Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunk costs as monuments 

Chad the Elder, resident of St. Louis Park and most voluminous writer at (if not mastermind of) Fraters Libertas, has watched his city engage in an attempt to be really cutting edge in its mad rush to soft socialism -- solar wifi. Here are pictures of the plan to put little antennas and solar collectors around the suburban Minneapolis city. Note: all pictures taken on a sunny day. Not sure if sun was the problem or not, but the city now announces that it must scrap the plan. It appears to be $800,000 or more invested in this project, for which they have about 200 families hooked up (not on solar, alas) and news reports indicate that another $3 million might be needed to get the poles transferred to the city so they might complete the project. Chad argues instead to keep them as monuments.
I think the city should keep the poles and panels that dot our city landscape as a reminder of the futility of government getting involved in areas far outside their legitimate scope and trying to provide service that isn't needed. Let them stand as a reminder for the next time some "enlightened" civic leader proposes the next half-baked scheme to improve our quality of life. Especially if it sounds "cool"...
The story isn't very new, of course: Like so many other projects, Tim Wu demonstrates, wi-fi has been almost as incapable of busting the last-mile problem of internet delivery as any other alternative to DSL or cable. The cities cannot really build the systems themselves, nor do they want to: They seek a shared ownership with the private sector. The only thing relatively unique about SLP's attempt was the government putting a green spin on this to either make it sound cool or gain political support from environmental groups that can get you a band of door knockers whenever you need them.

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