Obama's Grand Rail Plans

"The president is envious of Europe's speedy railways," the story at ABC.com begins. He looks longingly at the public works projects of Europe, China and Japan, and yearns for the ability to bring high-speed rail travel to America.

Many are quick to point out the bad timing of such a project considering the economy, or the fact that the distance between America's large cities makes such plans unrealistic.

But consider for the moment the specific nature of the countries Obama looks to for guidance and hope, specifically China. This "investment" in high-speed rail is comparable to the public works projects of China for reasons deeper than just similarities in "government infrastructure spending."

To illustrate this, take a look back at a previous post about delays in rebuilding on Ground Zero. New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger lamented, in an NPR interview, that "commercial interests" were delaying both the memorial and general rebuilding efforts.
[NPR's] Siegel then compared the slow progress at Ground Zero with, of all things, the "enormous numbers of structures" erected by the Chinese government since 2001 for the 2008 Olympics, apparently with the point that the act of building shouldn't take that long. Goldberger replied that he was in Beijing too, and that it made him think that "democracy isn't always such a good thing for architecture." Then he laughed, caught himself, and tried to explain, as if he knew he had revealed too much.
It’s a good thing in general, and of course, we don’t want to lose it or trade it, {oh, of course!} but one of the prices we pay is that big projects take a long time. They create a huge amount of dissent in terms of public dialogue and so forth. In China, there was no discussion. It was simply ordained. And this is what would be, and it was. {bold added}
So there we have it. In essence, both men admire and yearn for the type of brutal, deadly steamrolling possible in a totalitarian society. The leftist who wants the state to employ force in the name of "the good" inherently assumes that the state would pursue the same good as he sees it.
Does this sound familiar? This perfectly describes the attitude behind Obama's proposal. He views "the societal good" as government providing high-speed mass transit for the unwashed proletariat citizenry, and sees himself as the Public's Heroic Steamroller. (Is that a steamroller for the public, or of the public?)

Going back to the ABC.com piece, they quoted him saying, while in Europe:
"I am always jealous about European trains," Obama said April 3 in Strasbourg, France. "And I said to myself, 'Why can't we have high-speed rail?' And so, we're investing in that as well."
He's jealous, realizes he can wish it into existence with the power of the state, and on whim says "let it be so." Back to the architecture critic and China's awesome power over the individual he so covets:
Rather than celebrating the fact that the World Trade Center was, and should be again, a thriving center of capitalism and productive energy, and that this would be the greatest monument and memorial possible, Goldberger wishes that we could be more like China. Rather than identifying government involvement as the problem, getting rid of the Port Authority and "public ownership", and then seeing what the real "timetable of the commercial world" is when private property rights are upheld, Goldberger wishes for the absolute power of the government to simply ordain a solution, bulldozing all buildings, objections, and individual rights that stand in its way.

Goldberger and Siegel unintentionally provide us with a clear picture of the conflict, and it's not the one they think it is.

On one side stands the founding principles of our Republic, chief among them the individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of our own happiness, the political system of capitalism that springs from those rights, and the blinding and unlimited wealth and progress that it all makes possible.

On the other side stands the admirers of the all-powerful State, those who long for the use of government force to crush all opposition and impose their own jaded view of the "public good" whether we like it or not.

Which side do you think is best equipped to build a proper memorial for the victims of the 9/11 attack and a monument to American greatness?
And which side do you think is best equipped to evaluate whether high-speed rail is a viable enterprise, and to make it actually work if it is? Capitalists left free to judge the market and invest of their own free will, without the crushing regulatory burden of the state? Or Obama and his magical vision of Amtrak II: No Seriously, It Will Work This Time, I Promise, and the inevitable steamrolling of private interests and rights that will result?

When you hear that the president is looking enviously to Europe or China as a beacon of progressive change, that's when the alarm bells should go off.  Being envious of China's public works projects really means being envious of the dictatorial power China holds over the individual.

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