Ryan Avent

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

Recent Articles


by Ryan Avent Progressives in of favor congestion pricing on highways and in central cities tend to argue for those policies on progressive grounds (shock!) -- that such pricing systems reduce emissions, improve air quality, and fund transit improvements, which benefit lower and middle income households. Those are all nice benefits to congestion pricing programs, but we shouldn't neglect the congestion reduction function. Congestion costs America some $80 billion per year, in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. And as it turns out, commutes extended by congestion have other effects , as well: There is a strong empirical evidence demonstrating that labor force participation rates of married women are negatively correlated with commuting time. What is more, the analysis shows that metropolitan areas which experienced relatively large increases in average commuting time between 1980 and 2000 also had slower growth of labor force participation of married women. Long commutes are...


by Ryan Avent Back when everyone was discussing whether or not we should bail out the automakers, some folks were suggesting that saving the Big Three could help Detroit transition into a hub for the production of green technologies. I tended to point out that the Big Three had often fought against policies that would encourage green innovation, so saving the automakers would maintain a major institutional barrier to a Midwestern economic renaissance. Similarly, folks like Matt Yglesias pointed out that if we were going to hand over a bunch of money to failing automakers, we should at least require that they not continue to fight against green policies. This was pretty sensible. Not only would such a provision have been a decent pro quo for the taxpayers' quid, it would also help us avoid an embarrassing situation in which Detroit uses taxpayer money to fight green policies that would benefit taxpayers. Um .


by Ryan Avent The conservative economists who have argued against the stimulus, as a whole or in parts, have generally tried to do so in a reasonable fashion. I mostly think they've got it wrong, but they're at least trying to use theory and data to assemble a coherent story about why the stimulus might be a bad idea. The conservative punditocracy has not held itself to such high standards. As the stimulus bill gets closer to becoming stimulus law, their arguments seem to be getting worse. They're simply freaking out at the idea of the thing.


by Ryan Avent To follow up on the last post, consider this bit of news from the American Society of Civil Engineers -- it would cost some $2.2 trillion to bring our nation's current infrastructure stock into a state of good repair. Now to be fair, the American Society of Civil Engineers has an interest in selling the idea that we need to spend trillions on infrastructure repair. On the other hand, that $2.2 trillion figure doesn't take into account all the new infrastructure we could reasonably build -- new port capacity, new rail lines, new urban transit systems, new power grids, new water systems, new communications capacity, and so on. America could fruitfully spend a great deal of money on its built environment. Given that, it's a little difficult to see the use in battling over a few billions in the stimulus bill. What's necessary is major institutional reform and new, long-run sources of funding. It's going to take some planning to do this right, and it is much more important to...


by Ryan Avent The passage of an economic recovery package was never going to be a particularly clean or easy process. We have a brand new president and Congress, with a Republican minority prepared to sacrifice good policy for partisan victory. We have the worst economic crisis in decades, which appears to be gathering momentum at a frightening pace. And so we have the pressure to act boldly and very swiftly -- pressure that might have been reduced by the passage of a smaller, stop-gap stimulus bill last session, but of course legislators were preoccupied with the automakers at the time. Under the circumstances, the proposed stimulus package isn't really that bad. It's of a good size, it combines immediate and sustained spending and tax cuts, and it seems quite passable. We could have done much worse. But as the pre-passage post - mortems begin to roll out, it does seem clear that things might also have gone better. The potential of a transformative stimulus has not been fulfilled,...