This Haitian worker is not paid his marginal revenue product

by on January 12, 2016 at 3:07 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Law, Political Science | Permalink

New York City’s top traffic agent is a relentless, ruthless street-sweeper who slings summonses at a rate of one every 9 minutes, 45 seconds.

South Brooklyn’s orange tsunami, Arnous Morin, 53, wrote nearly 19,000 parking tickets in fiscal year 2015, an average of 76 per day he worked, city rec­ords analyzed by The Post and AAA Northeast show.

The one-man ticket blitz dished out 4,000 more summonses than the city’s No. 2 traffic cop.

And Morin’s base pay of $36,000 was eclipsed 33 times over by the amount of fines he generated for city coffers — $1.2 million.

Morin, who was a Catholic-school principal in his native Haiti, is unapologetic about his lack of mercy for motorists.

“Never, never. It’s never OK to break the law,” he told The Post at his Canarsie home. “The law is hard, but it’s the law. You can’t break the law for any reason.”

He is in fact paid about 63k a year with overtime.  And he has been ticketed three times himself, though I believe not by himself.  He claims to hold a knowledge of the entirety of South Brooklyn in his head.


The story is here, with other interesting points, via Jordan Schneider.

1 jim jones January 12, 2016 at 3:55 am

Does he have any friends?

2 Ed January 12, 2016 at 8:46 am

I’m sure he had you at Hatian.

3 Horspool January 12, 2016 at 1:19 pm


No, he’s an enforcer for a predatory monopolist.

4 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 3:15 pm

It’s a common property resource which needs to be rationed. Where is the predation?

5 Govco January 12, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Out here these people patrol public lots, not just meters, to write tickets for expired tags, improper mounting on the license plate, failure to curb wheels on a slight grade, or parking in reverse. They place meters in residential areas, run them 24-7 in some- not all- commercial districts, and fine adults if they use hoverboards without a license (or permit their children to ride at all).

You are naive to think that bureaucrats and councils won’t exploit and convert a legitimate govt function to fund higher pay and benefits for themselves and their campaign contributors.

6 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 11:58 pm

You are naive to think that bureaucrats and councils won’t exploit and convert a legitimate govt function to fund higher pay and benefits for themselves and their campaign contributors.

You are too faux-sophisticated to actually examine the share of public revenue accounted for by fines.

While we’re at it, get your car inspected, renew your registration, and quit whining.

7 flubber January 12, 2016 at 1:35 pm

That’s what I’m wondering…

8 Highgamma January 12, 2016 at 4:05 am

I grew up there. First, he just needs to follow the street sweeper for alternate side of the street parking. After 2 pm, he can just nail the double parkers. There just is not enough parking (at a price of zero).

9 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 8:37 am

I spend half of my time in a town designed for few cars, and half in one designed for cars, lots of cars. It definitely feels more civilized where parking is free and plentiful.

Did you see Elon predict that in 2 years you could summon your Tesla? What will we need for that? More 10 minute zones?

10 Bob from Ohio January 12, 2016 at 10:26 am

Since Tesla barely sells 50,000 cars a year, I think nothing will be needed.

11 Decimal January 12, 2016 at 10:39 am

You assume these innovations are limited to Tesla.

12 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 10:56 am

I think Elon is talking poop, but in the longer term, autonomous cars should imply less parking, more loading and unloading zones.

13 JWatts January 12, 2016 at 12:35 pm

The cars have to park somewhere. Yes theoretically they could move around in circles waiting on impatient people, but practically speaking I would expect cities to pass laws against that type of behavior pretty quickly.

So, I expect you’ll see a lot of street parking turn into loading zones and you’ll see a lot of dedicated parking lots spring up on the out skirts of high density areas.

This will be balanced by an increase in autonomous taxi cabs. Drivers are the single most expensive part of a cab. It’s possible that the Taxi Cab guilds/unions will be strong enough to keep autonomous taxis out of certain large cities for a period of time, but they’ll quickly come to dominate all of the medium to smaller cities.

14 flubber January 12, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Thank you for your use of non vulgar language:) @gochujang

15 Adrian Ratnapala January 12, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Yes, I think the self-driving car will really be the self-driving cab. It will be interested to see how the left reacts when there is a clear choice between protecting taxi drivers and burning less petrol.

16 LEFTIST January 12, 2016 at 5:57 pm

We’ll probably take over a government outpost in rural Oregon.

17 carlolspln January 12, 2016 at 6:48 pm

“Yes theoretically they could move around in circles waiting on impatient people, but practically speaking I would expect cities to pass laws against that type of behavior pretty quickly”

One big reason Tokyo suffers massive congestion: deliveries of goods in vans, small trucks for ‘Just in Time’ supply chains.

An ironic externality of ‘lean manufacturing’.

18 Robert Sperry January 12, 2016 at 5:16 am

I am not sure he got the point of Les Miserables.

19 flubber January 12, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Just saying, Marius is HOT

20 Jan January 12, 2016 at 5:19 am

That is a lot of tickets in total, but one every 10 minutes isn’t that amazing when I think about it. I see meter maids walk down a line of cars and do two or three tickets in what seems like 5 minutes sometimes. In business districts and densely populated areas with lots of meters, which I image is where these workers spend most of their time, I don’t see why this pace should be so abnormal.

21 Cliff January 12, 2016 at 11:11 am


22 otto January 12, 2016 at 5:58 am

No one in “law enforcement” is paid their marginal product.

23 Alex Godofsky January 12, 2016 at 7:15 am

Marginal REVENUE product, if you read the post title carefully.

24 Hazel Meade January 12, 2016 at 8:43 am

I’m not even sure you can call it a “product”.

25 Alex Godofsky January 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

It produces revenue for his employer. This really isn’t that complicated.

26 Hazel Meade January 12, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Yeah, but is the function of what he is doing a legitimate public good? Would you consider taxation a “product” ?
If the ticketing is designed to optimize street parking allocation, it has a public goods aspect, but if it’s just revenue raising for the state, it’s basically taxation. From the narrow standpoint, if the government’s a business it’s kind of like a product, but from a broader perspective they aren’t selling anything in exchange for the tickets, they’re supposed to be providing a public good, which is not necessarily the case. The marginal product is productive only from the limited perspective of the state, not from the broader perspective of the general public.

27 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 2:07 pm

It’s Brooklyn. The space is appropriately rationed. Which means you need meters. Which means you need inspectors to write tickets when you overstay your time.

28 Alex Godofsky January 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm

“Legitimate public good” has nothing to do with marginal REVENUE product, which is about REVENUE that is PRODUCED for the employer. That is the entire purpose of the term and that is why Tyler used it instead of the regular “marginal product”.

29 Hazel Meade January 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Yes, but are the fines appropriately set to optimize parking space allocation, as opposed to revenue generated.

30 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Well, if they could calculate it properly (a big if), the meter rate would be set to an optimum for the allocation of the space. The fine would be set to induce the optimal level of compliance.

31 Justin Kelly January 12, 2016 at 11:31 am

A good thing considering laws are designed based on feelings, anecdotes and lobbying rather than any sort of marginal benefit to society.

32 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Which laws?

33 daguix January 12, 2016 at 6:17 am

If I could be paid per ticket to do this job, I would love to do it. I have a lot of skills in data and computers that would pay off rapidly.

34 Charlie January 12, 2016 at 11:32 am

That is done right now, though apparently not in Brooklyn. This system scans license plates and compares to electronic payment to catch potential violators, then automatically mails out tickets. Way faster than a guy walking around with a pad of paper.

35 Dana January 12, 2016 at 11:41 am

The neoliberal turn, aided and abetted by Big Data.

36 Dan Weber January 12, 2016 at 1:53 pm

There are times and places where I would have paid money to be able to write tickets, such as intersections where drivers continually block the box.

37 ibaien January 12, 2016 at 6:32 am

were i tasked with envisioning satan in mortal form, I could do little better than a catholic school principal turned over-officious parking cop.

38 TMC January 12, 2016 at 8:59 am

You, then, show a severe lack of imagination.

39 Cliff January 12, 2016 at 11:12 am


40 flubber January 12, 2016 at 1:34 pm


41 The Original D January 12, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Satan is a muslim?

42 RIGHTIST January 13, 2016 at 11:10 am

It’s like you don’t even watch the news…

43 gab January 12, 2016 at 2:11 pm

You left out “civil engineer.”

44 rayward January 12, 2016 at 6:56 am

What’s interesting here is that Brooklyn has more cars than places to park them. I do not understand the economics of owning a car, its initial cost, finance charges, insurance, maintenance and repair, fuel, parking fees, and, alas, parking fines. What’s the marginal cost of owning a car? And what about the psychic costs, of worrying about parking fines or, worse, being towed, of being stuck in traffic, of being bilked by the mechanic at the garage, of accidents and injury. When Ralph Nader was touring the country making speeches promoting his book, Unsafe at Any Speed, he came to my college campus. He asked the thousands gathered on the lawn to raise their hands if they had a family member or close friend killed or seriously injured in a car accident. A sea of hands was raised, surprising the students if not Mr. Nader. Cars make no economic sense, yet it’s the second most (or most) expensive “investment” people make. And it seems that nothing will discourage people from following their irrational ways, not even Officer Morin.

45 Adrian Turcu January 12, 2016 at 7:16 am

That’s an absurd statement, rayward. Cars decresse transportation costs for people and goods. Car accident victims are taken to the hospital in… cars. Cars take people efficiently to work, their children to school an to shops, in a logistics operation that a century ago would have taken days an several people to accomplish. Yes there are costs, but they are vastly outweighed by benefits, which is why billions of people buy them. Perhaps you should more modestly reflect on that rather then Ralph Nader anecdotes?

46 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 8:30 am

Every nation had its “people’s car” moment. Ours with the Ford, France with the Citroen, and so on.

I think it was always a higher transportation cost, but a new freedom.

We still pay ($2.79/gal in California) for the freedom to go where we want, when we want, carrying as much stuff as we want.

47 Stephan January 12, 2016 at 1:21 pm

It’s $3 in San Diego but $1.55 in Austin Texas

CA has the second highest fuel tax ( 30 cents). of all the states . California regulations require a special hydrocarbon blend.
“The motive is anti-carbon regulation promoted by a cartel of green activists and liberal politicians that is aimed at raising energy costs to discourage consumption. For most of the 1980s and ’90s, Californians paid roughly the national average, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.
In 1999, Mr. Davis’s Air Resources Board banned the fuel additive MTBE—a smog-reducing oxygenate that in low quantities has been detected in groundwater. It also adopted cleaner “reformulated” fuel standards that raised production costs. A tiramisu of other environmental mandates have been layered into the state’s fuel standards.

The results? By 2006 Californians were paying 23 cents more than the national average for regular gas. The disparity increased to 40 cents in 2014 and now sits at $1.11.”


48 Ethan Bernard January 12, 2016 at 8:48 am

“Cars take people efficiently to work”

That’s an absurd statement in New York City. Any properly-engineered city with that density will have implemented ways to get people to work by other means. Compare Amsterdam to Bangkok.

49 Bob from Ohio January 12, 2016 at 10:23 am

I think Adrian was making a general statement. Outside of NYC and a few other places, public transportation cannot compete with cars.

50 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 10:57 am

It’s still wrong though, because it is not “efficient.” It is hugely inefficient, but we all love it anyway.

Trolley cars and bicycles would be efficient, but we’d have to live differently

51 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 10:59 am

The degree to which it can run without subsidies depends on local circumstances.

One reason it has trouble competing is that much of the cost of private vehicle operation is socialized. I’ve run the numbers for Upstate New York. Taking into account the trade elasticity of demand for motor fuel, the necessary excise on such to cover the cost of road maintenance (with limited access highways maintained by tolls) is in excess of $3.

Another reason is that the logic of bus routes is opaque. Steve Sailer talks about the distaste for buses as a function of social class, but there’s a real difference in service quality. A light rail system can be grasped with a brief look at a schematic map. Bus routes cannot be rendered so simply and metro transit authorities hardly ever try, contenting themselves with pamphlets delineating the schedule of fragments of the route if they even do that anymore (everyone’s got a smart phone, right?).

52 Cliff January 12, 2016 at 11:20 am

Gochuchang, it’s not efficient if you have to rearrange everything in the world to make it work. “It’s so efficient, all we would have to do is eliminate all suburban and rural areas!”

53 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 11:31 am

Obviously private autos represent a “path taken” at this point. We don’t have rural towns and trains because that wasn’t the path taken.

54 Slocum January 12, 2016 at 11:51 am

“That’s an absurd statement in New York City.”

Not really. Public transit in New York City may be better than driving in New York (at least when that includes *parking* in NYC), but commuting by public transit in NYC is much slower than commuting by car anywhere else in the country:

55 PN January 12, 2016 at 8:39 am

Rayward — I can attest that owning a car in Brooklyn is one of the worst financial decisions I have ever made. My wife really wanted to have a car when moved to Brooklyn (she had fantasies of going on weekend trips and so forth) so we got:

– BMW 3-Series, Leased, $650 / month
– Parking garage near house, $400 / month
– Insurance, $2200 / year (we both have clean records; this was USAA based on the zip code)

So our car for a 2-year period cost $29,600 (at least!) over a 2-year period. When I returned the thing to BMW after the lease finished, we had managed to put a whopping 5,000 miles on it, for a cost of around $6 / mile. I didn’t want to get the car at the time, and it was a sore point between the two of us while we had it.

In Brooklyn (at least where I live) the rise of Uber, plus subway stations a 5-10 min walk away, obviate owning a car. If I need one for an extended period of time, a short term rental or daily suffices at a fraction of car ownership. I don’t care how rich you are — having a car where I live is more of a pain than it’s worth.

56 Ray Lopez January 12, 2016 at 9:25 am

Get a motorcycle scooter, fully automatic, like a Yamaha or Honda I have here in the Philippines. Get’s 60 km per liter of fuel and can out accelerate from a stop most any car except a sports car. Safe too if you follow the rules of the road. Here, and in California, it’s legal to go in-between two cars. In rush hour you can outmaneuver any four-wheeled vehicle.

57 PN January 12, 2016 at 10:09 am

Ray, I think the scooter might make a lot of sense in certain places and cities. In the tropical Philippines, being exposed to the elements in a scooter sounds great. In New York City at 0 degrees, unpleasant 4+ months out of the year. The other issue is traffic: crossing the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridge on a scooter is just awful — I broke my elbow biking across the bridge when a pedestrian stepped into the biking lane, eye glued to his phone, two years ago.

58 Ray Lopez January 12, 2016 at 11:13 am

Yes, bridges are always a problem since you cannot (or should not) pass. If you’re talking about long-distance commuting using US interstate roads (of the kind designed by R. Moses), then avoid scooters I agree. Take mass transit. But tooling around NYC on a scooter seems to me to make sense, unless it’s a snow day. Good luck and enjoy your cold weather.

59 John January 12, 2016 at 9:52 am

People that qualify for USAA don’t belong in Brooklyn. Go back to Cleveland.

60 PN January 12, 2016 at 10:16 am

John: what exactly are you trying to say? My dad was a US Foreign Service Officer for 25 years, that’s why I have USAA.

61 TMC January 12, 2016 at 9:52 pm

I’ve been to Brooklyn many times. To Cleveland I will be happy to go.

62 Cliff January 12, 2016 at 11:23 am

“BMW 3-Series, Leased, $650 / month” LOL!

63 Jan January 12, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Only Cliff’s lifestyle is the correct lifestyle. LOL!!

64 Bob from Ohio January 12, 2016 at 2:01 pm

If he leased a cheaper but good car (a Honda for instance), not only would his monthly payment been significantly cheaper but his insurance too since the cost of repair matters a lot.

He would still have been unhappy but maybe people would be more sympathetic.

65 PN January 12, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Bob: not really looking for sympathy, really just agreeing with Rayward here. I think that my subjective level of unhappiness would have been about the same if I had a much cheaper car. Imagine instead if had bought a $8000 beater (say a 2010 Civic with 50,000 miles on it), that was basically as mechanically reliable but much less luxurious. Assume my insurance was much cheaper, and I parked it on the street. After my two-year adventure of not driving the thing, I’d be out a lot less money (perhaps an order of magnitude less), and thus would have paid … $.60 / mile to have the thing, still a high cost.

Plus, I would have had to deal with the pain of moving the thing every few days (alternate side parking), maintenance, and probably seeing the damn thing get scratched and generally abused on the mean streets of Cobble Hill. My point is just that having a car in Brooklyn sucks and is overrated. That, and I suppose to have my life choices mocked by Cliff?

66 Jan January 12, 2016 at 2:51 pm

@Bob Whoosh.

67 chuck martel January 12, 2016 at 8:43 am

The infatuation with automobiles permeates every fiber of society. A minor example: The foremost daily goal of the overwhelming majority of Americans isn’t sending their kids to college or eating a good meal, it’s finding a place to park as close as possible to whatever door they wish to enter. The “employee of the month” is rewarded with a parking spot next to the boss near the front door. As consolation for alleged disability the droves of cripples are allowed to park in the closest locations to entrances, apparently because the physically compromised don’t need exercise. Actually, there aren’t enough spaces designated for handicapped parking. It often appears that all the spaces reserved for the lame are taken. Maybe the half of the lot nearest the Walmart or Toys R Us should be restricted to use by the disabled just to make sure that none of them are forced to walk or crawl an extra 50 feet to purchase ice cream.

It’s difficult to take seriously a society where parking convenience ranks so high in day to day life.

68 Cliff January 12, 2016 at 11:24 am

Mindbogglingly stupid and wrong

69 chuck martel January 12, 2016 at 12:42 pm

When someone has a stroke or serious accident, as soon as recovery is evident they are put into a physical therapy program. After doing everything possible to return the patient to their former mobility they are then released into an environment designed to decrease their physical efforts as much as possible.

Even the halt and lame need exercise but the ADA Nazis require that everyone be on board the handicapped bandwagon. The feds could just as easily have required that all wheelchairs be able to climb and descend stairways instead of requiring millions of dollars in ramps but then normal people wouldn’t be forced to show their concern for crippled.

70 Jon Rodney January 12, 2016 at 2:00 pm

It must get tiring being so angry at everything.

71 msgkings January 13, 2016 at 3:25 pm

@ Jon: In his case the anger is probably why he gets up in the morning.

72 a Fred January 12, 2016 at 4:58 pm

We’re gloriously stupid about parking. I happily walk long distances and cycle for fun. Yet I catch myself hunting for the closest parking spot, in cities or mall lots, for no reason I can articulate.

73 rayward January 12, 2016 at 9:02 am

There’s reason to believe younger Americans are smarter Americans, at least when it comes to cars; have hope:

74 Jeff R. January 12, 2016 at 9:20 am

Try standing at a bus stop for 5-10 minutes in sub-freezing temperatures sometime this winter. It will all become crystal clear to you.

75 rayward January 12, 2016 at 10:00 am

Why is public transportation in the U.S. terrible?

76 Bob from Ohio January 12, 2016 at 10:21 am

Because outside of NYC, its strictly for poor people.

77 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 10:38 am

No, mostly people who are not driving for various reasons, e.g. the old and the young. Income enters into it, but life cycle is what’s most salient.

78 Jan January 12, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Circular reasoning.

79 The Anti-Gnostic January 12, 2016 at 10:23 am

First, because driving was cheap and uncrowded. Second, because the middle and upper classes avoid it for the same reason they avoid buying homes in certain school districts.

80 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 10:36 am

They may avoid it for that reason, but that’s generally a stupid reason. There’s seldom much dangerous or dirty about city buses (or Greyhound). The real problem is inconvenience. Consider the bus service in metropolitan Washington: quite infrequent outside of peak hours (and empty outside of peak hours), incomprehensible route systems, wretched over-the-phone customer service, &c. There are over 4 million people in metro Washington and the place is choked with traffic, but people would rather put up with traffick than try to negotiate the bus system because the service stinks, not because the clientele stink.

81 prognostication January 12, 2016 at 11:01 am

I don’t know what bus lines you’ve experienced, but the 90 series routes and 70 series routes are almost always full at nearly any hour.

82 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm

I don’t know what bus lines you’ve experienced,

Arlington and Alexandria. I mean the metro service, not DASH.

83 John Mansfield January 12, 2016 at 3:06 pm

A few times a year I take the bus to work or elsewhere to keep that option familiar. Taking the bus takes twice as long, costs more, and involves about 3/4 mile of walking at each end. (This is in Mont. Co. Maryland.) Riding in a bus has a noise and ride comfort not much better than sitting in the bed of a pickup. Some routes are crowded, and some fellow passengers are not great to sit near, but that’s not much different from driving and interacting with other drivers. Riding a bus is OK, but driving a car is far more pleasant.

84 John Mansfield January 12, 2016 at 3:20 pm

When I write that driving a car is more pleasant, I should add that the car I drive is a ’02 Chevy Prizm. In other words, it doesn’t take much of a car to have more comfort and convenience than a bus offers.

85 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 3:22 pm

The walking isn’t bad. The ride comfort is much better than you’d have gotten in my home town a generation ago. The problem is that the buses at peak hours are competing with the traffic. You drive from Alexandria to Fairfax the wrong time of day, you travel at a mean speed of 7 miles per hour on public roads. It can be nearly as bad on some of the limited access roads. The problem at mid-day is that it runs maybe once an hour even in a fairly clotted inner-ring suburb, and the big hulking thing is empty in spite of the infrequency. That might have something to do with the fact that they’ve torn out all the hard copy schedules at the stops, you cannot get route information over the phone, and the drivers lie to their clientele about the routes.

86 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly January 12, 2016 at 10:43 am

For much the same reason most public projects in the U.S. end terribly–poor local/municipal governance.

Washington’s metro system is increasingly a nightmare despite having just finished a $5 Billion capital upgrades project, in no small part because the governance system makes it impossible to get work done efficiently or remove those who don’t do any work at all.

87 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 10:51 am

Greater Washington would benefit from being reconstituted into a federation of muncipalities with a metropolitan authority whose ambo was coterminous with the settlement frontier. It would also benefit from a political culture in which the principal purposes of the civil service were something other than maintenance of insiders (i.e. those already in the system) and distribution of race patronage. Of course, just about any American city would benefit from theses things, and anyone’s chance of getting them is a shade above nil.

88 msgkings January 12, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Art is just priceless: “reconstituted into a federation of muncipalities with a metropolitan authority whose ambo was coterminous with the settlement frontier”

He may be right, or wrong, but the vocabulary is the fun part.

89 Slocum January 12, 2016 at 12:01 pm

It’s terrible everywhere. Who really wants to be packed into a bus or train car with potential creeps, muggers, beggars, and pickpockets? If you commute by car, this kind of thing just never happens:

90 chuck martel January 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm

But people still want to guarantee those “potential creeps, muggers, beggars, and pickpockets” food, clothing, housing, education and health care.

91 msgkings January 12, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Exterminate the brutes!

92 Slocum January 12, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Even a small percentage of antisocial types creates a lousy shared experience for a captive audience:

Why subject yourself to all that if you don’t have to? Why not avoid places where you’re packed in like cattle and have to adopt a ‘street face’ and studiously avoid eye contact? Life’s too short.

93 Jeff R. January 12, 2016 at 2:09 pm

I still use it when I’m in town, but there are some aggressive panhandlers on the DC Metro, and yes, they do get on my nerves.

94 bob January 12, 2016 at 1:59 pm

I live in Brooklyn. I’ve never owned a car. Forget the money its “worrying about parking fines or, worse, being towed, of being stuck in traffic, of being bilked by the mechanic at the garage, of accidents and injury.” That I don’t want to deal with. I probably spend as much on cabs and the occasional rental as I would to maintain my own car but I don’t want the hassle.

95 Albigensian January 12, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Well, OK, when I lived in New York City I didn’t own a car either. And if I ever move back, I still wouldn’t (although I’d still want to rent one when traveling to much of New Jersey, Long Island, or really just about any place outside of NYC.

BUT lets at least consider that the USA had extensive trolley and interurban rail systems already in place before cars became popular, and, often all it took to put an interurban line out of business was the opening of a parallel paved road (plus the availability of model T Fords).

The real weakness of public transit is that it’s seldom able to offer a single-seat solution. Even when a reasonably fast train is available, the complete journey often becomes a walk to the bus that goes to the train plus another bus to complete one’s journey. As a result, even if one or more of the links is fast and comfortable, the overall journey is inconvenient (especially with intermediate stops, or when carrying bulky or heavy items) and it just takes too long.

So, first, New York City is a special case- because of its density and because of four of its five boroughs are, or are on, islands (thus creating bottlenecks around bridges and tunnels).

And, perhaps autonomous self-driving transit vehicles will finally make transit competitive with driving, should these ever become available.

But until then, most of those who live outside NYC who can drive will choose to do so, even when/where transit is available.

96 Dan Weber January 14, 2016 at 10:00 am

The “single-seat” aspect is important. People talk about how you can read or whatever on public transit, but you often need to pay significant attention to your commute.

I would accept a commute that was longer if I could really stop thinking about my commute.

There is a solution to this, which is variations on the Google Bus. There are probably 5 people who live within a mile of me and work within a mile of me. Have a small comfortable bus pick us up and drop us off, with the driver making sure we don’t miss our stop.

You’ll get the same complaints as the Google Bus does: that it’s not really public. Which is true, but irrelevant.

97 Adrian Turcu January 12, 2016 at 7:20 am

All is nice and dandy untill you realise supply trucks are also fined quite a lot, passing to owners and consumers the city’s obtuse laws costs. It’s extortion, and a self inflicted one to a degree because its the people who elect city officials…

98 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 9:07 am

Yeah, the truckers built those roads, not the elected city officials!

99 Bob from Ohio January 12, 2016 at 10:29 am

The truckers and other taxpayers paid for the roads, so yes, they built them.

100 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 10:41 am

People pay for the roads in their capacity as property owners, consumers, and income earners (or income recipients). It would be more efficient if they paid for them in their capacity as motorists, i.e. road maintenance were financed out of tolls, fuel taxes, and registration fees. People tend to resent all three, for reasons which do not reflect well on them.

101 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

Be real.

Most people operate in a simple mindset that private cars and trucks are theirs, and roads just exist. They are, in some cognitive dissonant way, invisible. How else could private cars be a triumph of private property?

(Everyone should certainly know in 2016 that use-fees, including fuel fees, do NOT cover road construction and maintentance. To pretend otherwise is completely dishonest.)

102 Cliff January 12, 2016 at 11:26 am

What difference does it make?

103 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 11:33 am

It’s just funny, I guess. It’s like “government keep your hands off my medicare!”

It’s “I am for free market transportation, now give me free roads!”

104 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly January 12, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Actually, plenty of libertarians are all for privatizing roads too to internalize the costs. I remember seeing a John Stossel report in high school praising a privatized toll road that was purportedly operating better than the Jersey Turnpike.

105 Adrian Turcu January 12, 2016 at 12:51 pm

“(Everyone should certainly know in 2016 that use-fees, including fuel fees, do NOT cover road construction and maintentance. To pretend otherwise is completely dishonest.) ”

I do not accept that. I live in Europe, and the fuel tax alone covers road building and apparently, quite a bit of embezzlement by officials and private contractors, in my country.
It is dishonest to assume drivers assume roads just exist. They know quite well they are paid for by taxpayers.
There are also spillover effects on the other side: you might love taking your bicycle to Whole Foods but the produce there is truck delivered. As is craft beer in every pub. How much do you think it would cost to deliver beer barrels to city centers by bicycle?
That being said, like it is mentioned below, I fully support privatization of roads, just to settle the moral issue.

106 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Adrian, you can share data for your country.

Here is me, sharing data for mine.

107 Bob from Ohio January 12, 2016 at 2:32 pm

User fees or taxes, its the people who build the roads.

Who cares if the money comes from the right pocket or left pocket.

Everyone benefits from roads. Either they drive on them or the products they consume arrive over them or both.

108 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 2:37 pm

I don’t know, Bob, are you normally such a socialist? Do it for medicine too?

109 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 2:38 pm

For the record, I’m fine with private cars / public roads as a system.

I just like a little more honesty about how socialist it is.

110 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 3:26 pm

Who cares if the money comes from the right pocket or left pocket

The sort of knucklehead who resents road tolls and fuel excises, that’s who. They fancy they pre-paid for the road with their property tax payment, no matter what the municipal budget is or the configuration of revenue sources.

111 Hazel Meade January 12, 2016 at 2:07 pm

This is what I mean when I say I’m not sure what he’s doing really counts as “product”.

112 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Hazel, tell us what happens to meter revenue when word gets around you’ll never be ticketed?

113 The Other Jim January 12, 2016 at 8:37 am

Makes me wonder if Tyler would find this story interesting if the guy were not Haitian.

“White guy from Flushing writes a lot of parking tickets” — would that be MR material?

114 Ray Lopez January 12, 2016 at 9:30 am

There are no whites in Flushing, NY, lol.

Also this traffic cop, like most traffic cops, has: (1) incentive to write tickets as it goes to their performance review, and he clearly wants to have a winning review, and, (2) has no discretion to not write a ticket, once the ticket book is out (from talking to a meter maid, that’s what she said, once she enters a license number on the pad it cannot be revoked).

Bonus trivia: you cannot, in Los Angeles, California, feed coins into somebody else’s parking meter just as its about to expire (as a Good Samaritan gesture so the anonymous other person does not get a parking violation)…it’s a violation of the law that can land you in jail. Yes, it’s been litigated. I’m serious.

115 collateral January 12, 2016 at 11:49 am

Maybe that was true when you fled the US in order to fulfill your destiny, but in 2016 there are whites in Flushing LOL.

116 JWatts January 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

“from talking to a meter maid, that’s what she said, once she enters a license number on the pad it cannot be revoked).”

They all say that because it stops a lot of arguments. I doubt it’s true most places.

117 carlolspln January 12, 2016 at 7:46 pm


You & your g/f can come to Surfer’s Paradise: 😉

118 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 9:05 am

So little discussion of economics on an economics blog. Disappointing.

Set aside for a moment the data provided which does not clearly state whether he produced $1.2 million in one year or during his career.

His marginal revenue product is the amount of revenue he generates holding all other inputs constant. What are those inputs?

Laws are the first such input. Suppose an infraction for street cleaning restrictions had a fine of $100 and his labor produced six tickets per hour, for a total of $600. Holding his marginal product constant, raising the fine to $200 will have some deterrent effect, so total revenue is likely to be less than $1200, say $1000 with one car owner deterred. At $250, perhaps there are four infractions for TR of $1000. If the fine is $500, maybe only one car violates it, and total revenue is $500.

Is the city a revenue maximizer or a clean street maximizer? Let’s assume revenue. TR is maximized at between $200 and $250 per ticket. Let’s say $250 since the city has a secondary objective to clean the streets.

What are other inputs? The system for collecting fines. The system for enforcing unpaid fines.

Street sweepers? Perhaps not because the city could enforce alternate side of the street parking without such justification. On the other hand, without justification, the people likely wouldn’t accept the law. A tax on cars would be more efficient. So yeah, street sweeping is an input.

Labor demand is a function of this revenue maximizing function.

My point is: this one guy is not generating $1.2 million as his marginal revenue product. Several public goods and services are generating quite a bit of that revenue without him.

How do we know this? What is the opportunity cost of his labor? It takes little to no skill to walk around and complete a form. One could probably find volunteers to do his job at a fraction of his pay. Labor supply is very high.

We also know the city is a monopsonist since it has no competition in infractions.

Is his job unionized? If so, it is a countervailing monopoly to the city’s monopsony power.

I’d say this public service job is far more efficient than a job in a subway information booth that generates no discernible revenue.

119 Ray Lopez January 12, 2016 at 9:33 am

You’re all over the place with your points, and frankly I doubt your analysis is accurate.

120 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 9:53 pm

Methodically considering each determinant of supply and demand is “all over the place?”


121 Fizz-Assist January 12, 2016 at 11:15 am

Clearly there is some rent-seeking involved. But why is he so much more effective than others if it’s so easy to find volunteers to do the same job? Apparently we can’t even pay people to do the same job.

122 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Isn’t the wage rate set by the marginal worker? He is probably the highest valued worker.

He probably enjoys his job. We don’t know anything about the monitoring mechanisms or property rights to public employment.

123 o. nate January 12, 2016 at 11:36 am

does not clearly state whether he produced $1.2 million in one year or during his career

It does clearly state that he wrote 19,000 tickets in one year. At $60 per ticket, that works out to $1.2 million, which seems reasonable. So it must be per year.

124 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 10:01 pm

You are correct.

We still haven’t defined all of the inputs of production yet, much less considered their marginal contribution to revenue. It appears the thesis of this post is that $1.2 million is big, he gets paid small, hence he is underpaid. There is some economic analysis missing in between.

For example, if there were no enforcement mechanism for the fines, his marginal revenue product would be close to zero. Don’t the judges, cops, tow trucks, and corrections officers lay claim to producing some of that revenue?

125 Bill January 12, 2016 at 9:34 am

Should his marginal revenue product be measured by

Compliance or


126 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 10:05 pm

Revenue, of course.

The city could ensure almost total compliance with an adequately high penalty. I submit that the city cares more about raising revenue than cleaning streets. In fact, I believe I read that San Francisco cut back on street cleaning, and then increased it when ticket revenue dropped to much.

127 Milo Minderbinder January 12, 2016 at 9:38 am

Another job Americans won’t do?

128 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 10:44 am

1. He speaks English

2. He hails from one of the few countries in the world from whence the United States is the appropriate locus of refugee resettlement and which has been a generator of legitimate refugees (Cuba is the other such country).

129 Milo Minderbinder January 12, 2016 at 11:54 am

None of which means that job was going begging, but because Americans wouldn’t do it.

130 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 12:16 pm

1. Was he given a mulligan on his civil service tests?

2. Where do you want him to be working?

131 Hazel Meade January 12, 2016 at 2:10 pm

It’s worth noting that the KIND of employment he has found is something totally in keeping with the style of French Civil Service.
Do we need more people who make diligent functionaries?

132 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 3:28 pm

What’s wrong with diligent functionaries?

133 John January 12, 2016 at 10:10 am

I don’t think I agree with this:

“Never, never. It’s never OK to break the law,” he told The Post at his Canarsie home. “The law is hard, but it’s the law. You can’t break the law for any reason.”

134 Noumenon72 January 12, 2016 at 11:03 am

I don’t either, and I was very surprised to find out how many people do. It is a very convenient attitude for your employees to have, but raising my own child this way would feel like I was a) lying about how the world works, so that people who cheat would always get the drop on them, and b) asking them to accept that they are subservient and have no autonomy. I guess if you want your kid to stay out of the lower class but expect them to never rise above the lower middle, it makes sense.

135 Gochujang January 12, 2016 at 11:35 am

Hierarchy of moral development … it’s never OK, but sometimes it is the lesser evil.

136 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 10:11 pm

The law distinguishes between things that are unlawful because they are inherently evil (malum in se) and things that are unlawful only because the legislature has made it so (malum prohibitum). Courts occasionally find good cause to look the other way in the latter instance. In some cases, the latter is invalidated.

137 T. Shaw January 12, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Political considerations queer the economics of municipal parking tix. Plus, it’s all about law enforcement not revenue generation [wink, wink].

Also, sometimes employees work very hard whether they need to or not. Municipal unions protect all but the worst.

There is no quota for traffic agents’ ticket writing. The people/voters would go bonkers. They’d go even more bonkers if traffic agents were paid bonuses or commissions for writing above a certain amount/number of parking tickets.

Any statistics on unpaid NYC parking tix?

I worked in NYC for about 40 years, often traveling between locations. I very rarely would drive. Ninety percent of the time the traffic is horrendous. On street parking is highly impractical and paid parking was too expensive to justify expense reimbursement given the NYTA bus and subway service and fares.

If I lived in NYC, I wouldn’t own a car. I would rent whenever I needed one.

138 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 12:21 pm

You’re generally not going to get much revenue out of fines. The other moderator was berserk about the fines levied by the Ferguson, Mo. municipal court without remarking that the principal beltway in greater St. Louis runs through only about 12 of the 90+ municipalities therein, including Ferguson, so the fine revenue of these 12 municipalities was going to be exaggerated. If it’s a matter of concern to you, put the fine revenue in a fund and then empty the fund at the end of the year with a per-filer remittance to all property-tax payers.

139 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly January 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm

“You’re generally not going to get much revenue out of fines.”

Enough that myriad municipalities plan for fine revenue to be a significant revenue source when proposing their budgets.

140 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 2:09 pm

Which ones?

141 Urso January 12, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Mostly tiny ones. In fact there are some whose sole reason for incorporating is to get the legal authority to collect fines from out of towners. Check out the boundaries on this little burg.

142 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 10:16 pm

Fines are 12.5% of Chicago’s budget, up from about 5% in the 1990s.

143 Urso January 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm

So how is parking in his neck of the woods? Has his zealous enforcement become well known, so people are violating parking laws less often? If not, why not?

144 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 10:18 pm

Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded.

145 flubber January 12, 2016 at 1:38 pm

zealous! VOCAB WORD!!!

146 Hadur January 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm

The “why would anyone have a car in Brooklyn” question has a simple solution: to visit areas outside of NYC.

I don’t live in NYC and never have. But I’ve lived in other major cities and have been able to live without owning a car in at least three of them (Chicago, Boston, DC). I can use public transportation and/or Uber to get between home, work, bars and restaurants, and airports/train stations just fine.

But sometimes I need to visit Manassas or Joliet or Salem. And that is when a car becomes necessary. Somebody who lives in Brooklyn, but must frequently travel to an area off the NYC public transit grid, could easily decide to own a car for that reason. And once they already have a car there, they probably will occasionally use it for runs to the grocery store or IKEA, meaning they’ll use the car for some city travel too.

147 Dsylexic January 12, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Govt employees wages are more accurately fees or fines. Not connected to profit and loss decisions or marginal product or supply and demand

148 Willitts January 12, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Why not? There are inputs. There is a production function. There is competition for labor.

What makes this different is that there is a congestiblw public good involved (street parking), a monopolist of that good (government), and it has market power in the job market.

The laws of supply and demand don’t vanish. They just change to suit market conditions.

149 jorod January 13, 2016 at 4:35 pm

More Haitians need to leave and find jobs elsewhere.

150 jorod January 13, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Leave Haiti that is.

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