Matters of Scale - Public Investment: Some Choices

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"The emphasis on superhighways?takes on much of the lunatic quality of an arms race. As highways get bigger and better, they invite more cars, destroy what undeveloped country remains, and require still more highways in an unending spiral." -David Riesman, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1957
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Number of miles of parkway that could be built in Eugene, Oregon, for $10 million
1
Number of commuter bicycles equipped with baskets, lights, locks, helmet, and raingear, that could be provided to the 93,000 citizens of Eugene, Oregon who are over 11 years old, for the same $10 million
93000
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"Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf." -Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities, 1938
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Number of new interchanges to be built on a U.S. interstate highway at Springfield, Virginia, for an expected cost of $300 million
1
Number of miles of off-street paved bicycle paths that could be built in urban areas, for the same price as that one highway interchange
2000
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"The Cold War is over, bur that hasn't stopped the [U.S.] Department of Defense from proceeding with a $27 billion satellite network designed to provide post-armageddon communications during a long nuclear war with the Soviet Union, a country that no longer exists." -Woody Igou, In These Times, February, 1994
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Percentage of global military expenditures that could be covered by an allocation of $20 billion per year
2%
Percentage of the global population that could be given primary education, health care, family planning services, safe drinking water, and adequate nutrition, if spending on those services were increased by the same $20 billion per year
100%
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"[It is] a brontosaurus that has had its spinal cord cut but is so big and has so many ganglia near the tail that it can keep thrashing around for years not knowing it's dead." -Amory Lovins, on the decline of the nuclear industry, quoted in the Boston Globe, 1978
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Number of years away scientists said a nuclear fusion power plant was, in 1959
another 25 years
Number of years away scientists said a nuclear fusion power plant was in 1994 (35 years and more than $10 billion later), after a major technological advance announced at Princeton University
another 30 to 35 years
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Sources: Parkway costs: Center for Appropriate Transport, Eugene, Oregon; costs of commuter bicycles and bicycle paths: International Bicycle Fund, Seattle, Washington; interchange cost: Washington Post, Feb. 20, 1994; military and social expenditures: Lester R. Brown, et. al, State of the World 1992; nuclear fusion quotes: Washington Post, Dec. 20, 1993. Compiled by Ed Ayres.