The Fall of Civilization Part 2: Asphalt Is Replaced By Cheaper Gravel; ‘Back to Stone Age’

A follow up to my recent post The fall of civilization spreads to Oakland.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as “poor man’s pavement.” Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

Fans of Ayn Rand will of course be reminded of the country’s situation in Atlas Shrugged where highways and railroads deteriorated from neglect as economic conditions worsened when the government punished success and rewarded failure.

I am reminded of a much more ancient example. The prophet warns (Micah 3:12):

Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

The Temple was a beautiful palace and holiest place on earth. Not only would it be destroyed, twice, it would be neglected, becoming a heap of rubble and overgrown with weeds. Is the same thing happening in American? Especially in places such as Detroit and other “rust belt” cities?

In fact, America’s situation may be even worse than ancient Israel’s. In ancient Israel, the temples were destroyed by foreign invaders. In modern America, as in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, we are destroying our own property through self-imposed economic decline, especially in the industrial sector. We apparently need no help from foreign conquerors to go “Back to Stone Age,” as The Wall Street Journal describes it.

3 responses to “The Fall of Civilization Part 2: Asphalt Is Replaced By Cheaper Gravel; ‘Back to Stone Age’

  1. Great post Michael. I’m a big AR fan and the similarities between the decline of America and the West as a whole to Atlas Shrugged are striking.

  2. Michael,
    I join you in lamenting our self-emposed economic decline, and its adverse impact on critical infrastructure – and in your admiration of Ayn Rand’s work… However, I just completed a great road trip through northern CO, eastern WY, western SD and northern NE, about 1,500 miles in all, much of it on unpaved roads (no idea if any of them were ever paved).
    The unpaved roads significantly enhanced the experience for me, massively reducing the traffic (we sometimes went hours between sightings of other vehicles) and harking back to an earlier era in our history. Wildlife abounded, probably in direct proportion to the reduction in traffic; there was no roadside litter; and, in hundreds of miles travelled, no a traffic cop to be seen!
    So, while I share your views on our economic decline, I might actually put in a plea to convert more country roads back to gravel!

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