Saturday, November 26, 2011

Does slowing people down slow down the economy?

As my family and I were traveling back to LA from my parents' place in Arizona this weekend, we had to stop at three checkpoints.  Each stop delayed us--I would guess the average delay was 5-10 minutes.  One check point bragged that it had arrested around 100 people--about 70 for immigration violations and 30 for crimes--over the course of 2011.

According to this web site, one of the highways I travelled on carries 10,000 cars per day.  Let's say the average stop takes five minutes, the average car has 1.3 people in it, and the value of people's time averages $15 per hour.  This means that each arrest costs a little under $60,000; perhaps there is a deterrent effect as well.  Is this worth it?  I really don't know.

But I can't help but notice that over the last ten years, the US, as a matter of security policy, has really gummed up the ability of people to get easily from one place to another. Is it a coincidence that the economy has underperformed over this time?  Perhaps.  I can't think of a way to run a regression to test the relationship between ease of travel and economic performance--but that doesn't mean that someone else can't.