Friday, September 04, 2009

RTL-Day Minus 3: Why Can't We All Just Get a Lane?

Several MSM sources have now weighed in, including Gwynne Dyer (published many places, but locally in the Pacific here...)

And the Canadians noticed...

Randy James, for TIME, asks, why is it different?

The BEEB solicits comments, though no one has yet commented, as of this writing.

And the Daily Mail, that paragon of Brit journalism, has this. An interesting article, with some history. I'm not sure it is all true, but it is interesting. (And that pretty much describes MOST of British journalism, doesn't it?)

UPDATE: A Brit posts on the change. But she gets the date wrong, and expresses the hope that...well, read for yourself. Why move from right side to left side?
The answer is money. The Government wants to slash the number of big, expensive, fuel-hungry American cars being imported into the country. Instead, it’s hoping that ex-pat Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand will send cheaper-to-run right-hand-drive models to the folks back home.

No. NO, NO, NO. The concern is not for the fuel costs, but for the cost of smoking, pollution-emitting junkers. The PM wants MORE of these old junkers, and it is easier to get them from the Commonwealth island nations. Also, as I have noted repeatedly, the Samoan PM worries that American cars cannot escape tsunamis, because....well, I have no idea why he thinks that. But he does.


Angus said...


Unknown said...

This episode not only brings Bastiat to mind, but also Leonard Read and his wonderful essay "I, Pencil." Elitists like Samoa's Jabba the Hutt can't conceive that things may be far more complex in practice than they are in principle. I wonder if any B.O. supporters have read Read's essay. Probably not. Or maybe they did and were on the verge of an epiphany when a rumor that the Bush family owned a pencil company made them drop the subject.

Trevor Shepperd said...

With respect, you conflate age of the vehicle with lack of fuel economy, an understandable cultural point of view from where you sit. For those of us who have spent time in Samoa there are more compelling and economically sound arguments for the change. Note the BBC:

"The government has said there are sound economic reasons for the changes. It wants to end the importation of expensive left-hand-drive cars, particularly big, thirsty American models.

Instead it is hoped that expatriate Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand will increasingly send used right-hand-drive vehicles home to their relatives. It has been argued that smaller cars that are cheaper to run would boost the development of poorer parts of the country, which has a population of about 180,000 people."

In other words, given Samoa's geographic location and its strong economic links with the south west pacific, there is a stronger supply of more economic second hand cars. The domestic criticism has concerned the disruptive impact of such a change, not the tremendous benefits of continuing dependence on the US as a supplier of second hand automotion.

So the choice of the side of the road is actually intended to open up freedom to import more useful and affordable vehicles for a country in which the import of fuel is ruinously expensive. Imagine an economy that is strongly dependent on worker's remittances, but in which the currency of the remittances was not convertible to the local currency.

A market that is so structured as to be dominated by imports of American products designed for American conditions is not in itself a free or efficient one...

I don't claim that the economic costs of disruption outweigh the intended benefits, but the critique - well-worded as ever - of this move as inherently irrational or absurdly interventionist - dare I say it? - has a cultural tilt to it.