Clocking Out

Via Matt Yglesias, I see that the IHT has an interesting feature on “25 Examples of Good Urban Design” drawn from around the world. Matt is particularly interested in this one:

2) Street clocks Prague, Czech Republic

Sometimes you don’t have a piece of Swiss watchmaking strapped to your wrist. On these occasions, time-keeping is made so much easier if there are well-maintained street clocks.

In Prague there is no excuse for running late. The streets are filled with elegant clocks fixed on top of tall, slender poles. Some clock faces are back-lit, allowing them to double as street lamps, while others have route-finding features attached.

Says Matt, “The tragedy of the public sector is that you can’t count on good ideas just diffusing over time through entrepreneurship. The city or town you live in will only improve if its citizens—people like you—look around at examples of things being done elsewhere and demand that their elected representatives change things.”

Generally speaking, we agree.  And, indeed, most of the innovations described in the piece strike me as worthwhile on first blush.

I am, however, rather bemused at the clock example.   Given how inexpensive wristwatches are — to say nothing of the ubiquity of cellular telephones — why on earth do we need taxpayer-funded clocks hanging off of poles on every street?

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Steve Plunk says:

    Our elected officials look less to the citizens for ideas than the professional staff hired to run cities. The problem for us is the professional staff has a different set of interests. What’s good for citizens isn’t necessarily good for bureaucracies.




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  2. Bithead says:

    And with clocks of the type you picture, running into $40k each… wellllll, you get the idea.




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  3. “The tragedy of the public sector is that you can’t count on good ideas just diffusing over time through entrepreneurship. The city or town you live in will only improve if its citizens—people like you—look around at examples of things being done elsewhere and demand that their elected representatives change things.”

    Only? Your town or city can only improve by copying others? Gee, who comes up with an original idea then?

    Oh, and of course you realize that those clocks will also all have cameras in them. For our own safety, don’t you know.




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  4. just me says:

    I like the idea of having clocks easily accessable-but I can’t see it being a good use of government funds to build, install and maintain them.

    I don’t wear a watch, because I am one of those people who tends to kill them, but I carry a cell phone and there are at least two banks with digital clock/temperature displays outside on my town’s main street.




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