I read over at the estimable http://cityunslicker.blogspot.com/ that the rough cost of creating a new $35,000 pa job in America (via the endless trillions of stimulus) is $235,000. The economics of the madhouse? Not necessarily; economic growth is about optimism more than anything and if the US is now back onto a sustainable growth path, so be it.
For a real madhouse decision, stay closer to home, and prepare for it next week. Cameron, despite being a classic home counties squire by upbringing, is going to give the go ahead for an unfeasibly expensive railway line to Birmingham, cutting through fine English countryside, making hundreds of square miles of it un-huntable. And for what? Jobs? Not many. GDP? Minimal impact. Crucial infrastructure development? Hardly. Time-saving necessity? 20 minutes, at HUGE cost per minute per punter; so huge, in fact, that the minimum ticket price for a one-way ticket on the Great White Elephant Line (trademark, Idle) looks like being £80 (in today's money) when the thing finally gets rolling. This is, in other words, a line for people travelling on expenses - businessmen and public servants. Or the carelessly rich. All of whom, obviously, have smartphones and tablets at their disposal to work in transit. The pro-HS2 lobby, unsurprisingly, provide their cost/benefit analysis on the basis that time spent on a train is time wasted. This isn't so much stupid as plainly dishonest. As for improving the Midlands and Northern economies.... how? High speed trains don't build cars or widgets or train hairdressers or teach Mandarin. All they do is allow professional types to whizz up from London a few minutes quicker. It may even be actively harmful to Midlands service industries.
We are talking £30bn here. And who amongst us doesn't believe it will be subject to MASSIVE cost overruns and delays? The mind boggles. I'd even wager that the majority of the ditchdiggers and line layers will be foreign workers, thankful for work from the bottomless pocket of the dear old UK taxpayer.
If Cameron wants to spend £30bn-£50bn on trains, let him take the mainline services back into public ownership, provide more trains and better signalling, and above all subsidise ticket prices so that mass railway travel takes more cars off the road. Railway travel for ALL, in other words, rather than this idiotic grand projet which will benefit few and hang around his neck like an albatross until the day he dies.