Is Obama Planning $700 Billion Bridges To Nowhere?


A key part of Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan is expected to involve a huge government spending program on infrastructure. You know, stuff like new roads and bridges. His people say that it will create something like 2.5 million jobs. But where on earth are they going to build all these new roads and bridges?

In the abstract, everyone likes the idea of having better roads and bridges. But we like those things the same way we like increased access to housing for the poor and drug rehabilitation programs. That is, we like them to be far away from us. Writer Steve Sailer explains how the phenomenon of NIMBY is going to undermine Obama’s grand infrastructure plans:

In fact, Obama’s people don’t want anybody operating a noisy, smelly jackhammer anywhere near them. It’s not that they’re against infrastructure per se. Indeed, they would like infrastructure to have been built, but Obama People are going to oppose via lawsuits the actual building of infrastructure anywhere close to them, with its attendant racket, odours, and traffic jams. Not in my back yard!

Sailer’s exactly right on this. Many of Obama’s supporters can be counted on to be anti-sprawl, anti-pollution, anti-development, even anti-gentrification, especially if those things are taking place anywhere near where they happen to live. They’ll bog this down with lawsuits about the environment, economic impact, historical preservation and just about anything else you can think of.

But that might not be as big of a problem as it seems. You see, if this really is meant as an economic stimulus program, it probably doesn’t matter where Obama builds all those bridges and employs all those people to run jackhammers. If it’s just a jobs and spending program, we’d probably be better off if they were built in places where not many people live. 

sceptics will argue that it would be better to accomplish two goals at once: creating new jobs and building things we need. Unfortunately, this isn’t something the government is very good at doing. There used to be something called the free market for that kind of activity. It had tools like pricing and profit to tell it where we needed to build things and how many jobs to create. Government construction projects are constrained not by profit but by politics, which lacks a mechanism for discovering the actual demand for roads or bridges. Instead, special interests and bureaucracies control the process.

So the first thing Obama’s economic advisers should be doing is scouting out far off places where no one who matters will object to a nosiy and disruptive infrastructure project. Hmmmm. Maybe they should ask former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens to be an advisor.