Spending More for Less: The Case of U.S. Infrastructure

Brad Plumer of the Washington Post has written a post on why U.S. infrastructure is so unusually expensive relative to infrastructure in Europe and East Asia, focusing primarily on questions raised by University of Minnesota economist David Levinson (we’ve discussed him in this space) and with an able assist from Alon Levy, a friend of The Agenda.

Levy, an Israeli-born U.S.-based postdoc who was educated in Singapore, has made a tremendous contribution to the public conversation on infrastructure in part because of his experience as an expatriate who has lived in a number of market democracies. There is a certain parochialism to our debates over infrastructure, including a grass-is-greener fetishization of transportation technologies that thrive in many other highly urbanized societies under conditions that are far from identical to those that obtain in the U.S. Though Levy and I occasionally disagree on the best infrastructure strategies to pursue, I’ve certainly learned from his work. And this, incidentally, has been the triumph of the blogosphere: able outsiders like Levy are able to subject the work of insiders to sustained critical scrutiny, based on knowledge they’ve collected through nontraditional avenues. (One of my favorite scholars is about to make this argument at appropriate length.) 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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