I am old enough to remember John F. Kennedy’s project to send man to the moon, and Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System. Both these massive social investments helped transform the country, kick-starting technology, in the case of the space program, and facilitating new mobility, in the case of the interstates (though inadvertently damaging the railroads almost beyond repair). Those were the exuberant can-do days before Ronald Reagan and his colleagues decided that “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem” (though you will notice they always exempted military spending and subsidies to their rich friends, such as the oil depletion allowance). The truth is closer to, “Government is sometimes the problem, sometimes the solution, and only the very feeble-minded think only the one or only the other.”
The result of this continual nay-saying? A country that has lost its self-confidence. So we have to watch countries such as Egypt and Singapore and China and most of Europe embrace the new technologies, cooperate in creating new possibilities in energy, etc., and we can’t even fix our obsolete railroads. Well, so much the better for the countries that still dare to do things, and so much the worse for Reagan and his legacy.
Of course, just because some things can only be fostered by government doesn’t mean they will be done right. Here is a somewhat jaundiced view of the same project.