Friday, June 13, 2014

The astounding nature of the Manhattan Project

War brings an urgency that governments otherwise fail to summon. For instance, the Manhattan Project took six years to produce a working atomic bomb, starting from virtually nothing, and at its peak consumed 0.4 percent of American economic output. It is hard to imagine a comparably speedy and decisive achievement these days.

As a teenager in the 1970s, I heard talk about the desirability of rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge. Now, a replacement is scheduled to open no earlier than 2017, at least — provided that concerns about an endangered sturgeon can be addressed. Kennedy Airport remains dysfunctional, and La Guardia is hardly cutting edge, hobbling air transit in and out of New York. The $800 billion stimulus bill, in response to the recession, has not changed this basic situation.
--Tyler Cowen, NYT, on the upside of war