Today on the bus the bus driver stopped to tell school kids to stand up. This happens on occasion, and generally the adults on the bus act like they think it is a complete joke. You can here comments like ‘this is ridiculous’ and ‘the bus driver just wants to feel important’ from adults/civil servants lounging around, but ultimately I think the bus drivers understand what is going on better than the group of civil servants on the bus.
Bus drivers are like the government, they are given a certain welfare policy that has to be followed on their bus. Although conditions such as standing up to let frail older people sit down are solved internally in the ‘marketplace’ of the bus, the condition of having all adults sitting while children stand is often violated. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the rule is right, ultimately in social welfare terms I think there is no difference between me standing or some 14 year old boy is standing, but this is the rule that the bus driver has to enforce.
Now it obviously upsets people when the bus driver stops and tells the children to stand, so there is a social cost to their yelling. However, their yelling is also costly to the children that are sitting, as the 14 year old boy gets embarrassed, also they are forced to stand . As well as making them stand, the yelling also impacts on the kids belief that the bus driver will yell at children sitting on a full bus in the future. As far as I can tell, the bus driver seems to yell just enough to force the majority of kids to stand on the bus in future periods. This allows him/her to achieve their social goals at the lowest social cost.
I think that 98% of bus drivers in Wellington are brilliant, and realising that they are better at achieving social goals than a number of world governments increases my respect for them further.