May 22, 2015

One simple reason there isn't more popular support for infrastructure

One simple reason there isn't more public support for infrastructure is because it's called infrastructure and not - as it was back when it was popular - public works. It's another example of how products of grad schools - lawyers, MBAs, economists - have made government lose touch with its people. If you don't speak United States, how is anyone going to understand you?  

Here, from a pamphlet published by the American Public Works Assn, is how this stuffy term came to dominate our discussion of public works:

American Public Works Assn - The word infrastructure is a French word coined slightly more than 80 years ago to mean “installations that form the basis for a system or operation.” The word was used predominantly in military applications until 1981, then it became popular when Pat Choate and Susan Walter used it in their book, America in Ruins, to discuss an “infrastructure crisis” set off by years of inadequate investment and poor maintenance of public works.

Some people choose to apply the word “infrastructure” to public works to refer to an interdependent system of works beneficial to society. Other people believe that the implied interdependency doesn’t provide enough flexibility to describe all of the varied facets of what they consider to be public works. In public policy discussion, the U.S. National Research Council adopted the term “public works infrastructure” to refer to the system and its individual elements simultaneously. Use of the term “infrastructure” got a boost in 2009 when President Barack Obama included funding for infrastructure projects in his stimulus package and endorsed a National Infrastructure Bank. However, columnist Alex Marshall of the online Governing magazine, registered his preference for the term “public works” in his February 2009 column “because it denotes that these are ‘works’ that we the people do together.” 

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