A justification for taxing congestion: Multiple equilibria with a roading alternative?

Recent posts below (see “Taxing congestion: how I might justify it“) have sought reasons as to why toll-roads are so often touted as an economically efficient measure. For my part, I am quite sceptical that the are universally efficient, and struggle to find a compelling reason why they are even efficient most of the time. However there are some circumstances where it is quite conceivable that they can be efficient. Where there is a (slower) alternative to the road with a congestion charge, and different drivers place different values on congestion free travel, congestion charges/tolls can lead to an efficient sorting of road users between the (faster) toll road and the (slower) free road, resulting in socially optimal outcomes.

The intuition goes something like this:

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National chooses not to rule ‘by decree’

It looks like National has decided not to continue with the previous government’s plans to introduce a standard for lightbulb efficiency. They say

We want to encourage people to [switch], we think there may be benefits for them to do it, but it should be a choice they make as consumers.

It’s a good point: efficient CFL bulbs are tough to dim, take time to reach full brightness and don’t bring out the sparkle in chandeliers, apparently. So why would we want to force everyone to use them when they’re clearly not suited to some applications? Of course, if people did use them in their homes and offices, where they are suitable, it would be great for reducing our national power consumption. Read more

Com Com investigating mobile termination rates

For those of you who don’t subscribe to the Commerce Commission’s media releases, they have just announced that they are investigating mobile termination rates. (Reasons here). In simple terms, the termination rate is what vodafone charges telecom every time a telecom customer calls a vodafone customer and vice-versa. The CC has decided that the rates are probably too high so they have launched an investigation.

What is particularly interesting is that they are including Fixed to mobile (FTM) as well as Mobile to mobile (MTM) in this investigation. This is interesting because they already investigated FTM back in 2004 (see the ridiculous amount of submissions that occur ed during that investigation here). So pretty much everything is on the plate this time round. It will be interesting to see what happens:)