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Is Perfect Infrastructure a Sign of Corruption?

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Some countries have better infrastructure than others. And we all envy those countries where the infrastructure is perfect.. no potholes in the roads, trains run on time, everything functions perfectly. But is perfect infrastructure a sign of government corruption?

The problem with perfection of course is diminishing returns. This is the economic theory that you get less and less for your money the more you invest in something. For those without a background in economics, lets say you clean your room once a month, and its always a mess. If you clean your room once a week, now your room is much cleaner, you get a lot for your added effort. But now lets say you clean your room every day, it doesn't get that much cleaner. Now clean twice a day, the added effort is getting you less and less payback.

The same is true of course with infrastructure. If we spend X amount of money on fixed potholes in the roadways, lets say we get 80% of them fixed, but there are still a few around. If we double the amount we spend on the problem, maybe we now get 95% of them. If we double it again, now we get 99%. Or the same can be said for a rail system. If we spend double the amount of money, we can get 95% of the trains on time within a minute of their schedule, if we double again, we get to 99%.

Now in the real world of competing needs in society for government money, think schools, police, fire, or just lower taxes, how can a rational democratic government justify spending huge sums of money on buying those last few percentage points of quality in their infrastructure systems?? I'm sure most people would rather put up with a few potholes, and few late trains in exchange for greatly reduced prices and tax subsidies. I don't think that they can. But where they are doing it anyways, MAYBE, just MAYBE... government is OVER INVESTING because of roadway and construction lobbies, unions, etc have a lot of power in government.

So now to name names... the worst offender seems to be Japan. Having been there for a summer, I can say every bit of infrastructure is just about perfectly run, and gets much admiration on this board. Germany comes next, and Switzerland, Singapore, Scandinavian countries, and maybe a few others. The USA and Canada might seem to be a little underinvested (on the east coast anyways), but maybe we have the balance just about right, along with France, the UK, and some others. Countries like Italy, Eastern Europe, are underinvested rather than over invested.

These are BIG sums of money that can used in different ways for a society, so its important to get the right balance. Anyone else have ideas as you what countries really get this right??

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Interesting thoughts. I tend to think that some of the infastructure around here is so bad that it's corrupt to not try and fix it up a little. They literally only fix the roads when they get to a point where someone could die on them just driving normally.

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I'm in NJ where infrastructure is rather bad, so I agree with you there. However, I think the US overall gets this balance just about right. The original discussion took place concerning the electrical grid. How much money does it cost to run a grid that never fails, as opposed to one that might have a blackout once every 20 years? Dispite all the flak about our last mega-blackout, its a 20 year event! I think our priorities are just about right.

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