30 June 2008


Infrastructure maintenance. Not terribly exciting to think about, especially when there are far sexier topics like war, gun control, global warming, universal health care, No Child Left Behind, illegal immigrants, etc. It's the daily teeth brushing aspects of having a structure that does something useful, like eating tasty food.

A structure only remains in good working order when all of its parts, down to the smallest ones, are also all in good working order. Infrastructure maintenance means repairing or replacing the parts that are broken, and resting or recuperating the parts that are human. It's a basic necessity that must be amply budgeted for - for if one neglects to put in the proper amount of time and money, if one treats it like a luxury that can be cut, sooner or later one will either wind up paying the entire accumulated cost at once (with compound interest), or one will no longer have the structure.

This applies to all sorts of things. Teeth. Roads. Labor. Public education. Health. Environment. Security. Nearly all of which are themselves parts of larger infrastructures.


Anonymous said...

I wish my company would invest in that. Sigh. They put a huge priority on funding projects that produce revenue and are years behind on funding and staffing infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. It will catch up to them in the end.

Tom said...

So! The blog turns one, and now you think you can tackle the weighty stuff?

Terse, insightful, unexpected. Don't forget the stuff that got you here...

MWT said...

I used to write stuff like this all the time. Presumably it attracted a few of you to keep reading along to begin with. ;)

This one was inspired by a combination of reading Going Postal by Pratchett, where a lack of infrastructure maintenance was a key plot point, and seeing Michelle's "I have no opinion about infrastructure" which made me want to provide one. The fixing of infrastructure was the main theme of Bill Richardson's campaign.

Random Michelle K said...

I was wondering about that actually.

The problem is that "infrastructure" as an idea is hard to have an opinion on, other than, "yeah, sure, we should maintain it."

I mean, are we talking about bridge and interstate building? Museums? What?
I could go on endlessly about Morgantown infrastructure problems and precisely what should be done to fix those problems. But that's because I've seen and experienced these issues.

But on a federal level? Who knows what needs done? Does (as your mention of Pratchett) the Postal service need rebuilt from the ground up? How are roads across the nation?

Some things are easy to address on a national level. Infrastructure? To me? Not so much.

MWT said...

Infrastructure isn't just physical structures. It's also social structures, structures of civilization such as having a well-educated populace. It applies in some form or another to just about every other topic.

And yes, of course it should be maintained when you're looking at it in the abstract - but when it comes time to actually do budgeting, more often than not it isn't. It's one of those costs that keeps getting put off as long as possible, which is not really an optimal way to run things. And when it comes to specific topics - education, for example - you get people who think "well I don't have any kids so why should I have to help pay for it?" That is, you get people who disagree that it should be maintained because they don't see any direct personal benefit. That's where all the opinions come from.

Random Michelle K said...

But see, education is a state and local issue. Road construction is a state and local issue.

Infrastructure seems to me a case where states and cities/counties tell the federal government what they need to support their local infrastructure.

At least that's the way I see it.

Anne C. said...

education, for example - you get people who think "well I don't have any kids so why should I have to help pay for it?"

That just drives me nuts. They deal with other people every friggen day, from the gal at the toll booth to the kid at the checkout stand. You're paying for thier education, you moron, and your life is improved by them learning to read, write, add, and THINK. Everyone friggen benefits when we live in an educated friggen society!

Grumble grumble

I guess I should be glad that self-centered idjits like that are not procreating.

MWT said...

Yep, exactly why it's the sort of infrastructure that ought to be maintained. ;)

For something with more of a national scope, there's always health care. To me, ensuring that everyone has access to basic health/dental care is foundational to maintaining the human parts of every other infrastructure. People who have their medical needs taken care of are better able to do more interesting and productive things with their lives than worry about their health all the time (including the funds to pay for it).

Random Michelle K said...

OK. I agree with the need for universal health care. Guess I don't see that as infrastructure, but instead as a basic human right.

MWT said...

Well, you have to start with thinking of humans as infrastructure "parts." Part of maintaining optimal human productivity is to make sure they get enough rest and recreation between work, that they have good morale while at work, that they have peace of mind in non-work-related things (as much as a given employer can reasonably be expected to help provide, such as childcare) - and that yes, they are able to restore and maintain good health.

It's just a different perspective on the same problems. Infrastructure as a paradigm.

Random Michelle K said...

you have to start with thinking of humans as infrastructure "parts."

Y'know... Nothing personal, but I find that highly unsettling.

MWT said...

Heheh. Yeah, it's a bit mindbendy. ;) But it's also how for-profit organizations "think." When your morality paradigm is entirely derived from "profit = good, loss = bad", you're going to get into some thoughts from paradigms that deviate wildly from standard human-type morality.