Wednesday, December 10, 2014


This is Joseph

Larry Summers (via the Mad Biologist):
Walk from the US Airways shuttle at New York’s LaGuardia Airport to ground transportation. For months, there has been a sign saying “New escalator coming in Spring 2015.” The Charles River at a key point separating Boston and Cambridge is little more than 100 yards wide. Yet traffic has been diverted for over two years because of the repair of a major bridge and work is expected to continue into 2016.

The world is said to progress, but things that would once have seemed easy now seem hard. The Rhine is much wider than the Charles, yet Gen. George S. Patton needed just a day to create bridges that permitted squadrons of tanks to get across it. It will take almost half as long to fix that escalator in LaGuardia as it took to build the Empire State Building 85 years ago.
I think that this really does hit on something important.  Yes, in some cases things like safe labor practices matter and have a real cost.  But on the other side, it seems impossible to think that we have simply lost the ability to generate infrastructure.  At the very least, regulatory and financial incentives are failing to properly align. 

Whatever it is that is causing this malaise, I think it is crucial that we understand it -- no matter how much it may annoy entrenched interests.  By that I do not only include workers/unions, but also things as diverse as courts, regulatory structures, and the rest that make it hard for public infrastructure to be efficient, or which impede a properly competitive private sector. 

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