Lunchtime reading for you:
The New York Times had an interesting story recently about Japan's experience with massive government spending, much of it on public works projects of dubious value. (Having lived in Japan for a few years, I can attest to the absurd scale of some of these projects.) Writes the NYT's Martin Fackler:
Japan’s rural areas have been paved over and filled in with roads, dams and other big infrastructure projects, the legacy of trillions of dollars spent to lift the economy from a severe downturn caused by the bursting of a real estate bubble in the late 1980s. During those nearly two decades, Japan accumulated the largest public debt in the developed world — totaling 180 percent of its $5.5 trillion economy — while failing to generate a convincing recovery.
Far better, the article suggests, to spend the money on human capital:
Japan’s experience also seems to argue for spending heavily to promote social development. A 1998 report by the Japan Institute for Local Government, a nonprofit policy research group, found that every 1 trillion yen, or about $11.2 billion, spent on social services like care for the elderly and monthly pension payments added 1.64 trillion yen in growth. Financing for schools and education delivered an even bigger boost of 1.74 trillion yen, the report found.
And if you want to feel really good about your home's stats on Zillow -- and the state's economy, read New Yorker writer George Packer's story about life in the suburban ghost towns of half-built subdivisions and abandoned homes in Florida.