In November, when the Democrats won the US House of Representatives, Alphaville thought we might be talking about a deal to pay for roads and bridges, and so we started emailing people to figure out whether public-private partnerships — the US's preferred way of talking about paying for new public-works projects — were a cartload of horse apples. Peter Norton, a professor at the University of Virginia's School of Engineering, gave such a fascinating, counterintuitive and complete response that we asked him whether we could just run it in full. And he said yes. And then, for three months, there was no talk of infrastructure. So we waited. Now, this week, the president offered his state of the union address a lukewarm endorsement of some kind of incentive for private infrastructure spending.
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In November, when the Democrats won the US House of Representatives, Alphaville thought we...