Jonah Goldberg

NIMBYism is surely a bipartisan phenomenon. It is not conservative opposition that has delayed the construction of windmills that would diminish the view from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. Nor was it primarily the right that boosted entitlements until they crowded out public works.

And let's not forget Yucca Mountain in Nevada -- a project under way for decades that has already cost untold billions is being shuttered in no small part because environmentalists say that it won't be safe enough 10,000 years from now.

Much of the liberal intelligentsia is awash with nostalgia for the days when government got big things done. Economist Paul Krugman, who subscribes to the Keynesian fantasy that spending just a bit more money than is ever fiscally or politically possible is the answer to all of our woes, is beside himself that Christie won't pay whatever it costs to make Krugman's commute easier. His fellow New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, dedicates dozens of columns a year to his envy of China, and more recently he praised Singapore for its willingness to spend huge sums on a string of Manhattan projects and Hoover Dams.

Failure to indulge these building sprees is routinely blamed on the right's anti-government ideological dogmatism. The irony is that there's not that much ideological opposition to worthwhile public works projects. There's some, but most objections are much more consistent with the old-fashioned, country-club-style fiscal conservatism everyone claims to miss. The white elephants are just too expensive to build, and they often seem to be aimed at disguising wealth distribution, either to favored unions or to favored donors.

Taxpayers recognize this, which is why earmarks are a much bigger symbolic issue than they are an economic one.

Obama says there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects. But he has it wrong. There are projects perfectly ready for the shovels. It's the bureaucrats, activists and politicians who aren't ready to hand them out.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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