Friday, April 17, 2009

Home from Italy

My long absence from this blog was due to a 2 week trip to northern Italy. I'm leaving again tomorrow but this time I will have my computer with me so I hope I have time to post when traveling.

I would like to make an observation on the effect of viewing at the world from a different perspective. In particular, lets look at the way government (but not only government) operates in the US and in Italy. The last few days of our trip we were staying at a small hotel in a suburb of Verona where my husband was working with a printing company to produce his photographic monograph. A lot of fiber cable was being laid in Italy. We had noticed this throughout our trip. Down the main street of this town a small crew of 3 or 4 men worked, a few building widths a day, digging a trench, laying the fiber and then closing the trench and repairing the pavement, causing minimal disruption to businesses in the town.

Compare this to the approach in the US. In Tucson the interstate highway (I 10) around/through the city is being widened. For 3 years the major exits and entrances to the city are closed. Even without this economic climate I can believe that many of the businesses that relied on travelers will fail before the exits are again open. Hundreds of jobs will probably be lost. How many times have you encountered lane closings on highways where no one was seen for miles until you encountered a small crew working in a very localized area, with traffic jammed for miles. Sometimes you encounter lane closings for miles where there is no work going on anywhere. These lane closings are designed for efficiency we are told. An American obsession. But efficiency is a matter of definition. The calculation of efficiency depends upon just whose efficiency you care about and can be easily manipulated by simply taking into account only the concerns of those you care to include.

In Italy the concern was for the efficiency of the entire society, not just whatever department was in charge of the installation. Disruption was minimized. In the US the concern only extends to the limit of control of the institution making the calculation. Disruption of others, or even the whole society, is not a concern. There is not just one way that work can be organized to achieve the same result. How you take into account those you will affect does matter.

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