Crazy Cones

On a long drive across the country this summer I noticed something odd about construction areas.  They put out cones to block off an area for construction many hours before the construction actually starts, and take them away many hours after the construction ends.  Most of the time you drive by a blocked-off area, there is no construction actually happening there, though there are a lot of travelers delayed by these cones.

Now I’m sure they save some time by being able to put out and pick up the cones on some schedule and plan convenient to them, and it would cost more to put out and pick up the cones just before and after the construction.  But I’m also sure that this extra cost would be far far less than the value of the time lost by the delayed travelers.  Why do they make such inefficient decisions?

I don’t expect full efficiency from governments, far from it, but I do expect them to try to appear somewhat efficient to voters, and I expect them to try especially hard on the most visible choices they make.  There is an awful lot that governments do that I suspect is inefficient, but it is usually hard to be very sure of that.  But these crazy cones look like a very clear case which is very visible to thousands of voters who have little else to do at that moment but fume about their inefficient government.

Why are governments be so very visibly inefficient, and why don’t voters punish them more for it?  We aren’t talking about some policy where emotions or moral considerations get people all confused and muddled, after all.  This isn’t about race or gender or precious bodily fluids  This is very simple and mechanical and obvious, for God’s sake.  What gives?

Added: A serious WordPress error deleted this post and all 20+ comments!!  I’ve just replaced the text, but not the comments. 🙁

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