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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6988/roads-bridges-and-socialist-capital/

Roads, Bridges, and Socialist Capital

August 15, 2007 by

The horrific bridge collapse in Minnesota has brought its share of news and commentary, much of it predictable. For example, the New York Times, which is relentless in its insistence that society is improved only through the growth of state power, wrote what essentially is a front-page editorial calling for higher taxes in Minnesota. Thus, we see the theme of the story: another tight-fisted Republican gives in to the reality that only higher taxes will provide safe bridges and roads. In other words, it is only a matter of taxation and money spent that determines things like bridge safety. FULL ARTICLE

{ 15 comments }

Brad August 15, 2007 at 9:21 am

A part of me wishes for the day when the government successfully taxes away all labor and equity so it resides within their coffers and under their complete control; and when the Hurricans hit and the bridges fall, and the government prat falls, there will be no sector left to blame or assess. Pyrrhic victory to be sure but perhaps that is what it will take for people to finally wake up and see what is going on.

Niccolò August 15, 2007 at 9:44 am

Kruggsy…

]:>[>

David A. Spellman August 15, 2007 at 10:20 am

No matter how much funding the government has, they cannot effectively deal with maintenance. The general approach is build more roads and bridges to satisfy the demands of constituents. Things only get fixed or replaced when they break. That works passably well for potholes in roads, but obviously it has severe consequences for bridges. Democratic public works maintenance doesn’t work.

Gabriel August 15, 2007 at 10:29 am

A part of me wishes for the day when the government successfully taxes away all labor and equity so it resides within their coffers and under their complete control; and when the Hurricans hit and the bridges fall, and the government prat falls, there will be no sector left to blame or assess. Pyrrhic victory to be sure but perhaps that is what it will take for people to finally wake up and see what is going on.

That more or less happened under war communism in Russian from 1918 – 1921. However, contrary to your suggestion, that did not cause the revolutionaries to realize, “Gee whiz, I guess this communism stuff doesn’t actually work.” Instead they said, “Gosh darn it, I guess we didn’t do this communism stuff right. Maybe we rushed into it too quickly? Well, don’t worry, we’ll try again.” And they went on trying for most of the remaining century.

Even when the USSR actually dissolved, it wasn’t the result of a massive collapse of their system. The dissolution of the USSR came after years of perestroika which had been giving Soviet enterprises more freedom than they had had before.

So, personally, I’m not looking forward to a complete collapse of American society due to government intervention because I don’t think that will help us.

martin August 15, 2007 at 11:03 am

I liked it very much. It points out some very interesting issues about socialism and interventionism.
I have also read the other articles, Sowell and Edmonds’ ones about the lack of incentives of government.
But, I see a kind of incentive in government, namely, that if some tragedy happens, people would put the blame politicians in charge (I don’t mind what the solution they propose is, such as, increase public expenditure) and that would make a bit more difficult for those politicans to be re-elected in the next elections.
I think it’s obvious that, if many tragedies occur during some politician’s term, he’s likely not to be re-elected (or at least it will be more difficult)

Don’t you see this as a kind of incentive? Please, tell me what you think.

Vich August 15, 2007 at 12:43 pm

Martin: “I think it’s obvious that, if many tragedies occur during some politician’s term, he’s likely not to be re-elected (or at least it will be more difficult)

Don’t you see this as a kind of incentive? Please, tell me what you think.”

Well, Bush wasn’t exactly held accountable for 9/11 or the FEMA Katrina disaster, and FDR was not held accountable for Pearl Harbor. Not even the continuing Great Depression was enough to get FDR out of office. For the most part he had little difficulty ruling through what ended up as a lifetime appointment.

These two politicians are not alone in the fact that they benefited greatly from tragedies. Look at Rudy Giuliani, for instance. Tragedies are often a boon for politicians.

Also, if say, a politician may be aware of the fact that a certain policy could ultimately lead to tragedy, the policy may still benefit him greatly. In the case where the detrimental policy is politically expedient and the negative results are too far in the future to be pinned on the politician, what reason would the politician have to refrain from implementing the most disastrous of policies?

The election incentive is one that is weak at best.

N. Joseph Potts August 15, 2007 at 3:11 pm

No politician ever cut a ribbon over a repaired bridge, especially if it hadn’t fallen down first.

N. Joseph Potts August 15, 2007 at 3:11 pm

No politician ever cut a ribbon over a repaired bridge, especially if it hadn’t fallen down first.

Anthony August 15, 2007 at 6:44 pm

“Don’t you see this as a kind of incentive? Please, tell me what you think.”

No, this is not the same as the incentives operating on a market. For one thing, the higher ranking politicians are not the ones seen to blame for this – lower level administration is. It is true that politicians will tend to avoid disasters (what better way to milk the public dry?), but as Vich pointed out this is a short-range incentive. It stops no one from implementing catastrophic policies with long-range effects.

quincunx August 15, 2007 at 8:39 pm

What are you guys complaining about!

The number of structurally deficient bridges in the US has decreased from 138,000 to a mere 78,000. The government is doing a great job!

http://www.bts.gov/current_topics/2007_08_02_bridge_data/html/bridges_us.html

ruastatist2 August 16, 2007 at 8:32 am

While I agree with the arguement put forth regarding the value of maintaining capital goods I can’t fully agree with the conclusion that the private incentive would result in anything different in this case. I’ve seen too many automotive, chemical and oil facilities operated well beyond the safe life expectancy, just to get product out the door. The same mentality associated with government bureaucracy infects private organizations as the grow.

If I’m wrong, somebody please correct me.

ace August 17, 2007 at 7:40 am

ruastatist2: what is a “safe life expectancy”? Is it not believable that the people who work in these “unsafe” conditions do so for their own benefit? If not for the “unsafe” job, what else might these people be doing–would they have a longer life? easier life? higher or lower standard of living? what about their children? How different people evaluate and make these choices differs greatly, yet one factor remains the same…unless you believe people have a desire to make their lives shorter, harder, and less happy, these unsafe workers are likely to be working in such conditions because they would be worse off with-out the job.

As for your final and main point that private and government employees are affected with the same mentality, I’m not sure what you mean…that both operate according to personal motivations and incentives…if so, I agree

Robert August 17, 2007 at 9:28 am

This is the first time I’ve read one of Mr. Anderson’s articles. It’s well written, well supported, and points to the cornerstone of why our increasingly socialistic policies should be examined for the shoddy economics they’re built upon.

Bravo on the article.

Anthony August 17, 2007 at 6:00 pm

“The same mentality associated with government bureaucracy infects private organizations as the grow. ”

The point is (and unlike in abstract game-theoretic models), agents on the market are always faced with intense competition. Cutting corners diminishes both the country’s reputation and its profitability. This is no small matter – profits in competitive markets tend towards zero; profit losses can be a serious blow to a company that utilises unscrupulous measures. By contrast, bureaucrats face no such constraints.

Anthony August 17, 2007 at 6:01 pm

Haha it should read “company’s” not “country’s”.

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