Crumbling Infrastructure — A Measure of Efficiency

People complain about poor infrastructure in the United States, but they’re missing the point. When you build something like JFK Airport it is an investment, and it pays off as long as it is useful. Not beautiful — useful. The Brooklyn Bridge may not be particularly pretty (don’t send hate mail, it’s just an example — it looks rather stately to me) but it serves its purpose well over a century past its completion, so there’s no point in replacing it. Instead, we should spend that effort on something else that will increase our utility, rather than replace something that is still working.

JFK Airport may need replacing or upgrading for practical reasons, but a low ceiling (one of the author’s complaints) likely isn’t one of them. Further, whether we provide free luggage carts or not is more of an economic issue, especially since there’s no such thing as free.

Updating or replacing infrastructure that doesn’t need it is either a sign of heightened aesthetics or of simple insecurity. If we collectively choose not to update something to make it pretty, instead spending that effort on making something new, that’s a perfectly reasonable and rational choice.

Of course, if our infrastructure is crumbling because we lack the will or resources to do anything at all — if we are just tending to the rosebushes while our house falls apart — that’s something else entirely.


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