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Somehow this stuff got built before. There must be a way to get back into that state.

Wartime. The interstate highway system got built because Eisenhower saw firsthand how effective having a national road network is for logistics in times of war, and so it became a national security concern. The transcontinental railroad was financed by the Department of War and greatly accelerated when the Southern states seceded - Congress had been denying funding for a decade before, but the first season after the war started, it was approved.

It'll likely be the same for high-speed rail, hyperloops, and under-city tunnels. Once we're at war again there will be a huge incentive to be able to move large quantities of people across the country within hours, and ideally do so out of the reach of aerial bombardment.

It would be nice if we could do this without blowing everything up, though.

> It'll likely be the same for high-speed rail, hyperloops, and under-city tunnels.

Please don't make the mistake of equating the hyperloop scheme with reputable and tried-and-true railway services. Hyperloop is at best a marketing gimmick based on naive and ill-informed notions of what it takes to run a vehicle in a track, while real railway services are mundane technologies which have been proven to work for at least half a century.

Railroads were very far from reputable services when they were first being built. The history of these is fascinating; you think tech scams are bad today, you should've seen the machinations of Jay Gould [1] or Thomas Durant [2]. Many early railroads failed to get completed at all, or if they did, the trains would blow up on the tracks and kill a bunch of passengers.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Gould

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Transcontinental_Railroa...

Apples and oranges. Your examples refer to specific business ventures initiated in a time where steam-powered rail transport was already a century old and with a proven track record, while hyperloop is a pie-in-the-sky scheme that is both technically and economically unfeasible. It's like comparing flying cars with the DeLorean.

> at best a marketing gimmick

Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is not wisdom. A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. The future can be better than the past. According to the data it has been [1][2][3]. So optimism isn't a fluffy ideal to scoff at.

Newton's laws make it clear that approaching vacuum allows for greater speeds. An object in motion will remain in motion unless an outside force acts upon it [4]. Therefore, the greater part of truth is out of reach of cynicism.

What is more likely, that a man who heads a company that works in the space sector would think that moving through a near-vacuum was honestly more efficient [5]? Or that he would propose it merely as a marketing gimmick? And why can't it be both?

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCm9Ng0bbEQ

[2]: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_and_ola_rosling_how_not_to_be...

[3]: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/04/bill-gates-the-world-would-b...

[4]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_laws_of_motion

[5]: https://themysteriousworld.com/top-10-fastest-man-made-objec...

Your nation has always been at war.

The reason your infrastructure sucks is because your nation would rather spend money on war than anything else.

After witnessing 2008, I'm not sure that even another Great Depression would get America back to the New Deal mindset. Politicians would just blame welfare recipients, or something.

It was the government forcing banks to lend to people who would normally not qualify for mortgage loans that caused the crisis in the first place. The people who the banks accurately predicted couldn't pay and were normally denied loans were instead actually given loans, subsequently couldn't pay, aaaand everything collapsed.

I think that the securitization and sell off of these mortgage backed securities were the banks trying to pass the hot potato off onto somebody else. They knew it would blow up, only the financially illiterate, and busybody do-gooders in government with a regulatory gun to the banks heads didn't see it coming with predictable results.

"Several candidates made the argument at the debate that the government forced mortgage lenders to make bad loans. But in reality, most subprime loans were made by companies that were not subject to any kind of federal regulation."

"No executive of a major mortgage company said at the time that the government was forcing them to make subprime loans. They said they did it because they thought they would make money. And even now, after the crash of the housing market, with all the temptation to point fingers, it is awfully hard to find a mortgage executive who echoes the argument"


Was there some incentive from government then, was there some kind of deregulation or some other kind of regulatory change? Why would this subprime lending begin in the first place do we know?

Subprime is a great way to make money if you can manage the risk.

Before the crisis, people figured out that if you bundled a lot of them together and sliced up the bundle in clever ways, you could shuffle the risk around and manage it better. People who wanted riskier assets could get them, and people who wanted safer assets with lower returns could get them too.

Except this only works if you actually evaluate the risk correctly. If you underestimate the potential for large-scale default due to, say, a sudden drop in house prices, then everything gets screwed up, and people who bought “safe” assets suddenly find themselves losing their investment.

The government?

It was demand for mortgage-backed securities (viewed as traditionally safe assets for investment) from investment funds that led to more and more lenient mortgage qualifications to increase supply, weakening the previous strength of those securities overall that, through layers of financial indirection (see tranches), were not valued correctly until too late (with the subsequent credit default swap responsibilities crippling interbank loaning).

This was targeted predatory lending, often targeted at people who already had home equity in some form. This was not something significantly exacerbated by the FHA.

ah ok, so demand for MBS --> led to some kind of lobbying for deregulation---> which led to the deregulation actually happening ---> which led to unscrupulous individuals subprime lending so they could package it up as MBS and sell those off to make money

Absolutely false. The subprime crisis was not caused by 'government mandated' lending to traditionally undeserved parts of the population.

Anyone pushing that narrative is trying to pushing a implicitly racist 'reason' for the financial crisis: "it was all them loans to the black people that did it" .

Ok well I'm out to lunch then, I read that somewhere but can no longer remember where.

The defining factor of that state is a willingness to disenfranchise neighbors and obliterate communities for the sake of convenience. Politics are now far too sensitive to local constituents’ rights and opinions to permit the construction of infrastructure nearly as good as the interstate highway system. A system optimized for utility will be less useful than one balancing utility and social justice.

That’s a really interesting point and I’m sure it has a huge impact, but it can’t be the whole story. For example, the DC Metro suffers from this inability to get much done, and absurd costs and timelines when it does, yet most of their projects are underground or use existing rights of way.

Tunneling isn’t cheap. Much simpler to demolish whatever is in the way and make cross traffic wait (traditional rail) or go to one of a few specific overpass/underpass points (freeways). But such options are no longer even taken seriously. It’s just assumed that new transit must not interfere with the status quo. That has a cost, and it comes out of overall effectiveness. Projects built in an era of higher tolerance for political hubris didn’t have that problem.

I agree it’s not the whole story, but it’s something.

We did lots of tunnels before, though. Or look at Metro’s proposal for a western extension to the Orange Line. The track would be down the median of a highway that’s currently just grass. Not a single person would be displaced, nor would any tunneling need to happen. Still no movement on it after decades.

It was built when the top marginal tax rate in the United States was above 70 percent, a level which would make a lot of people go into fits of apoplectic rage if you were to suggest it now.

If we want better roads, another space shuttle, the next wave beyond the integrated circuit, etc... most prudent course of action would be to reinstate the internal revenue act of 1954.

You could try spending less on shiny war machines and more on your people, also.

> It was built when the top marginal tax rate in the United States was above 70 percent, a level which would make a lot of people go into fits of apoplectic rage if you were to suggest it now.

...a rate which almost nobody actually paid, given the copious methods for reducing tax liability available at the time (most of which have since been eliminated).

Wait, what?

Some interesting statistics of tax rates: https://bradfordtaxinstitute.com/Free_Resources/Federal-Inco...

- During WWI it peaked at 77% - During WWII it peaked at 94%!!

It didn't really, though. That's the marginal income rate, not capital gains -- it's a tax rate for an empty bracket. It was super effective wartime grandstanding which is still fooling everyone decades later.

Capital gains -- the rate the upper class actually pays -- has never risen above 35% at the federal level. And that's within a few points of 2018 marginal rates when we factor in state level taxes for places like California. The tax moved from federal to state (or to earmarked federal, like NIIT)

Capital gains:

1945: 35% federal + 6% state = 41%

2018: 25% federal + 3.8% NIIT + 13.1% state = 41.9%

Prior to losing SALT, wealthy Californians paid slightly lower marginal rates than in 1945. Trump's changes cause the current marginal tax rate for wealthy Californians to be higher than in 1945 -- the year you're calling out as a peak.

No one really paid 94%.

It did affect certain people, though, like movie actors like Ronald Reagan. His stated rationale for supply-side economics was that back during WW2, him and his peers would do 2 movies/year and then be done working, because doing a 3rd would put them in the top tax bracket and the government would get all the money.


Yeah. I should say "virtually no one." The tax did apply to a very tiny proportion of high end income.

Highest federal tax rate by year, 1918 - 2017: https://bradfordtaxinstitute.com/LibRepository/235f37bd-612d...

The bulk of the interstate highway system was built between 1960 and 1980.

And tax deductions were much higher then than now. Nobody actually paid those rates.

The percentage of GDP collected as income taxes is about the same then as it is now. In fact, the top 1% paid less of the total taxes during the New Deal than now.[1]


This is one of the costs of diversity. People don’t work together towards shared goals anymore since they characterize the other people benefiting as un-American/unpersons.

That sounds more like a cost of bigotry and intolerance.

It’s actually the combination of both which is a problem. As you say, diversity wouldn’t be a problem if there were no bigots and intolerant people, but conversely, bigots and intolerant people weren’t as much of a problem when there was less diversity.

Sure, in the same way that a shooting murder requires someone to be in the path of the bullet, not just someone to pull the trigger.

Yes, of course, but the bigots and intolerants (i.e. the people shooting bullets) were here first. Introducing diversity into this world full of bigots and intolerants does create problems, and it’s a bit disingenuous to disclaim all responsibility when only pushing for diversity when you know it’s going to cause problems, especially since it’s mostly going to cause problems for the very minorities that diversity is ostensibly meant to help.

To be clear; I’m not blaming the actual victims of bigots and intolerants, nor do I want to remove any blame from the bigots and intolerants. I simply want to add some blame to those blindly pushing diversity without regard to who gets hurt.

The bigots were here first? Are you not aware of native Americans or African slaves? I can’t even.

Those are/were acts of war – a different class of problem, I would argue.

I don’t understand what you’re saying. Diversity in the form of descendants of slaves didn’t have the negative effect you’re claiming back when the railroads or interstate highways were being built because slave imports were an act of war?

The negative effects affecting the descendants of slaves can be traced back to being caused by the act of war that was abducting slaves in the first place. Absent any such abnormal occurrences, the bigots and intolerants could have lived a mostly peaceful existence in their non-diversified environment. As I said, it’s the combination of diversity and bigots/intolerants that makes a problem, not any one of them in isolation. One could well argue that it’s the very historical importing of slaves into the U.S. that is the cause of poor race relations today, just as much as it is caused by racists. If integration of the two cultures had been allowed to happen slowly and naturally by individual migration, a different situation might have developed.

> bigots and intolerant people weren’t as much of a problem when there was less diversity.

Generations of abused minorities and women might beg to differ, from slavery to lynchings to internment camps to mass oppression, abused people from Germany (yes, you read that correctly), Italy, Ireland, China, Japan ... people who were Jewish, Catholic, Latino, African-American (of course), etc etc. etc. would all say otherwise. Assuming you are talking about the U.S., until 1920, women couldn't even vote. Until the approximately the generation who came of age in the 1980s, they didn't have access to most of the labor market - unless their husband gave permission (maybe that ended around the 1950s and 1960s) - and in most fields they still are excluded from the top positions and in many fields are still excluded from most positions except HR, receptionist, and organizing the office party.

EDIT: Some updates

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