Finding Common Ground in California

In California, environmental regulations have brought infrastructure investment to a standstill. Without expanding energy, water, and transportation infrastructure, it is nearly impossible to build housing, the cost-of-living is punitive, water is rationed and food is overpriced, the overall quality of life is reduced, and money that ought to be paying skilled workers to operate heavy construction equipment instead goes into the pockets of environmentalist lobbyists, bureaucrats, litigators, and activist nonprofits.

Californians nonetheless agree that infrastructure, as it is traditionally defined, needs new investment. Freeways, bridges, railroads, dams, aqueducts, seaports, airports, transmission lines, pipelines; all of this needs to be maintained and upgraded.

But despite agreement on the goal, more than ever, solutions are filtered through the lens of polarizing ideologies. What is today’s definition of infrastructure? Is it physical assets, or something more ephemeral? Do infrastructure priorities have to be established based on restoring race and gender equity, or by concerns about climate change? Should some infrastructure be deliberately allowed to deteriorate, to avoid “induced demand” and the unsustainable consumption that would result?

Debate over these questions has paralyzed California’s politicians. Navigating a pathway out of this paralyzing morass takes more than just compromise, it takes the courage to adhere to controversial premises. Chief among these is to reject the idea that legislated scarcity is the only option to combat climate change. In every critical area of infrastructure there are solutions that can enable a future of sustainable abundance.

For example, Californians can rebuild their energy infrastructure in a manner […] Read More

Unheralded Flavors of Socialism

The mantra of socialists, and the rallying cry that generates populist support for socialist movements, is the desire to make life better for ordinary citizens. The calls for a mandatory “living wage,” “universal health care,” housing and utilities as a “human right,” free education; the entire apparatus of the expanding welfare state are all manifestations of this goal.

To what extent the state provides services and entitlements to its citizens is an endless and necessary debate. It’s a debate that can’t be waged without also considering what citizenship itself ought to mean. What the state can afford for its own citizens is greater than what the state can afford if citizenship is secondary to mere residency. But lost in the question of what the state should offer, and who should be the rightful recipients, is a question that is too easily dismissed by partisans on both sides: when does state spending result in less authoritarian regulations and a lower cost-of-living?

If there were such a thing, and there is, then it might be possible to unite otherwise partisan factions behind certain projects that rely on state spending. This notion, anathema to libertarians and many conservatives, is in fact a way to fulfill libertarian and conservative goals. There is no better example than with respect to infrastructure.

In today’s political environment, of course, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of “infrastructure,” which has been corrupted beyond recognition. Infrastructure, properly defined, are the projects – primarily relating to delivering energy, water, […] Read More

Public Infrastructure is not a “Progressive” Abomination

President Biden spent a surprising amount of time during his belated first press conference talking about infrastructure. Many of the points Biden made echoed remarks Trump has also made. Paraphrasing from the transcript, about 53 minutes into his press conference, Biden said:

“We are now ranked 85th in the world in infrastructure. The future rests on whether or not we have the best airports that are going to accommodate air travel. Ports that you can get in and out of quickly. What’s the first thing that business asked? What’s the closest access to an interstate highway? How far am I from a freight rail? Is there enough water available for me to conduct my business?”

Biden’s solutions won’t be ideal. If work is authorized by Congress, it will be padded with hundreds of billions going to the public bureaucracies and to the inevitable environmentalist litigants. The work itself will be done under project labor agreements that will also add hundreds of billions in costs. And additional hundreds of billions will be wasted on absurdities, such as “sequestration” projects to inject CO2 into underground caverns.

If Trump were able to manage federal investment in infrastructure in a 2nd term, he would have set more useful priorities. He would have prioritized airports, seaports, roads, rail, the power grid, and he would have fought the pet projects of environmentalists and their corporate allies. He would respect labor, but he’d be a tough negotiator, and he would have hammered on the construction contractors […] Read More

Libertarians and Public Infrastructure

Shane Hazel is the most famous libertarian in America. Now known as “The man who cost Republicans the U.S. Senate,” Hazel achieved his instant national fame, or infamy, depending on who you ask, by running as a Libertarian last November against David Perdue and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia’s U.S. Senate race. Hazel earned 2.3 percent of the vote, which threw into a runoff the race that Perdue had come within 0.3 percent of winning. Perdue lost the runoff, and the rest is history.

In defeat, Hazel scored a remarkable victory. He served notice to Republicans that if their congressional voting record is comparable to liberal democrats, and Perdue’s was, they’ll get knocked off by a third party candidate that promises to uphold the U.S. Constitution. That’s a tough lesson.

If your preference is to reform the Republican party from the inside, thus preserving its viability against an even more dangerous Democratic party, it’s hard to accept the decision by Libertarians to run candidates in close races. Hazel appeared to rub it in when Reason quoted him saying “Give me your tears. They are delicious.” In response, in several recent articles I referenced Hazel, in unflattering terms, as a prime example of how Libertarians are enabling Democrat victories.

These criticisms, directed at Libertarians in general, and Hazel in particular, earned me an invitation from Hazel to appear on his podcast. We spoke a few days later, on February 25. During an 81 minute […] Read More

The Enemies of American Infrastructure

Between 2008 and 2019, China opened up 33 high speed rail routes, connecting 39 major cities along four north-south and four east-west main lines. The 18,000 mile network runs trains at an average speed of around 200 miles per hour. By 2030, the Chinese expect to double the mileage of their high speed rail network by expanding to eight north-south and eight east-west main lines. In less than 20 years, the Chinese have completely transformed their rail transportation network.

This is typical for the Chinese. China is also building three new airports – offshore. Dalian, along the north coast opposite the Korean peninsula, Xiang’an, on the central coast facing Taiwan, and Sanya, off the coast of Hainan Island in the strategic South China Sea. All three airports are to be built to the highest international levels, with 12,000 foot runways able to accommodate the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner. All three are built on “reclaimed land,” i.e., the Chinese intend to bulldoze a few mountains into the ocean and flatten them into runways. And all three, from start to finish, will be built in under ten years.

China’s ability to construct big infrastructure, fast, is beyond debate. The Three Gorges Project, the largest dam in the world, created a deep water reservoir an astonishing 1,400 miles long. Its hydroelectric capacity of 22.5 gigawatts is the largest in the world. This massive construction project was done, from start to finish, in 12 years.

While […] Read More