Infrastructure is a worthwhile investment part 1

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 9, 2018

By David Hampton

I’ve always liked post-apocalyptic science fiction movies. You know, movies like Planet of the Apes, The Time Machine, Mad Max, On the Beach, Book of Eli. Mankind has blown it up and all is a wasteland. The characters struggle to survive. They scavenge the crumbling remains of the civilization their ancestors once built.

The good science fiction message, of course, was about the folly of war and mankind forgetting what is important and letting things slip away.

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We haven’t blown everything up, but perhaps we are letting things slip away. Our post-apocalyptic scenario has to do with lost political institutional knowledge and public wherewithal to provide for basic needs of our state. It appears that our government is incapable of building and maintaining an adequate, safe system of roads and bridges needed for transportation and our economy. Oh, we know how to build roads and bridges, but we have forgotten what it takes politically and governmentally to act to build and maintain our roads and bridges.

Building roads and bridges ought to be simple, right? Either do it or don’t; reap benefits or suffer consequences. There is no vexing, complicated public policy question here. But the members of the Legislature and its leadership, selected by we the people, cannot agree on a plan, any plan, to fix the highways and maintain bridges. Now, they will make all kinds of excuses and rationalizations, but the reality is that to build highways and bridges, government has to pay for highways and bridges. And that requires revenue from taxes. We either raise money to pay for roads and bridges, or we don’t. It’s yes or no, build or don’t build, and, so far, the answer is “no.”

Now there once was a time when men and women of good will came together to form governments to accomplish societal tasks that private entities or individuals could not. That took compromise, common sense and some effort. And, yes, it took sacrifice of we the people. We have to vote, get involved and pay taxes.

In this post-political apocalyptic Mississippi, we have forgotten that. We are basically leaderless. Like the movies, we have a few warlords over their fiefdoms, but no real overarching, common-goal, vision-driven leadership that looks at a problem and comes up with a solution. Our elected officials argue and posture. They even whine and say there is “no political will.” But, instead of trying to create “political will,” they just shrug their shoulders.

See part two in next week’s Item

David Hampton is a Mississippi journalist. He retired as editorial director of the Clarion Ledger in 2012 and now teaches journalism. Write to him at