Barack Obama

Forget Bullet Trains. I Could Only Get Behind Funding Bullet Man The Human Bullet.


I found President Obama's speech predictably weak for reasons well-documented by Reason collleagues at Hit & Run last night (I was cooling my heels at Fox Business Channel's New York studio, watching the address with a crowd evenly split among Dems, Reps, and libs).

But one particular GAG (guaranteed applause getter) deserves particular opprobrium: Obama's insistence that the U.S. of A. have "the fastest trains" on the big blue marble we call home.

We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow.  (Applause.)  From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete.  There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.

Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act.  (Applause.)  There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation's goods, services, and information.  (Applause.)

Parenthetical applauses in original.

I mean, really. Bullet trains are the "infrastructure of tomorrow"? More like the last century. The bullet train fantasy is right up there with zero-calorie ice cream and pet dinosaurs, except those don't cost bazillions of tax dollars not to deliver on.

I could get behind (maybe) a project to create an army of Bullet Man The Human Bullet clones (see below). But bullet trains (let's tip our hat to the late NBA owner Abe Pollin and call them "wizard trains"), not so much (for these and other reasons).

NEXT: A Blow for Free Speech

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  1. I hear there’s this amazing new invention. They’re calling it the horseless carriage. Is that not just the craziest thing you’ve ever heard?

  2. im not so opposed to the idea of constructing high speed rail around the country so long as its done by private sector companies with the govt nowhere near the process.

    1. Which pretty much means it won’t be constructed.
      The only way possible to find ‘value’ in the things is to invent all sorts of externalities and them assign huge values.

    2. Hey now, I’ll take Techno-Socialism over Peasant-Socialism, thanks. Even if its batshit stupid, it beats the crazy evil stupid of Maoist shovels-over-catepillars policies.

      1. what are the units of bat shit stupid and how many does it take to equal 1 crazy evil stupid (I assume which are measured in shovels)?

        1. Batshit stupid is an intangible commodity.

    3. But of course. And that way if it fails, it only hurts the people who willingly chose to take the risk and try it. Not everyone.

      It’s so simple – why can’t everyone get it?

  3. Brilliant!
    We set up zip-lines around the country and give everyone a high-speed pulley!

  4. Here I am, living in Tampa, not knowing that I desperately needed a bullet train. Thank God Obama is coming here to bless us with his largess.

    1. What advantages do bullet trains have over airplanes?

      1. No airports, silly!

    2. You have a pressing, hitherto unkown to you, need to get to Disney World without using I-4.

  5. “infrastructure of tomorrow”

    With all the bullshit transportation ideas they can choose from, they’re stuck on supertrains. Why not hovercraft or personal submarines or telekinesis?

    Becuase these people just lack imagination. Sad but true.

    1. That link is sexist!

  6. I propose a series of tubes deep into the earth’s crust — steep on one end and shallower at the other, with frictionless walls and a vacuum environment. Passengers could travel in cars that plummet the first leg reaching terminal velocity and then slowly rise to their final destination. This would be the greenest of technologies using only the earth’s gravity to obtain motion.

    And it would create millions of jobs in the excavation sector.


    1. So ideally, the tubes would be dug by hand, no?

    2. So it would be a series of tubes?

    3. You’re way late on this. I proposed an Intertubial Network of pneumatic tubes long ago. See my comments in this thread.

      1. Kahn’s tubes are driven by gravity though, not air.

  7. A series of tubes? Like the internet?

    1. no, no, no, like the intrAnet…

  8. OK, standard libertarian disclaimer that the govt ought not to be involved in this. But, if the govt does want to do something useful and innovative, upgrading existing rail infrastucture (or build new track) to allow passenger trains to run at 100-120 mph on existing routes would do more good for more people.

  9. There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation’s goods, services, and information.

    Now information is coming by train? Ted Stevens is gonna be pissed.

  10. But can Obama make the bullet trains run on time?

    1. shit, I thought this was the peace train thread…my apologies

  11. and you can bet the U.S. gov’t will get behind on the bullet train project!

  12. +11

    awesome post, Nick!

    (made me laugh out loud and now I have to explain REASON to some cow-orkers)


  13. Let’s not forget that the “standard libertarian disclaimers” include the fantasy that the government will get out of propping up every other mode of transportation, too.

    1. Let’s not forget that the “standard libertarian disclaimers” include the fantasy that the government will get out of propping up every other mode of transportation, too.

      As long as we don’t forget the truth that the government props up mass transit and trains by more, proportionately, than roads or commercial aviation, and that the disparity is particularly pronounced at the federal level.

      At the federal level, roads aren’t subsidized; on net road users slightly subsidized everything else. Roads are subsidized at the state and local level, sometimes by a lot, particularly at the local level where general property taxes pay for roads. That doesn’t imply that it’s the federal government’s job to fix the problem, though.

      1. At the federal level, roads aren’t subsidized

        Not quite. Road subsidies also include such things as artificially low parking rates that many municipalities offer and minimum-parking zoning requirements even where it doesn’t make sense.

  14. How about funding “The Bullet” Bob Armstrong?

  15. NIMBY + environmental lawsuits + budget “issues” means High-Speed rail never happens.

    And the private sector could just never do this, for the reasons above and because they could never manage to buy that much land without government land-grabs.

  16. I personally enjoy taking heavily subsidized rides on the Acela between Washington and New York. Only 2 hours and 45 minutes between Union Station and the heart of Manhattan. Thanks, chumps!

  17. I want my supersonic blimp!!!

    1. Sign me up for ones of those planes with like 16 wings stacked on top of each other. Pedal powered, preferably.

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