January 16, 2008

ONE FOR THREE WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE WHEN HE WAS AT YALE:

Panamania: For lovers of infrastructure and free-flowing trade, like AMITY SHLAES, there’s no place like Panama. (Amity Shlaes, Jan/Feb 2008, The American)

There is action tourism—the helicopter to the snowcap. There is ecotour­ism—the tortoise of the Galápagos. And there is nostalgia tourism—the trip to Pointe du Hoc. Then there is infrastructure tourism—at least in my family. We like to inspect big structures and think about what they tell us about the geography and poli­tics around them.

Nor are my relatives the only infra-tourists. In the age of motherboards and satellites, seeing a canal lock up close gives you the satisfying sense that you know how things work. Infra-tourism allows you a break from politics or history—it’s refreshing to think of the Suez in terms of cargo and water displacement instead of the 1956 conflict. Yet eventually infra­structure leads you to the politics and history in an interesting way.

Recently, I had the good luck to visit the Suez of our own hemisphere: the Panama Canal. Panama, the coun­try, seems hopeful these days.


While George HW Bush's interventions in Iraq and Somalia were failures, he did get Panama right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 16, 2008 11:02 AM
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