Advancing a Free Society

The Infrastructure Fetish and China’s Superiority

Monday, April 11, 2011

Infrastructure is the new rallying cry of those who want a bigger state. The argument appears compelling. We have suddenly had our “Sputnik moment” – the realization that our infrastructure is second rate. How can we continue as the world’s leading economy without high speed rail and with crumbling bridges? (Last I looked only one of our 594470 highway bridges collapsed in the last five years for a failure rate of one in a half million).

Even worse, we now learn that we have an “infrastructure gap” with China from sources as diverse as President Obama and Francis Fukuyama:

Barack Obama (Speech):

Countries like China are moving even faster…I’m not going to settle for a situation where the United States comes in second place or third place or fourth place in what will be the most important economic engine of the future.

Francis Fukuyama (Financial Times):

The most important strength of the Chinese political system is its ability to make large, complex decisions quickly, and to make them relatively well, at least in economic policy. This is most evident in the area of infrastructure, where China has put into place airports, dams, high-speed rail, water and electricity systems to feed its growing industrial base.

We also learn from Thomas Friedman that “one party states can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century,” and from George Soros that “Western democracies provide less successful leadership than China.” Friedman’s and Soros’ proof of Chinese superiority, it turns out, is China’s high-speed rail and other spectacular infrastructure achievements… a rather limited measuring stick, I’d like to point out.

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