street is what is commonly known as a rat run, and the
meaning of this is evident as the rush hour in Edinburgh accelerates
to a peak at around half past eight in the morning. Since the
street runs parallel to and in between the two main western roads
feeding into the city centre, it is the natural choice for impatient
drivers on these often jammed thoroughfares to take the quieter
route down our humble little way.
this results in a noisier and less safe street for residents and
their children and feelings have been made known to local politicians
years before I moved into the area and still with no action firmly
it is no surprise that residents have displayed their anger for
so long when they know that the local government tax band they
pay (called the council tax and which is proportional to house
value) is the second highest for Edinburgh and yet they get nothing
in return at a specifically local level.
let me tell you why socialism and democracy have conspired together
to ensure that this very local issue will never get beyond an
apology from our locally elected city councillor.
best solution is evident to the average resident; install speed
restrictors such as speed bumps on the street. With such a solution
in mind, we all made our way to the local primary school one August
evening to hear what our councillor and the transport chief for
Edinburgh City Council had to say on this matter. To my surprise,
over 300 hundred people turned out; I didnít realise such an unexciting
issue stirred up such interest. Moreover, going by the echoes
of guffaws and grumbles from malcontents, it not only stirred
up an interest but a noticeable passion as well.
put us all immediately in the picture, we were told there was
no cash in the council budget to fund the best solutions of bumps
or chicanes (murmurs start).
was then revealed that the only financially viable solution was
to restrict entry to the street (murmurs rise).
was further revealed that this would also necessitate the same
measures on streets further down the hill towards the main artery
roads (counter-murmurs rise).
was finally revealed that since there were several restricted
entry solutions, these would have to be put to a vote to decide
which one would carry the day (murmurs reach crescendo).
the reason why the verbal protests had reached the shouting level
at this point was because this was not the first time a vote had
been carried out. All previous votes had ended in no one solution
being a clear winner and thus ending in stalemate.
reason for the previous impasses also explained why there were
so many people at that meeting Ė residents from other streets
had been invited to the meeting and they had also been allowed
to vote on ballots for previously proposed solutions. Why were
the votes not restricted to the residents of my street?
is what may be called electoral collectivism. In socialist terms,
the street I live in is effectively owned by everyone and especially
with those within an increasingly closer distance to it. Since
it is impractical to ask everyone in Edinburgh what to do with
the street, the electorate is narrowed down to those who also
connect to the main roads within a radius of several hundred yards.
or otherwise, this is where the conflict of democratic socialism
and human nature began to be exposed. Pose the simple choice to
everyone within 300 yards of the street to maintain the status
quo or implement the good old socialist dogma of traffic redistribution
and the outcome is not too difficult to guess.
wealth redistribution, you only vote for traffic redistribution
if it is to your advantage. In other words, the residents one
or two streets down are libertarians when it comes to voting the
quietness out of one street into anotherís street! Come to think
of it, I would probably vote that way myself.
a vote will never get anywhere; but what if the residents of my
street were given weighted votes? Alas, another impasse in democratic
socialism is encountered when it is realised that the local politician
would decide the weighting and would effectively be asking himself
one very important question:
many voters will I upset in the next election if I give this minority
vote too much weighting?
there is no weighting and we will be kept waiting for a solution.
Such are the vagaries of local democracy allied with socialism.
I dutifully visited the local library a few weeks later to view
a display of all the restriction options and vote for what I considered
the best options. A few further weeks later and the ballot papers
came through the post with two voting options; restriction option
A or keep the status quo.
voted for restriction option A and I still await word from the
local councillor several months later. That is not a good sign.
back to that cacophonic meeting at the local school, yours truly
entered the fray as the local and friendly neighbourhood libertarian.
"Councillor, how much would it cost to install speed bumps at
"£1000 per bump and at a regulatory 100 metres apart."
"Is there any reason why we cannot do this as private residents?"
"Yes, it would be unfair on the other streets!"
is as much as I got in before the next question was shouted out.
I donít think the crowd realised what I had said; I think they
did not see past the obligations they assume are incumbent upon
those politicians whose salaries they indirectly pay for.
me indulge in some simple arithmetic. My street is about 900 metres
long giving a requirement for 9 speed bumps at a cost of £9000
to install. With about 120 houses on the street, that gives an
average of £75 per household to raise for the initial costs. Thereafter,
an annual or occasional cost is incurred for maintenance purposes.
This should not be surrealistic stuff to many folk who were once
flat occupiers and had to contribute money to their residents
associations to pay for common costs such as roof repairs, maintenance
of communal ground and street lighting.
imagine the scenario where the chains of democratic socialism
are loosed and Edinburgh City Council hands over the street with
a large local tax rebate and says, "You look after it!".
Of course, now it would not matter a whit what the other streets
thought; in go those lovely speed bumps.
is a wonder of laissez-faire decision making how these things
create a ripple effect and before you know it, all streets within
the square formed by my street, the two perpendicular main roads
and the parallel main road all have speed bumps!
solved. Drivers are deterred from rat running through back streets
and residents are happy. Thanks to innovation and competition
brought on by the birth of the residential street improvement
business sector, customer streets have a choice of various car
deterrents and more likely than not, speed bumps will cost significantly
less than £1000 each.
critics may scoff at this scenario and unsettle us with scenes
of streets being totally blocked off by xenophobic residents.
Well, let us imagine that a street does install infrared actuated
entry barriers at each end. There are various reasons why such
a scenario is unlikely:
a scheme may require a huge majority vote due to its unusual
who did not vote for it may not pay and thus deter other from
paying the larger cost.
pressure from "normal" streets and local communities may ensue.
threat of litigation from someone if a fire engine or ambulance
was hindered from an emergency will deter such a plan.
the street was on the edge of an area known for rioting then one
may accept such a scenario, for in this we see how individual
liberty summed up at the neighbourhood level allows the quickest
response to the current socio-economic status of the region.
our locale, there is no chance of rioting or xenophobia, so the
interplay of social and economic forces will find its equilibrium
in rather more mundane solutions such as speed bumps.
there is a small chance of rioting if one attends certain meetings
at local primary schools in August evenings.