The Union Democrat
China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative
To the Editor:
It is commonly held that Ford Motor Co. and the internal combustion engine powered automobile spurred the growth of the U.S. economy in the 20th century. It was the primary driver (pun intended), the main engine (another pun). People were capable of traveling wider and farther than with horse-drawn carriages. Truck travel supported commerce by enabling producers to transport their products to a much wider customer base. All of this is true, with one caveat.
When automobiles were first developed and produced, there were no roads for them to drive on. At that time, automobiles were largely the toys of the wealthy. It was even believed that America could only have something like 100,000 automobiles because there were only 100,000 chauffeurs to drive them.
Enter Henry Ford. He insightfully saw that instead of selling a few highly priced cars, he could make more money by selling a gazillion less expensive ones that common citizens could afford. People accepted having to actually drive their own cars. Then the rest, as they say, is history. But soon reality struck. America was all gassed up with nowhere to go. There were no roads.
Enter the United States government. American tax dollars funded and created the highway system in the early 20th century and the interstate system after World War II. These roads created a “belt” across America, kind of a “Belt of Roads.” That, not the automobile, enabled the growth of the American economy. And now China is developing a “Belt and Road” around the world. This will power the world economy of the 21st century. Everyone involved will prosper. We fail to participate at our peril.