Saturday, February 21, 2004

I was once asked about widespread boosterism for big-city downtowns, where fewer us go anymore but where there are continuous and pricey efforts to revitalize. I think that I mentioned that many people confuse the downtown with the hometown. This sentiment is, of course, often hijacked by those with lots to gain from the large-scale transfer of resources involved in most redevelopment projects.

Likewise, in the recent Los Angeles neighborhood secession votes, many smart people worried about the demise of the LA idea -- if its government was split. This sentiment confused the government with the place; it also confused the government with the idea of the place. The sentiment was, of course, eminently prone to hijack -- as it was by those who had an economic stake in the status quo.

Thoughts like this are elaborated and probed in The People's Romance by Dan Klein. Klein's many insights are auspicious for anyone prone to head-shaking when, against all the evidence, smart people continue to embrace the idea of a benevolent state and go on to support state programs and their political champions.