In the Land of Constitution

Princeton, NJ, USA, 15 july 2013

We are currently staying for 3 days in Princeton NJ, before starting a new 600 miles ride with our franco american club, the Lafayette Riders, along the Hudson Valley river.
Like always my angle in this blog will be to try to analyse and understand what I see around me, with the astonishment a foreigner on his saddle. We all know that we don’t see anymore our environment , as we are so used to it, whereas an external eye asks questions that we would not have asked ourselves. Let me give you an example: Princeton is a lovely city, very green, very well off, with the typical landscape of nice big 5 bedrooms two bathrooms wooden houses curled into the woods, surrounded by beautifully manucured lawns, two shinny recent powerful cars on the driveway, the American Dream. People here vote democrat, are extremely environmentally conscious to a point that felling a tree is worst than a crime. But if you look at the roads and the streets, they are, like everywhere in America, lined with ugly wooden electric posts supporting a maze of thick electric wires, the kind of electric lines you would expect to see in India, Pakistan, Ghana, but certainly not in a developped country like the US. Why is that? Why is that the Amtrak train that took us from Newark airport to Princeton is shabby, dirty, noisy, slow , incomfortable and outdated by 20 years?
I will dare an explanation: half of the Americans hate paying taxes to the Federal State. Therefore public spending and investments in infrastructures is relatively low, compared to what we do in the “socialist ” Europe, and in particular in France. The huge investments that modern electric lines require, whether buried or not, that fast train lines like our TGV or modern highways involve, can be decided only by a strong central State which raises high taxes.
Here in America lots of public things are funded by rich people who, having succeeded and become very rich, give back to the community through foundations. What in France is financed by the central State with taxpayeŕs money is often funded here by private donations. The best example is the amazing network of public libraries, entirely funded by Carnegie at the beginning of the 20th century with the immense fortune he made in the railway business.
Princeton University is a magnificent private University surrounded with ugly public electric poles.
Stark contrast to the eyes of an external observer….

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One Response to In the Land of Constitution

  1. Mike H says:


    I concur: the utility poles are ugly and the American taxpayer hates taxes. What the American taxpayer has not yet accepted is that “you get what you pay for.” We pay lower rates and we get lower return. Bike and write on, Cyclophily.


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