Tag: rail

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America have a lively discussion of the Trump administration’s withdrawal of federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project. Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand says states would no longer be able to legislate on abortion if she gets elected. And Jim offers a radical counter-proposal after learning an adversity score was added to the SAT.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America react to California Gov. Gavin Newsom greatly scaling back high-speed rail in the state, proving once again that the concept is not the dream solution that liberals think it is.  They also slam New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez for being outraged that people entering the U.S. illegally and illegal immigrants caught driving drunk are treated like criminals.  And they have fun with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker declaring that meat consumption is destroying the planet and that he wants to make the existing model of the food system obsolete.

[Member Post]


With the recent derailment in the news, and with it looking increasingly like operator error, this is as good as time as any to discuss the peculiarities of the rail labor unions.  Regardless of whether self-driving cars are ever safe enough, self-driving trains operate under more predictable constraints and limitations, which should make the implementation […]

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Is Big Government Worth a Dam?


246-hoover-dam-bypass-4270In his monumental 1957 book Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power, the historian Karl Wittfogel proposed the theory of hydraulic empire. He surmised that despotic governments and large-scale irrigation works arose in tandem because only a strong, centralizing power could compel the mass labor required to build and maintain these works. The surpluses of food and wealth resulting from successful irrigation projects conferred legitimacy upon absolute rulers; the mobilization of labor could also be directed toward monumental architecture, increasing their prestige.

Political progressives often cite the Hoover Dam as an example of government defined as “the things we do together” — projects so large that the private sector is incapable of undertaking them. The dam is a key icon of the mythology of the New Deal. In Canada, the Canadian-Pacific Railway holds a similar place in our founding myth. I believe both of these projects were public-private partnerships, but like the irrigation works of antiquity, they are now used to increase the legitimacy and prestige of a centralized, activist government — albeit not a very authoritarian one.

But there are two weaknesses inherent to big government’s efforts to gain legitimacy by completing large-scale public works. The first is our greater recognition of the unintended consequences that can accompany projects with a large scope (especially dams). The second is that our governments are becoming less effective at completing these projects.