Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Diligent Efficiency"

The NBC Nightly News tonight had a brief report on a stretch of highway in Japan severely damaged in the earthquake:


The news said it was repaired in three days -- other news sources I read online said six days:


Note the power line tower and green sign in the before and after photos for verification. This is the same stretch of road. Whether it was three days or six days -- or 16 days -- can you believe the "diligent efficiency" that restored this road in such a short time? And can you imagine how long it might have taken in the U.S. to accomplish the same thing? Brian Williams on the NBC news show told New York City residents to take notice regarding the potholes that have been in their streets for ages: "It doesn't have to be that way."

Full disclosure: This stretch of highway in Japan is managed by a private company. Perhaps that's the reason it was repaired so quickly. If so, it's another argument for governments outsourcing these kinds of jobs to private enterprise. Governments have no incentive to hurry since they are paying themselves. Private companies, on the other hand, move quickly since they are there to make money. Why don't we do this?

On the other hand, I'm impressed with the efficiency and care displayed by the U.S. military folks who are doing so much to distribute relief supplies to Japanese villages cut off by the quake. On the same newscast there was a report on a military helicopter taking supplies to a village that had received very little support since the earthquake. In spite of their need and the freezing cold, the Japanese residents, instead of mobbing the helicopter like we see in so many other relief situations, formed an orderly line -- a "bucket brigade" -- to unload the supplies from the helicopter. Then a handshake and a bow from one of the Japanese men to the military officer as the chopper prepared to leave.

There's been much in the news about the lack of looting and the quiet dignity with which the Japanese have gone about responding to such a terrible tragedy. Such reports leave me impressed.

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