Saturday, July 21, 2007

Inertia and Infastructure

Inertia doesn't get enough attention. It's generally discussed only in high school physics classrooms, but it should be discussed in social studies and civics classes as the most powerful element in government. Unfortunately, there is a key difference between inertia in science, which is a law, and inertia in social studies, which is an illusion. Unless something tragic happens, people tend to assume that things will stay the same as they have always been.

Prior to the U.S. every suffering a terrorist attack on its own soil, a false sense of inertia made the nation vulnerable. After the events of 9/11, you can make a solid argument that the inertia resulting from the desire to change the status quo resulted in the problem we now call Iraq. Now inertia is keeping the U.S. in Iraq.

Yet we need not point to wars and cataclysmic events to signify the importance of inertia. This week in New York another event occurred, less devastating in scale than terrorist attacks, but perhaps just as important in pointing out the power of inertia. The steam tunnel explosion was an indication that in U.S. cities nationwide, attention must be paid to infrastructure.

The national infrastructure is essentially one human lifespan old. Most of it was born in the 1930s, with the national highway system coming about in the 1950s. To further complicate matters, the nation's financial infrastructure is also roughly the same age.

Because the infrastructure is one lifespan old, almost everyone was born into it, which means that there is a collective assumption that it will always operate as it has. Unfortunately, it appears that we are reaching the end of the lifespan of our present infrastructure. So rather than trying to maintain the status quo, how about building a new one? Perhaps we could, if it were not for the power of inertia, and the small matter of our nation's wealth and resources allotted to building the infrastructure of nations which can't get past their own problems with inertia.


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