Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Auto Insurance and Our Nation's Infrastructure

An illustration, if you don't mind.

When an experienced carpenter is building a house, and turns to their apprentice to say, “I need a hammer,” it is safe to assume the carpenter needs a hammer. Not a saw. Not a wrench. A hammer.

And why is it safe to assume the carpenter needs a hammer?

They have the experience needed to know what tool is required at any given point during the construction of a house. Therefore, you trust their judgment. After all, they know better than you what goes into the construction of a house. They’ve done it, and they’ve done so successfully. If this was not the case, they wouldn’t be able to find work in their chosen field.

Now, when the experienced carpenter turns to their apprentice and says, “I need a hammer,” does the apprentice get them a hammer? Or do they argue with the carpenter about what tool is required, doing so based on the belief they know better?

Logic says no. They cannot know more than, or better than, the carpenter.

Yet in reality, far too often this is precisely what happens. Whether the root cause is the apprentice believing they know far more than is actually the case, or believing that while the carpenter may have experience on their side they are so much smarter than the carpenter it more than negates the experience factor, tremendous amounts of time and energy are wasted debating what ought not to be so much as a point of discussion.

Meanwhile, the house sits uncompleted.

Breaking this down into specifics, few can argue the wisdom of investing in the nation’s infrastructure. Any one whose daily commute includes a crumbling highway, or who insures the vehicles receiving an unnecessary pounding from chewed-up roads, knows full well the vital nature of this work. There's no argument there.

But you still have to pay for it.

Believing that, as it was outlined yesterday by President Obama, the fifty billion dollars required for this effort can be conjured without adding to an already ruinous national debt is quite the leap of faith. If the President and Congress can pull it off, more power to them. Now, reveal any indication this can be done. The track record isn't encouraging.

Were we to see a better breakdown of price and effect when it comes to public projects such as what has been proposed, it would be far easier to sell. Here are the roads, here is the number of cars that drive over them daily, here is the shape they are in, here is what it costs to repair and/or improve them. There will always be complaints about any amount of taxes taken, but when there is a clear definition of what is needed, it becomes far easier to gain public support.

Which, reportedly, is something politicians prefer having, especially around election time.

That said, you still have to pay for it all. It is critical this project be done both efficiently and with fiscal responsibility at the fore.

Our roads and highways are one house that must not be allowed to sit uncompleted.

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