Econ 1: Spring 2012: U.C. Berkeley: Files for April 23, 2012: Budget Economics
The Second Phase of Europe's Second Great Depression Is Underway

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Ask the Moustache of Understanding Tom Friedman Appears Not to Have Informed Himself About the Physics of Cell-Phone Connections Edition

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Duncan Black acquires hives after reading Tom Friedman:

Eschaton: Someone Please Ask: Next time one of you bumps into the moustache of understanding, maybe when one of his calls drops on the Amtrak, ask him how much a typical Social Security beneficiary receives every month. Bonus points if he can tell you how many Acela tickets that would buy.

As does Matthew Yglesias:

Amtrak dropped calls.: So Tom Friedman wants Michael Bloomberg to run for president in part because:

I traveled on the Amtrak Acela, our sorry excuse for a fast train, on which I had so many dropped calls on my cellphone that you’d have thought I was on a remote desert island, not traveling from Washington to New York City.

I've also been annoyed by this, but it's very unclear to me what the political system can do to remedy it…. [T]he basic problem is that, to avoid dropping calls along the route, the network has to be able to handle peak-load traffic of a whole train full of prosperous business travels at all points along the route even though any given place only rarely has that many customers in it since the train moves fast. Why don't AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile invest the kind of funds that would be necessary to deliver that level of service? Well it would cost money. And how many customers could AT&T really poach from Verizon by making this investment? The calculation they've made is that it's a small number, and that calculation seems correct to me. Fundamentally, this is a weird edge case that professional political writers are unusually likely to encounter, and it doesn't make much economic sense for the carriers to address it. I'm not sure what, if anything, a Bloomberg administration could do about it short of a politically implausible plan to tax the heartland in order to subsidize Northeast Corridor mobile phone service…