My mind has been on the interstates lately. Driving 2,800 miles on I-90, I-80, I-25 and I-15 will do that for you. It took me five days to drive from Massachusetts to Alberta, where I am lending a hand on a ranch near Lethbridge.
Much like their conditional feelings about General David Petraeus (Betray-us when with President George W. Bush, hero for President Barack Obama), liberals have always had a love-hate relationship with the Interstate Highway System. President Dwight Eisenhower's crown jewel, the network underscored the greatest contribution my discipline of economics has to offer: not only a firm commitment to free trade in goods and services, but a similar commitment to mobility of people and ideas.
A look at the millions who have fled states like New York for the open spaces and yes, open minds in America's south and west, only scratches the surface of the trillions of dollars in wealth and freedom these highways have created.
You would think progressives would hold up the system as a golden example of the power of the (federal) government as testimony to its ability to do good, create wealth and create jobs. But in their hearts, they detest the interstate highways, even as they commute to work on dozens of roads designated by three digits that surround our larger cities. (Did you know an odd first-digit meant a bypass around the city, while an even number meant a spur into or across it?)
Progressives hate the interstates because they helped create the culture of the car and truck; individual mobility, instead of the happy public-employee, unionized trains and buses of socialized mass transit.
Odd point, that. I've yet to see a senator, congressman or our president use a bus, subway or train for even the most local functions or campaign stops. The detestable hub-and-spoke system is for the proletariat, not for the Praetorian guardians of our need to conserve. The idea that the least cost — and shortest — distance between two points is a straight line taxes their minds, but generates no revenue, and thus can be discarded.
Europeans will tell you mass transit works. A half-truth, forgetting they live in postage stamp-sized countries where taxes raise the price of gasoline to $9 a gallon or higher. As long as conservatives and economists continue to make clear to the American people the true burden imposed by public transit, our vibrant system of highways and byways will continue to flourish.
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