Wednesday, June 27, 2012
The Policy Debate 2012 Infrastructure Topic - misc
Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.
A Note About Govt Spending
As I was prepping the previous parts of this analysis and talking about investments, I realized a lot of the discussion is based on economic theories and theories are - well - theories and some theories are disputed by other theories. One of the core premises of the Affirmative case for investment is based on the belief that smart government spending creates jobs and otherwise stimulates the economy. This is classic Keynesian economics, but proponents of the so-called Austrian school of economics think that is false. The Austrian school was mentored by Ludwig von Mises. Senator Ron Paul, in fact, is a proponent of the Austrian point of view.
So I am saying this for awareness since it is possible for a Neg case to dispute the investment claims using Mises' economic theories. For the most part, it should be possible for the Aff to refute and defend based on the GAO and CBO budget studies issued by the USFG. Evidence in those studies as related to Infrastructure spending, supports the point of view that, at least for this topic, government spending does stimulate the economy. But if your judge has a Ron Paul sticker on her laptop, you may want to have an economic theory file. You will have no problems finding academic support for the theories.
Types of Transportation and Related Infrastructure
Currently there are three general types of transportation to be considered, land (automobiles, trucks and trains), marine (watercraft) and air (aircraft and spacecraft). When we think of goods which require transportation, we typically think of durable goods, consumer goods, and the like, that are moved in packages, crates, shipping containers, etc. But there are other equally important commodities, requiring other forms of transportation that should not be overlooked. For example, liquid and gas products are transported through pipes and conduits. Data and communications are transported electronically over wires and broadcast over the airways and through space. Electrical energy is transported over wires and buss structures. It should be noted, water, energy, communication and data products are not typically considered part of the transporation infrastructure so Affirmatives which support investment in those kinds of things can expect major topicality challenges. I mention them here because I would not be surprised to see some teams attempt to expand the definitions to include other kinds of infrastructures. Be aware of this and be prepared to challenge it if necessary.
As I have pointed out in the "key definitions" portion of this analysis, energy infrastructure includes transportation as evidenced by the USFG's own reports. So why would energy not be part of transportation? Good luck with this one if you decide we need more pipelines or something. Let me know how it works out for you. Hey, the argument can be made - the question is, will the judge buy it?
When we think of land based transport we typically think of cars, trucks, buses and trains but we can also include motorcycles and animal-powered or human-powered vehicles such as carts, buggies or bicycles. (Human-powered transport can even include strapping something or someone on your back and walking.) Vehicles come in a wide variety of designs, sizes, shapes, efficiency, and utility. Wheeled vehicles need roadways, paths or rails of various construction and these roadways consume a sizable amount of real-estate which may be privately or publically owned. Other kinds of structures support land transportation including bridges, tunnels, traffic control devices (signage and signals), safety devices (guard-rails, painted lines, more signage, etc). Passenger stations, weigh stations, inspection facilities, rest areas and construction and maintenance facilities.
Water-based transport supports all manner of boat traffic including ships, boats, barges, rafts, etc. The structures which support these modes of transport include ports, seaways, canals, rivers, lakes, lighthouses, locks and dams, docks, etc. The U.S. has an extensive network of waterways and a large volume of goods are transported by water. In some areas, water based mass transit systems are common for transporting people and include the use of ferrys, rafts, water taxis and the like.
Another significant transportation source is aerial and includes various types of flying aircraft like airplanes (personal, passenger and air cargo), helicopters, and similar craft. These are supported by infrastructure including airports, navigation systems and air traffic control. I would also classify space transportation as a form of aerial transport although in some cases, space transport is considered a completely separate system and under some definitions may not be part of the transportation infrastructure at all. Indeed, small amount of materials and people are typically moved this way and the positive economic impact of this kind of transportation is only hinted at by entrepreneurs. Presently, no enterprise uses space based transporation to move material and people for commercial purposes but their use for military applications have been exposed. Still, the advent of next generation air transport envisions suborbital type aircraft which could cut transportation costs and travel times significantly and play a major role in the near future of air transport systems.
Energy and Data Transport
As previously discussed, the transportation of energy and data such as oil, gas, electricity, internet packets, communications, and electronic data, may or may not be part of this resolution and will depend on the kind of supporting definitions that can be found and the predisposition of the judge evaluating the case. These commodites are transported on a network of pipes, cables, wires, towers, broacast facilities, satellites, etc.
Survey of Benefits and Problems
Investment in the transportation infrastructure has benefits and problems which can be briefly reviewed. The economic investment expects an economic return and usually this can be considered a benefit. Studies indicate, at least potentially, the benefit of job creation, reduced costs for goods, improved fuel efficiency, fewer accidents, and a generally enhanced capability to compete in the global market. Public mass transit systems, carry the potential to reduce consumption of non-renewable energy, reduce harmful emmissions and reduce traffic jams in urban environments.
Of course, there are downsides to investment in the transportation infrastructure, not least of which include expenses required to maintain the systems, the environmental impact on land, air and water, the ecological impact on plants, wildlife and the food chain, ease of transport for disease and pestilence, possible continued reliance on non-renewable energy sources, and in direct opposition to some of the advantages, less efficiency owing to more traffic and traffic jams and increased numbers of accidents.
External Effects and Risks
In the interest of protecting investments, it is necessary to understand the risks of significantly increasing transportation infrastructure. While some external events can ruin an investment, many risks are known in advance and evaluated. For example, we may be aware of the impact a transportation system will have on climate but what is the impact of global warming on transportation systems?
Risks also arise from other kinds of natural causes such as earthquakes, floods, severe storms, fires, etc. Since one could argue the transportation infrastructure supports the the life-blood of the American economy, assessment of the risk and impacts of terrorist attacks and wars must also be considered.