Lileks examines the likelihood of collective action on big American projects today

The latest “Athwart” column from National Review‘s James Lileks probes President Obama’s assertion in a recent economic speech that the Hoover Dam and moon shot are great examples of “things WE did together via the nimble digits of federal authority.”

Let’s back up. Hoover Dam? Hah! Just try to build one today. Environmentalists — who hate any dam not constructed by a buck-toothed aquatic mammal — would discover that the project would have a disparate impact on the breeding habits of the red-speckled amoeba, without which the entire biosphere would collapse so quickly Jon Corzine would issue a low whistle of admiration. We might be able to return to the moon, but this whole “one step for mankind” business is ableist and sexist. It would have to be an inclusive voyage, with Elizabeth Warren riding down a wheelchair ramp to the moon’s surface.

The Interstate Highway System was an example of WE doing something big, but highways encourage the suburbs, which are bad because constant exposure to lawn-mower exhaust turns people into Republicans, and because freeways encourage gasoline consumption, which leads directly to polar bears drowning and the Atlantic Ocean lapping at 42nd Street. (Any day now.) The only big things left to construct, in Obama’s view, are invisible bureaucratic apparatuses that control your life. That’s pretty cool, but they make for bad photo ops. The laws and regulations of the Good Things for Everybody Act of 2014 may barely fit on a 2-terabyte hard drive, but it’s a lousy backdrop for a speech.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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