How Government Agencies Hamper Infrastructure Development
By David Henderson
A half-century earlier, when Robert Moses had been in his prime, New York state wouldn’t have needed to depend on private developers, if only because Moses would have had the authority to shape and finance the project to his own liking. (At the same time, Moses wouldn’t have invested in a train terminal because, as The Power Broker makes clear, he believed that cars were the future and trains were the past.)
But in the absence of anyone with anything similar to Moses’ power, the Two Steves [Steve Ross and Steve Roth] faced the burden of clearing all the hurdles that had been erected in the power broker’s wake. Legislators had enacted new environmental regulations, established landmark standards, empowered community boards, created new review processes and more—all in an effort to diffuse power to protect the public interest. Years later, New York Magazine would dub Ross, who would go on to develop Hudson Yards, as Moses’ successor. But, as would become evident as Penn Station remained unreconstructed, the truth was that he wielded a fraction of Moses’ power.
This is from Marc J. Dunkelman, “This is Why Your Holiday Travel Is Awful,” Politico, November 29, 2019. HT2 Tyler Cowen.
In this long article, Dunkelman lays out the history beautifully. He seems to see the issue, though, as being whether to have a strong politician/urban planner like Robert Moses who can trample on people’s rights or to have a whole lot of government agencies and citizens’ groups that can use smaller amounts of power to trample on people’s rights. When I read the piece, I can imagine some nice Coasian bargains that could be reached if government had close to zero say and owners of private property were free to contract.