The Future of Infrastructure

I35 Collapse Image from Wikicommons

“We will take our infrastructure projects to the private enterprise,” he says. “Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our highways are a disaster in desperate need of repair.” He looked at his notes on the podium and then at the crowd, “But hear me now, because I will not repeat myself — these problems will not be fixed by your government. Your tax dollars will not be used in anyway to fund these projects. Capitalism, pure and simple, is the answer, not just for the problems we face today, but for the future. Capitalists aren’t just in it to make a quick buck. By pulling all government funding from these projects, the only reason for a capitalist to get in the business is for the future returns on their investment.”

“You’re insane,” shouts someone from the crowd.

“OK, I think we’re done here. Are we done?” he asks the person standing next to him.

The person shrugs.

“Yeah we’re done.”

In the years that follow, more bridges collapse. Sinkholes swallow up lengths of freeway and the potholes in the cities are so bad, people abandon their cars like the bad investments they are. Gasoline prices plummet as fewer people are driving. While some internet and technology companies find more efficient ways for their workers to work from home, manufacturing and retail companies suffer.

“Boss, we got protesters outside again,” some high ranking government official says to an even higher ranking one.

The higher ranking one, wearing a navy suit and red tie nods his head as he looks out the window across the lawn of the once government owned building. “They’ll stop,” he says.

“They’ve been at it for a month on and off,” says the other official.

“They’ll soon realize what I said and they’ll stop. They’ll realize it’s absurd to protest a government who is serving their interests.”

“I don’t think they see it that way.”

“They will. They pay a quarter of the taxes they used to pay. They have the capital, they just have to utilize it. Why is it the government’s responsibility to babysit those it is meant to serve? Don’t they see that progress can only be made if there’s money to make in the process? This infrastructure we’ve all grown so accustomed to, these roads and highways and bridges are a relic of our past. The only way forward is to let them crumble and let innovation and capital replace them with something better. Why do people believe the government knows what that something better is?”

“You won’t make it another term, you know that.”

The higher ranking official turned to the lower ranking official and said, “so be it.”

And that man was not reelected. But in the intervening years of his office, things begin to change. Slowly, companies emerge to fill the need. One company figures out how to move people around using nothing but air and tubes. The innovation runs entirely on solar power as it is only needed during the day time and costs a fraction of the cost of an oil tanker. Another company who originally had this problem of delivering packages ordered via it’s online site, figured out how to retrofit it’s fleet of automated drones to carry one to five human beings. This service cost each household a tenth of the cost of a new car and could be ordered through a smartphone.

Oil companies went bankrupt.

Car companies, the innovative ones, sub-licensed the patents of the most innovative technology companies and developed automated passenger drones of their own.

The other car companies begged the government for another bailout, but the government just stood there with turned out pockets.

Another official is elected into office, replacing the first. Even though things are changing in a seemingly positive direction, the first guy is seen as too much of an ideologue. The next person is more practical, but in her inaugural speech, she says, “…and I will continue the reduction of government that my predecessor started. You are a creative people. You are an innovative lot and though change is hard for us all, if we want change, we — the establishment, we — the government need to get out of your way. Our divestment in infrastructure has lead to a reduction in green house gases and an increase in jobs. I will continue this legacy with a complete divestment in mail delivery and education.”

“You’re a buffoon,” shouts someone from the crowd.