IF THERE is a consensus right now in American politics, it must be that infrastructure spending is a good thing. It employs workers, improves economic efficiency and, at the moment, can be financed at rock-bottom bond yields. So why don’t governments get on with it?
The problem is multi-faceted. Although people tend to be enthusiastic about infrastructure in general, they are more critical of specific projects. If they are in the country, then they ruin the currency; if they are in the town, then they ruin neighbourhoods or impinge on private-property rights. When it comes to public infrastructure projects, the benefits are long term but the costs are short term. The politician that authorises the project is rarely the same one that opens it. So an elected leader gets all the flak from those who oppose this white elephant/blot on the landscape but none of the praise for the reduced traffic jams or cheaper power that ensue. Occasionally a leader might be tempted into authorising a big scheme (like Britain’s high-speed rail) but, as the