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The Politics of Late Merging?

My favorite letter in response to the New York Times Magazine Cynthia Gorney merging piece (in which I’m mentioned) was this one, from Mike Adamsky in Mendham, N.J.:

“Oh, my goodness, if Gorney’s article isn’t a perfect political allegory, I don’t know what is. Gorney is the classic Democrat, fretting about power balances and whether or not someone is getting ahead “unfairly.” She rails against the sidezoomers, even though experts have told her that utilization of all lanes is the most efficient mode. She’s probably also on the side of repealing the so-called “Bush tax cuts” even though some analysts say that these “cuts” resulted in a greater proportion of overall taxes being paid from the high-income group.

Padilla, the operations worker, is the classic Republican. He sees the opening and seizes the opportunity. Is this fair? He thinks so. The open lane that allows him to get ahead is equally available to everyone. He probably supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Why? Because he wants cheaper gas, and we’ve got it sitting right there!

Morgan, the cop, is the classic libertarian. We’ve got enough rules governing behavior already. The sidezoomer is fully entitled to try to cut, the lineupper is fully entitled to try to keep him out. No blood, no foul. Morgan stays the heck out of the vast majority of interactions. Let the games begin.

Fortunately, Gorney does show us how it’s supposed to work: we all just have to learn to behave like ants — productive little creatures who don’t brood or waste energy pounding dashboards.”

Given my own conversion to late merging, I wondered what this said about my own politics. Creeping Republicanism? Well, actually, the system I advocate is the one tried by engineers in which merging instructions are carefully and precisely laid out (thus allaying feelings of wronged social justice), perhaps even backed by enforcement. So I suppose this makes me a sort of Scandinavian Social Democrat, vis a vis using “big,” rational government planning to engineer effective (yet fair) social outcomes.

One is tempted to pursue the potential implications of the politics of merging. Would there be, say, a communist merging scheme? (wealthier cars are sent back to the end of the line in favor of rusty Ladas) A fundamentalist Right stratagem? (whatever lane you are in is God’s will) Anarcho-syndacalist merging, anyone?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2008 at 7:25 am and is filed under Drivers, Traffic Psychology, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “The Politics of Late Merging?”

  1. sasha Says:

    This weekend the Globe and Mail, a Toronto newspaper, published an article on merging. It was from the perspective of a woman and how she and her husband are very different drivers. The article refrenced recently released Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt discusses merging in the first part of his book citing that now one has looked at merging hatbits in terms of gender. Margaret Wente, who wrote the article in the Globe goes on to say that Vanderbilt’s book also points out that we all think we are better driver’s than we really are. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book and read it!

    Margaret’s article Zoom, Zoom, Crash, Bang can be found at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080816.COWENT16/EmailTPStory/

  2. Mike Adamsky Says:

    Hi, Tom. Glad to hear you liked my letter. The NY Times edited pretty significantly. In case you’re interested, here’s the original text I sent them:

    Dear Editor,

    Oh my goodness if Cynthia Gorney’s “The Urge to Merge” is not a perfect allegory for this political season, I don’t know what is.

    Gorney’s the classic Democrat, fretting about power balances and whether or not someone’s getting ahead “unfairly”. She rails against the sidezoomers, even though she’s taught by experts that full utilization of all lanes is the most efficient mode. Surely she’s also on the side of repealing the so-called “Bush tax cuts” even though every bit of data shows that these “cuts” resulted in a greater proportion of overall taxes being paid from the high-income group.

    Padilla, the operations worker, is the classic Republican and, not surprisingly, appears only briefly at the end of the piece. He sees the opening and seizes the opportunity. Is this fair? He thinks so. The open lane that allows him to get ahead is, after all, equally available to everyone. He probably supports drilling in Anwar. Why? Because he wants cheaper gas, dammit, and we’ve got it sitting right there!

    Morgan, the cop, is the classic Libertarian. We’ve got enough rules governing behavior already. The lanezoomer is fully entitled to try to cut, the lineupper is fully entitled to try to keep him out. No blood, no foul. Morgan stays the heck out of the vast majority of interactions. Let the games begin. This man regrettably is not represented on the current political scene.

    Fortunately, Gorney shows us how it’s all supposed to work best: we all just have to learn to behave like ants — productive little creatures not known for brooding or wasting energy pounding dashboards.

    Sincerely,
    Mike Adamsky

    *************************************
    I wrote the letter mostly in jest, but the political allegory feels more applicable now than it did when I suggested it. Some people want to police everyone. Some people want individual freedom. Sure, it’s a lighthearted discussion, but it’s useful in an odd sort of way.

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