Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Once upon a time, everyone in the world realized that a very small strip of land was keeping trade from flowing between two great water basins. I know that you assume that I am talking about the Chicago Portage, which separated the Great Lakes/Atlantic Ocean watershed from the Gulf of Mexico watershed. You're wrong. Besides, that problem has gotten plenty of thought, in the old days, the slightly less old days, and now. How Chi-centric do you think I am?

Today we are talking about Central America. As some of you may know, Central America separates the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and going the long way 'round is really long. Thus, people have long dreamed of cutting a hole in Central America to let ships through. This was first accomplished in 1914, after Teddy Roosevelt helpfully found enough Panamanians willing to form a govenment to wrest the area from Colombia. This meant that the other likely route, through Nicaragua became irrelevant. Thus, Nicaragua lost the opportunity to have a United States-controlled canal zone through the middle of the country, and had to settle for periodic invasions by U.S. forces instead.

All that may be changing though. Nicaragua is thinking about building a rival canal. Of course, Panama has a canal, and the proposed canal would cost about four times Nicaragua's gross national product. Still, those are mere details. Because two things are at stake here. First, Panama cannot upgrade the Panama Canal enough to transit the biggest container ships. Thus, there may be demand. Second, it would be expected to make Nicaragua a Big Country. With a canal, people would care about Nicaragua. It would be a playa.

I don't think anyone should show Nicaragua this study that shows that the Panama Canal has never really enriched Panamanians. Or tell them that unaffordable, uneconomic "national pride" megaprojects have not always worked out very well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you saying that digging a canal will make Nicaragua a "beach"? Panama got its wish when the US turned the canal over to them. What ever happened to being wary of getting your wishes granted. However, what really cost the Panamanian was the departure of the US troops and supporting economic benefits.

8:17 AM  
Blogger David said...

Yeah, go ahead and read the article. It turns out the U.S. actually worked pretty hard to ensure that dollars went back to the U.S.

As for the "beach" I have no idea what you are talking about.

5:17 PM  

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