Nice Things

Atrios made a really good point the other day, avec his typical pith:

And, yes, for whatever reasons, infrastructure projects, especially anything involving a tunnel or a bridge, are absurdly expensive compared to most countries. Other people can figure out just why that is and try to do something about it. But the choice is between increasing rail capacity into New York with an imperfect too expensive plan, or doing nothing at all anytime soon. We spend all kinds of money to do stupid destructive things that at best do nothing useful for us, so we should be willing to support spending all kinds of money on nice things when the opportunities present themselves.

I’d rather have a $10 billion pair of tunnels than spend $10 billion on equipment the military doesn’t even want. That probably isn’t a choice, either, but we do the latter all of the time. We shouldn’t get “sensible” when the former is an option.

This is the point, the rub, the crux and the nub all in one: spending money as the U.S. does on armaments and then rending garments about the costs of infrastructure projects, much less factoring in the externalities for things like car-driving and plane-riding, is our great contradiction as well as the most obvious quandary we are avoiding. This avoidance takes a lot of effort and, as he points out, resources that could be better-invested elsewhere.