It's a Dog Way to Get Around

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Gee, we don't link to Jacobin enough. Ben Burgis, adjunct philosophy professor at Rutgers, floats his bad idea there: Nationalize Greyhound. His thesis:

A publicly owned intercity bus service with dedicated highway lanes could do for travelers what the US Postal Service does for letters and packages: let them criss-cross the country cheaply and quickly at their own convenience.

Just like USPS! Reader, I can hear you snorting derisively and note your eyes rolling. Burgis's first paragraphs demonstrate (unintentionally) the rosy retrospection fallacy:

When I was growing up, I could walk from my parents’ place to the Greyhound station in East Lansing, Michigan. There was another one ten minutes’ drive from there in downtown Lansing. At either station, I could buy an inexpensive ticket on the spot and wait inside until my bus came to take me to, for example, visit my sister in Oberlin, Ohio.

Neither East Lansing nor Oberlin are anything you could possibly call a “hub,” but it didn’t matter. The Greyhound went everywhere.

Later on in the article, Burgis imagines a "libertarian dystopia" (his phrase) where the USPS was privatized. And claims that a nationalized bus service would be "financially self-sufficient like the USPS."


Burgis fails to mention that Your Federal Government makes it illegal for private firms to compete with USPS. Would a similar fate befall Megabus? (One-way fare from Boston to NYC $39.)

Not that it matters, but I also did a fair amount of intercity bus travel in my younger days. I think my record was at some point in the mid-1970s, a round trip between Washington DC and Oakland, California. Unlike Burgis, I derive no grand lessons from my experiences, just a pedestrian (heh) one: it's been many years since I took a bus other than a shuttle to/from an airport. If I wanted to go to New York, though…

Anyway, Christian Britschgi takes apart Burgis's thesis at Reason: Do Not Under Any Circumstances Nationalize Greyhound.

That the Postal Service is "financially self-sufficient" would be news to USPS, which reported a $6.5 billion net loss this past fiscal year. Indeed, the Postal Service is currently shuttering facilities and raising prices as part of a 10-year restructuring plan meant to get it out of the red.

As it turns out, the nationalized Postal Service is engaged in the same kind of retrenchment a nationalized bus company is supposed to avoid. This fact strengthens Burgis' point that a government-run intercity bus company would perform as well as USPS. But it doesn't necessarily recommend nationalization.

Of course, Amtrak is similarly built on expensive nostalgia.

Randal O'Toole has comments on the news stories that spurred all this sudden bus discussion: Curbsides: The Salvation of Intercity Buses.

In order to better compete with Megabus and Flixbus, Greyhound (which is owned by Flixbus) is selling or moving out of many of its downtown bus stations and loading and unloading passengers at curbsides. This is being derided as “taking mobility away from low-income people” and that moving stations from downtowns to suburban locations was a major hardship for passengers. But the alternative would probably be worse.


FlixBus’s task was to turn a money-loser [Greyhound] into a money-maker, and changing to the curbside model is a major part of this. The alternative to moving from bus stations to curbsides is to completely shut down service, which would hardly be better for low-income people. Unfortunately, members of the media are so used to seeing heavy subsidies to Amtrak, transit, and other forms of transportation that they can’t understand why the government isn’t similarly subsidizing everything else or why other modes need to earn a profit to be able to complete.

I'm sure that when the dust settles, the government will be assuring us that we didn't really need to go to New Jersey anyway.

Also of note:

  • From the people who brought you "the dog ate my homework." Jacob Sullum has an early one of those year-in-review columns: 'I Relied on Others,' 'Documents Were Filed in the Wrong Place,' and Other Memorable Excuses: The Year's Highlights in Blame Shifting.

    After two former Georgia election workers sued Rudy Giuliani for falsely accusing them of committing massive fraud in 2020, his attorney argued that the real culprit in that calumny was The Gateway Pundit. Meanwhile, Gateway Pundit publisher Jim Hoft, who faced a separate defamation lawsuit by the same plaintiffs, was arguing that his website "fairly and accurately reported on the claims made by third parties, such as Trump's legal team," which Giuliani led.

    This month's $148 million verdict against Giuliani suggests that jurors were not swayed by his attempt to shift the blame for his baseless allegations. His consolation prize is top billing in my annual list of memorable moments in buck passing, several of which involved the tireless peddler of Donald Trump's stolen-election fantasy.

    'Really Crazy Stuff.' That was Rupert Murdoch's private description of Giuliani's baroque conspiracy theory, which Fox News nevertheless helped promote. Although the outlet, like Hoft, blamed Giuliani et al. for the tall tale, its frequently credulous coverage of his allegations against Dominion Voting Systems resulted in a $787 million defamation settlement last April.

    I remember when Granite Grok was a hotbed of Dominion Denial. (Samples here and here with fun comments by, and vituperation aimed at, yours truly.) They fortunately went unsued.

Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:09 AM EDT