As goes the myth…

It shouldn’t be any surprise to you that I often agree with Paul Krugman–I’m both rational and occasionally shrill.

For instance, I see a lot of sense in the compressed argument Krugman makes here, in his recent editorial:

And right now, by any rational calculation, would be an especially good time to improve the nation’s infrastructure. We have the need: our roads, our rail lines, our water and sewer systems are antiquated and increasingly inadequate. We have the resources: a million-and-a-half construction workers are sitting idle, and putting them to work would help the economy as a whole recover from its slump. And the price is right: with interest rates on federal debt at near-record lows, there has never been a better time to borrow for long-term investment.

But regardless of whether or not you agree with the notion that increased government spending is a rational response to economic slowdowns (I’m not really interested in getting into that argument… again) you have to acknowledge Krugman’s point about the mythology of America. It used to be rational to discuss America as a country that built itself amazing things–the Hoover Dam, The Eerie Canal, the interstates… Hell, every major city had things you could point at as examples of “American Know-How”. Now… well, in the rare cases where this kind of project happens at all, it’s not a shining beacon, it’s a comedy of corruption and errors. ( cough ).

And what does that mean?

So here’s how you should think about the decision to kill the tunnel: It’s a terrible thing in itself, but, beyond that, it’s a perfect symbol of how America has lost its way. By refusing to pay for essential investment, politicians are both perpetuating unemployment and sacrificing long-run growth. And why not? After all, this seems to be a winning electoral strategy. All vision of a better future seems to have been lost, replaced with a refusal to look beyond the narrowest, most shortsighted notion of self-interest.

Yeah, that’s pretty grim.

Without the myth, to pull the people together, to give drive and direction, things fall apart.

The only thing worse would be if the myth was lost, and there were people who pretended it wasn’t: demagogues who wrapped themselves in the hollow shell of the myth while taking the very actions that destroyed it. But, of course, thing aren’t that bad.


  1 comment for “As goes the myth…

  1. Kira
    October 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    That’s actually what TARP purportedly did, and even that scale of investment was hotly contested and reported on in the media as wasteful government spending. The actual consequences were not discussed.

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This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.