Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why We Can't Build Any More Hoover Dams

I periodically hear people, often liberals, claim that America isn't great anymore, and as evidence say that we don't build things like the Hoover Dam anymore.  Even President Obama said so last fall:
The dam is frequently cited by Obama as an example of American ingenuity and the value of government-funded investment in public infrastructure.
There are plenty of reasons why we can't or don't, and many of those reasons are liberals. Here's a modern example:
The application for approval (for the Keystone XL pipeline) has been under review by the U.S. government for more than four years, far longer than any other cross-border pipeline project and more than twice as long as it would take to build the pipeline.


MikeAT said...

One of the things that pisses me off is the World Trade Center. It took less than four years to build the entire complex in the 1970s. We're going past ten years and it's not finished.

Emmanuel said...

Well, yes, less than four years. But not really plane-proof. Better take more time to build something more durable...

Darren said...

I've heard nothing about any attempt to make it plane-proof?

But then, why would we have to? We have the vaunted TSA keeping shampoo and fingernail clippers out of the skies.

Anonymous said...

Another example ...

The Golden Gate Bridge (1.7 miles total length with the longest span being 4,200 feet ... according to Wikipedia) was built in a bit more than four years for between $30M and $40M.

The construction for the eastern span of the bay bridge (2.2 miles total length with the longest span 1.263 feet) has been under way since 2002 and the current cost is estimated at $6.3B.

Figuring that the two are *roughly* equivalent ... maybe score the eastern span at 1.5x as big as the golden gate bridge ... we get:

*) 4 years vs 11 years

But shouldn't we have gotten *better* at this in the last 80 years or so? Not worse?

-Mark Roulo

NOTE: Comparing cost is tricky. $35M in 1933 is roughly equal to $500M today, but that isn't the correct adjustment. These things are fairly labor intensive and we expect folks today to have a better standard of living that folks in 1933. That better standard of living costs more. Per-capita GDP (after adjusting for inflation) is about 8x from the mid-1930s. If we multiply by this as well then we get:

$35M in 1933 is $500M today. We are 8x as rich as in 1933, so workers (across the board, on average) get paid 8x as much as in 1933 so the $500M becomes $4B. If the bridge is really 1.5x as big, then the $4B becomes $6B and the costs are comparable ... except that we don't seem to have gotten any better/more efficient at building bridges in the last 80 years.

But the 3x construction *time* is still unexplained.

Bill Beeman said...

And in some places it's worse than you can believe; see http://www.sloleaks.com/ for an ongoing saga of what it is like to get a building permit in yuppified parts of the Golden state.

Given a sufficiently powerful and insulated bureaucracy, all progress can be ground to a halt.

Anonymous said...

Hoover Dam would not be built today. If you want proof, look no further than the Auburn Dam. Environmentalism is a religion that has replaced Christianity among our leftist government.

Steve USMA '85 said...

On July 17, 1941 Congress told the War Department to come up with a plan in five days to consolidate its personnel in one building. Ground was broken on September 11, 1941 (fitting day, eh?). It was dedicated on January 15, 1943, only 16 months later.

The Pentagon is still the largest office building in the world by floor area.

Ellen K said...

As for the World Trade Center, you will note that rather than celebrating the lives of the victims, the memorial has been sanitized so as not to offend those well connected secular liberals. Keystone is just another in a long line of big projects that liberals just do not want us to do. But they're big on building high speed rail that nobody will ride.