Atlas Shirks

 

Just a couple of quick thoughts about our nation’s infrastructure, and about what it takes to keep it healthy and robust.

It’s easy for Americans to believe that the human condition is one of relative security, comfort, and ease. That’s been the story of America during my lifetime, after all: since World War II we have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and security. I grew up taking those things for granted, as did my own children.

But an enormous amount of real work goes into keeping the lights on, the internet running, the shelves stocked in our stores, medical care readily available. These things require competent management, competent logistics, competent tradecraft — they require that people capable of being serious about their work devote themselves to their care and upkeep. Because it isn’t really true that the normal human condition is one of security and comfort. Rather, we exist in constant tension with a world that seeks with relentless and single-minded purpose to minimize the concentrations of energy and order that make life even possible, much less pleasant.

Our bridges will be no better than the men and women who design and build them. Nature will reclaim our communication infrastructure one router, one fiber repeater, one edge server at a time, until even the resilience built into its underlying protocols can’t keep the internet working. The complex emergent network of container ships and long-haul trucking and local delivery will become sclerotic and eventually seize up entirely if the people who manage its diverse facets fall down on the job.

It seems almost unfathomable that the nation of industry, the country that more than any other built the modern world, could fail for want of nothing more complicated than a competent workforce.

But then it seems almost unfathomable that the nation built on the idea of individual liberty and free expression should be increasingly ruled by fearful snowflakes triggered by pronouns; that it should be educated by once-great institutions increasingly committed to silencing ideas they deem too dangerous or triggering to tolerate; that millions of good-paying jobs should go unfilled because workers either cower at home or coast on the largess of a debt-ridden government that sees its own expansion as the greatest public good.

It seems unfathomable that science is batted around like a ping pong ball, forced to prostitute itself for whichever causes — masks or vaccinations or windmills or carbon taxes or nationwide lockdowns, mandatory this and mandatory that — that an uncritical public and increasingly corrupt and hypocritical elite deem worth pursuing.


Higher education is now, I firmly believe, a net negative for America. I think it’s also a net negative for most of the students who take part in it. We are turning out too many young people who, because they have been taught to run from conflicting ideas and to express hurt when challenged, will be mediocre adults incapable of dealing with a real world that doesn’t care about their feelings. I once believed that that “real world” would put paid to their silly sensitivities and make them behave like adults; increasingly, the opposite seems to be the case, as corporations and institutions trip over themselves to demonstrate how quickly they can acquiesce to an army of matriculated crybabies and its social media cronies.

We can coast only so far on the work of real men and women, people who met the world head-on and took it seriously. I don’t know how many of that generation took early retirement during the past two years, to what extent the ranks of competent workers were gutted by a cowardly nation’s tragically misguided response to a wildly over-hyped virus. I think we will discover soon enough, when things that always worked stop working, when services that should never fail become suddenly unavailable.


Every able-bodied man in America who is sitting at home should get off his can and go to work. And every college student not pursuing a STEM subject should seriously consider walking away from the toxic playpen of American higher education and finding a bit of what’s left of the real world in which to serve and thus live a fulfilling and productive life.

And, yes, get off my lawn… unless you’re here to mow it.

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  1. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Well said, Henry!

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    We need an official “Rant of the Week” . . .

    • #2
  3. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Stad (View Comment):

    We need an official “Rant of the Week” . . .

    I certainly don’t know what you’re talking about. 

    • #3
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Except for Hillsdale. 

    • #4
  5. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    The idea of writing a bill for ‘infrastructure’ is bizarre. You write a bill for new stuff. Maintenance should already be in the budget. 

    Who are these people and why are they sitting in our government buildings? 

    • #5
  6. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Yup. I’m investing in electricity hobby stuff for the oldest this Christmas. There’s a college track and an apprentice track, it involves good math and science (his favorite subjects). It makes him versatile for whatever the future holds.

    • #6
  7. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Stina (View Comment):

    Yup. I’m investing in electricity hobby stuff for the oldest this Christmas. There’s a college track and an apprentice track, it involves good math and science (his favorite subjects). It makes him versatile for whatever the future holds.

    I think that’s wise. If you can find a skilled trade the young man would enjoy and kindle or fuel his interest in it, you’ll give him something of real value. (And if he ever shows an interest in software and robotics, let me know. That’s something I actually do know something about. ;) )

    • #7
  8. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Yup. I’m investing in electricity hobby stuff for the oldest this Christmas. There’s a college track and an apprentice track, it involves good math and science (his favorite subjects). It makes him versatile for whatever the future holds.

    I think that’s wise. If you can find a skilled trade the young man would enjoy and kindle or fuel his interest in it, you’ll give him something of real value. (And if he ever shows an interest in software and robotics, let me know. That’s something I actually do know something about. ;) )

    Oh he’s there already. He’s in a robotics club and took robotics last year. He does programming stuff for fun.

    • #8
  9. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Well done, Henry. I would have written this if I had been a writer as skilled as you are.

    • #9
  10. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Stina (View Comment):

    Yup. I’m investing in electricity hobby stuff for the oldest this Christmas. There’s a college track and an apprentice track, it involves good math and science (his favorite subjects). It makes him versatile for whatever the future holds.

    I read a number of nature and hunting and dog training books written by an outdoorsman in Pennsylvania. In one of them he explained how he managed his career: he liked writing, but trained to be an electrician. His job as an electrician peaked in the spring and summer (building season) and dropped off in the winter. So he did most of the electrical work in season, and wrote stuff in the off season. The electrician work paid for his time off to do the writing.

    I think I would probably like to read anything written by an author smart enough to manage a career like that.

    • #10
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Yup. I’m investing in electricity hobby stuff for the oldest this Christmas. There’s a college track and an apprentice track, it involves good math and science (his favorite subjects). It makes him versatile for whatever the future holds.

    I think that’s wise. If you can find a skilled trade the young man would enjoy and kindle or fuel his interest in it, you’ll give him something of real value. (And if he ever shows an interest in software and robotics, let me know. That’s something I actually do know something about. ;) )

    See Mike Rowe’s Mike Rowe Works.

    • #11
  12. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Henry Racette: Atlas Shirks

    My avatar approves of this message.

    • #12
  13. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    These guys aren’t going to allow  party  change in the next two elections even though  republican run states can hold on by relatively honest elections.  So then the question is what can we do about government domination?     Once you go up the top down approach, it doesn’t change without violence.  We have all of human history to encourage us to fight it peacefully before it’s too late.  We were unique and part of us could return to what worked for us and thereby created the modern world.  We can believe the entire US could sort it  out and correct matters  but would we have done so had we remained as part of the Brits along with the rest of the English speaking world?  If so, only because relative independence was built in given the technology of the day, the distance and uniqueness of the colonies.  Now top down is real but still can’t provide prosperity for the majority.  Given new economies of scale it will continuously narrow and destroy freedom, creativity, innovation and prosperity.  The people we call left believe humans can rise to the occasion, run matters effectively using modern technology to benefit the majority.  Their view of human perfectibility remains  but the founders  built a bottom up place and transformed the world because there was no evidence that man was perfectible or that leaders could or would run matters in the majority’s interests.

    • #13
  14. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    TBA (View Comment):
    You write a bill for new stuff. Maintenance should already be in the budget. 

    Every project has an annual operating expense included in the numbers, and that does include maintenance and training.  However, when the budget gets tight (e.g. lawmakers cutting operating costs), the first things that get hit are maintenance and training.

    I think most governments don’t realize if you build enough new stuff, the cost of operating everything will exceed the budget.  I’ve sent a couple of letters to our local paper about how we need to stop focusing on growth so much and maintain a higher quality of what we already have.  Crickets so far . . .

    • #14
  15. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Henry Racette: It seems unfathomable that science is batted around like a ping pong ball, forced to prostitute itself for whichever causes — masks or vaccinations or windmills or carbon taxes or nationwide lockdowns, mandatory this and mandatory that — that an uncritical public and increasingly corrupt and hypocritical elite deem worth pursuing.

    This has always been the case, you  know. The classic image of the brave scientist who seeks truth regardless of the political situation is a rare – and usually demonized – exception, not the rule. 

    As far back as you want to go, you’ll find that culture and politics is far more effective at corrupting “science” than science is at influencing culture and politics for the better.

    • #15
  16. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    TBA (View Comment):

    The idea of writing a bill for ‘infrastructure’ is bizarre. You write a bill for new stuff. Maintenance should already be in the budget.

    Who are these people and why are they sitting in our government buildings?

    Incentives are out of whack.

    Comically oversized scissors, gold painted shovels, Senator Cornpone on TV congratulating himself on the latest Dogpatch wastewater treatment plant:  infrastructure.

    Filling potholes: Willie, Joe and a dump truck inconveniencing Ms. Taxpayer at rush hour.

     

     

    • #16
  17. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Absolutely wonderful title.

    • #17
  18. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    You touched on something Henry. It goes beyond the infrastructure bill, beyond any single issue actually. There is something amiss in our American society today. It’s been exacerbated by Covid but it was there before Covid, there before even Trump. I can’t pin it down but it just feels like it started under Obama.  We always had right/left disputes but now we’re almost two different cultures, two different countries. This is my beloved country, but it no longer feels like I should love it. There is something rotten in the country and it has permeated almost everything. 

    • #18
  19. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Manny (View Comment):

    You touched on something Henry. It goes beyond the infrastructure bill, beyond any single issue actually. There is something amiss in our American society today. It’s been exacerbated by Covid but it was there before Covid, there before even Trump. I can’t pin it down but it just feels like it started under Obama. We always had right/left disputes but now we’re almost two different cultures, two different countries. This is my beloved country, but it no longer feels like I should love it. There is something rotten in the country and it has permeated almost everything.

    Manny, I agree. I have a pet theory of my own about the real problem.

    Men have stopped being men.

     

    • #19
  20. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    You touched on something Henry. It goes beyond the infrastructure bill, beyond any single issue actually. There is something amiss in our American society today. It’s been exacerbated by Covid but it was there before Covid, there before even Trump. I can’t pin it down but it just feels like it started under Obama. We always had right/left disputes but now we’re almost two different cultures, two different countries. This is my beloved country, but it no longer feels like I should love it. There is something rotten in the country and it has permeated almost everything.

    Manny, I agree. I have a pet theory of my own about the real problem.

    Men have stopped being men.

     

    Men without chests.  That one is from C.S. Lewis.  See also, Harvey Mansfield: Manliness.

    • #20
  21. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    The idea of writing a bill for ‘infrastructure’ is bizarre. You write a bill for new stuff. Maintenance should already be in the budget.

    Who are these people and why are they sitting in our government buildings?

    Incentives are out of whack.

    Comically oversized scissors, gold painted shovels, Senator Cornpone on TV congratulating himself on the latest Dogpatch wastewater treatment plant: infrastructure.

    Filling potholes: Willie, Joe and a dump truck inconveniencing Ms. Taxpayer at rush hour.

    Yes, exactly this.  I had an enlightening conversation with Matron of a hospital in Jamaica something like 30 years ago when I was there on a medical team.  She said it was easy to get hospitals built, because politicians put their names on them and come out to unveil them.  But there was no glamour in keeping the hospital running and the equipment functional.  They were happy to take donated supplies from the US: IV fluids and drugs near or past expiration dates; single-use items we throw away that they could clean, sterilize and reuse; non-sterile gloves they would wash and hang to dry for reuse.  It made me look at “infrastructure” with different eyes.  Her observation was spot on, as is yours, Steve C.  Yes, indeed, incentives are very much out of whack.

     

     

    • #21
  22. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Caryn (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    You touched on something Henry. It goes beyond the infrastructure bill, beyond any single issue actually. There is something amiss in our American society today. It’s been exacerbated by Covid but it was there before Covid, there before even Trump. I can’t pin it down but it just feels like it started under Obama. We always had right/left disputes but now we’re almost two different cultures, two different countries. This is my beloved country, but it no longer feels like I should love it. There is something rotten in the country and it has permeated almost everything.

    Manny, I agree. I have a pet theory of my own about the real problem.

    Men have stopped being men.

    Men without chests. That one is from C.S. Lewis. See also, Harvey Mansfield: Manliness.

    Yes it is, Caryn. And my favorite portion of The Abolition of Man is this from the end of that essay:

    And all the time — such is the tragi-comedy of our situation — we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

    We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

    • #22
  23. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Manny (View Comment):

    You touched on something Henry. It goes beyond the infrastructure bill, beyond any single issue actually. There is something amiss in our American society today. It’s been exacerbated by Covid but it was there before Covid, there before even Trump. I can’t pin it down but it just feels like it started under Obama. We always had right/left disputes but now we’re almost two different cultures, two different countries. This is my beloved country, but it no longer feels like I should love it. There is something rotten in the country and it has permeated almost everything.

    Epic comment.  Nicely stated. 

    • #23
  24. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    BDB (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    You touched on something Henry. It goes beyond the infrastructure bill, beyond any single issue actually. There is something amiss in our American society today. It’s been exacerbated by Covid but it was there before Covid, there before even Trump. I can’t pin it down but it just feels like it started under Obama. We always had right/left disputes but now we’re almost two different cultures, two different countries. This is my beloved country, but it no longer feels like I should love it. There is something rotten in the country and it has permeated almost everything.

    Epic comment. Nicely stated.

    This article, by Dov Fisher in The American Spectator, may touch on some of what you’re looking for, Manny.  He agrees that it started under Obama.

    • #24
  25. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    You touched on something Henry. It goes beyond the infrastructure bill, beyond any single issue actually. There is something amiss in our American society today. It’s been exacerbated by Covid but it was there before Covid, there before even Trump. I can’t pin it down but it just feels like it started under Obama. We always had right/left disputes but now we’re almost two different cultures, two different countries. This is my beloved country, but it no longer feels like I should love it. There is something rotten in the country and it has permeated almost everything.

    Manny, I agree. I have a pet theory of my own about the real problem.

    Men have stopped being men.

    I’m sorry I didn’t come back until now.  I was busy but it gave me time to think.  Yes, I agree that men not being me is part of it.  I think it’s part of a soup of a couple of generations now of people not wanting to grow up, people marrying later and later, and having less and less children, if any at all.  It really comes down to the breakdown of the family.  I think the kicker for me was when the country went along with gay marriage.  That was under Obama.  For the country to just accept that cognitive disconnect as if it’s normal just shows how we live in a world that no longer makes sense.  We live in a fiction.  Nothing has to be real, not the news, not what politicians say, not history, not education.  Nothing.  We make everything up to fit an agenda.  People with families are grounded in a way that single people are not.

    And of course the internet and social media has exacerbated the problem.

    • #25
  26. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Caryn (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    You touched on something Henry. It goes beyond the infrastructure bill, beyond any single issue actually. There is something amiss in our American society today. It’s been exacerbated by Covid but it was there before Covid, there before even Trump. I can’t pin it down but it just feels like it started under Obama. We always had right/left disputes but now we’re almost two different cultures, two different countries. This is my beloved country, but it no longer feels like I should love it. There is something rotten in the country and it has permeated almost everything.

    Epic comment. Nicely stated.

    This article, by Dov Fisher in The American Spectator, may touch on some of what you’re looking for, Manny. He agrees that it started under Obama.

    That was funny.  Dov is a good writer.  The American Spectator has become my favorite of the conservative mags.  

    • #26