Terminology note: High Speed Rail is HSR. In twitter, #HSR often means Health System Reform or HateSpeechRadio, so #HSrail is probably the shortest clear hash tag.
... the rant continues ...
This is Robert Samuelson, not the famous Paul Samuelson (and while I critique much of Paul Samuelson's work, he had an impressive intellect and work ethic), so I pick The Big Stupid. This is just recycling the argument Ed Glaeser made, with an even bigger dose of (mostly inherited) reputation to make up for an even smaller dose of actual argument.
Perhaps to make it seem as if its not just copying his WaPo column from a NYT column, Samuelson also repeats the old familiar argument:
- (1) Amtrak requires operating subsidies.
- (2) Rail operators overseas had the same problem.
- (3) Rail operators overseas found out that increasing the speed solved the problem.
- (4) So if we do the same thing, it will lose money.
Why does (4) follow from (1), (2), and (3)? It doesn't, of course, its just guilt by association given the form and shape of an argument to allow intellectually dishonest rhetoric to pass as if it were real argument.
Note about the picture: the WaPo supports Samuelson pretending to engage in serious argument by showing a Japanese high speed train, with a caption about high density and such. This is of course also intellectually dishonest, since HSR has been a big success in areas like Germany, with similar population density to Ohio, and Spain, with similar population density to California. So my picture above is a Spanish high speed train, "from a country with similar size, population density, and geography to California".
Update: Dean Baker at Beat the Press says:
The density for the United States as a whole would be relevant if the plans were to build a train network going from Florida to Alaska, but that is not what is on the agenda. Instead, the issue is about deepening and improving the network in relatively densely populated parts of the country, like Ohio (277 people per square mile), New York (402), and New Jersey (1134). The population densities of much of the United States are very comparable to the regions in Europe through which high speed rails travel.
Robert Samuelson doesn't like trains. He told us that this morning in his column. He didn't tell us anything else.
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