All Aboard the Money Train

The Associated Press reports that the President “is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, as he seeks to use infrastructure spending to jumpstart job creation.” Whatever you make of the President’s intentions — whether they pivot on the purpose of spawning billions of dollars worth of contracts for politically-connected Big Business or on some altruistic desire to “get America back to work” — those pesky details of the policy must be dealt with.

53 billion dollars worth of jobs sounds like either a felicitously-timed piece of propagandist puffery or a miraculous gift from the heavens depending on your political viewpoint or, perhaps more accurately, depending on your orientation to empirical reality. Because if we’re really meant to believe that the economy is floundering just to pull its way up out of a serious recession, then we have to wonder where all these magical — and completely unaccountable — billions are coming from, where the state’s ability to create manna for the hungry derives from.

Along with these tiresome details, we may also puzzle over just where all of these new rail lines will go, a question apparently answered by the edict that the Department of Transportation will, reports Reuters, “choose corridors for new projects.” One can only guess what that morsel of circumlocution means, but we might postulate that it will translate into more Kelo-style land grabs for the Corporate Bosses.

Commenting on the fact that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (“fighting for your business”) is “a big fan of Obama’s push for infrastructure investment,” Tanya Snyder of Streets Blog had it right when she called such investment a “fruitcake” for Big Business. It may be worth noting, for the benefit of those who insist that the business lobby longs for untrammeled free markets, that the Chamber also hailed the President’s stimulus packages.

The reality of the grand plan for high-speed rail, packaged with all of its “helping hand for the worker” rhetoric, is very much at variance with the Vice President’s statement today. Although a meaningful transference of wealth will accompany this prodigious public works project, it’ll manifest as the same kind of regressive redistribution that the state’s intervention consistently creates. Billions will be siphoned from the average worker, and, sure, some will go card-punching, construction union wage-earners, but on balance the managers will reap the windfall of our contemporary patronage.

We should never be outwitted into believing that the state, sitting at the nucleus of the American corporate system, would ever do anything that wasn’t ultimate facilitating the Bosses’ Economy (and, therefore, against a real free market). Peter Kropotkin saw through the “endless discussions” of reform-minded “practical people” who dismissed anarchists as “Utopian dreamers.” He rightly scoffed at the middle-of-the-road apologists for the state who regarded “‘public works’ … as a means of giving food to the unemployed.”

Anarchists on the free market left likewise penetrate the opaque euphemisms of the state that cast corporate welfare as public-spirited populism, as some kind of impetus for positive change in the life of the common man. “Infrastructure” like the rail system is just that — the framework for a rigid, exploitative economy domineered by and enthralled to the interests of a small elite class.

And that economy bears no relation to a market freed from those interests, one composed of the freely-undertaken exchanges of individuals who approach one another on an equal footing. Even with all of their pretty words for “free enterprise,” it’s this latter kind of economy that the Chamber and the President stand in the way of.

Citations to this article:

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist