Monday, December 29, 2008

Plowing right along

Penelopedia and other local bloggers have noted the unusual amount of snow we've had hereabouts so far this winter. At the same time, local governments are scrambling to find ways to spend less in the face of dire economic news. The Governor -- he's so charming, with that cute grin of his -- has 'unallotted' about six months worth of state aid payments to local governments, and that's just the first of many such cuts to come.

Here's my idea: stop plowing snow. Seriously. I wonder why snow removal is assumed to be the responsibility of the government. The quickest way to privatize this function is for government to simply stop doing it. And our Governor, not without justification, believes that the private sector is more efficient than government at most things, so relying on the private sector would presumably improve snow removal, right? I would happily join my neighbors in contracting with a private vendor who would plow our street. I'd even pay a small premium if that vendor would promise in writing not to leave heaps of snow at the bottom of my driveway.

Maybe the private company that hauls garbage could equip its trucks with plows. Maybe all those grain trucks that sit idle during winter could become snow plowing and snow hauling trucks. In any case, I trust that the market -- that great engine of innovation and opportunism -- would quickly meet the demand. You live in Northfield and it snows, you either remove the snow yourself (from the place where you live or work and from the portion of the public right-of-way that abuts it) or hire somebody to do it.

What say you, Timmy? Mayor Mary?


Penelope said...

That's how they handle garbage collection in some communities; it seems inefficient and aggravating to me to have all these different providers coming in at different times and with different equipment, so the quality of your drive down the street may vary houselength by houselength -- and what about the ones that don't even get their sidewalks shoveled now? (I guess you do suggest contracting with neighbors so it's not so piecemeal.) I love your idea of being able to arrange not to have snow dumped in the driveway, the normal practice of which creates its own huge inefficiencies as countless homeowners have to do backbreaking work as a result of the street-plowing process.

Jim H. said...


Part of the economic recovery package should be that each city hires some folks (or a contractor)and buys some small Bobcat-style front end loaders. The new employees driving the new Bobcats would follow the big plows around. Their sole function would be to remove the windrows of snow from driveways and intersections. They'd do the fine work the big plows can't. Helps the unemployment rate, reduces health care insurance claims (fewer lower back problems and frostbite problems among the populace), and increases productivity.

Bleeet said...

I say the solution is to hyper-governmentalize it... take all the money allotted to the market for snowplowing and give it to the government. Plenty o' cash for some good big government plowing then.

Jim H. said...


A friend of mine who visited Cuba a couple years ago said that all of the snowplows in the country were owned and operated by the state. I hear that their snowplows last a very long time and very little is spent to operate them, so it seems to work well there.