America's terrible trains are an ideological triumph


America's trains suck on purpose: "Ride a fast train to Washington today and you’ll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow."



The project of starving, stripping and dismantling all common goods in the USA is an ideological project that is the endgame of a movement that hit its stride in the Reagan years. Its irrational phobia of state spending -- however necessary and beneficial -- is a mirror image of the Soviet terror of the free-market. Without the Soviet Union, America has become its warped-mirror twin, a land where standing in endless lines is the norm, where all the stores sell the same things.

But the bias against the common good goes deeper, into the very cortex of the imagination. This was exemplified by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s decision, a few short years ago, to cancel the planned train tunnel under the Hudson. No good reason could be found for this—most of the money would have been supplied by the federal government, it was obviously in the long-term interests of the people of New Jersey, and it was exactly the kind of wise thing that, a hundred years ago, allowed the region to blossom. Christie was making what was purely a gesture toward the national Republican Party, in the same spirit as supporting a right-to-life amendment. We won’t build a tunnel for trains we obviously need because, if we did, people would use it and then think better of the people who built it. That is the logic in a nutshell, and logic it seems to be, until you get to its end, when it becomes an absurdity. As Paul Krugman wrote, correctly, about the rail-tunnel follies, “in general, the politicians who make the loudest noise about taking care of future generations, taking the long view, etc., are the ones who are in fact most irresponsible about public investments.”

The Plot Against Trains [Adam Gopnik/New Yorker]

(via Kottke)