Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Editorial: Cheap is gooder

I've read today's editorial three times and I still can't say with much confidence that I understand what the unnamed editor is getting at. It verges on a drunken ramble, full of non-sequitur and tangential dead-ends and apparently unscathed by proofreading.

Peering through the murk, the best I can tell is that he's reacting to outlay for vital public services, using fire suppression as an ideal good (he could see the fire from his house), and comparing that skeptically to the removal of the widely hated traffic cams in PV in favor of live police officers, speculating that maintaining the level of traffic safety that the machines brought will cost more.

Let's posit for the sake of argument that PV officials never slanted their estimations of the effect of the cameras to justify their own decisions to apply them, and so the reductions in traffic injuries have been real and related to the cameras. Most people still hate them, and want live officers to handle traffic enforcement. Therefore the public sees higher value in getting rid of the cameras and, if necessary, paying more for that higher-value enforcement. That's just how our political system works, and understanding it requires a little better ken of economics than the Walmart model.

Of course, the exclusive "this thing or that thing" argument is far too simplistic to matter. If traffic safety is secured by reducing vehicle speed, then we could accomplish the goal more cheaply and effectively by, for example, removing paving or adding frequent speed bumps. The point here is that even if you believe that the cameras have been effective (and I think there's a persuasive argument against that), you have to admit that there are other ways to accomplish the goal that people will hate less.

Note: "Ravish" means "carry away for the purpose of rape," and is usually used archly today, though its application to a mountain remains outside even the boundaries of satire. (He meant to use "ravage," of course.)

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