Several people sent me this Reason video on light rail in Detroit
I was really struck by the cargo cult reasoning here and the confusion of cause and effect. Because we see rail in highly developed urban areas (e.g. Manhattan) then if we build rail in a blighted area, it will soon look like Manhattan.
Note the mentions of serving sports stadiums. As I have observed earlier, light rail systems almost always service professional sports stadiums. Is there no limit to the public subsidies that politicians are willing to throw at sports franchise owners?
Then ending is a classic
Update: From Wikipedia, for those not familiar with cargo cults:
Cargo cult activity in the Pacific region increased significantly during and immediately after World War II, when the residents of these regions observed the Japanese and American combatants bringing in large amounts of material. When the war ended, the military bases closed and the flow of goods and materials ceased. In an attempt to attract further deliveries of goods, followers of the cults engaged in ritualistic practices such as building crude imitation landing strips, aircraft and radio equipment, and mimicking the behaviour that they had observed of the military personnel operating them.
Sure sounds a lot like Detroit, trying to bring back the prosperity. This is actually pretty endemic in modern-day policy making, as so few people really understand the origins of wealth. Obama's stimulus programs can be seen in the same light, as cargo cult economics.