Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 7, 2007 / 23 Menachem-Av, 5767

A bridge too far gone

By Thomas Sowell


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It took a collapsing bridge in Minnesota to alert people across the country to the fact that many other bridges in many other places have been allowed to deteriorate without adequate maintenance.


If this were just a matter of poor political leadership at various levels of government, we could at least hope for better leaders in the future. But the problem goes deeper than that.


It is not just the people but the incentives that are responsible for the neglect of infrastructure, while tax money is lavished on all sorts of less urgent projects.


In other words, when there is a complete turnover in political leaders over time, the same problem will remain because the same incentives will remain when new leaders take over.


Some people claim that the problem is how much money it would take to properly maintain bridges, highways, dams and other infrastructure. But money is found for other things, including things far less urgent and some things that are even counterproductive.


The real problem is that the political incentives are to spend the taxpayers' money on things that will enhance politicians' chances of getting re-elected.



OWN DR. SOWELL'S LATEST BOOK


at a discount
by clicking HERE.


There may be enough money available to maintain bridges and other infrastructure but that same money can have a bigger political pay-off if spent building something new instead of maintaining and repairing existing structures.


When money is spent building a new community center, a golf course, or anything that will be newsworthy, there will be ribbon-cutting ceremonies and the politicians who cut the ribbons can expect to see their pictures in the newspapers and on TV.


All that keeps their name before the public in a positive role and therefore enhances their prospects of being re-elected.


But there are no ribbon-cutting ceremonies when bridges are being repaired or pot-holes are being filled in. These latter activities may be more valuable than a community center or a golf course, but they are not nearly as photogenic.


The preference for showy projects that will enhance a politician's career prospects is not peculiar to current politicians. Adam Smith pointed out the same thing about politicians in 18th-century Europe.


We can vote the rascals out but the new rascals who replace them will face the same incentives and in all likelihood will respond in the same way.


A pattern that has persisted for more than two centuries is likely to continue unless something fundamental is changed.


What really needs to be done is to change the incentives.


While most bridges in the United States are owned and operated by government agencies, there are times and places where bridges have been owned and operated by private companies, just as numerous other goods and services are provided through the marketplace.


How would that change the incentives?


A company that has to get the money to build and maintain bridges or other infrastructure through the voluntary actions of people in the financial markets, instead of being able to extract money from the taxpayers, is going to find financiers a lot more finicky about what is being done with their money.


People who are putting their own money on the line are going to want to have their own experts taking a look under the bridges they finance, to see where there are rust, cracks or crumbling supports.


When people know that the lawsuits that are sure to follow after a bridge collapses are going to drain millions of dollars of their own money — not the taxpayers' money — that keeps the mind focussed.


Those who like to think of the government as the public interest personified may be horrified at the idea of turning a governmental function over to private enterprise.


Politicians who want to hang onto sources of patronage and power will of course encourage people to look at things that way. But the track record of privately run infrastructure will compare favorably with government-run infrastructure.


But that is only if we stop to compare — and to think.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Thomas Sowell's column by clicking here.

Up

Thomas Sowell Archives



© 2006, Creators Syndicate

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles