When the Roman Empire was still young and vigorous, work crews and engineers followed the legions. Wherever the armies conquered, roads, bridges and water systems were built. Some of them were so well constructed that they are still in standing.
But then, we are a ‘deathward going tribe’ – as Aristotle put it – no matter what flag we fly. Pretty soon, the Romans reached their limit…then, roads fell into disrepair…and armies could no longer manoeuvre quite as well as they used to. As the infrastructure goes, so goes the empire. Finally, the empire fell…and vines grew over the Capitoline Hill.
How’s the infrastructure in the United States? A reporter from the Financial Times gives us an update:
“On the pot-holed highway to hell,” to he calls it.
“If anyone doubts the problems of US infrastructure, I suggest he or she take a flight to John F. Kennedy airport (braving the landing delay), ride a taxi on the pot-holed and congested Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and try to make a mobile phone call en route.
“That should settle it, particularly for those who have experienced smooth flights, train rides and road travel, and speedy communications networks in, say, Beijing, Paris or Abu Dhabi recently. The gulf in public and private infrastructure is, to put it mildly, alarming for US competitiveness.
“You might have expected that investing in US infrastructure would be a hot political topic this year. Well, no. Hillary Clinton spent the final week of her Indiana campaign standing on the back of a pick-up truck arguing for a temporary suspension of the “gas tax”, the fuel duty that pays for highways.
“You read correctly. Faced with the emptying of the Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956 as the US entered a period of growth and prosperity, Mrs Clinton suggested cutting its source of funds (which she claimed could be made up by a tax on oil companies). It was more important to give Americans a summer break from $4-per-gallon petrol.
“The US invested 10 per cent of its federal non-military budget in infrastructure in the 1950s and 1960s as it built the interstate highway system – at the time, the envy of the world. While US investment has fallen to less than 1 per cent of gross domestic product, China has been matching its double-digit postwar record.”
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