The authors show that the Canal produced great economic dividends for the first quarter-century following its opening, despite massive cost overruns and delays. Relying on geographical advantage and military might, the United States captured most of these benefits. By the 1970s, however, when the Carter administration negotiated the eventual turnover of the Canal back to Panama, the strategic and economic value of the Canal had disappeared. And yet, contrary to skeptics who believed it was impossible for a fledgling nation plagued by corruption to manage the Canal, when the Panamanians finally had control, they switched the Canal from a public utility to a for-profit corporation, ultimately running it better than their northern patrons.
A remarkable tale, The Big Ditch offers vital lessons about the impact of large-scale infrastructure projects, American overseas interventions on institutional development, and the ability of governments to run companies effectively.
Noel Maurer examines the ways that American investors initially influenced their government to intercede to protect investments in locations such as Central America and the Caribbean. Costs were small--at least at the outset--but with each incremental step, American policy became increasingly entangled with the goals of those they were backing, making disengagement more difficult. Maurer discusses how, all the way through the 1970s, the United States not only failed to resist pressure to defend American investments, but also remained unsuccessful at altering internal institutions of other countries in order to make property rights secure in the absence of active American involvement. Foreign nations expropriated American investments, but in almost every case the U.S. government's employment of economic sanctions or covert action obtained market value or more in compensation--despite the growing strategic risks. The advent of institutions focusing on international arbitration finally gave the executive branch a credible political excuse not to act. Maurer cautions that these institutions are now under strain and that a collapse might open the empire trap once more.
With shrewd and timely analysis, this book considers American patterns of foreign intervention and the nation's changing role as an imperial power.
Americans are stuck. We live with travel delays on congested roads, shipping delays on clogged railways, and delays on repairs, project approvals, and funding due to gridlocked leadership. These delays affect us all, whether you are a daily commuter, a frequent flyer, an entrepreneur, an online shopper, a job-seeker, or a community leader. If people can't move, if goods are delayed, and if information networks can't connect, then economic opportunity deteriorates and social inequity grows.
We have been stuck for too long, writes Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author Rosabeth Moss Kanter. In Move, Kanter visits cities and states across the country to tackle our challenges—and reveal solutions—on the roads and rails, and in our cities, skies, and the halls of Washington, D.C. We meet a visionary engineer and public servant spearheading an underwater tunnel in Miami to streamline port operations and redirect constant traffic from the city center. We see mayors partnering with large corporations and nimble entrepreneurs to unveil parking apps, bike-sharing programs, and seamless Wi-Fi networks in greener, more vibrant, more connected cities. And we learn about much-needed efforts—such as dynamic tolls on highways and fees based on vehicle miles traveled—to reduce our dependence on the outmoded gasoline tax in our new electric car age.
It all adds up to a new vision for American mobility, where local leaders shape initiatives without waiting for Congress to act, and ambitious companies partner with governments to tackle projects that serve the public good, create jobs, and improve quality of life while providing healthy sources of investment. With unique insight and unrivaled expertise, Kanter gives us a sweeping look across America, revealing the innovative projects, vital leaders, and bold solutions that are moving our transportation infrastructure toward a cleaner, faster, and more prosperous future.