The Cost of Addiction
According to Wikipedia, the Interstate Highway System cost $114 billion to build. Can we even begin to calculate what it would cost us today not to have it?
As I commented at Searls' blog post, the main cost of not having the interstate has been brought about by our having it.
Access to subsidized highway transportation, at a cost that has little if anything to do with the costs one imposes on the system, has encouraged a business model that relies heavily on the Interstate. The Interstate has generated distance between things, and thus increased our dependence on the Interstate. It's an example of what Ivan Illich called a "radical monopoly."
And to the extent that subsidized long-distance transportation makes centralized production artificially profitable, the Interstate results in a net loss of efficiency. We'd be better off, overall, if the Interstate had never been built. Something which is only profitable when the cost side of the ledger is shifted to somebody else, is not really an "advance."