Ryan Avent

Ryan Avent is a writer on economic and urban issues living in Washington, D.C. He blogs at The Bellows.

Recent Articles

A THOUSAND CUTS

by Ryan Avent Let me first say thanks again to Ezra for having me back to guest blog. Thanks, Ezra! Now, to business. As details of the stimulus bill have trickled out, it has become clear that funding for transit priorities is not at the level that many progressives desired. It seems that about $10 billion is included for rail and transit. That's less than the $17 billion proposed by Democratic representative James Oberstar, and considerably less than the total identified transit investment backlog (the executive summary of the stimulus package indicates that some $78 billion in spending might have been warranted). The logic behind the omissions seems to have been twofold. First, transit projects may not have been shovel-ready enough for the tastes of the bill's authors. And second, it seems that some funding may have been pushed aside to make room for tax cuts.

LEVERAGING INSTITUTIONS.

by Ryan Avent The crisis in the Caucasus has led to a great deal of discussion concerning the wisdom of bringing Georgia into NATO. These debates are almost uniformly focused on geopolitical, strategic issues, and that's unfortunate. Two of the big lessons of the post-Cold War period are that economic reform and geopolitical issues go hand in hand, and that international institutions can provide powerful leverage in generating economic and political reforms in former Soviet bloc nations. A colleague of mine at The Economist 's Free Exchange blog discusses new research comparing the recent economic performance of Georgia and Estonia. He recalls the scene in 1990s Warsaw: I remember back in the early 1990s when the central European nations were so desperate to join the EU. On a 1995 World Bank mission to Warsaw, I was shocked by the stress that the Polish policymakers put on geostrategic considerations. To me EU membership was all about the economics; to them it was all about making...

HOW TO GET THINGS MOVING.

by Ryan Avent The New York Times has asked three different writers to recommend ways to get New Yorkers moving around their city faster. The results suggest that we're still not thinking as clearly as we ought to be about improving mobility in a sustainable manner. Hope Cohen writes that the city needs to quit being soft on stationary objects. This includes curbside parking, which she says should be eliminated on major thoroughfares, but also sidewalk cafe tables on Broadway. What's more, the city needs to start building more parking garages, so that drivers aren't constantly looking around for curbside spaces. In other words, the way to get things moving is to give cars more lanes and more parking spots. This is the armchair planning intuition: hey, if the problem is too few lanes and spaces let's build more . But that, planners and economists will tell you, is exactly wrong. The problem isn't the supply, it's the price. Road space in Manhattan is incredibly valuable. So are New York...

TATA, NANO?

by Ryan Avent It isn't hard to understand the logic behind Tata's "people's car," the Nano, aimed at the emerging Indian middle class. The sclerotic government has an incredibly difficult time making public investments of any sort, leaving buses and trains old and perpetually packed (unfortunately the roads remain bad, as well). To avoid public transit, others walk, bike, or motorcycle around the country's enormous cities. This is likewise unpleasant, and frequently dangerous. With his Nano, Ratan Tata hoped to provide millions of Indians with a measure of comfort and safety, all at a price of 100,000 rupees, or about $2,500. It's also not difficult to understand how Indians might bristle at warnings from environmentalists suggesting that growing car ownership and use in emerging markets is and will continue to be environmentally devastating. They're not the ones using a quarter of the world's daily oil output. They're not the ones piloting 5 liter engines around, and they didn't have...

HOW TO SAVE THE PLANET.

by Ryan Avent Jim Manzi has written the most sophisticated argument against comprehensive carbon regulation that you'll ever see. It's the best you'll find, and with it Manzi has managed to win over much of what you might call the smart conservative set--the Reihan Salams and Andrew Sullivans. Ultimately, I suspect much of his argument will trickle down to the troglodytes, who'll slowly abandon their increasingly ludicrous denialist positions to argue that climate change is real but that we don't need to do anything about it. As smart and as savvy as Manzi's argument is it nonetheless remains fundamentally flawed. And it's all the more poisonous for steering conservatives away from what might have been their next step--toward market solutions for warming, of the sort favored by most economists. But just what is Jim Manzi arguing, and why is he wrong? I'll point out just some of his mis-steps below.

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