Tuesday, October 07, 2008


So today was go-to-the-Morgantown-DMV Day for me, as my car needed re-registering and I also needed a new West Virginia driver's license. I know Justin's had his fair share of fun with the Department of Motor Vehicles in a number of states; my trip was pretty pain-free. Nonetheless, if you're a political economist and forced to wait in the DMV, your mind gets to wandering...

- There exists a computer system that links all 50 states' DMVs, presumably to help serve people like myself. And you'll never guess what-- it took 15 minutes to send my request through this system! Usually government operated services are the mark of speed and efficiency. Guess I hit them at an inopportune time; namely, operating hours.

- There were 9 windows, each with an attendant, working to serve a total of 10 customers that came through the doors during my 20-25 minute visit. Cut back labor during down periods? Why? It's not like they see the hit to the bottom line.

- On Seinfeld, there is an episode where Kramer notes that any time you meet a proctologist, park yourself and listen to his stories. I'm going to go ahead and say the same thing about the people that administer driving tests. I bet they're loaded with great stories.

- Since I had to register my car, I got to thinking about all of the slices that the state government takes out of me as a result of having a car. Register the car for one year: $31. Get a new driver's license: $15.50. Personal property tax on the car: ~$150. Gas taxes: 32.2 cents per gallon. Then I got to wondering-- which state has the highest footprint on its citizens in terms of driving? Oftentimes, we think of gas taxes for individual's public cost of driving, but there are other nontrivial costs as well. In California, for example, the registration cost for a car is very high, but there is no personal property tax to be paid. Are all states more or less the same if we consider all of the public costs together? If there's variation, can we explain it? I wonder what the tax elasticity of driving is.

- I was a bit sad to part with my California license-- through mail-in renewals, I'd successfully retained my original driver's licence picture, taken on the day of my 16th birthday, for almost 13 years. I'd have liked to have made it to 16 years of using that picture-- that would have had a nice symmetry to it. It featured beautiful hat hair and also was a convenient reminder of what my face looked like prior to breaking the right half of it playing basketball during my freshman year in college.


Justin M Ross said...

I too was at the DMV yesterday, again. Since I am coordinating efforts with multiple DMV's around the country, it took 90+ days for me to get them on the same page. This means the results of my written exam expired and I had to take it again.

Still no Indiana license though, they need to make some calls because permission from one of the states is 32 days old.

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