Why drive to Vegas when you can trust China’s transportation industry to do the heavy lifting for you? Why develop high-speed trains – an American innovation from the late 50’s – when you can import a turn-key project? And hopefully create new technology, manufacturing, and constructions jobs in the region. According to Shu Guozeng, government bureaucrat – sorry leading official – with the “Communist party’s leading group on financial and economic affairs”, in the reassuring words of Bloomberg News.

Yes China has developed and built lots of impressive high-speed trains in a nation with several times America’s population – much of it located in the Eastern part of the country near their coastline. And yes, communist party officials have developed a state-run, socialist, (as in Mao, not Bernie Sanders), form of mercantile capitalism that may yet impload under the weight of subsidies, over-construction, and exploited labor. And corruption. You can’t just shoot or hang all the corrupt party officials. So they do symbolic, occasional lynchings to keep the rest from stealing too much. But they have built lots of trains and the West Coast wants in on all those cutting-edge, multi-billion dollar projects.

So just in time for Xi Jinping’s visit, we have a high-speed rail project linking LA and Vegas. The Vegas-Victorville portion alone has been estimated at $5 billion; but for projects like these estimates are even more prone to be under the actual, final cost. There is no doubt that when, and even if, it finally gets built, it will look great in ads for Vegas. The happy family texting and gaming their way across the Mojave Desert, on their way to good, clean gambling and shows. It surely will look great in HD.

But whether the rail link will ever pay for itself, or prove an expensive show project for Chinese transportation companies, is unclear. At least All Aboard Florida is being built by Florida East Coast Industries, the descendant if you will, of Henry Flagler’s companies. Better to have home-grown companies control a project that is more about showcasing revitalized technology than making a profit. And in Florida, they’re building a fast train, but not THE fatest train available. The West, by contrast, is showcasing the latest bank-busting toy from Asia. And their projects in California and Nevada and elsewhere, are even less likely to make a profit. They seem to be following Hollywoodonomics: always use other people’s money; always take your cut up front; let other people worry about making a profit; walk away from the wreckage; and do it all over again because you’re a player. And the shooting – that would be a metaphor for the actual building of the rail line to Vegas, not one about corrupt Chinese officials – hasn’t even started yet.

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