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Reason Foundation

Mobility First Called "Compelling" in New Review

Samuel Staley
July 27, 2009, 10:34am

We were pleased to see this review of our book Mobilty First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century on The Forgotten Man blog. The review says Mobility First is "an important book" that "should be read by everyone." More specifically,

"Sam Staley and Adrian Moore in their important new book Mobility First show how congestion is only getting worse and threatens our economic vitality.  The research is detailed and their analysis is compelling.  They recommend some basic economic approaches such as matching supply with demand and engineering solutions such as improving ‘the flow in the pipe, not the size of the pipe’  They point out examples of technological improvements that are already in use in various parts of the world."

The Forgotten Man blog is focused on issues centered on the "forgotten man" memorialized in an essay by William Graham Sumner in 1883. Perhaps the most famous passage from the essay is the following (emphasis added by me):

"There is an almost invincible prejudice that a man who gives a dollar to a beggar is generous and kind-hearted, but that a man who refuses the beggar and puts the dollar in a savings bank is stingy and mean. The former is putting capital where it is very sure to be wasted, and where it will be a kind of seed for a long succession of future dollars, which must be wasted to ward off a greater strain on the sympathies than would have been occasioned by a refusal in the first place. Inasmuch as the dollar might have been turned into capital and given to a laborer who, while earning it, would have reproduced it, it must be regarded as taken from the latter. When a millionaire gives a dollar to a beggar the gain of utility to the beggar is enormous, and the loss of utility to the millionaire is insignificant. Generally the discussion is allowed to rest there. But if the millionaire makes capital of the dollar, it must go upon the labor market, as a demand for productive services. Hence there is another party in interest - the person who supplies productive services. There always are two parties. The second one is always the Forgotten Man, and any one who wants to truly understand the matter in question must go and search for the Forgotten Man. He will be found to be worthy, industrious, independent, and self-supporting. He is not, technically, "poor" or "weak"; he minds his own business, and makes no complaint. Consequently the philanthropists never think of him, and trample on him."

The idea behind the Forgotten Man was recently revitalized through a excellent popular book on the Great Depression of the same name by Amity Shlaes.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow

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