Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Correct Incentives... the desired behavior.

I read Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner over the holidays. I received it as a small Christmas gift from my wife and began reading it on Christmas Day. There is something about books that strive to explain human behavior that compels me to read them. Perhaps I uncover a bit of what motivates me in the text. I read The Tipping Point and Culture of Fear over the past few years, and found some common themes in all three of these books.

On a related note; I read the Sunday Globe and immediately gravitated to the article on Smart Growth, Priced out The state's 'smart-growth' plans are supposed to loosen the housing squeeze and give would-be home buyers a fighting chance. Problem is, no one seems to be listening. Smart Growth has intrigued me for quite some time. Why? Because land use regulation (zoning laws) helps drive (pardon the pun)our auto-dependent culture, not to mention the fact that the American Dream of owning a home is tugging at me. The zoning rules created under the tenets of "smart growth", 40R and 40B make an attempt at addressing land development patterns that discourage the construction of walkable communities with mixed-income housing. Here comes "Freakonomics"; our current zoning laws with occasional minimum lot sizes of 1-2 acres encourage construction of large homes. The builder earns a profit, as all good businesses should, while the town collects enough money in property taxes to pay for the education of the children living in those homes. People (or communities) are acting in their own self interest. So it's all about education, right? Check this out...New Schools Better Neighborhoods.

Then this shows up, How We See It: Competitive state still has housing, taxes to contend with. Wow! Do you think the need for reasonable housing drives young, well-educated people from the Commonwealth?

What does this have to do with cycling? Zoning laws that promote sprawl increases our automobile dependency. Therefore, there are more cars on the roads traveling more miles creating more pollution. Can the riding be any better? I suppose cyclists need to act in their own self interest.

I'm not even going to touch oil depletion and national security.