Wealth-Creating Alternatives to Pelosi’s Destructive Infrastructure “Stimulus”

Well, who can possibly be surprised by the revelation that “The federal government’s economic stimulus package will include investment in broadband Internet infrastructure and funds to upgrade and repair the national power grid alongside more traditional funding for road and bridge repair.”

Details, as usual, do not exist, other than the obvious golden chains that come with power grid investment: get the cash, but throw it away on inferior “renewable” investments, thereby draining future wealth and resources (for example, no fuel is “greener”—in the proper sense of the term of using fewer overall resources—than petroleum based gasoline). Meanwhile, government power over energy grows.

Labor groups are not merely being placated with the package but helped spearhead it (they insist “millions” of jobs will be created). This helps assure that future generations will see more fiascoes like the disaster in the current auto industry—yes, tomorrow’s productivity will improve, but the workers who are sent home still get paid (that’s the auto industry’s actual problem).

It is beyond argument that America needs to create what I often call “infrastructure wealth”; we need it just as we need financial wealth, real estate wealth, manufacturing and service wealth, and health-care wealth. But like all wealth creation, the root of that wealth is property rights, not transferred tax dollars and favors.

The proper way to maximize infrastructure wealth–and jobs and customer benefits besides—is to clear the path for free enterprise to build it; Yanking funds from unseen, helpless and dispersed taxpayers, and applying it to Rep. Pelosi’s and President-elect Obama’s high-profile, very vocal recipients is a destructive enterprise, not a weath-building one.

Here are a few better steps, but these are only for starters. These are the sort of programs Washington should be implementing.

–With respect to broadband deployment, declare “Net Neutrality” permanently off the table; announce that proprietary networks and investments will never be expropriated in any fashion, that there will be no forced sharing, only voluntary agreements and alliances. Go here for details on why this is important.
–Remove exclusive franchises that make it illegal, not difficult, for firms to compete with incumbent electric companies. Right now, it’s illegal to run an extension cord across the street. (See “The Free Market Alternative to Mandatory Open Access.”)
–Establish an aggressive campaign to liberalize all network and infrastructure indusrtries, which are now artificially segregated into regulatory silos (telephone, electricity, water, sewer, cable, railroad, airline, air traffic control). This would create opportunities for them to work together and jointly invest in new power lines, fiber to the home, roads, bridges, airports, toll roads and more.
–Relax antitrust so that firms within and across industry sectors can combine and create business plans to bring capitalism and infrastructure wealth creation to the next level.
–Liberalize spectrum and secondary markets in it such that wireless wealth is freely created apart from regulators.

These items are only a start. Other initiatives, like privatization of politically provided services, also need to be re-invigorated. I’ve made it clear elsewhere that I regard the nation as now largely ungovernable because of the expansion of government beyond any semblance of constitutionally limited government.

But we have to start somewhere. Throwing money at infrastructure “stimulus” while leaving 19th Century regulation intact is most emphatically not governing; it is not courageous, and it is not commendable.