The 20th century saw dirt roads turn into bitumen and concrete highways around the world. Massive government road building projects (and expropriation) constructed streets and highways across the western world and beyond. These roads were all billed to the taxpayer, with the promise being a massive increase in transportation and thus the economy. It was the century of gasoline and diesel. But this approach has been tapped out. New road construction seems almost like a relic as investors push NVIDIA shares beyond the trillion dollar mark and AI fever grips the business world.

Fibre optic lines, satellite Internet, and all the other infrastructure of the digital revolution seem like the highways of the 21st century. Yet governments largely don't build these, and government policy in many countries is now turning against the Internet. Under the banner of public safety, governments are restricting the Internet from various directions, including the introduction of a series of laws in Parliament in my own country, all aimed at reducing online freedom. The premise is that the Internet is a killer, but the number of people killed by the Internet is surely far less than that of road deaths in Canada. The reality of infrastructure is that big benefits aren't free. Roads kill people via the cars that drive on them, the pollution from their construction, and various other negatives that are simply accepted as the cost of boosting economic capacity.

The Internet is less deadly than cars, and yet lately has taken up a lot of attention from politicians of various political stripes. But in the rush to try to squash harms (whether real or imaginary - there's little difference in the world of politics), there's an erosion of the infrastructure that future prosperity depends on.

We're in the digital century. Digital infrastructure is what matters, and it's the infrastructure that Canadians need to build on for their own prosperity. But it's a shared prosperity, since the Internet crosses borders more easily than roads. Every person is now less than a second away from any other, rather than a several hour drive to the nearest border. This is an amazing revolution, that might end up being more transformative than the gasoline-powered growth of the 20th century.

Governments massively spent on road infrastructure. But there's no similar spending on digital infrastructure today. And indeed, the opposite seems to be happening, with laws that cause the sector harm. That's not the path to prosperity, freedom, or the future.

Where's the spending on 21st century roads? Obviously there's already digital infrastructure, but it's not the recipient of the same largesse and positive regulatory environment that roads benefited from in the 20th century.