Is the End of the Dockside Age Nigh?

For millennia, human populations have clustered near navigable waterways — oceans and rivers — for obvious reasons. They were important food sources, they constituted the main highways of commerce, and travel and communication over land were slow affairs.

Things are different now, due to everything from the locomotive and the automobile to the telegraph, telephone, radio and Internet. And yet I read somewhere awhile back that 90% of Americans (to pick a nationality) still live within 30 miles of a coast (including the Great Lakes) or major river.

I’m not trying to open up an argument on climate change here. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that things like Hurricane Sandy are just the way it is and always has been.

Still, it seems kind of silly to put so much major economic infrastructure right up against the capricious seaboard when most of the population that infrastructure supports (virtually the entire population not directly engaged in sailing or servicing ships and the things coming on and off those ships) doesn’t really need to live or work there.

Arnold Kling is pessimistic about the cost and time involved in fixing New York. The repair bills for Sandy are already being guesstimated in the $50 billion range.

At what point do the operators of (for example) the New York Stock Exchange say “you know, we could do this just as easily from Indianapolis and hardly ever have to wade to work?”

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