Making it dramatically more expensive to drive (and conduct) business in America

The administration’s newest scheme to slow the recovery and, just coincidentally I’m sure, to put monitoring ankle bracelets on all citizens:  Make all possible roads toll roads, and mandate that drivers have toll reading devices on their cars (which are, after all, tracking devices):

The White House last week began circulating its legislative proposal for transportation reauthorization that included provisions to add toll booths to existing freeways and impose a tax for every mile driven. The “Transportation Opportunities Act” for the first time gave the Obama administration’s full approval to the concept of an added charge on drivers for the use of roads throughout the country, including on existing, untolled freeways in major metropolitan areas.

“This section [2217] amends existing law to include two new options that provide more flexibility to finance new construction or capacity, and manage congestion, through the imposition of tolls,” states the proposal’s official summary. “The first option focuses on metropolitan congestion reduction and permits state and local governments to impose tolls on existing interstate and non-interstate facilities for the purposes of improving or reducing congestion in metropolitan areas with populations over one million people. Under this option, tolls may be imposed on specific lanes, whole facilities, or a network of facilities within the metropolitan area.”

The plan would require that commuters be charged higher rates during peak morning and evening periods and that the revenue generated be used for capital improvement projects near the toll facility. A second “interstate system improvement” plan would allow tolling in smaller areas so long as the project included new capacity. Electronic transponders would be required for toll collection on the new lanes.

I actually have a toll device on my car for the Bay Area Bridges — but I put it there voluntarily, because of the convenience factor.  It was a CHOICE, a concept that seems remarkably alien to this administration.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

  1. says

    what added value comes from knowing the individual course grades beneath that overall average?

    Propaganda is composed of the truth hiding the deception.

    Statistical polls are broken into demographics and sampling sizes as well as sampling demographics. Thus a poll of 90% Republicans will produce a different result than a poll using 90% Leftist radical feminists.

    Without the underlying individual data, the “overall average” is meaningless.

    You can never believe data that has been managed, massaged, and altered by the hands of strangers. And if you do, that’s what is called incompetence in intelligence analysis.

    Centralized authority has opposite and opposing benefits and advantages vs de-centralized hierarchies.

    While A and Z here may know the theoretical definitions of these benefits and advantages, they haven’t shown a markedly acceptable degree of adapting that theory to practical applications.

    It’s not that hard to notice the disadvantages of China’s centralized authority or the inconsistency with which China attempts to embrace the new while still teaching kids to worship Mao’s Great March. Humans can keep deluding themselves forever, but reality gives no care for the desires of humans, however deluded they become on their own cocaine.

    Nor are the advantages of centralized authority put on display through the demonstration of A or Z’s perspective and individual judgment on China. There are certain advantages but they are not the ones A and Z focuses on. However many advantages there are to centralized authority, that does not make acceptable A and Z’s mistakes concerning the history of economic progress in China or the US. Nor are the advantages of centralized authority superior in length and power compared to de-centralized hierarchies.

  2. says

    It took years of effort in Congress, but the Pacific Railway Acts provided extensive tracts of land, gave low-interest government bonds, determined the route, mandated a building schedule, even set the gauge.

    Here Z makes the critical mistake of believing the government of now is the same as the government of that time. That if they could make it work, somehow creating Robber Barons, that the government of now can do it even better, make success without creating Robber Barons. This is a flimsy and shabby foundation upon which to rest the hopes 330 million American lives. It’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough given Z’s demonstrable lack of competence on the issues.

    ObamaCare, his death panels, and their supporters like Z are only going to crash the economy and destroy people’s lives, using healthcare and insurance even.

    Up against that, do they even need Robber Barons and government subsidies?

  3. says

    ZachrielIt took years of effort in Congress, but the Pacific Railway Acts provided extensive tracts of land, gave low-interest government bonds, determined the route, mandated a building schedule, even set the gauge.
    Ymarsakar:
    Here Z makes the critical mistake of believing the government of now is the same as the government of that time.

    The comment you quoted doesn’t say that. Please quit misrepresenting our position.

    Ymarsakar: It’s not nearly enough given Z’s demonstrable lack of competence on the issues.

    Ad hominem is not a substitute for addressing the points raised. 

     

  4. Danny Lemieux says

    OK, Z…I’ll respond (back from a meeting):

    “Total land grants totaled more than the size of Texas” This reflects a total lack of perspective.

    The land at the time, no matter how big the tracts, was nearly worthless undeveloped land that was given away to those that would develop it. The government also gave huge tracts of land away for free to individual squatters, in exchange for commitments to develop the land. The government had a self-interest in having private enterprise (whether individual or collective) develop the land using private capital resources. This is what happened. 

    As Ymarsaker points out, those were very different times and the issues of government control and centralization paled by comparison to today. The very fact that you make comparisons between our government today and a historically totalitarian China proves that point. You could not have made such a comparison at the time the railroads were being built.

    ABC – “Fair enough.  So to be clear, will you concede that big infrastructure requires government?  That this is not central planning in the derogatory sense of the word, but simply economic necessity?”

    Yes, I will agree with that. There are times when government does fulfill a need in the development of infrastructure: examples are defense networks (GPS and interstate highways) and the space program. The government fulfills a valuable role because it can make the huge, high-risk up-front investments that do not make economic sense for private industry, as private industry might have trouble ever getting a return-on-investment. However, the high up-front risk requirements of such large public investments require that the risks be justified with sound return-on-investment analysis, which is really around which this thread’s conversation has revolved. 

    The argument we make is that government, because of its internal corruptions and lack of accountability, is prone to make bad investments that are horrendously damaging to societies and often defy sound economic sense (does the “Erie Canal” trigger any memories?). Another classic example is the self-serving investments of Louis IV in France, which ended bankrupting the economy, eventually leading to revolution. Similarly, Napoleon also made grand capital investments (the redesign of Paris, for example) that ended bankrupting the country and (if you include his military adventures spurred in part to pay for those investments), untold misery to the rest of Europe. To a bright-eyed naive American tourist today, of course, those capital investments seem like a splendid idea, photogenically anyway. 

    OK… you want a specific. I mentioned the disaster in China’s railroad system, highlighted in this and many other papers. Here it is again (4th time I’ve presented the link, I believe…maybe you will read it this time): http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chinas-train-wreck/2011/04/21/AFqjRWRE_story.html

    Read the line “at a cost of $46 million per mile”.

    Let me give you another example – the Brussels to Paris high-speed line. Beautiful train, comfortable with good service. My cost was about $440 round trip, for a trip that would have taken a 1.5-hour drive by car. Small wonder that the highways we passed were packed with traffic and the train was virtually empty. Despite the high cost of fares, the line is a huge money loser. The people living in the little houses we passed in the country were helping to pay my ticket. Given a choice of train or car, which makes more economic sense? For the average person, of course, such high-speed rail fares are simply out of financial reach. It benefits only the well-to-do elites.

    BTW – please don’t go on about how “interstate travel costs are not recaptured by the economic system”. Sure they are. I have yet to see a good study that measures the cost versus benefits of our transportation network. Frankly, I suspect the government would be too embarrassed to release it.

    However, I would have to include the value of defense and tax-generating commerce among those benefits, so include the tax-revenues from the value-added commerce among the “user fees” generated. Also going toward paying for this infrastructure is a multitude of federal, state and local taxes on vehicles, transportation, gas purchases and user fees. You know as well as we do that the sum total of these government revenues does not go back into maintaining this infrastructure but is instead siphoned off to fund other government programs (we in Illinois sadly know all about this).

    So, to sum up, you and we don’t agree on the role of central government planning, not because we don’t believe in it but more because we believe that it has to be done with great care and accountability. That kind of accountability is not something that happens in totalitarian, top-down societies. We are also very right to be suspicious of our government’s motives to “invest” in boondoggles, such as the proposed high-speed rail program that will only benefit well-to-do elites and favored government constituencies (i.e., labor unions) at huge economic cost to the rest of us average people. Seriously, can you really argue that the solution to Detroit’s economic problems is a high-speed rail link to Chicago?

    We know a pig-in-a-poke when we see it!

  5. Charles Martel says

    Danny, this is a sidebar, but perhaps a telling one nonetheless. My sister-in-law and her husband, even at 70, are inveterate travelers. Usually they travel by air, or if they’re on the East Coast by car (between Sarasota, Fla., and Boston).

    Recently my wife and I met them in Oregon for a visit, and they later drove down to stay near us for a few days here in California. Bill is entering a terminal cancer stage, and one of the disease’s symptoms is severe swelling in the legs. We were all concerned that he could be in mortal danger flying cross-country in a jet’s low-pressure atmosphere.

    So, he and his wife scoured the Internet looking for a rail connection to Chicago or Minneapolis, from where they could hazard a reasonably short flight to Boston.  

    Total cost for a one-way, 46-hour rail trip from Oakland to Chicago: $646 for two. More than twice what it would have cost to hop on a plane for a 4-hour trip.

    When you consider that Amtrak is a small-potatoes, backwater utility, it’s understandable that there are no economies of scale to control its costs, no competitors to help it rein in its fares, and no real reason to sell or hustle given that the taxpayers will subsidize it no matter what.

    So, should I be expected to think that a massive system of new high-speed rail lines would really be any different? There still would be no economies of scale, no competitors, and endless government subsidies to suck on. And why would Americans be any different from the Europeans you saw avoiding rail traffic en masse?

  6. says

    My sister lives in Central Oregon.  To fly from there to here takes about 2 hours each way, at a cost of about $400 dollars for the round-trip.

    By taking the train, she saved about $150 dollars, which is a big deal for her.  It also took her 24 hours one way to make the same trip:  a 2+ hour bus ride to the train; a 5 hour delay because there was an accident on the track and the union members insisted on leaving their shift and bringing in new employees; a 12 hour train ride (I think that’s right); and then a 1+ hour bus ride from the East Bay to San Francisco.  (The return trip, without the 5 hour delay, took a “mere” 19 hours.)

    One of the things that the Euro-train lovers fail to recognize is that America is a vast country, especially when compared to Europe’s itty-bittiness.

    When my Mom and I visited Holland about 30 years ago, we were in Utrecht and wanted to visit the Open Air Museum in Arnhem (a visit I highly recommend).  By the time we got this bright it idea, it was about noon, so we asked a young woman if we could still make it there with our rental car.  “Oh, no,” she replied.  “It’s way too far away.  There’s no way you can drive there in time to get to the museum before it closes.”  Mom and I looked at the map, looked at each other, got in the car, and drove the 45 minutes to Arnhem.  We then spent a lovely afternoon at the museum.

    Whenever I think about Europeans, cars, fuel and trains, I think of that 45 minute drive the young woman assured us was “too far.”  We are not Europe.  We are America.  Our relationship to space (not Outer Space, but our own American geographic space) cannot be compared to the European experience — and we get little to no benefit from European solutions.

  7. Charles Martel says

    Book, you just reminded me of a contest Amtrak held years ago to name the train that goes at night between Sacramento and Los Angeles—a distance of 360 miles that typically takes 14 hours (average speed, 26 mph).

    I forget what flowery name the contest organizers evetually decided upon, but I have it on good authority that their overwhelmingly favorite entry was the one that read: Night Crawler.

  8. says

    Danny Lemieux: The land at the time, no matter how big the tracts, was nearly worthless undeveloped land that was given away to those that would develop it. 

    Of course the land was worth something. The Gadsden Purchase was for $10 million (~$250 million in today’s dollars), from an unstable Mexican government starved for cash. 

    Danny LemieuxThe government had a self-interest in having private enterprise (whether individual or collective) develop the land using private capital resources. 

    Now you got it. Giving land to those who will develop it can be a public good. It’s an aspect of central planning.

    Danny Lemieux: There are times when government does fulfill a need in the development of infrastructure: examples are defense networks (GPS and interstate highways) and the space program. 

    Finally. That’s the point, of course. “We were talking about centralized, state planning in economic development.”

    Central planning is essential in any advanced economy, just as are robust markets. Those who claim that central plans are inevitably bad for growth ignore the example of China, which has experienced phenomenal growth over the last generation. (We’ve provided several caveats above.) Those who attack such plans simply because the government is involved are undermining an important component of economic development. Central planning is part of U.S. history, and its even more important today. Knowing where to draw the line is important, but it’s not an either-or decision. 

  9. Danny Lemieux says

    Z…you are using straw man arguments. Nobody every said on this blog that there is no role for government in economic development. The argument has always been about “how much” government. The arguments about central planning have focused on its dangers.

    Anyway, enough! I can’t play anymore as I really do need to earn a living.

  10. says

    Danny Lemieux: Let me give you another example – the Brussels to Paris high-speed line. Beautiful train, comfortable with good service. My cost was about $440 round trip, for a trip that would have taken a 1.5-hour drive by car.

    One way 164 miles (264km) as the crow flies, or ~110 mph (176 kph) That last mile into Paris down rue Lafayette must be very exciting. Anyway.

    First Class. Second class is about half that, and Leisure class even less (though not always available). If you drive your own car, there’s still a cost for depreciation and fuel, but you will have relatively easy transportation when you get there, though you still have to park. Basically, if you car pool (e.g. family trip), then a car may be the better option. If you travel alone (e.g. on business), then the train may make sense. Or if you don’t have a car (e.g. a tourist).
    Danny Lemieux: So, to sum up, you and we don’t agree on the role of central government planning, not because we don’t believe in it but more because we believe that it has to be done with great care and accountability.

    Yes, it should be done with great care and accountability. 

    Danny Lemieux: That kind of accountability is not something that happens in totalitarian, top-down societies.

    That would imply that there is never any accountability or economic expansion in non-democratic societies, which isn’t the case. There have been good kings and bad kings. Accountability is crude, but can come through the nobility and other vying powers. In Communist societies, it filters up through the various party organizations. The problem is the distance between the streets and the leadership is so great that accountability can become detached. Even the best leaders can become isolated from the concerns of the people. Britain is an interesting example, where a parliament acted to provide some measure of communication between the people (the rich ones anyway) and the monarchy.  

    As for modern China, they have slowly been able to implement the rule of law. Though democratic accountability is the stronger system, the rule of law still provides a viable mechanism for economic expansion, and a mechanism for continued political reform. 


  11. Mike Devx says

    Zach 258: Central planning is essential in any advanced economy, just as are robust markets.

    That appears to be a flawed logical construct.  It’s similar to: “Socialism is an essential aspect of any modern economy, just as is money in everyone’s pockets.”

    Or, “Love is essential to a happy life, as are well-starched handkerchiefs.”

    The two parts *appear* to relate to each other because they’re joined in the same sentence; yet they have absolutely NOTHING in common.  The existence of robust markets has  NOTHING in common with the existence o centralized planning as a part of your economy.  They do not belong to the same category of idea at all.  You *can* claim that more centralized planning LEADS to robust economies, or to less robust economies.  But the “just as are” construct, implying equivalency of worth and nature – belonging to the same category of idea – is ridiculous.

    But it’s slickly done, I’ll grant you that.  Have you been sitting with Obama lately?  This is the kind of pure snake oil BS he slides right into people’s brains, harming them, all the time.  Every word he says is as wrong as this – in his case, deliberate and highly malicious –  yet it slides into the cortex so very smoothly – it sounds SO right while being so wrong – and nests deep in there, like a novocaine worm exuding the slime of its poisons.

  12. says

    It’s like saying food is essential for the health of a human being, but does that mean you should eat 4,000 calories a day while doing nothing but sit at the office and on the couch at home?

    The meaningless ambiguity of Z’s claims belie the critical importance of detail and application. Ideas are worthless when the people who quote others cannot do anything to make their idea into reality.

    Obama does a hypnotic suggestion like saying “things are horrible and we need change”. Technically, that is true, but in application and detail, it isn’t the change Obama will bring. The assumption on the part of people who heard that was that Obama was going to change things for the better. In reality, it was different. Obama made no claim that he was going to make people happier, only that his wife and himself would make the people work harder. While his wife and himself lived a life of luxury and ease.

    But since the assumption went into people’s head as an a priori, they never questioned it. They never questioned the truth content behind “things are horrible and we need change” or “we are the ones we have been waiting for”.

  13. Charles Martel says

    Speaking as a Morlock, my problem with the Eloi is that there isn’t enough meat on their bones. We often sit around at night in our subterranean homes after a delectable serving of Eloi Saltimbocca listening to our wise ones tell us about the past. One of them says that in the long ago, before Morlocks and Eloi became separate species, parasites called the “Grins” or “Greens” persuaded vast numbers of people that fat, beer, salt and meat were not good for them.

    Those fools became the Eloi.

    Those people who continued to grill, guzzle and grow their girth became Morlocks. As the Eloi took control of the food supply, and eliminated the traditonal sources of Morlock nutrition, we Morlocks had no choice but to turn to the Eloi as our main source of protein.

  14. says

    Charles Martel: That appears to be a flawed logical construct.  It’s similar to … “Love is essential to a happy life, as are well-starched handkerchiefs.”

    You need to work on your logic. There’s no logical flaw in stating that love and well-starched handkerchiefs are essential to a happy life. You may disagree, due to whatever inurbane notions you may have, but it’s not logically flawed. 
     

     

  15. Danny Lemieux says

    “The two parts *appear* to relate to each other because they’re joined in the same sentence; yet they have absolutely NOTHING in common.”

    Interesting description, MikeD. What you describe is very much like the “salad talk” symptoms of schizophrenia. Could explain a lot.

  16. Charles Martel says

    Chuck Martel thinks the Zach Collective has too much of that glorious old refrain, “Charles on My Mind” on its minds.

    Martel thinks that the Zach Blob might want to direct its comments at Mike Devx since he is the one the Kibbutz is contending illogic against.

  17. says

    Mike Devx: That appears to be a flawed logical construct.  It’s similar to … “Love is essential to a happy life, as are well-starched handkerchiefs.”

    That comment should have been attributed to Mike Devx.
     

  18. abc says

    Bookworm,

    You are correct that Europe has higher population density and closer proximity between many cities, but that is not true everywhere in Europe (e.g., Spain, France).  More importantly, no one is recommending trains for those parts of the country (i.e., here in the US) that are sparsely populated.  Rather, trains should be used in places where the density and city-proximity is closer to Europe.  You find this on the West Coast from SF south, and on the East Coast from D.C. north.  China, like the US, is a large country, with cities that are farther apart, but the use of train links between major hubs (e.g., Beijing to Shenyang or Beijing to Shanghai are very popular) and those linking closer cities (e.g., Beijing to Tianjin) are convenient as well.  These links are analogous to NY-Chicago and NY-Boston linkages.  The sizes of those cities are larger than Europe’s equivalents, even though they are somewhat smaller that China’s.  So your argument is correct, but only for areas where no such high speed trains are proposed.

  19. says

    abc, have you traveled from SF south (or north, for that matter)?  The song that springs to mind is “I’ve got plenty of nothing, and nothing’s plenty for me.”  Even in slightly more densely populated corridors, such as the Bay Area to Sacramento corridor, the train is usually empty and always running at a deficit.  The car is faster, cheaper, easier, and more flexible.  Why take a train?

  20. says

    I think both A and Z here would say that Chicago and Detroit aren’t corrupt. That if only more centralized authority came to be on the scene, that Detroit would grow out of being a feudal serfdom and Chicago would become efficient.

    Does that sound about right, given how people like Danny have seen  first hand Chicago’s glaringly obvious decadent fat cats and union corruptocrats?

  21. says

    Btw, given how they like to force people to buy healthcare insurance and to force people to pay for other people’s abortions, I predict that soon they will force you to sell your car and take the train. Or else you’ll be “penalized” for 10% of your earnings. That gives people the “freedom to keep their car if they like it”, you see. Just like they were free to keep their doctor and healthcare package if they are satisfied.

  22. Charles Martel says

    I’d say that the Boswash corridor makes great sense for high-speed rail because of the European-like population densities involved. Not as sure about NY-Chicago, since that is a 700+-mile distance, equivalent to going from Vienna to Rome. Plausible, but still questionable in light of a 90-minute air flight.

    As for the West Coast, Book is right to point out the great empty spaces that lie between California’s northern and southern metro areas. While a 3-hour portal-to-portal trip between the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco (yet to be built) and Union Station in Los Angeles might be attractive to some, there are significant drawbacks to the dream:

    —Acquiring right-of-way between Union Station and points south, such as Santa Ana and San Diego, that can accommodate high-speed trains would be very expensive.

    —Would the builders add spur lines that go out to other SoCal population hubs, such as Riverside-San Bernardino, or Long Beach, or rely on LA’s slowly expanding and underused Metro Rail system for connections?

    —Who would pay to condemn the land near Union Station to accommodate rental car companies, since rail passengers would need autos if they want to access the 90 percent of the L.A. metro area that isn’t served by fast public transportation?

    —Would hotels outside of downtown Los Angeles want to run expensive shuttles to Union Station? If somebody takes the train to downtown L.A. but is staying in Westwood, what would be the design of the connection that would entice him to board the train in the first place?

    The problem with the L.A. connection is that the while city is very dense on a population-per-square-mile basis, it is also very spread out and has nothing like the one great central core area you’ll find in New York, Boston, Philly, Baltimore, or Chicago. Union Station is one travel destination among a plethora. Air travelers, on the other hand, can get much closer to their SoCal destinations by choosing to land at LAX, Burbank, Ontario, Long Beach, John Wayne, or Lindbergh, not to mention the smaller airports in places like Van Nuys, west Los Angeles, and the Inland Empire. Each of those locations has car rental places and a far larger, more affordable assortment of hotels than downtown Los Angeles.

    Basically, the high-speed system that Californians have obligated themselves to piss away $30 billion on will be a magnificent “Me, too!” tribute to the empty European trains alluded to by another poster here. It will never, ever recoup the cost of building it, and it will become one more bright, shiny nail in the coffin of the state’s economy.

  23. BrianE says

    Some time ago abc asked me who should regulate the markets. Each time we pass new regulations for the previous scandal or crisis, there is a new one never anticipated before. We could reduce leverage of the largest banks, separate investment from commercial banking– but I don’t think either of those options were in the newly passed financial regulation bill.
     
    Let me ask you a question. Given your assessment that neither democrat nor republican controlled congresses and the last four administrations, both democrat and republican have failed to address adequate regulation of new financial products, why do you think it’s going to be any different the next time?
     
    Do you really think wise old rich guys or anti-capitalist zealots will do a better job?
     
     
    When BISTRO was introduced to the market in the late 90′s, the holy grail of credit risk had been discovered, risk was tamed. But wasn’t some of what happened already illegal, and shouldn’t we be seeing perp walks with the regulations that already existed.
     
    I find it hard to believe I’m in the camp with Robert Rubin, Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan. I’ve never considered them free market capitalists– more managed-market, big-government capitalists, since it appears to me the FED has been managing the economy for some time now.
     
    You’ve made a couple of remarks about Cox and his tenure at the SEC. The SEC budget wasn’t cut during the Bush years and number of employees rose during that time period.
     
    Cox voted against the Credit Futures Modernization Act when he was a Congressman in 2000, so I’m not sure how you can claim he was against regulating OTC derivatives, since that bill exempted derivitives
     
    You could just as easily criticize Barney Frank for opposing Republican attempts to reign in the GSE’s in 2004, since there was an implicit understanding that the Federal Government would bail them out.
     
    In 2006 Congress passed reform of the rating agencies, based on studies done by the SEC, but it was too late to save the system.
     
    As I’ve said before, it wasn’t too little regulation, but bad policy and a confluence of policies that each by themself wouldn’t have produced the disaster we experienced. At the time CDO’s represented a small portion of the market.  Weren’t  CDO’s necessary to meet  the growing subprime and Alt-A market,  necessary because of social policy?
     
    One place we might agree is requiring skin in the game for the CDS market.
     
    Liberals keep saying that the free market failed, but we’ve been managing the economy for a long time- and the distortions of fiscal and monetary policy management are compounding our problems, IMO.
     
    abc said:
    Also, what role did 30 years of spending more than we earn, as measured by consumption growth outstripping GDP growth since 1980, play in causing future sales and growth to be pulled forward using debt?  Isn’t the current slowdown a function of us reverting back to a normal relationship of consumption to production, which, in the current short-term, likely involves consumption being outstripped by production growth?  Why do you link this to the contribution of regulations when the major changes in regulation do not correspond to the slowdown in growth?

    Fiscal and monetary distortions. We’ve used debt to mask the drain our trade deficit has had on national wealth. I’m not sure the correlation you’re trying to make between consumption and production growth, since production growth has come with a paralleled increase in income. I suppose if you consider that consumption has come from debt, we have a double whammy of national and personal debt being at the tipping point.

    The incessant growth of regulation has been a drag on growth, since some or much of it has come at the expense of productivity growth. If I find a way to demonstrate the correlation I’ll be back to show it. At this point it’s part anecdotal, and part common sense.
     

Leave a Reply