Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America, Author: Christopher Jones.
By Christopher Jones – The United States faces an infrastructure crisis.
Report after report warns that the nation’s networks are old, brittle and vulnerable. Systems that were once the envy of the world now suffer from chronic underfunding and neglect.
If you’ve traveled in western Europe or parts of China recently, you probably noticed the unfavorable comparison between roads and subways in the US and those abroad. A culture enthralled with disruptive innovation has ignored the fundamental importance of maintaining its technological backbones.
Can we make US infrastructure great again? Yes, and clearly financial investment is essential. But that is not all.
Infrastructure is not, and never has been, simply a collection of material objects. The secret of the country’s infrastructure success lies in a forgotten political history: the demands by millions of Americans over time for fairer and more equitable access to rails, pipes, wires, roads and more.
The wondrous US infrastructure achievements happened when citizens participated in infrastructure decisions. One can even propose a rule: the better the democracy, the better the infrastructure.
Citizen engagement, not technical ingenuity, deserves credit for the widespread historical benefits of US infrastructure.
When new systems first appeared, they were frequently celebrated as technical marvels accompanied by parades, ribbon-cuttings and grand speeches. But they never appeared equitably. Indoor plumbing, gas and electricity made the lives of the elite more comfortable, while leaving the vast majority of Americans behind. Whether it was railroads in the 19th century, transmission wires at the turn of the 20th century, or roads in the 20th century, the pattern was the same.
All initially served the already powerful, and often allowed them to increase their control over markets and labor. The first deployments of infrastructure have therefore usually benefited small groups and exacerbated social inequality.
Crucially, people did not simply accept the iniquity. more> https://goo.gl/2cAxL7