The fact is that Americans have been squandering the infrastructure legacy bequeathed to us by earlier generations. Like the spoiled offspring of well-off parents, we behave as though we have no idea what is required to sustain the quality of our daily lives. Our electricity comes to us via a decades-old system of power generators, transformers and transmission lines—a system that has utility executives holding their collective breath on every hot day in July and August. We once had a transportation system that was the envy of the world. Now we are better known for our congested highways, second-rate ports, third-rate passenger trains and a primitive air traffic control system. Many of the great public works projects of the 20th century—dams and canal locks, bridges and tunnels, aquifers and aqueducts, and even the Eisenhower interstate highway system—are at or beyond their designed life span.
What I see most places I travel around the country are homes that are overbuilt to nearly the edge of the property line, and then a crumbling infrastructure across that line. Roads, power lines, sewers, schools--you name it. Almost everything used in common across that property line is stressed to the point of breaking. I feel the same way looking at that bridge collapse as I did almost two years ago watching the pitiful government response to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. I'll repeat what I wrote then about limited government, with a change to the example:
What does it mean when folks like me aspire to have limited government? We seek maximal freedom for citizens, without the intrustion of government where it is not needed. But we also seek maximal efficiency of the government in those cases where it is essential. On typical days, we argue about where to draw the line between "essential" and "not needed." The integrity of a bridge owned and maintained by the state highway agency that serves 140,000+ people per day is so far over that line that we cannot even see it anymore.
Limited should not be misconstrued to mean ineffectual.