The Objective Eye

"Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation's troubles and use as a justification of its own demand for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen."
- Ayn Rand, "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business" (1961)

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Minneapolis: "Maintenance? Hey, we got a heck of a train instead, ya know."

Now Playing: "Tonga" by RonMon, from the Mutatis Mutandis disc. Very smooooth.

A couple hours ago the I-35 bridge across the Mississippi in south Minneapolis (which I remember crossing on the way to the '81 Rush concert mentioned in the previous, coincidentally,) abruptly broke apart and fell into the river during the thick of the Twin Cities rush hour. Three confirmed deaths so far, lots and lots of property damage, and a huge traffic mess likely for years to come.

Minneapolis, not coincidentally, is one of the American cities to have contracted a bizarre but rare disease that's been jokingly labeled "Smart Growth." Its symptoms include an obsessive devotion to unbelievably expensive and very large toy train sets, and a pathological neglect of roadway infrastructure to finance them.

As economist George Reisman said in a debate several years ago, government has no business financing transit to begin with, but having long since arrogated to itself that responsibility anyway, it has created with the people a de facto contract guaranteeing competent management and maintenance, until such time as roadways and bridges can be returned to private ownership and operation. For the present, people have the right to expect that every effort will be made by that government custodian to ensure a reasonable level of safety in that infrastructure.

Minneapolis began building its 12-mile train set in 2001 with a projected cost of $400M; the total bill is still climbing but currently is at just over $715M, $424M of which came from the Federal Government, which means from your pocket and mine.

No estimates on the cost of maintaining the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River.

But the trains are shiny, reportedly neato, and just impressive as hell to visiting dignitaries and anti-automobile activists.

Some related reading:

- "A Desire Named Streetcar" by the go-to guy on the "smart growth" affliction - and fellow victim of the Portland Light Rail boondoggle - Randal O'Toole;

- "Railroaded," a critical review of the Minneapolis light rail project, written by Britt Robson on the eve of the project's commencement;

- "I Don't Get Light Rail" at the ever-pithy Coyote Blog;

- "Smart Growth is Neither" page at the Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers site.


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