Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Little Engine that Could

I had to shake my head after I read this piece yesterday or the day before about the California Controller's letter to his state's lawmakers informing them that they would run out of cash in March instead of June as previously expected.

I say I had to shake my head because despite that news, Democrat Governor Jerry Brown along with the Democrat-controlled state legislature seem determined nevertheless to continue with plans to build a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail system.  A system many think incapable of paying its way once completed, even if the state were not so, uh, let us say, cash-strapped.

But I turned from shaking my head to grinning from ear to ear when I read this smart-alecky riff by National Review's James Lilek.  Smart alecky?   No, I take that back.  Actually, this could pass for cutting-edge analysis.  Enjoy:
Trains are romantic:  We have a vision of sleek streamlined steel machines slicing through the night, the mournful whistle wafting through the farmer's dreams.  But we do not wear fedoras or listen to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio or exhibit other traits of the bygone era.  We drive or we fly.  Nevertheless, California is keen on a hypersonic choo-choo, as you've no doubt heard--and while locals are starting to question the wisdom of spending a tenth of a trillion on the project, it staggers on.  The government is behind it.  The unions are behind it.  People who believe there is a direct relationship between the number of cars that drive to Sacramento and a polar bear drowning in 2027 A.D. are behind it.  The only thing that could stop the train is the discovery that it endangers gay brine shrimp, but even then they'd just go 30 miles around the pond and call the route the Diversity Bend.  Like many ideas from the first few decades of the previous century, trains are perfectly progressive.  There's no individual decision on direction or duration, no competition, no penalty for poor performance, and the money to run the thing is exacted from the unwilling by the force of the state.  If that's not enlightenment, what is?

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