Ten years ago, a general pessimism began to set in among some pundits and technologists who convinced themselves that America can’t do big things anymore. But they only got it half right.

Although the U.S. had created digital services like Facebook, these thinkers noted, massive technological efforts to match the scale of the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear weapons, the Apollo moon landings, or big infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam or the interstate highway system, seemed out of reach in the modern era. Countries like China boasted massive dams and ultra-fast trains, while the U.S. could barely repair its roads or keep Amtrak running.

Noah Smith is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist.

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