Saturday, November 14, 2009

De Grote Broer Kijkt Je Aan

Hello, Holland: the big brother will be watching you.
"Each vehicle will be equipped with a GPS device that tracks how many kilometres are driven and when and where. This data will be then be sent to a collection agency that will send out the bill," the transport ministry said in a statement.
Levying per-kilometer taxes on autos is a laudable way to internalize the wear of a car on the roads. But what's wrong with odometers? Or gas taxes, which penalize SUV's more than compact cars? Why does Amsterdam need to know "when and where" every citizen is driving. Dystopia is now.


PeterFurthNEU said...

An economist should know the answer to that question. Scarce resources should command high prices, and road capacity is more scarce at certain times of day (peak periods) and certain locations. GPS-based tracking allows the road authority to charge you more for an 8 a.m. trip than a midnight trip; more more a trip in the Amsterdam metro area than for a trip in the hinterlands. Economists have long touted pricing as the solution to congestion. If you pay to drive with money, that resource isn't "lost" to society; it's a transfer, which after being captured by the road authority can be reused to improve roads, or schools, or whatever. If you pay to drive during a congested period with time -- sitting an extra 30 minutes in traffic -- that's a resource lost forever. What's worse, your driving during rush hour can impose a cumulative delay on others of an hour or more of person-time, wasted forever. It takes a high price to cure congestion in the peak periods in our big cities, and you wouldn't want to pay that price on every road, all the time. On more what's more: during peak periods, and in crowded cities, is when / where you'll find the best alternatives to driving (train, bus, bike, ...).

PeterFurthNEU said...

Also, the Dutch care about privacy, so their proposal is that the gov't never knows where / when you traveled. You choose a billing company, just like your cell phone company, which tracks your car just like it already tracks your cell phone. All the gov't gets is a generalized bill -- how many km of travel in different price bins. If Big Brother wants the details, sure, He could force it out of them, just like He could force it out of your cell phone provider today. Except the cell phone co. knows where you are ALL THE TIME (if your phone is on), not just when you're driving.

Chops said...

OK, that sounds better than my initial read on the proposal.

Jonathan said...

I guess that settles the "who's the expert economist?" debate for this year. At least the holidays can go smoothly now that everyone knows the place in their place in the pecking order.