Why Government Should Do As Little As Possible Part 45xvc


  Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

    The statists in the current run up to the U.S. 2016 elections, which includes everyone from the Democratic and Republican parties, are ranting about infrastructure. With the intelligence so often associated with politicians, they call it “infastructure”, but, never mind. The real problems will be corruption and inefficiency and/or, in the case cited below, inefficacy. In other words: The money will go into pockets having nothing to do with infrastructure. Each project will cost much more than budgeted. The projects will not work as promised.

The Boston Big Dig

In the 1980s it was decided to replace Boston’s aging elevated roadway with an underground tunnel. It would be the biggest construction project in American history, building an entire multilane highway underneath a major city without disrupting traffic. It had been likened to performing quadruple heart bypass surgery while the patient was playing tennis. It was budgeted to cost 1.5 billion dollars and take 5 years. In reality, it took 15 years and cost 16 billion dollars. It has been speculated that it would be lucky if only 20 percent of that money was spent on bribes, kickbacks and corruption. As time went on and the budget kept going up, up, up, corners kept getting cut, cut, cut. Important parts of the project disappeared. Entire packages of designs suddenly were cut. Materials were swapped for inferior versions. The  highway, which sits 120 feet below sea level on the harbor, requires constant pumping to keep it dry.


    There are those pesky, unanticipated maintenance costs Under water and requires pumping, who could have guessed. 

Within a year of completion a husband and wife driving through the tunnel were crushed when a  multi-ton ceiling panel collapsed. The woman was killed, the man was able to climb out of the car. It seems that due to cost constraints, lightweight panels were not available for the ceiling so each one — weighing 1.5 tons — was secured to the ceiling using epoxy cement. Not only that but the contractor that put them up there had been thinning the cement with sand to save money and increase his profit and paying off the inspectors to look the other way. So when people drive through the tunnel they are underneath panels weighing multiple tons, held up be Elmer’s Glue and installed by people who paid off the inspectors to look the other way while they used sub-standard materials. It’s now 2015. The 15 billion dollar roadway is full of holes and patched, the concrete walls are cracking and spalling; when it rains, the tunnel fills with water and people worry the ceiling is going to drop on them at any moment.

The project was great for the city and has vastly improved the look and feel, the property values and traffic flow. But the execution of the project should have resulted in the execution of many public officials and left the city with a huge debt it is not only a burden but is also dragging down the MBTA, the failed toy train system, also a haven of corruption and incompetence, but that is another story.


    The incompetence never ends, but neither does the enthusiasm or confidence in those people who couldn’t build a treehouse on time or in budget. When one hears “infastructure,” one should think, “Big Dig.”

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Days of Songs and Mirrors: A Jacobite in the ‘45.”
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies



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