffic from all but the largest cities.

The main driver of traffic is scheduling. Employers schedule employees during peak traffic periods. This produces the behavior we know of by the terms rush hour and gridlock.

Anything that is not owned is wasted; air, water, roads, etc. That is why pollution occurs. The typical economist proposes to solve this with peak congestion pricing, road tolls or Pigovian taxes. These solutions fall on the poor most harshly and tax the worker, rather than his boss who is creating most of the congestion in the first place.

Capitalism can be thought of as identical to the sum of all its property arrangements. Capitalism is a system of property-based social technologies that allow some things to be owned, (land, cars, etc.) and not others, (people, women, government). Capitalism, unlike feudalism, does not allow humans to be owned in an obvious manner within a liberal democracy. That is why human ownership is on the down low, (H1B Visa, illegal immigrants, etc.) But I digress.

Basically, capitalism likes it when profits are maximized. This tends to work against feudalism, male dominance, hierarchy, and morality. It works in favor of things that maximize profit, (free trade, immigration, corrupt banking, atomized workers, low birth rates). But capitalism is just the summary of all its property relationships in this system of capitalism. And capitalism has not stopped evolving. This is just one of many capitalism(s). So when you talk about capitalism, you must ask; "which one?" Because the capitalism that exists today is not the same as the one that existed in the 1950's, the 1900's, or the 1800's. Property relationships evolve. No one could envision selling "space" on the iPhone by letting developers put their apps on it. The property form of "platform" on a computer system had not yet been invented.

This means that capitalism can be hacked, or modified if you will, by inventing the next iteration of property systems. Since any property system that fulfills a desire that was previously unfulfilled will probably be adopted, the course of society can be determined through the invention of new forms of property.

Everything in capitalism can be thought of as property without losing any ability to represent reality. Money is property in the labor of others. Insurance is property in risk management. Title is property in objects, etc. For a more complete list see this.

Now the act of scheduling employees can be defined as a form of property.

Take a typical day between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm. Normally there would be a sudden increase in traffic between around 8 or 9 am and between 5 to 7 pm — about the times people are going to work or coming home.

Now divide the city up in to scheduling squares of about 5 x 5 blocks, or 25 square blocks. Force all employers to schedule in 5 minute increments the beginning and end of their work days, i.e. 9:45, 9:50, 9:55, etc. Start the day at 6 am. Have an even number of increments until 10 pm. There are a total of 192 increments between 6 am and 10 pm, Issue the same number of scheduling increments for every hour. Do NOT have more increments during what would normally be rush hour. Work it out so that there are plenty of increments to start and end an employees shift, but never enough during "peak" times. Then create a market where employers can trade scheduling times with each other within their scheduling block.

The employers who want their employees to go to work during peak times will wind up paying the employers who are willing to schedule their employees during off-peak times. Because the supply of peak times is limited and the supply of off-peak times abundant, a general smoothing out of traffic will occur. Rush hour should be abolished. Instead of having crammed streets during some hours and dead streets during other hours, you will have a steady but manageable hum of cars all day.

Now this does not guarantee the elimination of all traffic. This works best in small and medium sized cities. In Chinese mega cities this may not work at all since the lessening of traffic may just be filled up by an increase in demand. But most societies that have the will to do it could banish rush hour.

Now the question is: could democracy do it? If not, that says a lot about the breakdown of property systems in western societies. It would be a shame if democracy, unlike the monarchical minarchistic feudalism of Great Britain, was incapable of inventing new government-enforced property rights.


  1. You develop a lot of technologies. They are interesting, and economically advantageous.
    There is also a demand for these right-wing products/services.

    Therefore, why isn't there a market for right-wing services? What are the structural causes? Democracy is one of them; what about the other ones?

  2. All the ideas I put on the internet fall into one of three categories;
    (1) Ideas that require authoritarian government to implement (like the one above)
    (2) Ideas that require government permission when the (current) government is never going to give it permission
    (3) Ideas that cannot make money
    As for the ideas that can make money and don't require government permission, I keep those to myself.
    And to answer your question, I don't know the other causes.

  3. Just variable-toll limited-access ways (freeways, bridges) and variable-cordon the CBDs, let people work it out from there, no?

    1. Sorry, missed the line where you covered this. I beg to differ. Just spend the revenue on worker-interests. Even if not, it's probably still a net-positive for workers in the time-savings. There is a potential loss for the small fraction who shift their schedule, leave the road or would not have made the time/tax trade-off, but those are precisely the people who considered this shift least costly. Some of those who had to make the shift may end up netting positive regardless if their carpool or bus moves quicker.

  4. A better idea is to just have congestion pricing for drivers. Singapore does this already, and I can verify from personal experience that it works:

    As an aside, It is surprising to me how little coverage NRx has given to Singapore (and Hong Kong and the UAE), given that they are the closest real-world analogues to NRx ideas.

    1. Yeah. We stopped talking about Singapore after this;
      Sometimes NRx forgets that we have said almost everything already, and that a lot of the good stuff lies back in 2013