Via Instapundit, Walter Russell Mead looks at a New York bridge project, and… and I don’t really need to give you the background, do I? It’s a bridge, it should have been built by now, and it’s not being built for precisely the reasons that you’ve already guessed:
Many environmentalists oppose the plan due to the environmental damage from the massive dredging operation that is necessary to build a new bridge. Other environmentalists support the bridge, but claim that a wider bridge without room for public transit would increase sprawl and lead to a higher carbon output. Local politicians and planning associations, meanwhile, have added their own lists of concerns to the pile.
These kinds of complaints are unfortunately all too typical of construction projects today. There are so many controversies, so many lawsuits, and so many competing interests that negotiations take an enormous amount of time and money. The time between planning a project and actually carrying it out stretches into decades. To those who bemoan the lack of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects in America: this is why.
This is the problem with growing the public sector: the public sector isn’t really what you’d call dynamic. We don’t want them doing things; in fact, we’ve subtly encouraged them for decades to not do much of anything at all. Works well enough when we’re rich; not so much when we’re worried about money. Seriously, if you’re a sincere Keynesian then your own fiscal ideology should tell you that it’s in your best long-term interests to shrink the size of the federal government; because Walter’s right. There’s no point in trying to use the government to try to stimulate the economy if you can’t even get the government to bring off the stimulus project in the first place.
But never mind me.