Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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For government haters

Norway has built a Library for the blind that is impossible to navigate...For the BLIND.

It's not just things like the steps being uneven and the door opener being inaccessible, it's also the fact that two of the main hazards are artwork and lighting. Now maybe it's just me, but if I were designing a library for the blind I would probably put "Safety for visually impaired people" above ARTWORK AND LIGHTING. Yes you do need lighting for the visually abled staff and for those who are merely impaired, not totally blind. Perhaps some artwork to make it look decent is a reasonable idea, although the fact that the vast majority of the visitors won't see it makes it a rather low priority. Better to have braille on the walls telling people where they are and how to get to where they want to go.

Why do I blame this on bureaucracy? Because a private firm just wouldn't do this, or if it did it would quickly go out of business. When money is taken through taxes there is no direct accountability as to how it's spent besides elections. Elections are very broad tools in terms of accountability (You vote based on 2, 4, or 6 years of performance, not individual acts, and frequently there are intervening factors which keep voters from holding a politician accountable at all. For example a pro-life politician running against someone who is pro-choice will often be elected based on that one position, not actual performance in office.) and any disadvantage with the electorate as a whole can often be offset by advantage with special interests.

What all this means is that it's perfectly possible for someone to say "We need a library for the blind!" Give money to someone else to build it, have that someone else say "Screw the blind, I want to build a nice building that I personally like," build it that way, and have nobody held accountable for the fact that millions were invested in a piece of infrastructure that fails to meet the basic needs of those it was designed for.

Despite this I'm not an advocate of extreme limitation of government because there are many functions where private contractors are just as bad in different ways (See thousands of cases of shoddy construction work, consistent lying in price estimates, and a host of other shady business practices) and there are certain functions that only government can perform. However we must be vigilant to the sorts of waste that occur when you strip away basic laws of economic accountability and simply take, or print, money when it is wanted. Big government is not the problem, big government waste is, and those who claim that the two are inseparable would seem to have evidence on their side. Those who govern have a sacrosanct duty to do so wisely and judiciously.

Bridges to nowhere and libraries for the blind that the blind can't use aren't a necessary result of government power, they are a direct result of decisions made by particular people. How to get these people to make better decisions is the question.
Tags: blind people, government, potato, scandanavia
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