LA’s new crack epidemic

| February 9 2013
Christopher Cook

It’s time to rethink everything. We’ve spent the last 100 years believing that government can fix everything. That it can solve every social problem. That with the right amount of taxation, tinkering, and force—more of all three, naturally—utopia is right around the corner. By every measure, this is the wrong way to go. Every time a comprehensive survey is done, we find that the countries that do less of this are more successful, and the countries that do more of this are less successful. And yet we keep doing it.

Think about the impact on the business community. Actually, you don’t need to think about it, you just need to look around you. Millions have dropped out of the labor force because there aren’t enough jobs. Jobs aren’t being created because businesses have no sense of certainty. No ability to plan. No sense of assurance that if they invest in growth, that the fist of Obama’s regulatory state isn’t going to come smashing down on them with some new punishment. Unemployment levels among certain cohorts are higher than they’ve been in decades. Teen unemployment is the worst since WWII. This is not an accident. This is not a failure of the market. This is a failure of government.

Government failures come in all shapes and sizes. And so do the solutions, if only we could break out of our current paradigm and try something new. Special interests stand in the way. Inveterate statists stand in the way. But that doesn’t change the fact that the solutions are there. How about switching to a consumption tax? How about unleashing the power of the market to help people in need?

How about letting people help fix sidewalks?

Ever walk down a Los Angeles city sidewalk? It may feel like climbing the Himalayas.

Tree roots have uplifted many city sidewalks across L.A., turning a quick walk around the neighborhood into a treacherous experience. According to The Los Angeles Times, the city receives about 2,500 claims a year from people who hurt themselves on these cracks.

“People get hurt and people can die from falling down on and hitting their head on the sidewalk,” says Los Angeles resident Peter Griswold.

What’s the city’s solution to this problem? A three-year, $10 million survey of all of the city’s sidewalks.

Residents like Griswold say that price tag is too high. He has come up with a plan of his own that involves photographs, GPS devices, and – most importantly – volunteers. Griswold is confident that his ragtag crew of sidewalk cartographers can find and report trouble spots more quickly – and cheaply – than city workers.

“What Peter Griswold is trying to do with volunteers, the advantage that has is that it’s decentralized,” says Adrian Moore, vice president of research at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV.

Moore grants it may be hard to implement on a large scale but you have to stack that up against the usual way city governments fix local problems. Namely, writing a fat check to a contractor so they don’t have to deal with it anymore. Hence, the $10 million.

Moore points out that these uplifted sidewalk cracks are indicative of something bigger: bureaucracy run amok.

“One of the problems bureaucracies have, and LA in particular has, is nobody who manages these departments actually invests the management effort in saying lets be ruthless about prioritizing what’s most important,” says Moore.

 

0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest