Wednesday, August 08, 2007

King Banaian and the Ford Pinto II

Spot never really read SCSU Scholars until Charlie called attention to King Banaian's rational economic analysis of the bridge collapse last week. You know what, boys and girls, it's kind of fun. The Dismal Scientist has molted at least three times since the bridge fell into the river:

  1. We cannot know what forces were at work to cause the bridge to fail. Maybe we will, God willing, eventually find the answer.
  2. The bridge fell, but it was just a consequence of the cost-benefit analysis.
  3. And then today: Perhaps it is time to consider private bridge inspectors:

Could this [problem of bridge inspection] be solved by a market for private inspections? If the government does the buying of the inspections, you would have a monopsony; would it provide the right number and quality of inspections? I don't know. I think, though, that we're deluding ourselves thinking that the current inspection system has all the right incentives and only a lack of resources.

Spot never had a professor who pulled such sleights of hand. Remarkable. Spotty has also responded to number 1 and 2. Just scroll down to find them.

The professor has not, apparently, been reading the papers; perhaps you can't get the Strib as far north as St. Cloud! Well, you can read a lot of the Strib stories on the internet, professor, and Spot recommends this one, from just today. It is the story of how inspectors called political leaders' attention repeatedly to the condition of the bridge:

For nearly a decade, report after report showed extensive problems on the bridge.

Here are the first two grafs:

State bridge inspectors warned for nearly a decade before its collapse that the Interstate 35W bridge had "severe" and "extensive" corrosion of its beams and trusses, "widespread cracking" in spans and missing or broken bolts.

Not only was the superstructure in poor condition, but certain components were "beyond tolerable limits," and one of the bridge's piers had "tilted to the north," they reported.

Perhaps Carol Molnau's reading comprehension just wasn't good enough to realize that "beyond tolerable limits" means INTOLERABLE.

I guess those dumb old state inspectors weren't completely asleep at the switch after all! And when the private sector experts came in, guess what? They said the bridge was a stinker, too:

Since the collapse, public attention has focused on consultant reports in 2006 and 2007 that expressed serious reservations about the bridge. But a Star Tribune review of older reports by state inspectors shows that their concerns had been growing since the mid-'90s.

Only from whatever hallowed hall the professor sits in could emanate the screwball notion that private inspectors would have saved the bridge. It is only politicians who could saved the bridge, and they chose not to.

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