I Rather Like our Name!

Economist Craig Newmark of N.C.S.U. recently lauded our own Ken Brown’s calm and reasonable piece questioning the wisdom of light rail in New Mexico. Professor Newmark is not the only one who has taken notice.
I was recently contacted by an acquaintance of mine (okay, ex-girlfriend). She works for a civil engineering firm in Arizona which might be called upon to build our light rail system should it come to that. She was wondering if the Foundation had done any research on light rail in NM. I told her that there have been no comprehensive analyses but that our own Dr. Brown has written a white paper on the subject.
She apparently passed Ken’s piece along to her boss who was not impressed.
He replied: “I guess we’d have to ask the author to point out a freeway in Albuquerque that pays for itself. The worst part of this thing is the name of the organization: ‘The Rio Grande Foundation.’ They do that to get some aura of respectability they can’t get if they refer to themselves as what they really are. The “Anti-Everything Naysayers” just doesn’t have much of a ring in the media…”
Slightly chagrined, this was my reply:
“Wow. How nice. If I may defend my organization, I believe that our small PhD-laden staff gives us an “aura of respectability.” We have three emeritus economics professors, a former CEO, a former governor’s senior policy advisor, an under-secretary from the Commerce Department’s division of Economic Affairs and, of course, me! Several of our staffers have long lists of publications in peer-reviewed academic journals and all of them have published widely in more popular formats.
As for his suggestion that roads cannot be made to pay for themselves, I’m afraid he is sorely mistaken. To start with, most of the early turnpikes in America were private. Despite onerous price regulations, many of them were quite financially successful. And as for today, the examples of financially-viable private roads are legion. I actually drive on one in Virginia called the Dulles Greenway on a semi-regular basis. Its prices are reasonable and its condition is exemplary. Private roads have also worked in California, Chicago, Israel, Hungary and Chile. It is often these private roads that pioneer new technologies like congestion-pricing.
Economists aren’t anti-everything, just anti-waste.”