Sunday, July 17, 2011

Storms - Stoplights - Equality

Last Monday a storm came through. Sustained hurricane force winds in Northeast Illinois!? I suppose the usual suspects will allege global warming or cooling as a cause though common sense meteorology would say just an extreme local variation, no matter the long term pattern. As I drove home from work the closer I got the more and more trees and branches were on the ground - and power lines. When I got home, aside from lesser problems like a flying branch wrecking the fence gate, the electricity was out, it did not come back until Friday evening.

One thing I learned to appreciate during this is the common stoplight. One thinks of them just as a safety feature so many cars can get through an intersection safely. However when the light is out you go to stop sign rules. Every one gets through safely, but it takes forever. Even if one catches a red light at the beginning of the cycle one get through the intersection much faster than one gets through on stop sign rules. One intersection regularly had back up of over a mile in three directions.

While sitting in that four lane parking lot waiting my turn I mused that this is a good example of an equality of results. It takes every one about the same amount of time to get to the light and through the intersection. Stop lights are a great source of inequality, some cars get to the intersection with a green light and zip though at 60 miles an hour. Some catch the beginning of the red light cycle and sit there for a few minutes waiting for the green. This is so unequal, yes everyone gets through much faster with the stop light, but shouldn’t radical equality be a goal, it commonly espoused for economics and politics, why not traffic control?

While equality is certainly important in some areas, i.e. everyone should be equal before the law. Everyone should have and equal opportunity to seek education and employment of their choice. But when an equality of results is promised how do you get them?

The items that have been driving the growth of western and now world economies for the past few hundred years are the concentration of capital, free trade, and technological development. But all of these produce uneven results. While even those on the lower end do better than they would otherwise the discrepancy between the top and bottom is larger than before this development. The only way to equalize the results in to put such major impediments in the place of concentrating capital, free trade and technological development that these discrepancies cannot exist which means every one gets poorer and poorer. But it is closer to equal results!

That wait for my turn to go through the intersection was way to long.

See also:
The Fourth of July

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