Policy

Robert Samuelson on High-Speed Trains: "People prefer fashionable make-believe"

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Hold on to that feeee-lay-hee-yayy-hay-ying

Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson lays out the not-hard-to-find economic case against 21st century high-speed rail projects, then comments:

President Obama calls high-speed rail essential "infrastructure" when it's actually old-fashioned "pork barrel." The interesting question is why it retains its intellectual respectability. The answer, it seems, is willful ignorance. People prefer fashionable make-believe to distasteful realities. They imagine public benefits that don't exist and ignore costs that do.

Always keep stuff like this in mind whenever you hear a Democrat like John Kerry whine that "We've lost our minds. We're in a period of know-nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don't weigh in." Like the scientific cases for trade protectionism and stadium welfare, the truth/fact-based economic argument for high speed rail has long ago been routed, yet even at a time when we are out of money a huge cohort of politicians and their enablers are keen to set even their I.O.U. notes on fire. It's beyond disreputable.

Tim Cavanaugh on California's "Mystery Train" project here. Reason.tv's three reasons why Obama's high-speed rail plan is a train-track to nowhere below.