Larry Schweikart and Burton Folsom: Obama's False History of Public InvestmentRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: Barack Obama, WSJ, Larry Schweikart, Burton Folsom, public investment
Mr. Schweikart, a history professor at the University of Dayton, is the co-author, with Dave Dougherty, of "A Patriot's History of the Modern World" (Sentinel, 2012). Mr. Folsom, a history professor at Hillsdale College, is the co-author, with his wife, Anita, of "FDR Goes to War" (Threshold, 2011).
For almost five years now, President Obama has been making the argument that government "investments" in infrastructure are crucial to economic recovery. "Now we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America," the president lamented in 2011. "So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads? And let Europe build the best highways? And have Singapore build a nicer airport?"
In his recent economic speeches in Illinois, Missouri, Florida and Tennessee, the president again made a pitch for government spending for transportation and "putting people back to work rebuilding America's infrastructure." Create the infrastructure, in other words, and the jobs will come.
History says it doesn't work like that. Henry Ford and dozens of other auto makers put a car in almost every garage decades before the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act in 1956. The success of the car created a demand for roads. The government didn't build highways, and then Ford decided to create the Model T. Instead, the highways came as a byproduct of the entrepreneurial genius of Ford and others....
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