If you want a snapshot of the future of 20th century progressivism, look at the nation’s waterways. In the 19th and 20th centuries dams were a hallmark of progressive planning – using the resources and coordination of the government to build an infrastructure that would power industry, generate electricity, and create construction jobs. Now many of those dams are coming down. Says the Economist:
In this century’s first decade, 410 American dams were removed. While that is just a small portion of the more than 84,000 dams in America, the rate of removal is growing; more than twice as many dams were removed between 2000 and 2010 than in any other decade. Like the Twelve Mile River dams, many of them are relics of a bygone age: holdovers from the Industrial Revolution built to power mills long defunct for industries that have largely vanished from America.
Particularly out west, where many massive dams were erected by gung-ho progressives around the turn of the last century, the destruction of fisheries and the loss of opportunities for commercial and recreational use of rivers is starting to outweigh the increasingly obsolete benefits of the old dams.It’s an apt metaphor for the deconstruction of the last century’s progressive agenda. Decades of progressive legislation and regulations that are no longer needed will be dismantled as new technology, a new post-industrial economy, and a new era of budget-crunching force reform and renewal.That doesn’t mean there should be no dams, but dams have costs as well as benefits, and these need to be carefully and prudently weighed. In many cases, the more fully the costs are assessed, the weaker the case for the dam appears.The de-damming of America has begun. China and many developing countries are still in their damming phase. This too shall pass.