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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Positive and Normative Differences

Monday, June 21, 2010

Positive and Normative Differences

(HT Drudge Report) Using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Obama administration is increasing spending on paths for cyclists and walkers by $600.  I believe that the projects will be viewed very differently based on people's normative and positive positions (Telegraph, "Obama administration spends $1.2 billion on cycling and walking initiatives").

If you find positive evidence supporting fiscal stimulus through expanded deficits convincing, the cycling and walking projects seem a good fit.  They will be less costly in terms of spending and time than roads for automobiles so many projects can be funded and completed in a timely fashion, and their funding can be cut dramatically once the economic recovery is better established.  If you normatively believe in a paternalistic government, the project has advantages as well.  The government should wean Americans from the gas guzzling automobile and the exercise will be great for our expanding waistlines.   

If you find the positive evidence supporting fiscal stimulus weak due to expanding national debt or small multipliers, the project is like pouring gasoline on a fire.  Funding for projects, even those with set termination dates, seems to roll on forever.  If you are normatively concerned about the paternalistic influence of government, then you believe federal government has no interest in the driving habits or weight of Americans and their efforts are meddling. Permanent Link


  1. Suzanne Stricker21/6/10 4:07 PM

    I think that the increase in federal spending on walking and cycling path projects will have a positive effect on our country, whether you consider the scenario positively or normatively. Positively, they are more efficient and less expensive to build than roads for automobiles are. The paths will also promote exercising which will lead to healthier individuals within our country. This will, in turn, lower healthcare costs and increase people's physical stamina which could lead to larger and longer work inputs into the markets for factors of production. Normatively, the government is helping to improve the physical well-being of its citizens. An increase in cycling and walking instead of driving will also have a positive impact on our environment. There will be less pollution and we will use less natural resources.

  2. I agree with President Obama’s initiatives concerning funds being allocated for biking and walking projects. Walking is the cheapest form of transportation and the most earth-friendly. Grab some good tennis shoes and you’re ready to go. In addition to getting you from point A to point B, there are many physical and mental benefits of walking. Heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis may all be prevented just by walking each day. The mental benefits of walking include the reduction of stress and anxiety, prevention of depression, weight loss, and the overall feeling of well-being associated with socializing with friends and family during your walking routine. Living healthier lives is a positive externality because healthy bodies need fewer doctor’s visits. This reduction in healthcare spending helps to shrink the cost of health care for everyone.
    The negative externalities of driving include exhaust from vehicles causing additional air pollution and auto-related deaths and accidents. Corrective gasoline taxes help discourage people from driving by increasing the taxes that they have to pay at the pump. This incentive encourages consumers to buy less and sellers to not produce as much. Also, consumers are encouraged to look to other means of transportation such as public transportation, walking, and carpooling.

  3. Though positive benefits can be obtained through walking/cycling paths, one has to wonder if the stimulus funds would not have been just as well spent through funding temporary gym memberships.
    The money would have been spent,possibly encouraging capital purchases, with no lingering upkeep due in the future, yet the benefits to the health of the nation would have been just as effective. Most walking/cycling paths I have experienced were contained in parks, and would provide little incentive for a change in transportation for work, or other daily trips. The paths seem to hold little promise for stimulating economic growth.

  4. Rachael Brown7/7/10 12:53 AM

    I don't believe that spending money on biking paths is practical. If the paths are being built to reduce gas intake, why not give a tax break to owners of fuel efficient cars? If someone wants to ride their bike or walk, there is a street about 10 paces from their front door and it wont cost the government any money. If people don't want to walk on a treadmill indoors with air conditioning, what makes the government think that they're going to walk outside? What if people live too far from the trails? Are they going to bike, walk, or drive there? Any of the options make the trails seem useless.

  5. I believe that Obama's spending on these paths are a good idea. It is no secret that Americans live an unhealthy lifestyle and I believe that these might be a good solution. It will help promote biking and walking as exercise. Although, I dont think very many Americans will view these as an alternative from driving.