If there’s no restaurant, we should feel the same confusion we feel when a bill has sat on the floor of Grand Central Station for a week.
Maybe the city government banned Thai restaurants for some reason? We can take this beyond money-making into any competitive or potentially-competitive field. There are thousands of research biologists who would like a Nobel Prize.
There are dozens of government bodies, private institutions, and universities that could do this kind of thing if they wanted. So “science is broken” seems like the same kind of statement as “a $20 bill has been on the floor of Grand Central Station for a week and nobody has picked it up”. Or: suppose you thought that health care is inefficient and costs way too much.
But if this were true, some entrepreneur could start a new hospital / clinic / whatever that delivered health care at lower prices and with higher profit margins.
Either they’ll be amazing geniuses, understand a vast scope of cutting-edge material, have access to the latest lab equipment, or most likely all three.
But go too far with this kind of logic, and you start accidentally proving that nothing can be bad anywhere.
If you see a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk in Grand Central Station, and you remember having seen the same bill a week ago, something is wrong. But there’s no way that such a low-hanging piece of money-making fruit would go unpicked for that long.
Thousands of people cross Grand Central every week – there’s no way a thousand people would all pass up a free . In the same way, suppose your uncle buys a lot of Google stock, because he’s heard Google has cool self-driving cars that will be the next big thing. No – if Google stock was underpriced (ie you could easily get rich by buying Google stock), then everyone smart enough to notice would buy it.
It’s an analysis of the efficient market hypothesis and how it relates to the idea of low-hanging fruit.
It’s a self-conscious defense of the author’s own arrogance. If the world was created by the Invisible Hand, who is good, how did it come to contain so much that is evil?
Entrepreneurs are pretty smart, so they would notice this money-making opportunity, raise some funds from equally-observant venture capitalists, make a better mass transit system, and get really rich off of all the tickets. So “US cities don’t have good mass transit” seems like the same kind of statement as “a bill has been on the floor of Grand Central Station for a week and nobody has picked it up.” Therefore, US cities have good mass transit, or at least the best mass transit that’s economically viable right now.